List of Equipment for Backpacking / Thru Hiking

Basic Backpacking Equipment

Down Sleeping Bag

This is a lot of writing but a good purchase on a sleeping bag can make or break your experience and there are some important factors to consider that aren’t apparently obvious.

Mummy style filled with 700+ down are generally the smallest and lightest and smallest sleeping bags. 700+ down is feathers from older birds which compact better and provide superior warmth with less weight unlike typical down which is picked from young birds grown for food and provide less warmth per ounce and due to that simply cost more. Not to be a weight weenie but a small size sleeping bag is important because it is typically the largest item you have to carry that can not be shared and the difference between a synthetic and high quality down can be the difference in a 6L or more of additional space and two pounds of additional weight.

Sierra Designs and REI use a water resistant down, dry down, which greatly reduces their down feathers ability to become wet and retain water when wet. Precautions are still needed, such as keeping your down sleeping bag in a light weight silnylon stuff sack, but this feature really shines on those mornings of high condensation where your tent ceiling is saturated with water on the inside and a bump of the walls causes the water to rain down. The Zissou, Igneo, Joule and Cosmic are all mummy style bags, if this isn’t of interest to you check out the Sierra Designs Backcountry bed which is designed to provide that comforter like feel of being at home however they are substantially heavier and bulkier due to the extra material and down and are not prefered for backpacking. The Kelty Cosmos is a great budget down sleeping bag that compresses almost as well as the others mentioned; it also has a smaller stuff sack thus.

Temperature Ratings: One thing to keep in mind about temperature ratings what is assumed you will be wearing. A sleeping bag’s temperature rating isn’t measured with a person being in their underwear. As is always the case thermal efficiency works best with layers. So a sleeping bag’s temperature rating is assumed on the low in  you will be wearing full thermal pants and long sleeve thermal shirt, for colder weather a thicker version, socks and a beanie with a temperature appropriate sleeping mat underneath to insulate from the ground. As everyone is different if you are going to take your 30°F bag to some place with temps around 30°F you should consider having a extra layer such as a light down jacket or fleece to sleep in as an option as humidity and outside wind can play a big part in how warm you are in your bag. The ratings are not measured with very high humidity (which will always feel colder) and higher wind speeds (which pull warmth away from you if its getting under the rain fly of your tent). For those reason its a good idea to expect the temperatures to be 10°F colder than what is forecasted. When thinking about forecasted temperature higher points on a terrain are always warmer than lower points, cool air collects in the low points as cold air falls and warm air rises.

Womens vs Mens bags: I’ve heard a gripe that women’s sleeping bags just cost more than men’s because everything for women are more expensive. With sleeping bags this is never the case in my opinion. Research has shown that women tend to prefer more insulation than men do at a given temperature to be comfortable this women’s bags are often slightly heavier than men’s for the same temperature rating and more expensive than men’s at the same temperature rating, this is due to more insulation being added into the women’s models and down is the most expensive aspect of a down sleeping bag.  For women going to use a mens sleeping bag the you may feel colder as the temperature gets to the rating temp for another reason. The cut of men’s bags are larger to accommodate the average larger size of a male creating more dead air space in the bag  making it take more body heat to warm up and increasing the possibility of drafts down the opening.

Storage: When storing your down sleeping bag at home store it loose so it keeps its loft and warmth rating as long as possible, stuff / compression sacks are only for the trail. Most down bags come with an oversized mesh storage bag. Use these for long term storage or hang on a hanger in your closet. Ensure airflow gets to your bag and is stored in the lower humidity section of your house (not a basement) to prevent any moisture build up which could lead to mold / mildew depending on your local environmental conditions.


Favorite 3 Season Sleeping Bags / Blankets

  • Sierra Designs Zissou Plus 700 / 30 Degree, regular – 970g  15×7″  7L/ 424 cu. in., 36°/26°F EU rating, $199.95
  • Sierra Designs Eleanor Plus 700 / 30 Degreeregular – 1060g  15×8″ 12L / 753 cu. in., 30°F/19°F EU rating $229.95
  • REI Igneo Sleeping Bag, regular – 822g, 17×8″, 14L/858 cu. in., 30°/19°F EU rating,  $299.99
  • REI Joule Women’s Sleeping Bag, regular – 963g,  18×8.5″, 1021 cu. in., 23°/11°F EU rating, $299.99
  • Snugpack Jungle Blanket, one size – 700g, 8×6″, 226 cu. in., 45°F+ temp rating, $49.00
    • I really like this for any temperature lows expected above 60F. One side is a water resistant fabric that handles condensation drips really well. Its also a great blanket for a multitude of uses. For sleeping under it around the 45F temperatuer range you will definatly want to have socks, full base layer and beanie on and sleep without tossing and turning much and ‘burrito’ the blanket around you.

Sleeping Mat

A sleeping mat is really important but can often be very bulky. Although expensive the Thermarest NeoAir solves a low space consumption yet very comfortable. It can be inflated at any firmness level you like, has a reflective inside layer to the baffling to keep you warmer with no weight penalty. The texture of the NeoAir product line is also crucial as its slightly cling feel keeps you from sliding around against the silky surface of a sleeping bag. The NeoAir comes in a 3 season and a winter version, Xtherm. For winter camping it is very important to inflate with a bag and not your mouth as your breath introduces moisture into the sleeping pad which will make it colder. In the case of insulation filled sleeping pads such as the Exped Downmat you should never blow with your mouth into the sleeping pad (unless you are left with no other option) as the moisture once introduced may never be able to be fully removed. The Xtherm and Exped both come with a inflation sack.

Favorite Sleeping Mats

  • Thermarest NeoAir, regular – 340g, 9×4”, R-Value 3.2 / 35°F+,  List Price: $159.95 – Buy on Amazon
    • Very comfortable, warm in cooler weather but great in the summer, lightest pad with R-Value rating. This is my go to sleeping pad for non winter.
  • Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm, regular – 430g, 9×4″, R-Value 5.7 / 0°F+, List Price: $189.95 – Buy On Amazon
    • Very comfortable, ideal for cold sleepers or someone backpacking regularly in colder climates or mild winter conditions.
  • Exped Downmat HL Winter (WinterLite), MW –  620g, R-Value 7.0 / -25°F+, List Price: $259.00
    • Extremely comfortable. You can feel the warmth being held in from the pad at single digit temperatures. The MW is the 25″ version which is better for heavy winter sleeping bags to prevent them from falling off the edge of pads.  Not for warm weather use! This is my go to sleeping pad for winter use.
  • OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad – 410g, R-Value 1.3 / 40°F+,  List Price: $69.99 – Buy on Amazon
    • Great budget pad at $47 on amazon. Comfortable for the price compared to closed cell pads. Great value in regards to weight.

Backpacks – 35L +

Backpacks for backpacking and thru hiking need to be a combination of comfortable, structural, functional, adjustable, supportive and some would say lightweight. The pack will carry everything you have with you from the start of your journey to the end. Aside from carrying too much stuff or heavy version of items nothing will make you more uncomfortable than a pack that isn’t up for the job. There are lots of good packs available however no manufacturer puts out the top quality at a great price like Osprey. Osprey bags are bomb proof, functional, highly adjustable and supportive with a bevy of features. Check out these bags below. If you are unsure what size gather all the gear you plan to take lay it out on the floor as close together as possible measure and convert measurements to volume in liters or cubic inches. Keep in mind that in a bag things are stuffed together and compacted more than you can do this way and always make use of compression bags when possible. Alternatively you can just drag all your gear to your local REI or outdoor store and figure it out there … they will love you for being so hands on!

Picking The Right Size Pack in Volume

Figuring out the right pack size can seem daunting and you read about people using all different pack sizes. The ultra light weighters that say a 35L bag is all you need to the REI employee that generically suggests a 65L size with the idea of using the straps to compress the extra space to that random commenter who claims to backpack with 50lbs and a massive external frame. Lets get one thing out of the way though before size, internal frame only. Just watch someone going up some steep and rough terrain with an external frame and you’ll see why. Not fun.

So to bring the size ranges below into perspective this take into account relatively light compressible items. Not the absolute smallest and lightest money can buy such as a 500g tent but reasonable. Sharing a tent, stove and other items as well as minimizing your creature comforts and are all key. If your items are not small and light you should probably look at one size larger. If you are looking at super ultra light minimalist  you can probably get away with a 50L pack for much longer than 3 night however this requires experience in knowing exactly what you need for where you are going.

Just to put some perspective on my pack size, I can fit everything I need for late spring to early fall trip in my Osprey Kestrel 28L pack (which I use as a daypack) with food and 2L of water weighting about 18lbs. This is due to my Tarptent Statospire 1, Down sleeping bag and very compressible clothing / insulation as well as only taking the absolute necessities. It is tight but doable. Is this ideal, no as it requires a compression bag for my sleeping bag (always a pain) and very tedious packing and hard to get anything out on the trail. I like a 46L pack better such as the Granite Gear Leopard V.C. 46  which is good for me for up to 4 days (no bear canister). That is me though and base everything I carry off size and weight. If I add a 4 season tent and down winter  sleeping bag in it i’m up to a 55L minimum range which is when my Osprey Aether 60 comes in.

Suggested size pack as a solo or small group backpacker:
  • 35L-50L for 1-3 night  warm weather ultralight backpacking. Heavily curated, lightweight, compressible gear gets you in this range.
  • 50L – 60L for 2-5 nights warm weather. A good size range for most people as you can’t bring everything to weigh you down but can have a few comforts.
  • 60L  – 70L for 4-7 nights warm weather or 1-3 nights moderate winter backpacking or  for bringing extra things for kids
  • 70L – 90L for 6-14 nights warm weather expeditions or winter backpacking. Make sure you don’t fall into the ‘I need this size because I have bulky / heavy or too much stuff’ category.
  • 90+ L for Long unassisted expedition’s / base camp  mountaineering / winter mountain expeditions. If you are reading this you don’t need this size bag period.

How Much Weight Can You Carry?

How physically fit you are can come into play here some but a heavy pack is still a heavy pack and will slow you down and will make you less comfortable on your trip as well as hard to traverse steep or challenging terrain. There is much debate but ideally your pack weight would fall between 1/4th of your weight as a max and 1/8th of your weight (ideal). This includes the pack weight, gear, clothing, food and water. You will slowly reduce weight in food and fuel and can gauge water weight based on available water. If you are hiking beside of a river then you don’t need to have 3L of water in your bladder at any given time perhaps you are fine with 1L and stop and filter more as necessary.

I weight 170 with strong legs and heart from sport road biking a lot. I do not like carrying 35lbs up a mountain or over flat land very far. Figuring out how to get your weight to 25lbs will make you really enjoy the trip and make you want to do another one. So buying slightly more expensive but lighter and smaller gear can really change how you think about your trip and prospects on doing another.

Favorite Backpacking Backpacks

  • Granite Gear Leopard VC 46 (Womens KI) – 1250g weight, 46L volume.
    • This pack is light but still has some pocketing that is lost on many ultra light backpacks. It has molly webbing on the hipbelt which will allow you to use a variety of molly compatible accessory bags to fit your specific needs (or none at all). The volume at 46 liters is a perfect size for once you have gotten to a point of owning reasonably light / compressible items and have been on enough trips to have paired down what you need to take and what is unnecessary. The fabric is a very strong and abrasion resistant Cordura which will take more abuse than most UL fabrics and Granite Gear uses thinner Cordura where abrasions are less likely to occur while using a thicker Cordura on the bottom. The lid comes off so if you don’t want it you can leave it at home and save some weight as well. This is my go spring / summer / fall backpack. If you skip the internal hydration pack and opt for a collapsible 1L platypus bottle and two 1L Smart Water bottles you will have considerably more interior space on the pack.
  • Osprey Aether / Ariel (Non0AG and AG) Series – About 5lbs 60-88L volume.
    • These packs are beefy and carry weight with ease. Although they are on the heavier side now days for their robust feel and feature set they are a great balance of weight. I own a 60L and 70L and have used them on many trips where carrying heavier gear is needed such as cooler weather or winter trips or if you need to carry more food for a longer trip or water when the availability of water is in question. These can be a great first pack for someone who doesn’t have the lightest gear  who is looking to upgrade over time with an ambition to eventually try some winter backpacking or for the person who wants one backpack for all occasions.

Picking a pair of boots to backpack in is about as complex as picking a backpack. Actually probably more. However we have to get one rule out of the way first. Don’t buy boots, then go on a 3 night 30 mile adventure into the mountains without putting some miles in your loaded pack and around town. I’d say walk at least a combination of with and without a pack for 30 miles for any boot and 50 miles for full grain leather boots before attempting a long trail. Blisters can form within the first few miles of a backpacking trip with new shoes and then you will be stuck for the rest of the trip or cutting it short for something easily preventable.

Fit & Sizing: Some care needs to be taken when going out to try on boots. First you need to take the socks you will wear. If you plan on going in the winter months think thicker wool sock such as Minus 33 Expedition Socks, spring and fall a medium weight wool sock such as Minus 33 Day Hiker  or summer a lightweight synthetic or wool sock such as SmartWool Hike Light Crew Socks. Second only go try on shoes after you have been on your feet for atleast half a day. The reason for this is, your feet swell due to blood expanding them as you are upright all day. This process takes time however once on the trail with a pack on your feet can swell enough to make a snug fitting pair of shoes slightly uncomfortable. However you get a new pair of shoes and the first couple of mornings on the trail for the first hour you may be thinking why do my shoes feel loose. Then some time passes and you forget about it. This is because your feet have started to swell and fit in the shoes as they should. Usually the size to get is 1/2 size larger than you normally would get. I normally wear a 10.5 myself but all my boots are a size 11 and they all feel slightly loose first thing in the morning. My suggestion is to try boots on at a star, ideally REI, MooseJaw or a local store that will allow you to load up a backpack with some weight (or bring yours) and walk around the store for 15 minutes at least. If they have stairs use them. If you have been on your feet all day and you be obnoxious and wear a hole in the floor walking around with different boots you will quickly find what works and what doesn’t and avoid a costly mistake both in money and in blisters. Once you get your shoes walk around your house with a loaded backpack a lot to be double sure they feel great. Only use will tell you if they are the right size and with most places you can still return if you haven’t went outside in them. By doing this extra work you avoid always second guessing if you bought the right boot as haven’t committed to them by wearing them outside.

To Gore-Tex(GTX) or to not Gore-Tex that is the question. There is much debate over to have Gore-Tex shoes or not. It really comes down to your scenario. If you going to low humidity, and warm place then avoid as if you get your feet damp your shoes will dry quicker. These conditions also ideal for your breathable low cut hikers or trail runners. If there are a lot of river crossings and it’s 80+ degrees out non waterproof shoes can also be ideal as if you do get them wet they dry quicker. However if you are going out into the damp Pacific Northwest or early spring with muddy wet conditions then Gore-Tex can be your friend if caution is still used. Treat your boots as if they weren’t water resistant and your Gore-Tex lining was a last resort of waterproofing and not your first line of defence. Just because you have a waterproof (think water resistant) boot doesn’t mean you can just plow through that standing water muck on the trail, walk around. Always do what you can to stay dry. If it’s a heavy rain then get under a tarp and wait it out. Unless its rubber ‘waterproof’ gear will eventually saturate and get wet or you will sweat and get yourself wet.

Shoes / boots used for backpacking can be broken up into three categories each excelling at different conditions.

Trail Runners to low cut hikers

Trail running shoes may look like regular running shoes but they have a firmer sole which is really important for rough terrain and supporting a pack. Standard running / tennis shoes just don’t cut it for anything over a few miles a day. People who opt for trail running shoes are often using lighter pack weighs (around 20lbs or less), going on a well groomed trail and has strong ankles (usually through years of hiking or running). Trail runners will often dry faster than a standard running / tennis shoe. If you want something lighter but don’t have a lot of experience backpacking then look at the low cut hikers. Its my opinion and many others that mid or high rise boots do not provide any ankle rolling prevention; often the first thought when people start looking at a mid rise boot supportive / slightly stiffer soles help with ankle stability as well as using trekking poles.

Examples of Trail Runners and Low Cut Hikers

  • Vasque Inhaler II
  • Vasque Pendulum II
  • Vasque Breeze 2.0 Low
  • La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX
  • Salomon Speedcross 3


Medium Duty Hiking Boots

Medium duty boots are a great general purpose boot. They work well for day hikes or three season backpacking over decently taken care of trails. This style of boot will usually have ventilation areas sewn into the body for cooling as well as using various leather or synthetic material to make up the structure minimizing the break in period. The soles should be supportive (not twist well) to aid in firm footing over rough terrain. Often times they are Goretex lined although much disputed on its usefulness (mostly I think you should do everything possible to keep your feet dry and not plow through water just because you have Gore Tex shoes, take waterproof with a small grain of salt). This category can be broken down a bit further but becomes a grey area at best, hiking boots and backpacking boots. The difference will probably just be sole stiffness.

Examples of Medium Duty Hiking Boots

  • Scarpa R-Evolution Plus GTX
  • Scarpa Kailash GTX
  • Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX
  • Vasque Inhaler II GTX
  • Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid
  • Merrell All Out Blaze Mid
  • Keen Targhee II Mid


Heavy Duty Backpacking Boots

Heavy Duty backpacking boots are a bit of a specialty category these days in my opinion even though the romance of having a solid full grain or nubuck leather boot with a thick sole and tall ankle support seems what you need for being in the mountains, the fact is that unless you are heading out to rough / poorly groomed trails or bushwhacking or it will be wet and cold leave them at home. With pack weights below 30lbs the support they offer isn’t necessary and if not used to wearing a heavier boot they will slow you down. The break in period for these boots can take a while. The soles on these boots are usually very stiff, so stiff that you can’t feel much of the ground at all under you. Now this isn’t saying don’t get a pair, just really think about your needs. Also full leather shoes do not breath so when its 80°F+ your feet will be hot. So where would I take my Scarpa Kinesis Pro GTX boots? Porcupine Mountains, Boundary Waters or any remote wilderness where you probably won’t see but a few people the whole day a mile or two into a trail.

Examples of Heavy Duty Backpacking Boots

  • Vasque Eriksson GTX
  • Vasque Summit GTX
  • Scarpa Kinesis Pro GTX
  • Danner Mountain Light II GTX
  • Asolo TPS 520 GTX Evo
  • Lowa Renegade GTX Mid



Light Weight Backpacking Tent

A tent might be one of the hardest things to decide on. This lightweight fabric structure will provide a shelter for you during those nice weather evenings as well as any unknown conditions that may come up. A tent should be easy to setup, light weight which means it should have DAC or Easton aluminum poles or make use of trekking poles. For 3 season tents look at the range of 1-3 lbs for a single person tent or  2-4 lbs for two person tent. When dealing with more extreme weather such as exposed coasts, mountain winds, potential for a lot of snow fall or below 20°F temperatures make sure to take an expedition tent. They are built stronger with thicker material, more guy out points and are also warmer in the cold windy environments due to less mesh and lower fly. Expedition tents can often be up to 15°F warmer on the inside than the outside temperatures by simply trapping body heat. Although a good expedition tent should have good ventilation that comes at a price of heat loss. A fully sealed up tent will be warmer however condensation will leave about 2 cups of water per person per night in your tent due to breathing and sweating. For those reasons these tents are not ideal for summer backpacking unless dealing with 50+ mph wind gusts / mountaineering.

  • Single / One Person Tents
    • TarpTent Stratospire 1 – 19.1 sq. ft. floor space, 2 vestibules, 1020g, 30d Silnylon, 18″ rolled length, trekking pole compatible or optional poles, $309
      • This lightweight tent is one of the more fantastic tents available today. It’s lightweight and uses strong 30d silnylon throughout. You can get a solid or mesh interior depending on your temperature and blowing dust expectations. It sets up as one piece and in less than 4 minutes and makes use of trekking poles (or optional aluminum support poles). For a lightweight tent it is packed with space; enough to spend the day in if weather gets bad. It perfectly well in wind around 35mph to my testing with no concern for higher speeds. What is unique about this tent, and all of Tarptents double wall tents, is that it set up with the inner attached as one whole piece. This means the inside doesn’t get wet if its raining and no rain fly to try to strap on by yourself if it is windy, things you only appreciate when you just want to get out of the weather quickly. Also if you have been on the trail for a few hours and a downpour starts and you don’t have a tarp this tent can be setup and the inner removed once under it to get out of the elements with you and 2-3 other hikers to wait out the storm and unlike more protected tarp setups there is plenty of room inside. This tent can also be used in below the treeline winter situations moderate to heavy snow. Check them out as Henry Shire, the mastermind, is an absolute pleasure to work with and they are sewn in the USA. Just make sure to get the seam seal service as an add on if you don’t want to do it yourself. I own, paid for and use this tent and love it!
    • Eureka Midori Solo Tent – 20 sq. ft. plus 1 vestibule, 1645g, 16” folded poles, 1800mm floor coating. $129.90
      • For the budget minded person Eureka makes great tents. This 3 season single person tent tent at a great value when full rainfly coverage and moderately light weight.
  • Double / 2 Person Tents
    • TarpTent Motrail – 30.3 sq. ft. floor space, 1 vestibule, 1020g weight, single wall, 16″x4″ pack size, trekking pole compatible or optional poles, $259
      • With a weight lighter than many one person tents this room for two silnylon tent only sacrifices nothing. It has great ventilation when zipped up for rain and with the sides staked out and two trekking poles in the front it can tackle some heavy winds for its weight. This is a great minimalist tent that sets up and takes down really quickly. The only thing to note is if you do plan on setting up in high winds set the entrance facing the oncoming winds for the best stability and to prevent the does from bowing in loosing interior space. I stake mine out with all four corners, the front door, a guy line off the back trekking pole, and if windy two small stakes on each side panel which I added small shock cord loops to the tie outs. Make sure to get the seam seal service as an add on if you don’t want to do it yourself.
    • Eureka Taron 2 Tent – 30.6 sq. ft. plus 2 vestibule, 2212g, 354 cu. In., 18” poles, 3000mm floor coating, $169.90
      • A great 3 season tent at a great value when full rain fly coverage and light weight is ideal.
  • 4 Season Mountaineering / Winter / Expedition Tents
    • Hilleberg Soulo 1 Person Tent – 21.5 sq. ft. plus one vestibule, 2400g, $685
      • This tent, heavy and bomb proof is what you want above the treeline in deep winter conditions or exposed coasts when the wind is just pounding away and need a shelter you can depend on for getting out of the elements.
  • Tarp / Shelter
    • RAB Siltarp 2 – 8×10 feet., 396g, 30d silnylon, trekking pole compatible, $130
      • This is a strong 30d silnylon tarp with top notch sewing. It is sewn with a center ridgeline loop for setting up with exterior ridgeline. The only suggestion I would make is to buy some 1/8″ shock cord and cut into 6″ loops and tie to corners for attaching stakes or guy lines to. You also need to seam seal this product. I own, paid for and use this tarp.

Extra Tent Stakes and Guying Lines

Often tents only come with just enough stakes for the tent and not guying lines. Example: my two person tent requires 8 stakes; one for each corner and two for each vestibule. 4 extra would be ideal for securing from guyline points in strong wind on each side, with possibly a fifth on the side the wind is coming from. For guy lines you need the cord and rope tighters.Notes on tent stakes: To save weight replace your tent’s basic stakes with MSR GroundHog stakes. They are generally half the weight of the typical rod style stock stakes and much stronger. They come in various styles for various ground conditions like twisted stakes for loose sand/soil, wide cupped stakes for snow or short stakes for hard rocky terrain. The straight 7.5″ is great general purpose stakes but if camping in a place known for a particular type of soil get a few of the appropriate stakes for maximum holding power.

Favorite Tent Poles and Guying Line Products

  • MSR GroundHog Tent Stakes, 6 Pack – 13g each, 7.5″ long,  $19.95
    • All purpose lightweight tent stakes. Strong Y-beam design is strong and holds well in a wide range of soil conditions.
  • MSR Mini GroundHog Tent Stakes, 6 pack – 10g each, 6″ long, $17.95
    • Similar design to the longer GroundHog these  are 1.5″ shorter. Ideal for weight savings or for very hard or rocky soil.
  • MSR Cyclone Tent Stakes, 4 pack – 35g each, 9″ long, $24.95
    • The twisted design and 9″ length of these stakes make them ideal for creating a solid anchor point in really loose soil, high wind conditions or for staking out larger tents.
  • MSR Blizzard Tent Stakes – 21g each, 9″ long, $4.95
    • Large surface area and concave design makes these stakes the perfect option for staking out a tent in deep snow or sand. The way to use these is to take a 3 foot section of cord with small loop on each end; attach one end to the center hole and the other to the tent corners (using loops keep you from having to untie knots in the cold). Dig a hole about 1 foot deep and 2 feet from the corner of your tent and pack down the snow under it. Burry the stake with the cord tight, pack snow well over the stake to hold.
  • MSR Carbon Core Tent Stakes, 4pack – 5.5g each, 6″ long $29.95
    • All purpose ultra lightweight stake for those who count each gram. Great for down wind tent and guy line stakes, holds about 1/3 as well as the GroundHog and are somewhat fragile.
  • Nite Ize RR-04-50 Reflective Cord, 50’ – 40g, $11.49
    • No more tripping over guy lines at night (when using a flashlight). Reflective cord is easily seen.
  • Nite Ize Figure 9 Rope Tightener Small – 50lbs weight rating, 3g, for 2-5mm rope, $2.49
    • Non traditional style rope tighteners but very effective and easy to use. These create a very secure hold unlike typical style guy line tighteners. The last thing you want is your guy lines to start slipping when the wind is blowing.

Tent footprint

A Tent footprint, although not necessary, helps protect the water proofed floor of your tent from abrasion and punctures as well as keeps it cleaner. Many tent manufacturers make fitted foot prints, avoid generic sized ones like “small”, which attaches directly to the tent poles via a strap and grommet on the corners. A properly fitted foot print should be a few inches smaller than the dimensions of your tent. If it goes beyond the size of your tent water that runs down the side will run onto the foot print and create a puddle between the tent floor and footprint and practically guaranteeing that you wake up very wet. Some tent footprints cover the vestibule area and some don’t, if this is important to you your best bet is to make one from plastic sheeting. Always consider taking a large solid kitchen trash bag per person, if you are experiencing unusually heavy rain you can cut it open and lay it down on the inside of your tent as the base to provide a lightweight triple protection against water.

  • Purchase matching tent footprint
  • DIY – cut 3.5 mil plastic sheet cut slightly smaller than tent so water can’t run down the tent and onto the plastic footprint. To make it nicer and connect to tent stakes use duct tape folded in half to create a strap like connector to the corners, punch hole (or add grommets) though the tape for stakes to go in; be as exact as possible. When making your own you can also create an extra triangle of plastic out to cover the vestibule area; keep the plastic about 6″ inside the border of the fly cover to ensure wind doesn’t slowly blow water onto your footprint under that small gap between the ground and the bottom of the rain fly. There is a reason though why most footprints do not cover the vestibule area; it’s a place for condensation to fall and then eventually end up between your tent and foot print However if this could be an issue you can always choose tuck that side under the tent.


Paracord 425 or 550

I couldn’t imagine going out without a bit of extra rope it can be used to solve lots of problems that may arise around camp or possibly on the trail. Great for a cloths or sleeping bag drying line, creating a tarp shelter between two trees, guying out your tent to a tree, trying up your food or many other things. Always take at least a 50 foot piece when camping for more than one night out and avoid cutting unless necessary.


Carbineers, S-Biners rope ties (non climbing)

  • Sea to Summit Carabiner – 3pack, $9.50
    • Wire carabiners are designed for use around salt water however for a non load bearing clip, such as climbing carabiners, the gate will not break as easily.
  • Nite Ize Stainless Steel S-Binder #1 – 5lbs weight rating, 4g, $2.19
  • Nite Ize Stainless Steel S-Binder #2 – 10lbs weight rating, 7g, $2.39
  • Nite Ize Stainless Steel S-Binder #3 – 25lbs weight rating, 14g, $2.89
  • Nite Ize Stainless Steel S-Binder #4 – 75lbs weight rating, 31g, $3.49
  • Nite Ize Stainless Steel S-Binder #5 – 100lbs weight rating, 48g $3.99
  • Nite Ize Figure 9 Rope Tightener Small – 50lbs weight rating, 3g, for 2-5mm rope, $2.49
    • These make a solid replacement for typical guyline tighteners or learn how to tie a Tautline Hitch knot


Compression Sacks

Although not 100% necessary compression sacks are handy for making fabric items such as sleeping bags, cloths, tent fabric as small as possible. Some things work better than others but keep in mind any cloths added to a compression sack will come out wrinkled. Down sleeping bags usually compress to half their stuff sack length. Some stuff sacks come with a stuff sack like the Alps Mountaineering version and some are just caps only for use when you already have a stuff sack. When the potential for something getting wet you should consider a compression dry sack. The closure keeps the water out and the fabric is water proof but allows air to pass out when compressing.

Favorite Compression Sacks

Water Purifying System

Having a reliable water filter is important for backcountry exploring. Lakes and streams will always contain bacteria that should ideally be filtered out along with other contaminants. This can be done with a high end system like the Katadyn which contains active carbon filtering for a clean tasting water or a simple high quality micron filter like the Sawyer systems. A coffee filter can be used for wrapping around the intake tube to block dirt from shortening the life of your filter media as well as part of a backup system to filter out those same particles if using purifying tablets.

Favorite Water Purifying Products

Flashlight / Headlamp & Extra Batteries

  • Black Diamond Storm Head Lamp  – 111g w/batteries, variable 4-160 lumen, 4-AAA batteries, splashproof, $49.95
    • Really bright and lasts a long time. All you could ever wish for in a head lamp! This is the one I use.
  • Black Diamond Spot Head Lamp  – 93g w/batteries, variable 4-130 lumen, 3-AAA batteries, splashproof, $39.95
  • UCO Clarus 150 Lumen LED Mini Lantern and Flashlight – 110g w/batteries, variable up to 150 lumens, 3-AAA batteries $19.99
    • This flashlight / lantern seems too good to be true but it is perfect. A bright slightly adjustable beam, built-in lantern diffuser and a hang loop for use in your tent or around camp. I own and use this item.
  • ThruNite TN12 Flashlight  – 119g w/batteries, 0.3 | 20 | 280 | 800 | 1050 lumens , one 18650 or two CR123A batteries, waterproof, $49.95
    • If you need a high intensity light in a compact package check out this. The only downside is the batteries used as they can get expensive.

Maps, compass & Navigation tools / GPS

Having a compass is critical when outdoors, a quality compass with a high degree of accuracy is ideal to have however at least have an quality inexpensive one, even if you have a GPS, to align you with general directions. The four compasses listed below can be used on a map as well as in the field. Remember not to use a compass on a metal surface or any kind. I have had experience with all four of these models.

Favorite Navigation Products


Flare / Whistle / Signal Mirror

Safety devices are key in the backcountry especially if you are solo hiking but can be important part of a group hike. The simple whistle can be your friend. Everyone in your group should have one. Imagine you were following a ragin noisy river and you stopped off at this pull off trail to take some photos of the waterfall. While taking photos your companion ends up out of sight. You start moving but don’t see them. The river is too loud to yell but the high pitch of a whistle could do the trick in cutting through the noise. The forest gets dense really quick you never know when signaling someone will be needed. Most Osprey backpacks come with a sternum strap whistle, not really loud but it is something.


UST U-Dig-It Stainless Steel Folding Shovel – 205g, 9x5x0.9”, 41 cu. In. volume

Sewing / Repair kit

Duck tape or gaff tape may be sufficient
Gaff tape (make flat roll from large roll)

Fire starting kit

Lighter / Matches
Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Series Fire Starter – 50g, $18
Cotton balls coated with 1/8tsp of Vaseline each or separated jute twine & Vaseline

Multi tool knife

(Leatherman or Gerber; needs: sheath, pliers, scissors (optional), smooth knife, serrated knife, nail file, bottle opener)
Leatherman Sidekick
Leatherman Wave / New Wave
Leatherman Charge TTi / ALX
Leatherman Juice
Gerber Flik
Gerber Pro Scout
Gerber Diesel
Gerber Legend

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles is one of those items you can easily put off not having but once you own a pair you may never go on a trip without them. Trekking poles help take some of the pack load off your legs (up to 25% ), increases stability on rough terrain, aids in climbing steep hills and greatly reduces compression of your knees on the dessent. They are also helpful when rock hopping across streams, checking ground stability or simply setting up a quick tarp shelter without carrying extra poles. There are lots of options in trekking poles from aluminum/carbon fiber, flip locks/twist locks/fixed length, folding/non-folding, handle material and the list goes on. For trail hiking an adjustable pole is important as if you are going down hill all day you may want your poles a bit longer than if you were going up hill all day, its extra weight for that option but your knees will thank you. One thing I find to be key is a small folding length; most adjustable trekking poles fold down to about 25-27″ and that will never fit in your pack. Being able to fit them in your pack for travel or perhaps a part of the terrain really doesn’t warrant using them they can be folded and stowed compactly away in a pack side pocket.

  • Black Diamond Ultra Mountain FL Trekking Poles, 3 sizes (110, 125, 140 cm) – 600g, adjustable by 20 cm, collapsed length 15-17″, $139.95
    • These are ideal for more rugged terrain, peak summits and winter backpacking. They have a longer lower handle to provide better lower hand position when traversing varied terrain. The tip of these can also accept a powder basket useful for winter hiking.
  • Black Diamond Distance FL Trekking Poles, 3 sizes (110, 125, 140 cm) – 470g, adjustable by 20 cm, collapsed length 13.4-15.7″, $129.95
    • These are ideal for less rugged terrain and 3 season hiking where summiting a steep peak isn’t part of the trip. They are lighter than the Ultra mountain and fold up slightly smaller but lack the longer lower handle and ability to add a powder basket.
  • Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles, one size (110-130cm) – 443g, collapsed length 15″, $199.95
    • Super lightweight adjustable carbon poles with a small folding length for 3 season all terrain hiking.
  • Leki Micro Vario Ti Trekking Poles, one size (110-130cm) – 520g, collapsed length 15″, $169.95
    • Similar design as the Vario Carbon but with titanium shafts. 20cm adjustability with small folding length for 3 season all terrain hiking.
  • Leki Micro Vario Carbon Lady Trekking Poles, one size (105-125cm) – 404g, collapsed length 15″, $199.95
    • Super lightweight adjustable carbon poles with a small folding length for 3 season all terrain hiking. Slightly smaller for medium height hikers than the standard carbon.


Personal Items

  • Sun Block
    • Bull Frog Water Armor Sport
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Bio degradable soap
    • Campsuds – 4oz Nalgene bottle, $5.50
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Bug repellant
    • Repel – 40% DEET
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Water container
    • Nalgene Tritan 1-Quart Narrow Mouth – 114g, 32oz capacity, $11.99


Backpacking Cooking and Eating Equipment

  • Stove (gas, wood (solo stove) or alcohol stove) & Windscreen
    • Solo Stove – 256g, H3.8”xD4.25”, $99.99 ($69.99-Amazon)
    • Emberlit Stove Titanium – 154g, 4×5.5×0.125”, 2.75 cu. in. volume $84.99
    • Emberlit Stove Stainless Steel – 320g, 4×5.5×0.125”, 2.75 cu. in. volume $44.99
    • Alcohol Burner – 100g, $20
  • Stove fuel (for denatured alcohol plan on 4oz for two people per day)
  • Pot / Pan combo (Solo stove fits in both)
    • Evernew Titanium Ns Dx2 Set – 200g, 4.1”xD5.35”, 93 cu. in. volume, $74.95
    • Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot Medium – 117g, H4.65”xD4.36”, 69 cu. in. volume, $66.00
  • Utensils – Plate/bowl, spork and cup
    • Sea to Summit X-Bowl – 80g, 500ml capacity, $18.50
    • Sea to Summit X Mug – 78g, 480ml capacity, $15.99
    • Sea-To-Summit XL Bowl – 110g 1150ml capacity, $19.99
    • TOAKS Titanium 450ml Cup – 76g, 450ml capacity, $24.95
    • Light My Fire Titanium Spork – 17g, $16.99
    • Wooden Cooking Spoon w/flat end
  • half sponge scrubber
  • Aeropress for coffee
  • Can Opener
  • Lighter, matches (in plastic bag) or fire steel w/ lint/tinder (bring backups!)
  • Salt, Pepper and Sriracha


Backpacking and Hiking Clothes

never bring cotton cloths … ever, don’t be that guy

  • Base Layer
    • Underwear – 2-3 pair / synthetic or wool
    • Fitted short/no sleeve shirt- 2-3 shirts / synthetic or wool
    • Fitted shorts / pants (optional depending on weather) – synthetic or wool
    • Socks calf height – sport, synthetic or wool / moisture wicking
  • Mid Layer
    • Pants – quick dry / moisture wicking / zip away leg bottoms / synthetic or wool
    • Shorts – quick dry / moisture wicking / synthetic or wool
    • Long sleeve shirt – quick dry / moisture wicking / synthetic or wool
  • Thermal / Insulating Layer (non-winter/mountaineering)
    • Thermal pants / shirts – synthetic or wool
    • Jacket / fleece
    • Thicker wool socks
  • Wind / Rain Layer
    • Poncho – Minimal item (disposable or expensive)
    • Wind Proof and/or water proof light jacket
    • Rain pants
    • Rain coat (winter)
  • Gloves
  • Swim suits



Backpacking First Aid / Medicine Items

  • Ibuprofen (Headaches, pain, inflammation)
  • Naproxen (NSAID, pain, fever reduce, swelling, inflammation, muscular aches, toothaches, backache, cramp relief, arthritis)
  • Loperamide Hydrochloride (Anti-Diarrheal)
  • Alive Vitamins (start taking before the trip)
  • Chamomile pills or tea (upset stomach}
  • Vicks Vapor rub (stuffed nose / colds)
  • Iodine / Peroxide / Rubbing Alcohol (antiseptic)
  • Triple Antibiotic ointment
  • Tea tree oil (anti-fungal, antiseptic, vaporizer)
  • Anti-histamine
  • Cough drops
  • Perskindol (muscle joint pain rub)
  • Vaseline (Chapped lips, blisters, dry hands, so many things)
  • Water proof bandages (large and small)
  • Stretch roll
  • Tweezers
  • Tape (good for blister areas before they start)
  • Emergency Thermal Blanket



Backpacking Food Ideas

  • Specialty backpacking meals
  • Cliff Bars / Laura Bars
  • Popcorn, oil and salt
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Almonds / peanuts
  • Rice, raisins and dried milk
  • Pringles
  • Ramen
  • Lipton rice / noodles
  • Tea / coffee / hot cocoa
  • Wheat thins
  • Cheese
  • Salami

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