Finding the right backpacking gear doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. But you do have to make sure you have the basics though like hiking boots, backpack, sleeping bag and a tent. Your first backpacking trip will be difficult if you don’t have a backpack.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. This list is a good starting point for everything you need. Check the backpacking checklist too. The gear is solid and relatively lightweight. You can go lighter but more expensive, or less expensive but heavier. Used gear swaps can have awesome deals. Whatever your price range, get out and explore!
Ultralight packs are great if everything inside is ultralight. For the rest of us, gear isn’t insanely light and we need a pack to carry the normal-weight things well.
The Baltoro line from Gregory is well known for its comfort under load. Your knees are going to hate you if your gear is over 50 pounds, but the Baltoro 65 can carry it. The well-padded hip belt and adjustable lumbar support disperse the weight. The hip belt as well as the shoulder straps use Auto Angle Adjust suspension which rotates to your body and moves with you while you walk. When it’s time for a day hike, pop out the water bladder sleeve and wear it as a daypack.
The previous version of the Hubba Hubba tent from MSR won many awards and was well-regarded as one of the best 2 person tents you could get. MSR went and made it better.
The Hubba Hubba NX takes the bomb-proof, do-anything original and upgraded the poles and fly. The Easton Syclone poles use cutting-edge composite materials to bend way past where you are comfortable and still snapback. New Xtreme Shield waterproofing on the fly lasts three times longer than any other coating. Easy one-person pole setup and tall vertical walls inside are still the same Hubba Hubba we know and love.
Tents and sleeping bags are the biggest things in your pack, so if we shrink either of them, that’s less to carry. After sleeping in a cheap bag, the Phase 20 from Marmot will feel ridiculously lightweight.
The 10 denier fabric is paper-thin, but strong, and holds the high-loft 850-fill down. All the feathers are covered with Down Defender to be water resistant and dry faster. The bottom end expands for your feet and a small pocket near the top can hide a headlamp to use in the middle of the night. The whole thing keeps you warm down to 20F and weighs only 1.5 pounds.
Hiking with a heavy pack can be tough, but try doing it without sleep for days on end and you’ll go crazy. Having a quiet sleeping mat that’s three inches thick like the Nemo Tensor Ultralight is the key to good snoozing on the trail.
The Tensor rolls up smaller than a Nalgene water bottle. The included Vortex pump sack is filled up with air then rolled and squeezed into the mat, reducing the mat-killing moisture inside. The two-way valve holds the air in while you’re pumping it and dumps it fast when you pull it for quick teardown. Thermal mirror film inside reflects heat back to you without the bulk of puffy insulation.
Most of us can live without gourmet cooking for a few days but it’s certainly nice to have a home-style hot meal on the trail after a long day. The Primus PrimeTech Stove set makes it easy to cook for groups on the trail.
The integrated windscreen and burner is quiet and efficient, making it easy to delicately simmer a sauce or boil water for camp coffee ASAP. The windscreen, built-in heat exchanger on the pot and fuel regulator all contribute to making your fuel last up to twice as long as other stoves. Everything nests and packs into the included bag.
One of most tedious tasks of camp life is filtering water. If you’re bad at rock, paper, scissors then you’re going to spend a lot of time hunched over streams like Gollum while pumping a water filter. Sawyer, maker of tiny, lightweight filters, has made a precious new filter setup that lets gravity do the work.
The system is, for all intents and purposes, a water bladder with a hose connected to a filter. Fill up the bag with water, hang it in a tree or throw it on a rock and let the water run through. The Sawyer Mini filter can be attached to another water bladder or water bottle. It filters out 99.99999% of bacteria and 99.9999% of protozoa as well as 100% of microplastics. Flush fresh water backwards through it to clean once in a while and it will filter 100,000 gallons.
Solid boots are one of the first investments you should make in getting outside. Keep your feet happy and they’ll take you a long way. The Baldo boots from Lowa are a perfect combination of sturdy durability and comfort.
The split leather and fabric on top will bushwhack through anything. The Gore-tex lining inside keeps your feet dry through rain and streams. The laces go around a metal X-Lacing ‘pin’ in the middle of the tongue, keeping it centered horizontally and vertically. Four sets of eyelets at the top let you configure your lacing however you need to keep those feet happy.
Eddie Bauer does a ton of travel gear aimed at the adventure cruisers, but don’t forget about EB’s more serious collection. The First Ascent line is built for the backcountry and tested daily by the world’s hardest gear users: Guides.
The BC Uplift Jacket from the First Ascent line is waterproof, breathable, comfortable to wear, has their StormRepel Super DWR coating for shedding water. It packs into it’s own pocket and comes in orange or grey. Great, it’s another waterproof jacket. Here’s the best part. It weighs less than seven ounces.
No one wants a tent-mate that stinks. Most of the time it’s just their clothes that stink, but whatever. Obviously, becoming a merino sheep is the solution. But since being a sheep is out of the question for most of us, just wearing merino wool is a pretty good second choice.
Ridge Merino makes their Journey T-shirt with their new (m)Force merino wool fibres wrapped around a nylon core to make them stronger. It’s cut a bit slimmer and longer which is perfect for a base layer hiking. It also happens to look and feel good going out for a beer. If t-shirts fly at your office, you can wear it to work the next morning too. And smell great.
Soft-shell material is a wonder fabric. It’s breathable like a regular sweater, but very water resistant like a full jacket. The Arc’teryx Gamma LT pants are made out of Fortius DW 2.0 fabric; very water resistant and very breathable at the same time. After walking through wet brush, the water beads off. If you’re caught in light rain, the water also just beads off. Spill your beer around the campfire? It beads off. Just don’t spill your beer.
A soft waistband, a built-in belt with metal buckle, zippered pockets and elastic hem are all added to the four-way stretch fabric with the signature Arc’teryx build quality. Outside of becoming shorts, there isn’t much these pants can’t do.
Some people wouldn’t be caught dead backpacking with an entire chair in their backpack. Rightly so. Most camp chairs are enormous. But when your chair weighs just over a pound, you might reconsider.
The Chair Zero from Helinox is as light as you can get for a full chair that isn’t just a mat on the ground. DAC aluminum poles fold out in a frame that just pops into place with elastic cord. The ripstop polyester seat pops onto the end of the frame and you’re ready to sit. The impossibly thin chair can hold 265 pounds no problem. The only problem you may have is getting it back from your friends.
Headlamps are coming into a sweet place of weight, comfort and brightness. In the past all we got were tiny lights that gave too dim, or monsters that were clunky and fell down your face. BioLite recently released their first headlamp ever and it’s comfortable, bright, and rechargeable.
The simply-named HeadLamp 330 has a 245-foot spot light with a 50-foot flood in a sleek 2.4 ounce package. The light and wires on the front are smoothly built into the fabric band with the rechargeable battery on the back. The 330 can do 3.5 hours on high or 40 hours on low. To recharge, simply plug into the wall, battery pack or solar panel.
The best multi-tool in the world is the one you have in your pocket when you need it. Anywhere Tools by Keyport is a multi-tool system that let’s you take just what you need. Pick the modules you want and connect them together.
The Neb knife module has a small blade. The Moca II module has a box cutter, 2 screw drivers as well as a bottle opener. The Pocket Flare is a small usb-rechargeable light. There’s also a USB-cord for your phone, a pocket clip and side plates with rad designs. Clip them together in any order and hit the trail. Or the road. Or work. Anywhere really.
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