Alpacka Rafts makes the world’s most durable and trustworthy packrafts. Packrafts are inflatable, 1-man rafts that weigh 4-5 lbs. They are whitewater-worthy, though not as capable as kayaks. The big advantage of a packraft is that you can deflate it and throw it on your pack, which creates trip opportunities that would be impossible with a hard-shelled boat. I view my packraft purely as a means of wilderness travel—with one, I can ford dangerous rivers and saltwater fjords, and float rivers that flow in my desired direction of travel. It’s often more efficient—i.e. faster and physically easer—to paddle my packraft than to hike the comparable distance.
DeFeet has since 1992 been a leader in providing the best socks and apparel to pro cyclists, adventure racers and outdoor athletes. All their products designed and manufactured at their headquarters in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. DeFeet has supported me since 2004, and I am huge fan of their socks, gloves, and arm and knee warmers.
GoLite sparked the lightweight revolution in 1999 when it introduced a full range of ultra-lite gear for backpacking and other outdoor adventures. Today they are the worldwide leader in lightweight packs, sleeping bags, shelters, and shoes. In 2003 I joined GoLite as a summer intern and somehow convinced the co-founders, Kim and Coup, that they should sponsor a 23-year-old who was planning to walk across the continent on the then never-been-done-before Sea-to-Sea Route.
Headsweats is known for its premium endurance sports headwear, including a full range of visors, skull hats, team caps, and tie-backs. I have been using Headsweats SuperVisors, ProTech Caps, and Warm Caps since 2005.
Mountain Laurel Designs has become well known within the long-distance hiking community primarily because of its shelters, bivies, and tarps. They use high-end fabrics; the craftsmanship is top-notch; and their designs are excellent. For several years now, MLD owner Ron Bell has been meeting my requests for durable, ultralight, niche gear; I really like their Mid shelters, SuperLight and Alpine bivy sackcs, and eVent Rain Mitts.
Platypus makes the best water bottles for backpacking, period. Their 1-liter bottle weighs just .9 oz and the 2.4-liter weighs a mere 1.3 oz; no other bottle available rivals these capacity-to-weight stats. Moreover, the bottles are collapsible, so they do not take up any space when not in use; and at night they make comfortable pillows when partly inflated. Their durability, while not as good as a lexan bottle, is excellent all things considered; and they do not contain BPA.
Sawyer Paddles and Oars teamed up with Alpacka to make the best long-distance packrafting paddle on the market. For its weight, there is no comparable paddle in terms of power, durability, or versatility. In advance of my Alaska-Yukon 5000 expedition, Sawyer tinkered with my paddle to give me a bit more strength and weight savings: they added carbon to the blades and made a 2-section fixed-length shaft.
Sawyer Products offers some excellent water purification, insect repellent, and sunscreen products.
Sea to Summit makes some excellent accessories—including stuff sacks, dry bags, and bug headnets—and recently has introduced some innovative shelters and sleeping bags. Their US office is just 15 minutes away in Boulder, Colo.