The trail shoe. Lots to love here: zero drop, removable rock plate, wide toe box, now-solid heel cup, and just enough tread to handle anything. This year's model from Altra kept what worked from the first 2.0, and fixed what didn't. A solid shoe.
New Balance MT10 The everything else shoe. Technically a trail shoe, but it's really a road shoe given the relative lack tread compared to the 110's. But this shoe is the best fitting kick I've ever worn. Its wide toe box, low ride, and slim fit everywhere else forces good mechanics. Be wary of taking a semi-worn pair of these on rough trails - you'll chew your feet up in no time. Version 10v4 comes out 4/1/16.
Patagonia Strider Pro 5" inseam shorts The perfect trail running shorts. Five pockets, including one zippered on the back, make these the perfect shorts for carrying gels, blocks, salt tabs, and other good and goodies. The waist band is thick to give the shorts a good hold on your body (they ride low) and the inseam is long enough to minimize chafing. One hitch: (trail) runners like me who have narrow waists/hips and big thighs may find the liner brief a wee bit too tight on the thighs. Hasn't been an issue for me.
Fox River X-Static liner socks Thin, simple, and basically can't kill them. Won't fossilize like a wool or Coolmax sock can. Been running in these for years and will never look back. Great for shoes that demand a tight fit, like the MT10's.
Fitsok Isowool Trail Cuff socks Combine merino wool and decent elasticity and you get these numbers. These numbers have the bulk and cushioning to fill up the volume of a trail shoe. I also like the minimal compression and tight fit. A bargain over all other wool socks in that they come in packs of three for $25. Extra bonus - they're made in MN.
The main hydration vest. Having the benefit of non-sloshing weight on the front with the advantage of still being able to carry a windshirt, hat, gloves, etc. - even a bottle or bladder - makes this vest superior to the HPL #020 in 99 percent of situations.
Nathan HPL #020 The big and venerable hydration vest. Used only for the longest of trail runs or races where sections require more than a hand bottle. Carries 70+ oz of water, extra clothes, gels, chafe lube, extra shoes, etc. Solidly adjustable to ensure a good fit for all. Mine is still going strong after many years and races. New models have surpassed mine in terms of controlling shaking, etc. of the bladder, but this thing is still ticking and for good reason.
Nathan Streak Vest A must-have for nighttime/early AM running. I closepin in the sides to shorten the bottom straps around my true waist, and the whole thing stays put.
The basic (fleece) glove, and one I've been wearing for years. A little leather palm to hold on to whatever - poles, bottles, etc. - and you're good to go. Have reasonable expectations about their durability - I go through a pair every season or two, depending on my other uses for them.
My favorite hiking gear
Granite Gear Vapor Trail I wouldn't call the VT ultralight, per se, but it carries weights under 30 lbs exceptionally well. The secret is the exceptionally padded hipbelt and backpanel, coupled with the polyethylene frame. The pack is bellowed at the bottom to accommodate a winter-weight sleep system, and the exterior straps allow you to attach your sleeping pads and tents. If only they would cut down on the strap lengths so you don't have to do it yourself.
If you only want to one pack, this is it.
ZPacks.com Z1 This frameless suspect is exactly what I look for in a frameless pack. It is a simple rucksack with two side pockets, one rear billowing pocket, and straps. No bells, whistles, or doodads. Bonus points for other hikers confusing me for a so-called "dayhiker," or worse, a "fastpacker."
Ask for this custom made, as apparently ZPacks now features more complicated offerings.
Tarptent DoubleRainbow This 40 ounce shelter is fantastic for two persons, and it is my go-to shelter when I'm with another person and there is no snow on the ground. There's everything to like: vertical walls, low weight, usable vestibules and massive usable space. Even the venting is decent. One caveat: I almost need to carry my Vapor Trail if this tarptent goes along.
Integral Designs eVENT Shortie Gaiters If BACKPACKER magazine were going to give awards for simple gear instead of over-worked gear, these gaiters would in an Editor's Choice Gold Award. They are the right height, weigh almost nothing and have a smartly-placed instep patch to prevent abrasion while not skimping on breathability. As their website says, perfection comes not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.
Patagonia R1 Hoody The best base/midlayer when the temps are south of 40F. Here's what you get: an integrated, balaclava-type hood that holds tight to your neck, long arms with thumb loops to cover gaps, a deep neck zip for venting, an off-set zipper so you don't freeze your chin on the pull, and a long bottom hem to tuck in. And the fabric: it is Patagonia's Regulator Fabric (made of Polartec fleece), which has a gridded interior to facilitate moisture transfer and ventilation.