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, I sometimes go on hiking trips with other guys for fellowship and adventure, and they’ve asked about gear. The following list is for me and may help others make wise choices in gear purchases for their own hiking or backpacking trips. Feel free to comment!
Also, if you want to be “friends” on Strava, go here – or on Garmin, go here. And if you want to listen to a good backpacking podcast, one of my favorites is Backpacking and Blisters (they didn’t pay me to say that!).
(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. I recently got a SMD Skyscape Trekker 1p. I’m excited to try it out this Spring!
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 both of us. !
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. For me, down is the way to go.
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 pillowcase. 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 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. It also adds a tiny bit of warmth to my sleep system for those colder nights. Finally, it doubles as a sit pad. I don’t always bring the this pad because it is a little bulky, but I like it.
I’ve tried various hiking shoes in the past, from Merrell to Xero 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.
I use an MSR Pocket Rocket when I want to keep my pack weight down. The Pocket Rocket is a favorite of many backpackers. It works well and is super reliable. If you need a nice little portable stove, for sure check it out. There are a few variations, but they’re all good.
If I don’t care as much about weight, I take my JetBoil Flash.* Yes, it’s a bit more bulky, but it boils water in a flash (I had to do that!). On an average day I can boil two cups of water in under two minutes. It also has a very reliable piezo lighter. I really like my JetBoil and would take it on every single trip if it weren’t so bulky.
Most backpackers use their phones for maps and navigation. That’s an excellent option. The Gaia or Guthook/FarOut apps are good. I have a flip phone so I don’t use it for navigation when hiking. Instead, I print out maps. Always. And my Garmin Fenix has excellent maps on it. I often upload my route to my Fenix. Between it and the paper maps, I’m good to go.
My wife and I also use a Garmin inReach Mini 2.* It’s a little device you can use for emergencies (it has an SOS button). You can also text and send locations using the inReach. It does have weather updates and a few more features, but we mostly use it for peace of mind and sending a text if we’re off the grid. Note: there is a subscription cost to use the inReach.
A good headlamp is essential for backpacking. I started with an inexpensive BioLite headlamp that worked fine. However, it required three AAA batteries. That’s fine, but I never knew how much life was left in the batteries, so I always had to carry extras. I recently upgraded to a nice Nitcore headlamp: the NU33.* It’s right around 3.5 ounces, which isn’t the lightest one out there. But it is USB-C rechargeable, and it’s not difficult to cycle through the various modes. Finally, it does have a lock you can use to prevent it from accidentally turning on in your pack.
2 Replies to “Backpacking List Archive”
This is cool!
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I enjoyed reading the article.
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