The Best Backpacking Gear for Men

best backpacking gear
Photo by Kyle Meck

Backpacking should not be torture. Blisters, chafing, terrible sleep. Vacation time is too valuable to waste lugging around heavy, inadequate gear. If it doesn’t keep you dry, warm, and pain-free, then it doesn’t make our list of the best backpacking gear for men.

Before you hit the trail, don’t forget to cross everything off of your backpacking checklist.

Osprey Levity 60 Backpack – $270

Since suitcases are a bit impractical in the backcountry, we’ll need a lightweight backpack that can carry everything. The Levity 60 from Osprey can’t hover on its own, but it comes close. At only 1.9 pounds, you won’t even notice it’s there , and it’s is perfect for carrying loads less than 25 pounds. The Levity loads from the top and has stuff pockets on the side and front. The 3.5mm Lightwire suspension system and breathable mesh back panel keep the bag away from your body, providing constant ventilation and pillowy comfort. Don’t be fending off bears with this bag though. The fabric is so thin and lightweight you can see through it.

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Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent – $450
Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent

You’ve hiked all day to an epic campsite and now it’s time to set up camp. Your home away from home could be a hammock, a bivy under a tarp, or, our favorite for comfort and ease of use, a lightweight tent. The Copper Spur HV UL2 from Big Agnes gives you tons of floor space and headroom inside without creating a heavy anchor in your pack. It’s 2.75 pounds on the trail and comes with two big doors, nice-sized pockets inside for stashing gear, and a vent in the rainfly to kill the condensation.

Set up the Copper Spur with just the rainfly and footprint to cut the weight to 2.1 pounds, or check out their slightly smaller, one-door Fly Creek HV UL2 at 1.9 pounds.

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REI Co-op Magma 10 Sleeping Bag – $349-$369
REI Magma Sleeping Bag

Now for rest. There’s no point in bringing a heavy sleeping bag to put in your lightweight tent. The Magma 10 from REI Co-op cuts everything for weight, but keeps the warmth. The 30-ounce sleeping bag and its 850-fill goose down compresses into a tiny sack. The water resistant properties won’t leave you cold and wet if the weather goes south or your gear goes in the drink. If the thermometer does drop, the fitted body and hood trap in the heat and draw-cords inside the hood let you adjust the fit without letting any precious warmth out.

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Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad – $200-$240
Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm

Continuing our theme of warmth and performance without the weight, the award-winning Thermarest XTherm sleeping pad packs down to 15-ounce, water-bottle shape perfect for  your backpacking adventures. Exactly 2.5 inches of cushion keeps you high off the ground and sleeping soundly. Multiple layers of ThermaCapture (heat-reflecting foil) inside bounce all the heat back to you without weighing the mat down with foam or synthetic insulation. The soft, grippy outer material keeps you on the mat, not the ground, and reduces the “potato chip bag” sound when moving.

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MSR Windburner Duo Stove – $180
MSR Windburner Duo Stove

Wind will suck the heat right out of a stove. Pots sitting on tippy canister stove setups can dump your dinner in the dirt. The MSR Windburner Duo long jumps past these two problems while cooking your dinner at the same time. The windproof radiant burner on the Windburner series doesn’t have an open flame to even worry about losing heat from. The built-in pressure regulator supplies an even flow of fuel to the stove right till the end. No more waiting 10 minutes for a boil with a low canister. Instead of being attached to the top of the canister, the stove sits on the ground and connects to the iso-butane canister with a fuel line. Simmer stew for groups or melt snow in the 4.5 liter Stock Pot without worrying about stability. For solo adventures, downsize to the smaller pot and save 4 ounces.

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Tecnica Forge GTX Hiking Boots – $250
Tecnica Forge GTX Hiking Boot

Just say no to blisters with Tecnica Forge GTX, the world’s first heat-moldable hiking boot. The ankle, heal, and insole all get cooked during a fitting at a specialized shop. After heating, they mold to your feet, resulting in a custom fit. No cutting the edges of custom insoles or hiking until they’re broken in. The adaptive sole built out of Vibram Forge with Megagrip sticks and conforms to the ground as you movewhile protecting you from hard, rocky edges. Textured laces with Kevlar loops locks lacing in place so you don’t have to kill the hiking momentum just to tie your shoes.

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Marmot Eclipse EcoDry Jacket – $250
Marmot Eclipse Jacket

With shelter, cooking, and boots sorted, let’s get some clothes on. Jackets are only as good as the durable water repellency (DWR) coating on the outside and the waterproof membrane on the inside. The DWR makes the water bead, letting the membrane breath moisture out, keeping you dry. For most jackets, the DWR is applied after the jacket is built, but then washes and rubs off with use. With the Marmot Eclipse, the DWR is bonded at a molecular level to the fabric. It can’t wash out. It can’t be rubbed off. This means the water will bead off the Eclipse forever, no special DWR sprays needed every season.

The process for making the jacket uses far less water as well. Win for the environment and keeping the trees we want to hike through. Higher pockets let you access your snacks (like ReGrained bars)with backpack hip belts on. Pit zips under the arms dump heat when you’re moving hard. It easily packs down to soda-can size when the sun is out.

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Icebreaker Oasis Short Sleeve Shirt – $80
Icebreaker Oasis Short Sleeve Shirt

Under the jacket, you’ve got two options. For moving fast, go with the Arcteryx Motus Crew. The polyester-based Phasic FL fabric evaporates sweat off your skin faster than anything else. Flat seams won’t chafe under pressure from backpack straps. These fit snug to wick moisture faster.

Option No. 2 is a natural fiber that never smells. Tents are small quarters to live with a sweaty shirt for multiple days. The 100-percent merino Oasis Short Sleeve from Icebreaker won’t smell, even after drenched in sweat. Dry it out overnight and you’re good to go for day two, four, or even seven. The superfine merino fibers feel good against your skin and regulates temperature well in cool or warm conditions. The 200 weight fabric is a good all-rounder for conditions.

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Patagonia Quandary Pants – $79
Patagonia Quandary Pant

At the bottom of the pile is the pants. Pretty important for most of us (unless you’re trying the kilt-hiking thing). The Patagonia Quandary will last through anything you can throw at them. Two pockets in the front, two in the back and one on the leg hold your valuables. The 50 UPF keeps the sun off when it’s hot, and the water-resistant DWR finish keeps the water off when it’s not.

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Article originally published September 1, 2015. Last updated by Ross Collicutt on April 23, 2018.

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