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Home Backpacking The Gear That Backpacker’s Editors Loved in January 2024

The Gear That Backpacker’s Editors Loved in January 2024

by Staff

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The first month of 2024 is drawing to a close, and what a month it’s been for the Backpacker crew. We hiked, even when the trails were mostly ice. We skied, even when the snow wasn’t great. We ran, even when we’d rather have been skiing. And in the process, we found some new favorite pieces of gear. These products helped us keep our footing on the trail, our blood sugar stable, and our mood good, even when the weather wasn’t.

Snack Owl Peach Bites (Photo: Courtesy)

I feel like my love of gummy candy is well-established for regular Backpacker readers by now. I’ve written odes to Swedish Fish, carried their close relatives, Swedish Berries, in my hip pockets while ski touring in Canada, and spent the first few days of the actually-Swedish Fjallraven Classic munching on loose cola-bottle-shaped sweets from the grocery store. But there’s one big obstacle standing between me and eternal, chewy bliss: gelatin. Most gummies have it, and as a vegetarian I won’t eat it.

Enter Snack Owl’s Peach Bites, a fully-veganized version of a candy I hadn’t had since I was a kid. These sweet-and-sour candies do a credible imitation of their more common cousin, Haribo Peaches; they’re a little stiffer, which is par for the course for vegan candies. According to the company, they’re healthier too, with 8 grams of fiber per bag and a tenth as much sugar as Haribo’s. I’ll be honest, though: When I’m shoveling them into my mouth on a winter hike or ski day, I could care less about that. —Adam Roy, Executive Editor

Hoka Studded trail runner
(Photo: Courtesy)

Keeping up with my daily running routine hasn’t been easy in rural Vermont. Between single-digit temps and rutted, glaciated roads, it’s been a struggle to get my miles in. I owe whatever semblance of a regimen I have to Hoka’s Speedboat 5 GTX Spike, the studded version of the brand’s popular waterproof trail runners. With a Gore-Tex membrane wrapped in a stretchy woven polyester upper, The Spikes are about as comfortable and unobtrusive as my summer trail runners, which is a rarity in the studded running shoe category. Thirty millimeters of cushioning under the heel and 26 millimeters under the forefoot provides a squishy, cloud-like ride over cemented moguls of ice and dirt and manages to give me just enough height to stay out of sloppy puddles. The main attraction, 12 embedded tungsten carbide tips, give significant grip on slick ice—I can run downhill at a 16-degree slope without skidding—although they do struggle a bit in very uneven terrain. Between plowings, I’ll whip out some GTX hightops and throw on dedicated traction devices. On most other days, though, the Speedboat 5 GTX Spikes are my ticket out of the house. —Benjamin Tepler, Gear Editor

Black hiking shoes with traction devices on them standing on snow
Yaktrax Snowtrax (Photo: Adam Roy)

I picked up these budget traction devices on a whim during a Costco shopping trip, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how they’ve performed on dayhikes this winter. The design is simple: A one-piece rubber frame stretches around your footwear and tightens with a single hook-and-loop strap on top. On the bottom, seven tungsten carbide cleats provide grip. On a recent hike in Colorado’s Roxborough State Park, they bit well into icy patches and slushed-over dirt, though the cleats had a tendency to ball up when crossing wet, packable snow. I probably wouldn’t trust these on bulletproof ice or on steep, alpine trails where a slip and fall could be disastrous—the bite on these wasn’t aggressive enough for that—but for moderate winter hikes, I’ve found them to be worth the money. (Caveats: Some users have criticized the Snowtrax’s durability; I’m still waiting to see how they hold up over the long term. And while Costco’s site lists them for $30, they’re available for as little as $12 in store; if you can’t find them for less, skip ‘em and spend the extra money on a higher-end pair from Yaktrax or Katoohla.) —AR

Saucony Peregrine 13 Trail Running Shoe for Hikers
Saucony Peregrine 13 (Photo: Courtesy)

In this El Niño year, I’ve spent far more time in the lowlands than skiing in the mountains. A girl’s gotta do something to pass the time until the next snowstorm, though, so I’ve been running my local trails on the weekends. The thing is, I don’t really like running, and my local trails are covered in mud (and sometimes slush) from November to May. But with the Peregrine 13 STs on my feet, I’ve actually enjoyed tromping through the slop. The “ST” in the name stands for “soft terrain,” and that’s truly where these trail runners shine. The deep lugs help me keep my footing on slick, mushy trails, so I can hop over puddles and cruise the downhills with confidence. I’ve been so impressed with their grip in mud and patches of snow; where my other trail runners feel insecure, the Peregrine STs hold fast. I love the quick-lace system for on-the-go adjustments, which tucks neatly under a stretchy mesh cover on the tongue. The ankle gaiter provides some much-needed protection from mud and gunk. If I have to spend every Saturday doing my second-choice activity, I’m grateful for these kicks for helping me embrace mud-spattered calves and have some unexpected fun. —Zoe Gates, Senior Editor

Assistant Editor Emma Veidt takes the REI Co-op Swiftland 5 hydration pack out for a spin.
Assistant Editor Emma Veidt takes the REI Co-op Swiftland 5 hydration pack out for a spin. Photo: Emma Veidt

We’ve had a three-day string of 70-degree weather sandwiched between rainy days this month, so with the temps at least 10 degrees above average, it felt criminal to stay inside. I tried to soak up enough vitamin D to power me through the last few weeks of early sunsets. On the last weekend of the month, I went for a quick afternoon jaunt to tag North and South Fortuna Mountain in San Diego’s Mission Trails system. I wanted to travel light and jog the downhill sections, so I traded my usual daypack for the Swiftland. This 5-liter pack might be small, but it manages to hold a lot without weighing you down. I packed my first-aid kit, snacks, phone, car keys, water, and sunscreen, and it distributed the weight evenly and so close to my back that sometimes I forgot it was there. The Swiftland has a lot of pockets, both inside the pack and on the straps, so my belongings were organized, not just shoved into one compartment to sink toward the bottom. It also comes with a slosh-proof 1.5-liter water reservoir, which was just enough water for my sweaty 6-mile hike. Side note: I have a men’s pack, but with all the torso straps that let you customize the fit, I haven’t noticed a difference in feel to all of my women’s packs. —Emma Veidt, Assistant Editor

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