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.
The road shoe, and the first real road shoe I've worn in five years. Not sure how I feel about this one yet; perhaps I have one a half-size too big. Wide toebox, zero drop, and neutral everything makes this a solid companion to the Superior 2.0. I''ll probably run Kettle 100 in it in 2016 (at least the first 70 miles).
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.
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 my Nathan HPL #020 in 99 percent of situations.
Nathan Streak Vest A must-have for nighttime/early AM running. I safetypin in the sides to shorten the bottom straps around my true waist, and the whole thing stays put.
The second-most versatile piece of clothing I own, behind only my Patagonia R1 Hoody. Use it as a neck gaiter, headband, hat, etc., alone or in combination with a fleece skullcap. This piece (and my Smartwool neck gaiter) has single handedly improved my colder weather and winter running tolerance. If you run or volunteer at a John Storkamp race in MN, chances are you'll be given one or can pick one up.
The basic (fleece) glove. Thin, and (almost) nothing you don't need (the screen-compatible patches are OK but unnecessary). Before this, I used BD's midweight gloves, which have a leather palm to hold on to whatever - poles, bottles, etc. - and you're good to go. For both types, have reasonable expectations about their durability - I go through a pair every season or two, depending on my other uses for them.
The mitten. Designed for running with gridded-fleece outers in key spots to wipe snot or frozen breath. Reasonably wind resistant without the bulk or stiffness of something thicker. Smart cuffs to close caps between gloves and shirts and the mitt itself. Buy them a size up so they fit over your liner gloves.
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.