Gear is a sentimental thing. It gets tied pretty easily to the big trips, events, and memories of our time outside. Whether it’s the camp stove you’ve had since your first backpacking trip, the boots you wore through on a big thru-hike, or the jacket that you had to patch after a fall during a hike, it’s hard to get rid of the gear attached to so many memories (even if, realistically, you probably should have thrown those boots out years ago).We asked goEast readers to to share the story behind the item they’ve had the longest for the chance to be featured and win an EMS gift card. Interested in sharing your story for next week? Submit it here! 

The author—and his trusty trekking poles—hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through the Washington Cascades. | Courtesy Carey K.

In March 1996, in preparation for a weeklong backpack trip in Grand Canyon National Park, I purchased a set of LEKI Super Makalu trekking poles. I had no idea then that 25 years later I would still be using these same poles, albeit with a few replacement parts here and there. My trusty LEKI poles are like old friends, having been with me through thousands of miles of hiking, whether on home turf in Maine and New England or on long-distance treks elsewhere in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Over the course of some 12,000 miles of serious use, including thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail, Florida Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve added new grips, tips and baskets, but otherwise the basic poles are still the same. Heavily scratched and banged up as they are, I would never hit the trail without them. On the final segment of my PCT hike in September 2021, negotiating one of the many areas of blowdown along the trail through the Glacier Peak Wilderness, I bent the bottom third of one of the poles. I finished the hike with it just the same (gently!) but figured that my LEKI poles had finally seen enough duty and it was time to retire them. When I got home to Maine post-hike, however, I put the bent shaft piece in a vise and slowly and carefully straightened it into functional form. And with that, any thoughts of purchasing shiny new trekking poles dissipated. I just don’t have the heart to say goodbye to my dear friends of so many wonderful trail miles, and maybe with a little more TLC, one day they’ll get me through the Continental Divide Trail. We’ll see. Carey K. (@careykish)