In many ways, our love of backpacking is why we are nomads. Certainly, it is an extension of our passion for exploration. While YOLOM (our truck camper) takes us to many beautiful places, some of the most beautiful can only be accessed on foot. Backpacking isn’t just about the destination though. It is about returning to a time when the natural world encompassed humanity. There is something harmonious about emerging yourself entirely in nature. In order to do this without blowing out a hip or stressing your back/neck, it is helpful to have the best backpacking gear and you have come to the right place.
Price vs. Weight
Backpacking can be a surprisingly expensive past time so we are going to fill you in on what is a priority when getting started and what can be upgraded as you go. Also, keep in mind that rental gear is available at many sporting goods stores. Jennifer and I have always been fairly active hikers but we didn’t start backpacking until 2008. Since then we have backpacked all over the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and China. We have thousands of miles underfoot and have played the upgrade game. We started off with heavy gear and have discovered the joy of backpacking with lighter gear. The best backpacking gear shaves ounces which leads to pounds and, yes, every ounce matters when you are carrying that gear anywhere from 5 to 20 miles a day.
This is a simple list of what we carry/recommend. This is the gear that we have found to be the best backpacking gear for us but it might not be the best for everyone in every situation. We will grade this list, not each product, on an A-F scale based on the relative importance to spend the money for quality gear. I am also grouping/categorizing what should take priority based on needs for backpacking. More details for each of these areas for the intent of education will be coming in the following weeks.
- A-Rating: Spend the money for a quality product that is durable, well-designed, and saves weight.
- B-Rating: Prioritize weight-savings and design on a quality product if you can.
- C-Rating: Spend some money on a quality product if you can but if not you can save money now and plan on upgrading later.
- D-Rating: Save some money as the difference in a name-brand product isn’t necessarily worth the cost.
- F-Rating: Save money as this product often needs to be replaced regardless of the quality.
Best Backpacking Gear Essentials
- Backpacks: B-Rating
- Osprey Atmos AG 50
- North Face Terra 55
- Backpack Rain Covers: F-Rating
- Tent: A-Rating
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2
- Tent Tarp (AKA: Footprint): D-Rating
- Camp Towel (XS): D-Rating
- Sleeping Bag/Liner: A-Rating
- North Face Women’s Blue Kazoo
- McKinley Trekker D5
- Thermolite Reactor Fleece Liner
- Sleeping Pad: B-Rating
- Sea to Summit Ultralight
- Water Containers: C-Rating
- 3L CamelBak Bladders
- Vapour Element Flexible Water Bottle
Necessary Backpacking Gear
- Water Filter: B-Rating
- Katadyn BeFree 3L Gravity Filter
- Backpacking Stove: B-Rating
- Jetboil Flash
- Lighter: F-Rating
- Long Spork: B-Rating
- Sea to Summit Alpha Light
- Backpacking Mug: D-Rating
- GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Cup
- Snow Peak Hot Lips (For Bugaboo Cup)
- Headlamp: B-Rating
- Black Diamond Revolt
- Emergency Medical Kit: F-Rating
- Duct Tape: F-Rating
- Poop Trowel: C-Rating
- Prairie Dog UL Shovel
- Toilet Paper: F-Rating
Recommended Necessary Clothing & Apparel
- Underwear: A-Rating
I’m not going to really touch on any of these in other posts because they are fairly obvious but this hopefully helps you create a complete packing list.
- Camping Food
- Toothbrush – There are ways to reduce weight by drilling holes in your toothbrush handle. Jennifer and I actually carry just the brush heads to electronic toothbrushes. They are less than half the size and weight of a full toothbrush.
- Toothpaste – Travel Size
- Sunscreen – We use small portable travel bottles to reduce weight.
- Deodorant – Travel size.
- Wipes – This is a common way of bathing when backpacking. Stay away from wipes with scents. We also only carry what is needed in a small plastic bag.
- Bug Spray – A small bottle with a high percentage of deet.
- Camera Gear – I carry way too much but this is obviously going to be preferential.
- Playing Cards – It is nice to have a small travel size deck of cards and it is an easy way of making friends with others in the backcountry campgrounds.