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the big hike

The Lunar Solo Tent weighs just over half a kilogram.

1) Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction Device Anyone wishing to try non-technical snow travel should invest in a pair of MICROspikes. Lighter than a crampon but sturdier than other lightweight traction devices, the rubber harness easily slips around shoes while the steel spikes grip well on ice and snow. These got me down from California's Mount Whitney - a 4,350-metre drop - in a snowstorm. $55 at Mountain Equipment Co-op (

2) Marmot DriClime Windshirt This lightweight and multifunctional jacket has become a staple in most long-distance hikers' wardrobes. The Windshirt is an excellent windbreaker, wicks away sweat, keeps you warm, and although it isn't waterproof it can be used in a pinch in light rain. Use it alone as a jacket or between a base layer and rain gear to keep you warm and dry in most weather conditions. $95 at, or at select Canadian retailers.

3) GPS Much maligned by serious hikers as a technological invasion into the purity of nature, the GPS is an undeniably handy device. While there's no substitute for good wilderness survival skills, a GPS can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. More likely, it will save you hours spent wandering aimlessly in search of the trail. There are a variety of GPS units, but Garmin is a popular maker and its Oregon 300 features a handy touch-screen interface. $345 at Mountain Equipment Co-Op (

4) Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Tent It's hard to exaggerate the benefits of a shelter that can fit two people, plus gear, while weighing just over half a kilogram. The Lunar Solo uses a hiking pole as a frame to cut down on weight. A mesh front keeps the condensation down on this single-walled tent that is long enough for hikers over six feet tall. $250 from

5) Arc'teryx rain gear No assessment of hiking gear would be complete without a mention of Vancouver's own Arc'teryx, whose rugged products are built to last, from its Gore-Tex Alpha SV Jacket ($650) to its waterproof and seam-sealed Naos 85 backpack at $750. Arc'teryx gear is worth its weight in gold - and you'll need plenty to afford these high-end products.

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