The Ultimate Backpacking Q&A

It should come as no surprise that the Crew behind your monthly Cairn collection is a group of passionate outdoor enthusiasts and entrepreneurs based in beautiful Bend, Oregon. We’ve had backpacking on our minds lately, so we thought we’d put together an Ultimate Backpacking Q&A with our Cairn team about important backcountry things like mac n’ cheese brands, favorite hikes, and life-changing underwear. We'll be sharing our stories with you in the coming months. Read on for our first few tips!

Name one piece of outdoor gear you absolutely could not live without in the backcountry.


(Product Guru, our newest to join the team)

Water filtration system. There is something about having a sense of hydration security. As long as there is a water source I can safely hydrate.

Nick and Bear


(Brand Hero, answering your emails and solving the world’s problems)

My distance Z Carbon Trekking Poles by Black Diamond. Some time ago I injured my ankle, and hiking longer distances leads to pain and instability unless I bring the right gear. I was fortunate to score a pair of lightweight trekking poles for a killer deal! Initially, I didn't think trekking poles would be much use to me. Now I don't go on a hike without them! They help take some of the weight off of my ankle and allow me to hike longer distances with less pain. Yay!


(Marketing, helping new people get inspired by Cairn)

My Mountainsmith Trekking Poles! People who have never used them don’t get it and think they’re just supposed to be for our older fellow hikers. Try them and you’ll change your mind, especially on multi-day treks that involve a decent amount of elevation gains and losses. You may think you’re in great shape and have no joint or muscle issues, but you just can’t account for multiple days of exhaustion, impact, wearing a pack weight that you’re not used to, and unstable terrain. No, they can’t always keep you from falling (I did just break my wrist while trekking through the Dolomites), but they can provide a little extra stability and comfort along the way.


(Product Guru, curator of the products you receive in your collection)

My fly rod. Fishing is typically what motivates me to get deep into the backcountry and explore the places less traveled.


(Operations Manager, keeps boxes arriving on your doorstep each month)

Exofficio underwear. Game changers.

What’s your go-to backpacking recipe?


(Fearless Co-founder)

Annie's Mac & Cheese with a bag/can of albacore tuna has been a staple of mine while backpacking for decades (ok, at one point it was Kraft, but when Annie's came out there was no going back to Kraft). The meal/experience has become synonymous with backcountry camping for me. Flavorful, calorie rich, filling...what else could you ask for?


(Fearless Co-founder)

Fresh rolls in the dutch oven. Set them out to rise, and at high altitude they balloon. Cook, add butter and enjoy...nothing better.


Cut a banana open length-wise, put chocolate and marshmallows inside it, wrap the whole thing in foil and put it on/near the fire. In my book, there’s nothing better than indulging in treats around a campfire…especially if you’ve had a really active day and feel exhausted. Plus it’s got a banana in it, so that’s considered healthy, right?


Fresh caught trout, cooked in tinfoil over an open flame, with garlic, lemon pepper and olive oil, served with some well-seasoned rice.


What’s your favorite hike (or way to hit the trail)?


Anything that leads to water. The water is the reward for me and my dog. He gets to swim and I get to fly fish!


Langer Lakes in the Salmon-Challis national forest area near Stanley, Idaho. Been packing in on horses for 30 years. My dad has been going there for about 45 years--that’s tradition!

Jared and his brother, Langer Lakes


By far, my favorite way to explore the outdoors is on a mountain bike. Mountain biking requires a certain spirit of risk, reward, and adventure, which is what attracted me to it as an adolescent. Summiting new peaks, dodging branches, flying across mossy rickety bridges, chasing friends through forested single-track, and returning to the trailhead covered in mud, stained with blood, and wearing the biggest shit-eating-grin. What’s not to love!?

What’s your best outdoors joke?


What did the pine tree wear to the lake? Swim trunks.... (I know it pretty lame...)


Only one joke? Here’s two:

  • What’s the only difference between a thru-hiker and a homeless person? Goretex.
  • How do you keep your sleeping bag from getting stretched out? Don’t sleep too long in it!


Now that you’ve gotten to know some of the Cairn Crew, we want to get to know you! Share your favorite hikes, recipes, and jokes with us in the comments. #CairnRocks #GetCairn