Hiking Gear Review: KUHL Transcendr Leggings

While you definitely don’t need any special gear to hike, having comfortable, high-performing clothing can make your hikes at least a little bit better.

And with that above disclaimer, I will say that I am fully immersed in ‘gear culture’. I (hopefully) am not a brat about it and keep my obsessions relatively subdued while my eyes constantly dart from person to person on the trail seeing what type of gear they have. And it truly doesn’t come from a place of judgment, I just really love to see what people use and wear.

Over the years, I’ve become either a shorts or leggings only hiker depending on the terrain or temperature. I’ve just found that if a hiking pant that isn’t sung to my belly/hips/thighs, I’m constantly adjusting or getting twisted up. So, it may come as no surprise to you that I have multiple pairs of hiking bottoms. In my hiking pants arsenal, you’ll find the KUHL Transcendr Legging, a clever combo of durable soft shell fabric on the front and back and knit stretch panels along the sides.

Here’s what I love about them:

  • DWR (durable water repellent) on the soft shell fabric resists light rain and spills
  • Envelope-style pocket that easily holds my iPhone 14
  • Breathable yet durable thanks to the combo of soft shell and stretch fabrics
  • UPF 50 sun protection
  • High-waisted
  • Looks pretty cute for hiking pants! (Totally unnecessary but appreciated!)

What I would improve:

  • Only comes in one inseam, which is pretty typical for leggings, but as a member of the long legs club, I wish these leggings were just a bit longer
  • I wish they were just a smidge higher waisted, but I love stuff to be sky high on my waist!
  • These only go up to XL, so sizing isn’t fully inclusive, especially as they tend to fit a bit small. I would love to see Kuhl carry a fully inclusive size range as none of their sizing goes above XL.

I took them for an inaugural overnight camping/backpacking trip a few weeks ago and they were very comfortable. I didn’t find myself having to constantly pull them up while hiking or moving around camp, which is always a plus for any kind of pants. I also was climbing up and over some rocks on the hike and they moved well and stood up to some light abrasion.

I feel like they are pretty true to their sizing chart on the site. I wear a medium (5’ 7”, 145 lbs, with a butt) which coincided with my waist and hip measurements of 29” and 40” respectively. If anything, I’d size up a bit from your ‘normal’ size because They don’t fit perfectly but, honestly, what pair of pants does, right ladies?! Like I mentioned above, it would be really great to see Kuhl extend their size ranges. Only going up to a size XL (16/18) is a huge bummer from such a large company. It’s really hard to fully support a product (even when they make great things!) when those great things can’t be worn and enjoyed by hikers and active people of all sizes.

Overall, these pants are a great choice for day hiking, backpacking and camping. I love the combo of durable and stretch and always appreciate a good phone pocket. If you’re searching for a solid hiking pant, put the Transcendr Legging on your list if you are in the XS-XL size range.

Approved by both Luna and I

Note: Kuhl Transcendr leggings provided free of charge for the purpose of this review.

Minimal UL Toiletry Kit for Backpacking

Going fully UL (ultralight) with all of your gear is often very expensive and exclusionary for many people. I wanted to share an inexpensive and easy way to shave some ounces and space in your backpacking setup: a tiny UL Toiletry Kit! (And unintentionally all one boring white color 🙃)

1️⃣ Garage Grown Gear UL Toothbrush
2️⃣ Huppy Toothpaste Tablets in .2oz Hinged Container
3️⃣ Sunbum Sunscreen in .33oz Dropper Bottle
4️⃣ Colorado Aromatics Body Powder in .1oz Dropper Bottle

Put it all in the tiniest bag sack you can find! I like to keep all this stuff together not only for convenience, but also so I can easily throw in my bear bag with my food. Remember to always hang or stow in a bear-safe container any products that have any type of scent!

Total weight: 34 g (1.2 oz)
Total cuteness: ♾


  • The UL toothbrush is super tiny and great, but it’s typical lifespan is about 7 days. So don’t expect to have this forever. But at 99 cents (or $2.99 for a 5-pack), I think it’s worth it.
  • These toothpaste tabs are great! They are virtually weightless compared to a mini toothpaste tube. Just stick one in your mouth and chew a couple times to make a paste, then brush away. It does take a bit to get used to because it doesn’t taste as strong as ‘regular’ toothpaste. But, I’ll never go back! (I actually use them exclusively at home too and I refill them at a local shop, so it’s zero waste for me.)
  • I love Sunbum sunscreen. It’s a relatively ‘natural;’ sunscreen that’s reef-safe and it works so well. Also, this combos as my face moisturizer too.I’m not going to bring separate skin care while I’m backpacking, but it is nice to have something that gives my skin a little love.
  • This verrrry mini bottle has deodorizing body in it and it’s my newest addition to this kit. I typically don’t bring a stick of deodorant on trail because you are going to smell and it’s just not worth the weight (and possible meatiness factor). This powder is great because it’s very light and I can pat it on areas that get sweaty or smelly. It helps absorb some moisture and also combats the funk a little bit.

Bargain Hunting for Outdoor Gear

Just like many other hobbies, hiking/camping/backpacking can get expensive quickly. But, if you have patience and aren’t looking for something really specific, you can grab some gear no the cheap. I grew much of my outdoor gear collection buying highly discounted or clearance gear. It can get tricky because, just like any type of bargain hunting, it takes time both in searching and researching. Below, I’ve tried to condense what I’ve learned over the past decade about bargain hunting for outdoor gear.


Starting off with the biggest potential bang-for-your-buck website, Steep&Cheap is anchored by their “Current Steal’, which is a highly discounted item – oftentimes over 50% off. The catch? Each ‘current steal’ item is only live for 5 minutes, then it’s gone (or just moved to the other part of the site for not as great a deal). I first learned about Steep&Cheap from fellow counselors my first summer working at camp in 2008. (Also, the summer I quit college and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Fun fact: Over ten years later, I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. But, I digress…)

You can find anything from outdoor clothing to tents to skis to hiking boots and more. Over the years, Steep&Cheap has expanded to have much more discounted gear at all times. So, you’ll be able to search for whatever you are looking for. While this other gear isn’t as highly discounted as the ‘current steal’ you can still find amazing deals. Off the top of my head, I’ve purchased my tent, my first pair of hiking boots, base layers, Chacos, snow boots and a sleeping pad.

The downside of Steep&Cheap is that many items have limited size options. (It is a bargain site after all.) I’ve been tricked may times before, finding an amazing deal only to find an XXS or XXL (Upside: if either of those are your sizes, you will probably be able to find lots of cheap gear!) But, if you stay patient and check often when you are in the market for an item, I bet you’ll get lucky one time or another. But, I will warn you, browsing this site is very addicting because you’ll think “Oh, just five more minutes and I’ll see the next item on super sale” and then one hour later, you are still staring at the screen.


While Backcountry isn’t necessarily a bargain site, you can still find amazing deals. There’s almost always some type of promotion or sale. They sell almost all of the outdoor brands plus now have their own line of clothing/gear. Backcountry will have a much larger selection than Steep&Cheap. In fact, Steep&Cheap is powered by Backcountry meaning the limited-time, limited-quantity deals are from the stock of Backcountry.

If you are looking for something very specific and don’t want to wait to see if it may show up on Steep&Cheap, try Backcountry and see if you can find the item on sale. For example, I just saw a Patagonia fleece vest, available in most sizes, for just under $65 (usually $99). Chances are, you won’t find a popular item like that on Steep&Cheap.

Sierra Trading Post

Sierra Trading Post, also known now as simply Sierra, is like a T.J. Maxx of outdoors items and clothing. (Probably because they are owned by the same parent company…) Most of the items are already discounted from normal prices and they also have a ‘Clearance’ section. Some of their stock turns over quickly, so, if you are looking for something specific, I would check back frequently.

Sierra also tends to have brands discounted that I haven’t seen anywhere else. (I’ve gotten a Filson coat for over 50% off.) I feel like this site is, in some ways, the best of both Steep&Cheap and Backcountry. They have so many items, a large variety of great brands, and good prices. I’ve seen brands like Gregory, Cotopaxi, Eno, CamelBak, Northface and so many more. But, since it is more of a bargain site, you may not be able to find the exact thing you were looking for. Occasionally, you will run into limited size options. But, by searching more broadly, you will probably find a great deal on something similar.

REI Garage Sales

One of the most popular perks of being a member of REI is being able to shop the garage sales. REI has a one year return policy in which you can return any item that didn’t meet your expectations/needs. Because REI obviously can’t sell used items for full price, they have garage sales multiple times thttps://www.steepandcheap.comhroughout the year where they sell all of the returned items. You can find amazing deals on so many different types of gear and clothing. However, you are at the mercy of what gets returned to REI, so I would try not to have something very specific in mind. Make a ‘wish list’ of gear and keep that in mind as you are shopping around.

Keep in mind that these items are used at least once and you cannot return them for any reason. However, it is a small price to pay for such great deals. Also, buying used gear is much better for the planet and help contribute less waste to the planet. So, it’s a win-win!

Tips for Finding Deals

  1. Be flexible. If you are looking for something specific, it’s pretty rare that you will find that exact thing on sale. So, by opening up your options, you have a much better chance of finding a piece of gear that works and also doesn’t break the bank. Have ‘good, better, best’ options in your mind when looking to make a purchase.
  2. Read reviews with a grain of salt. I am an avid review-reader when I am looking for something new. But, I have learned to be a smart review reader. Be careful to note if the reviewer used the item incorrectly or is being extremely picky. Sometimes, I’ll see an item with a 2 or 3 star review and be weary of the item only to find that they overloaded a backpack or used a sleeping bag in weather colder than it was meant for. It takes time and a little bit of outdoor-gear knowledge, but it’s something you can home in on as you begin your bargain searching.
  3. Know your limits. You may find a deal that seems too good to be true. You may not even need the thing, but it’s 80% off. Are you willing to spend the money on the item, possibly cutting into the budget for another item that at the top of your list? Or, on the other hand, you find the _perfect_ coat, the exact one you were looking for, but it’s still $30 more than you wanted to spend. It may be worth the splurge because you never know if it will go on sale again or if it will go out of stock. Just something to think about as you’re browsing.
  4. Pay attention to seasonal sales/shop “out of season”. Many local outdoor shops (like Cumberland Transit if you’re in the Nashville area!) and REI have sales throughout the year; get on those email lists and pay attention! For example, if you are looking for a new winter coat, buy one at the end of the season when all of the winter wear is going on sale. Try to think ahead so you aren’t purchasing something you absolutely need at the last minute.

Also, I’ll leave you with this: Don’t buy something you don’t need, just because it’s on sale. I’ve been wooed far too many times by a fantastic deal when I really didn’t need the item in the first place. Perhaps that alone will help you save money on gear!

Beginners Guide Series: No. 2 – Hydration Reservoirs

Water is the most important thing that you need to bring on a hike, regardless of distance. However, water bottles tend to be clunky, heavy, and relatively inaccessible, even if it is in a side pocket of a backpack.

But, you don’t have to live burdened to your water bottle on a hike. Enter the hydration reservoir, also affectionately known as a hydration or water bladder. For about the same prices as a nice water bottle (like a Hydroflask), you can secure yourself a handy water bladder. If you have never used one of these, your hiking life is about to get significantly better.

So, um, what exactly is it?

Hydration bladders are essentially flexible, lightweight water holders with a long-ass thick, flexible straw attached to it. They are meant to be slid into a backpack while the straw sticks out and is clipped onto the strap of the backpack. It’s the easiest way to hydrate yourself while hiking. Because, you know, hydration is the key to victory.

Hydration packs encourage me to drink much more water than if I had to take 5+ minutes to stop hiking, take off my pack, root around for the bottle, then take a few swigs of water. It’s already hard enough for me to drink enough water on a hike, so taking away this hurdle to your water is a game changer.

What size do I need?

You may be thinking, “First of all, I had no idea there were even different sizes.” Let me explain.

There are different volumes of reservoirs: typically 1.5, 2, or 3 liters. You will want to choose a volume depending on how long you typically hike and how hot the weather is where you usually hike.

The general rule is to bring 1 liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking. If it is hot and humid (VERY likely in TN for, like, 10 out of the 12 months), I would double the amount to 1 liter every hour

So, if you are strictly a short-distance hiker, you can probably get away with the smaller liter size. However, the price difference between the sizes is usually only a few dollars. So, when in doubt, get a larger size. Many of the bladders have volume markings so you can only fill what you need. So, in my opinion, there’s really no reason to NOT get a 3L. But, oftentimes, a 2L bladder is a nice middle ground for most.

  • Get a 1.5 liter if your hikes are typically under 3 miles and you don’t hike in the heat.
  • Get a 2 liter if your hikes are typically under 6 miles or you hike short distances in heat often.
  • Get a 3 liter if your hikes are typically longer than 6 miles or you hike mid-distances in the heat.

P.S. Hiking long distances in heat is not recommended; it’s honestly not fun and it’s hard to stay hydrated enough.

What brand should I buy?

There’s a handful of hydration reservoir brands and many of the differences are based on preference of features like weight, ease of cleaning, size/shape of the mouthpiece, and quick disconnect capability. I’ll outline some of the pros and cons of some of the most popular bladders.


This is my overall favorite reservoir. It’s super lightweight, durable, and innovative without being clunky. I particularly like the ‘Shape-Shift’ line with a baffle in the middle. You can lock it for a slimmer profile and stabilization or unlock it for maximum capacity. It has a quick-release, which lets you disconnect the tube for cleaning and easy refilling. It also has a great high-flow mouthpiece with a bite valve shut off (so it doesn’t leak water when you aren’t drinking) and a heavy duty ziploc type closure at the top for a leak-proof seal.

One of the worst parts about owning a hydration reservoir is the cleaning process. It always feels like you can never fully get it clean. But, the HydraPak is fully reversible making this normally painstaking process a breeze.

Pros: Lightweight, durable, adjustable baffle – almost like having 2 different capacities, leak-proof zipper-type seal

Cons: A bit pricier than some others, but totally worth it


Probably the most well-known brand of reservoirs, Camelbak is a trusted brand that was founded in the late 1980s. You can’t go wrong with a Camelbak. It is a quality product that keeps making improvements to its products. They are a little heavier than HydraPaks and have a built-in baffle to keep a slim profile. The bite valve is totally fine, but I just don’t like it as much as others. It’s also harder to clean because of the small opening. I never feel like I can get it completely clean and it’s hard to dry out. It has all the basic features you need like quick disconnect tubing, a bite-valve shut off, and a slim profile.

Pros: Good quality, trusted brand, great value

Cons: Difficult to clean, harder to seal (as opposed to a zipper-type)


Platypus has two main lines of reservoirs: Hoser and Big Zip. The Hoser is cheaper and more lightweight, but not nearly as convenient as the Big Zip. The latter is similar to the HydraPak without the baffle. The bite valve has a great flow rate but is bigger than the others, which I don’t like as much. It’s durable, but not quite as lightweight. It’s moderately easy to clean since you can open up the entire top. It also has all the basic features listed for the others.

Pros: Zipper-type seal, high-flow mouthpiece

Cons: Most expensive, not as easy to clean


Mazama is relatively new to the hydration reservoir market. The have great features such as a piece that holds open the reservoir to dry, a different type of closure, and their DUAL line with two separate chambers and tubes (to carry both water and electrolyte drinks. They have all the basic features of the other brands as well. They also offer a ‘short’ version of the 2L that fits in smaller packs that may not accommodate a longer bladder. My gripe with this brand is that the clips that seal it break easily. They are just made of plastic. Mine still functions, but it’s a bummer.

Pros: Low price point, structured handle

Cons: Plastic clips break easily, heaviest of the options presented

Did I miss a reservoir that you love? Let me know in the comments.

Beginners Guide Series: No.1 – Daypacks

For our first installment of the ‘Beginner’s Guide’ series, let’s talk packs. It’s one of the first things I recommend purchasing if you are looking to start your day hiking gear collection. It can easily be a relatively inexpensive piece of gear and it’s something I take on every hike.

Usually you’ll be carrying no more than 10 lbs in a pack for a day hike and most of this weight will be water, which you will be drinking, so it’ll only get lighter! Other things you may want to include in your pack are trail snacks, first aid items, a bandana, chapstick, and a headlamp/lightweight flashlight (just in case).

Features to Consider in a Daypack

  • Lightweight
    • You’ll probably want your pack to weigh no more than 1 lb
  • Durability
    • Look for materials like ripstop nylon
  • Comfort
    • If possible, try the pack on, put some weight in it and walk around the store.
  • Sternum strap (buckles around your upper chest)
    • For better weight distribution across shoulders
  • Hipbelt strap (buckles around waist)
    • For better stability and weight distribution
  • Hydration reservoir compatibility
    • If you have no idea what a hydration reservoir is, don’t worry! I’ll be going over all you need to know in a future blog post.
  • Small pockets/organization
    • For easy access to things like snacks (v. important!) and chapstick

Wearing a Daypack

I know most of us are probably past the middle school days of extending the straps and wearing a backpack super low because that was the “cool” way to wear it. But, when you are hiking, you want to be sure that the pack sits snugly to your back. The top of the pack should sit right below the nape of your neck. The straps should be tightened down so that the bottom of the back hits near the bottom of your torso, right around the top of your hips. It’s important to wear your pack correctly because, not only will it will be more comfortable, but it will be more stabilized on your back, especially if you are on uneven terrain.

Pack Recommendations

Below, I’ll share three packs that I own, use and would recommend to anyone looking for a reasonably priced daypack. Of course there’s probably “better” packs out there, like the Osprey Talon 22 (Men’s)/Tempest 20 Women’s) or the Deuter Speed Lite but I wanted to share some that are around the $50 price point.

REI Flash 18 Pack – $34.95

I would venture to say that this is probably the best bang-for-your-buck pack. It’s relatively inexpensive, super lightweight, durable and water bladder compatible. There’s exterior loops if you’re into hanging stuff off of your pack and a drawstring closure so you won’t have to worry about zippers. There is slight padding on the back, which can also be pulled out and used as a sit pad. The downside of this pack is that it can get uncomfortable and cut into your shoulders if you are carrying more weight. It also doesn’t have external pockets. But, this is a great starter day pack for any hiker.

Pros: Inexpensive, all the right features, super lightweight

Cons: Unpadded straps can dig in if loaded down, no exterior pockets

Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Del Dia Pack – $55

This Luzon pack has all the basic features listed above. What sets it apart from the REI Flask pack are more comfortable, lightly padded straps and an external pocket to easily access essentials (and the whole pack can be stuffed into this pocket). It’s also made with a slightly thicker material, so it feels a bit more robust without adding a lot ofweight. Also, each pack is one of a kind. If you are unfamiliar with the ‘Del Dia’ series by Cotopaxi, I’d recommend watching this video. Each pack is handmade in the Philippines and the employee has total creative control, which is why each pack in unique. What a great company to get behind!

Pros: Lightweight, comfortable straps, fun and unique colors

Cons: A bit pricier (but it’s for a great cause!), holds odors

Osprey Daylite Pack – $50

The Osprey Daylite pack is a little more structured than the two packs above, making it a favorite for longer hikes. It has just enough pockets for organization without feeling complicated. It sits comfortably on my back and shoulders. The back panel is also more breathable for those extra sweaty hikes. It has all of the features that I find essential in a pack: hipbelt and sternum strap, hydration reservoir, padded straps and exterior/side pockets. A word to the wise: the side pockets are great for smaller items, but are not so great for water bottles. (I always use my hydration bladder for water, so this has never been a problem for me.)

Pros: Breathable back, nice organizational features, sturdier

Cons: Stiff top handle can graze neck while wearing, lower gear capacity (13L)

Do you have a favorite day pack that you think should be included? Let me know in the comments.

Day Hiking Essentials

Most of the hikes that are featured on this site are day hikes, meaning you can complete them within the daylight hours. Day hiking can be anything from a 2 mile stroll through Radnor Lake State Natural Area or an all day 12-miler in Savage Gulf. Either way, I think it’s important to be prepared with the right gear and supplies. (I almost always over pack for my day hikes but much of my hiking has been solo, so I tend to over prepare.) There’s a few essentials I take on almost every hike and I thought I’d share them for those of you who are new to hiking and want to start building your gear collection.

1. Water, preferably in a hydration reservoir

If you only bring one thing on a hike, let that one thing be water. Never leave for a hike of any length without water.

To figure out how much water to take along on your hike, follow the general rules below:

  • “Normal” weather: 1 liter for every 2 hours of hiking.
  • Hot and/or humid weather: 1 liter for every 1 hour of hiking.

Hydration reservoirs, also known as water bladders, may seem like an unnecessary item to take along on a day hike if you already have a water bottle. But, water bottles are often heavy and a pain to take out of your pack every time you want a drink of water. (Plus, I seem to never drink enough water if I take a water bottle.) Enter the hydration reservoir: a hand-free water delivery system. I will be going over reservoirs in detail in a future post.

2. Day Pack

‘Day pack’ is just another word for a type of backpack. I always recommend carrying a day pack or backpack, even for short, easy hikes. Typically day packs are crafted with features specifically for hiking/outdoor activities, but feel free to break out that old Jansport from high school if you aren’t looking to purchase one. Be looking out for a post about day packs in the future.

3. Snacks

Another thing I never leave home without is trail snacks. I will always throw at least a granola bar in my pack, even if I’m just going for a quick and easy stroll through the woods. You never know when hunger may strike and you don’t want to feel light-headed on the hike. If I am going on multi-hour hike, I will bring a handful of snacks, both sweet and salty. I’ve taken things like bananas, jerky, Clif and Lara bars, smoothie packs, and nut mixes. Of course, you can get fancy and bring the ever-popular “sweaty lunch” – crackers, cheese and pepperoni – deemed that because the meat and cheese gets “sweaty” when its in your pack. (Not a recommend snack on hot days.) 

4. Hiking Shoes/Boots

Sure, your Nikes may be cutting it, but having proper hiking shoes/boots can make all the difference, especially on tricky terrain or in wet conditions. Depending on your preference and type of hiking you do, you can find a wide variety of hiking boots to match.

5. First Aid Kit

Some may say this is overkill, but you never know when you’ll get a blister or a headache or a super itchy bug bite. You can craft your own little kit with bandaids, salve/ointment, NSAIDs (Tylenol, ibuprofen, etc.), anti-itch cream, etc. You can also buy pre-made kits specifically tailored to day hiking, like the HART Health Day Hike Kit or the Adventure Medical’s Day Tripper Lite. However, if you only bring one thing medical related on a hike, make it the Green Goo First Aid salve. It’s like a first aid kit packed into one little tin.

6. Trekking Poles

While not absolutely necessary, especially on short, flat hikes, I am in pro trekking poles. I would venture to say they are necessary if you are hiking over very uneven terrain and/or are gaining or losing elevation. They provide four points of contact on the ground instead of just two (your feet). I’ve used them for stability as I have delicately crossed streams on boulders and for security when descending a steep incline. Also, if you have knee problems, hiking poles can help take some of stress off of your knees, especially on declines. Yes, I’ll be posting more about trekking poles in the upcoming days/weeks as well.

7. Trail Map

While this may seem unnecessary, I always recommend having some type of map with you. To me, there’s no worse feeling on a hike than that sharp drop in your stomach when you think you are lost. (‘Always be prepared’ say the Boy Scouts.) Sometimes the trail will be marked in Google or Apple maps on your phone. Sometimes, you’ll have cell service and you will be able to pull up a trail map, if needed. And sometimes, you’ll be completely out of cell phone service and have to resort to a paper map. At most trailheads, there will be a large trail map that you can at least take a photo of with your phone. Sometimes, there will be paper maps at the trail as well. One of the biggest mistakes a novice hiker can make is being unprepared, thinking ‘Oh, it’s just a 3-mile hike.’

Bonus item: A dog

Hiking with a pup is highly recommended; dogs make everything better. I’ll just leave it at that.

Is there anything that you never hike without? Let me know. Let’s learn from each other!