Many hikers and backpackers obsess over ultralight backpacking gear. But while the lightest gear is great while you're hiking, you'll be less comfortable at camp if you go too ultralight. Unless you’re a thru-hiker or regularly go on long-distance backcountry treks, it might be worth packing slightly heavier, more full-featured camping gear. You'll be more comfortable at camp this way.
Whatever your backpacking style, it’s not easy choosing a single favorite piece of hiking gear for every category. But after months of in-the-field trial and error, here are our picks for the best backpacking gear for the trail in 2022. So, get out your backpacking checklist. It’s time to go shopping ahead of your next backpacking trip.
Sea to Summit Telos TR2 Plus Backpacking Tent
Sea to Summit has been a perennial favorite outdoor gear brand of ours for years, especially for its stuff sacks, lightweight backpacking gear, and other clever camping accessories. The brand seriously stepped up its game in 2022 with some of the best backpacking tents in recent memory. The Telos TR2 Plus tent, in particular, is versatile, lightweight, and offers plenty of great tech. It’s a three-plus-season tent designed to shelter two people in all but the most extreme weather. Features we love include Sea to Summit’s Tension Ridge design (for more head room and easier access throughout), quick-connect pole feet, and a modular Fair-Share Storage system that makes splitting up the packed tent’s components between multiple hikers easy.
Stone Glacier Chilkoot 15° Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags are usually warm or light, but rarely both. For cold-weather backpackers, Stone Glacier’s Chilkoot 15° strikes the ideal balance of weight and warmth for fall and winter adventures. At just over two pounds, it’s plenty packable for all but the most ounce-obsessed backpacker. With 22.4 ounces of 850-fill-power HyperDry Grey Goose Down, the Chilkoot is designed for winter use down to 15 degrees F. For more extreme camping, the Chilkoot 0° is only slightly heavier but offers even more insulation. Add a sleeping pad for extra comfort and warmth.
Osprey Aether 55
Osprey has long been a favorite among backpackers and hardcore hikers. The latest Aether 55 is a phenomenal backpack that’s versatile enough for almost any type of camping trip or style of backpacking. It’s heavier than many of its competitors, but that added weight is the price you pay for a long list of features. We especially love the arched back panel that allows airflow between the pack and your back, because nobody likes a sweaty back. It’s durable enough to carry the heaviest loads, features top and front pack access, and is infinitely adjustable for hikers to dial in their perfect fit.
Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew
A good merino wool mid-layer is versatile enough to wear by itself on milder days. When the temperature drops, you can layer up with this underneath some light layers as well. In the winter, this can be your base layer under some serious cold-weather gear, too. Smartwool’s Merino 250 Base Layer Crew is breathable, sweat-wicking, and buttery soft. This shirt works as a base layer, mid-layer, or even slim-fit outer layer. The merino wool construction is the perfect fabric for both casual and active outdoor adventures. And, merino wool won't stink as much after a few days in the backcountry.
REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX Rain Jacket
While it’s bulkier than most of its competition, REI Co-op’s Stormbolt GTX Rain Jacket is one of our favorite field-tested rain jackets. The three-layer construction -- including a Gore-Tex membrane and long-lasting DWR coated ripstop exterior -- provides incredible wet-weather protection and breathability. Pack-friendly pockets offer ample storage space, and the helmet-compatible hood makes it versatile enough for a variety of outdoor adventures off the trail.
Merrell Moab 2 Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots
Serious backpacking demands a seriously legit hiking boot (leave the trail running shoes at home). There is no one perfect footwear for every type of hike, but Merrell’s Moab 2 Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots are darn close. Straight out of the box, they’re incredibly comfortable, requiring minimal break-in. The ultra-grippy Vibram outsole delivers mile after mile of traction over any terrain. Most importantly for winter hikes is the built-in Gore-Tex layer. This gives highly-breathable, waterproof protection through rivers, mud, snow, and slush.
Soto Windmaster Stove
For ultralight trips and loaded-to-the-gills backcountry treks alike, Soto’s Windmaster is our favorite backpacking stove. It boasts an award-winning micro regulator that delivers bulletproof performance in cold, wet, and windy weather. Built-in pot supports provide a more stable base to cook up on-the-go camping meals. The design is ultra-simple and makes breakdown, storage, and clean-up easy.
CamelBak Crux 2L Reservoir Filtration Kit Filtered by LifeStraw
Like a good multi-tool, the best backpacking gear does double, even triple duty. CamelBak teamed up with LifeStraw for its latest Crux 2L Reservoir Filtration Kit to do just that. The result is a streamlined hydration bladder with built-in water filtration. Just fill from any source and sip as you would from a traditional bladder. The water is made potable thanks to a two-step active carbon filtration process that removes parasites, bacteria, even microplastics. Plus, with every purchase, CamelBak promises one full year of clean drinking water for a child in need.
BioLite HeadLamp 750
BioLite has been our go-to outdoor headlamp brand for years, and its flagship HeadLamp 750 is a good example of why. It blends lightweight construction with a buttery soft headband for all-day comfort. Most importantly, however, is the ultra-bright LED that puts out a whopping 750 lumens. Plus, the USB-rechargeable battery will run on high for seven hours or low for 150 hours -- more than enough for a long weekend in the bush.
Gerber Truss Multi-Tool
Gerber makes some of the best multi-tools in the world. For backpacking, we like the Truss. It’s compact, full-featured, and affordable. The 17 integrated tools are everything you need for routine tasks in the backcountry. Some of the most useful tools are pliers, openers, wire cutters, various blades, and a saw. Plus, with a 4.35-inch footprint, it packs down small and weighs just 8 ounces.
Helinox Chair Zero
Of course, no one needs a chair for camping while heading outdoors. That’s why nature gives us tree stumps. But if you don’t mind a little extra weight, Helinox’s Chair Zero is the perfect piece of luxury camping gear. This chair will give you more round-the-campfire comfort than a stump will. The seat sits 8.5 inches off the ground and supports up to 265 pounds, so it’s the closest thing to a La-Z-Boy you’ll find in the backcountry. Plus, it’s ultralight, weighing just a pound. And, it packs down to the width of a standard water bottle.
For extended backpacking and camping trips where you don’t mind packing a little more, consider additional luxuries like a portable shower or a rugged tablet for chronicling your adventures from the field. Have a good trip!
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