Next up in the Brand Ambassador Gear List series is Liz "Snorkel" Thomas. Snorkel has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States on 16 long distance hikes, including the pioneering traverse of the Chinook Trail across the Columbia River Gorge and the pioneering traverse of the Wasatch Range, which she did solo. Liz is affectionately known as the "Queen of Urban Hiking" and shares her gear list with us:

In the spring and fall when I'm itching to backpack, but there's too little vacation time and too much snow in the mountains, I turn to urban hiking. Urban thru-hiking has been a fun way to get to know a city, see its quirks that only locals know about, and reconnect with old friends.


I've walked through Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and Denver (twice). These trips ranged from 60 miles (over two days in Chicago) to more than 200 miles and almost two weeks in Portland.

Just like hiking outdoors, on urban hikes, I try to be self sufficient while also taking advantage of what the ecosystem around me can offer. I plan my trips to spend nights indoors, either crashing at friends' houses, at hostels, or Air BnB's. Still, often I will sleep on the floor, so to not impose on my friends, I bring my own sleeping bag and pad.

Besides finding appropriate places to go to the bathroom, the hardest thing about urban hiking for me has been foot pain associated with pounding the pavement. On hikes where I plan to cover bigger miles, I'll go as far as to bring an extra pair of shoes. For long walks on pavement, I choose a shoe that has more cushioning than I would normally use for a trail hike.


The biggest temptation on an urban hike is to skip out the rainy days and hang out in a café. But just like on a wilderness backpacking trip, it's essential to keep to my original mileage and schedule. For spring or fall urban hikes, having good raingear is essential.

After a long day of hiking, I often grab a meal in a restaurant with friends. As a result, I use a quick-drying wool baselayer. Wool has natural anti-bacterial properties that keep it smelling better than synthetic (very important in an urban setting). I can wash it at night and it is light enough that it will dry. I also try to dress a little nicer on urban hikes than backcountry hikes so I don't stick out like a sore thumb in the city.

Selma to Montgomery

Lastly, I've found that more than on a backcountry hike, having good electronics on an urban hike is key. While I'll also print out my maps on paper in case my phone dies, I find that I rely on my phone a lot more in an urban setting than in the woods. I design my routes on Google MyMaps and the app-based version is very useful for navigating. On urban hikes, I also use my phone to find nearby restaurants or restrooms and also to coordinate with friends who may be joining me on the trip. A good external battery becomes an essential item. I also bring my laptop with me so that I can work from cafes throughout the day or redesign my route in Google MyMaps if I get behind schedule.


Urban hikes have showed me so many cool things about cities: from rope swings over hillsides to art to slides. Putting together a route has been as simple as finding a theme and connecting points. In the past, I've made walking routes that span the entire distance of one street, follow a waterway, or connect all the public art, stairways, or fountains. Whatever aspect of your city you find interesting, grab a daypack and explore!

lt-swing snorkel-urban-hiking

Urban Hiking Gear

Gear List for an Urban Hike      
Cool, wet fall or spring conditions in the Pacific Northwest
in pack 10.26 Base weight
item description / notes / rationale
backpack Gossamer Gear Kumo 21.6 On shorter urban hikes, I'll use the Type 2, but for long ones where I'll have to carry sleep equipment, the Kumo balances weight and size well
Pad Nightlite sleeping pad torso 5.2 Doubles as my pack's frame. Makes my friend's cold, linoleum floor feel warmer
Quilt Katabatic Sawatch Quilt 18.2 I find myself sleeping on friend's floors often on urban hikes, so carrying some overnighting equipment keeps me self sufficient. This quilt compacts well and weighs less than a sleeping bag.
Clear waterproof pack liner Gossamer Gear 1.2
underwear - bottoms 1.4
insulating top Montbell Thermawrap Parka 7.9 Stays warm when wet, looks fashionable when I go out at night
raingear (hard shell) top Montbell Torrent Flyer 8.0 Spring and fall hiking calls for heavy duty raingear, especially to keep me moving when the caf is calling
raingear bottoms MLD Rain Skirt Silnylon 2.3
windgear (soft shell) top Montbell Tachyon Anorak 1.7
Extra tank top Altra Women's Performance Tank 1.8 Use for sleep, change out when washing the other shirt, or to smell presentable in public
camp shoes Luna Mono Sandals 4.6
Extra shoes Altra Paradigm 8.0
warm hat Montbell Chameece Cap with Ear Warmer 1.3
sun hat Gossamer Gear visor 1.4
spare socks Darn Tough 1/4 sock light 1.2
Platypus with Hose 1 L with hose 3.2
Gatorade Bottle 1.6 For drink mixes
Light GoMotion Fusion Light 2 9.0
sunscreen Sawyer Sunscreen SPF 50 1.6
toothbrush 0.2
toothpaste Toothpowder 0.5
Hand sanitizer 1.0 For the gross times when public restrooms have no soap
camera 6.2
umbrella Montbell UL Trekking Umbrella 5.4
phone with lightweight case 5.4
phone charger 1.6
extra phone battery 6.0
Sharpie 0.2
Leukotape On Sharpie 0.0
safety pin For popping blsiters on the fly 0.1
Meds 0.3
Maps Varies
hairband 0.1
Laptop 32.0 Get some work done during lunch
Charger 4.0
Purple Rain Adventure Skirts
Darn Tough 1/4 sock
Altra Olympus
Altra Performance Tank
base / wicking layer top Montbell Super Merino Wool Mid-Weight High Neck Shirt Women'
base / wicking layer bottom Montbell Light Trail Tights
Sports bra
Safety Vest From Home Depot
food - snacks Just a few Probars in case I find myself in an area with few restauraunts. I'm going to eat off the land if I can!
water 1 L average carried
TOTAL in pack

Snorkel is stepping down as a Gossamer Gear Brand Ambassador, we have so enjoyed having her be a part of the program. She continues to be an inspiration and educator and we wish her the best in her future adventures! You can keep up with her latest hikes, articles, books, classes on thru-hiking and more at Liz Thomas: Long Distance Adventure Hiking.

February 09, 2017 — Brian Fryer