Over the years I’ve wanted to have some sort of an ongoing gear list for my backpacking and hiking excursions. A list would help me remember the gear I’ve used – was it good, bad, or somewhere in between? Also, others have asked about my gear favorites and I haven’t had a way to share my thoughts and comments. Therefore, the following list is for me personally and it may help others make wise choices in gear purchases for their own hiking or backpacking trips. Feel free to comment! (NOTE: although not many of the following links are affiliate links, the ones marked with an *asterisk* are affiliate links).
Tent: I use a Six Moons Design “Lunar Solo” for most of my hikes. It’s a great lightweight trekking pole single-wall tent. The big negative for me is that it’s almost too small for my six-foot frame. And yes, like other single-wall tents, it does have a condensation issue on humid nights.
When my wife and I backpack together, we’ve been using a Marmot Tungsten 2P Ultralight. We love this tent! At around 3.6 pounds it’s not the lightest one out there, but it’s gotten us through some storms and winds on various trails. And there is enough space for the both of us. Sadly, I don’t think they make this tent anymore. When ours finally breaks, I’ll be sad!
Quilt/Sleeping Bag: My first experience with down was a Kelty 20 degree down sleeping bag. It was fine, but slightly bulky. I now use a Hammock Gear 20 degree quilt – the economy burrow (tall/wide). It’s super light, it packs down well, and it’s gotten me through some nights in the 20 degree range!
Sleeping Mat/Air Pad: I’ve been using a Sea to Summit Ether Light XT (insulated) for over a year now. It’s been a game-changer for me. Because it is 4 inches thick, I can sleep on my side very comfortably. It’s not the lightest or most compact pad out there, but this is one area where I’m OK with that. I need a good night’s sleep when backpacking, and this pad has helped me sleep well on trail. (Note: mine did develop a small leak within the warranty period, so I sent it back to Sea to Summit following their instructions and since it was not fixable, they sent me a new one.)
Pillow: I use an older version of a Cocoon “Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow.” It packs down super small and is only around 3.5 ounces. My wife uses the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium inflatable pillow (large). That one is also pretty light and packs down small. Here’s a backpacking hack: I also bring a very thin neck gaiter along on backpacking trips to use for a pillow case. It’s also nice to have a neck gaiter if you need to wear one to keep the sun off your neck/head or for some extra warmth.
Extra Pad: I recently purchased the 1/8th inch closed foam pad from Outdoor Vitals. It’s super light and it provides an extra layer of protection for the bottom of my air mat and it adds a tiny bit of warmth to my sleep system for those colder nights. I don’t always bring the pad, because it is a little bulky, but I do like it!
I’ve tried various hiking shoes in the past, from Merrell to Oboz, but my favorite hiking shoes are Altras. These are actually trail running shoes, which I always use for all hikes. Trail running shoes are lighter than hiking boots. Altra shoes also have a wide-toe box, which I like. Right now I have Altra Lone Peak 5s. Actually, I have two pairs of them – I got a backup because I like them so much. And they do have a nice gaiter lock system which I’ve utilized.
As for socks, I mostly use merino wool socks. I have several pairs of Smartwool socks and also some Darn Tough wool socks and REI’s brand of wool socks. Wool socks don’t hold in the stink as much as other socks. And while using wool socks I’ve never had a blister. Whatever you do, don’t use cotton socks for serious hiking/backpacking!
Although most hikers understand this, it is very important to bring trekking poles on a backpacking trip or hike. They provide extra support, traction, and balance. They also take some wear and tear off your knees and help your posture when hiking. I’ve used a few different brands, from name brands (Mountainsmith) to cheap Amazon poles (Cascade Mountain)*. You can do the research on this yourself, since there are various types of poles: carbon fiber, aluminum, folding, extending, etc. Although I’ve used cheaper trekking poles, I tend towards better ones because I don’t want one to break when I’m miles from nowhere on a tough trail. Also, I recommend cork hand grips and extendable poles rather than folding ones. The folding ones are sometimes a pain in the butt to use.
Yes, we’ve used the Sawyer Squeeze* with great success. It really is an excellent filter that isn’t so bulky. It fits Smartwater bottles very well, so take some of those along on your hike! Note: I don’t recommend the Sawyer Squeeze mini* because the flow rate is quite slow. I should also mention another excellent water filter I’ve used: the Lifestraw peak series.* This one, in my opinion, might even be better than the Sawyer Squeeze because it’s lighter/smaller and the flow rate is even better. When you get a filter, just get a name brand one. It’s not worth saving $10 getting a cheap off brand filter made out of cheap/questionable materials.