List of Equipment for Backpacking / Thru Hiking

basic-backpacking-equipment

Basic Backpacking Equipment

Down Sleeping Bag

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 value down can be the difference in a 6L of space and two pounds of weight.

Sierra Designs and REI use a water resistant down, dry down, which greatly reduces their down feathers ability to retain water when wet. 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. They are really spectacular if you don’t mind the extra half a pound. 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.

Always buy a compression sack for sleeping bags. They generally cut the size down by 50%. 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.

Favorites Sleeping Bags

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 and 4 season version.

Favorite Sleeping Mats

Backpacks – 40L +

Backpacks for backpacking and through hiking need to be a combination of comfortable, structural, functional, adjustable and supportive. 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 nothing will make you more uncomfortable than an 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

These sizes take into account relatively light compressible items, sharing a tent and other items as well as minimizing your creature comforts and are ultimately a guideline. 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 small 40L-50L pack for much longer than 1 night however this requires experience in knowing exactly what you need for where you are going. Many items on this page have the cubic inches of volume listed beside of it and weight, add both of those up independently to better get a size for the pack you will need; always leave extra room and weight for clothes, jackets and food.

Suggested size pack as a solo hiker:
  • 40L-50L for 1 night / Ultralight backpacking
  • 50L – 60L for 2-5 nights
  • 60L  – 70L for 4-7 nights
  • 70L – 90L for 6-14 nights / winter backpacking
  • 90+ L for longer expeditions / base camp  hiking / winter mountain expeditions

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. There is much debate but Ideally your pack weight would fall between 1/4th of your weight as a max and 1/7th of your weight. 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 avaliable 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.

Favorite Backpacking Backpacks

  • Men’s Backpacks
    • Osprey Kestrel 48 – 13kg to 17kg – $180
      • Small/Medium – 1500g, 2807 cu. in. volume
      • Medium/Large – 1580g, 2929 cu. in. volume
    • Osprey Aether 60 – 22kg to 28kg – $260
      • Small – 2080g, 3478 cu. in. volume
      • Medium – 2150g, 3661 cu. in. volume
      • Large – 2350, 3844 cu. in. volume
    • Osprey Aether 70 – 22kg to 28kg – $290
      • Small – 2170g, 4089 cu. in. volume
      • Medium – 2230g, 4272 cu. in. volume
      • Large – 2350g, 4455 cu. in. volume
      • X-Large – 2380g, 4638 cu. in. volume
    • Osprey Xenith 88 – 23kg – 31kg – $360
      • Medium – 2510g, 5370 cu. in. volume
      • Large – 2570g, 5614 cu. in. volume
      • X-Large – 2630g, 5858 cu. in. volume
  • Women’s Backpacks
    •  Osprey Kyte 46 – 13kg to 17kg – $180
      • X-Small/Small – 1330g, 2685 cu. in. volume
      • Small/Medium – 1370g, 2807 cu. in. volume
    • Osprey Ariel 55 – 19kg – 25kg load range, $260
      • X-Small – 2090g, 2990 cu. in.
      • Small – 2150g, 3173 cu. in.
      • Medium – 2250g, 3356 cu. in.
    • Osprey Ariel 65 – 22kg – 28kg – $290
      • X-Small – 2020g, 3600 cu. in.
      • Small – 2150g, 3783 cu. in.
      • Medium – 2250g, 3967 cu. in.
      • Large – 2320g, 4150 cu. in.
    • Osprey Xena 85 – 23kg – 31kg – $360
      • X-Small – 2200g, 4699 cu. in.
      • Small – 2350g, 4943 cu. in.
      • Medium – 2500g, 5187 cu. in.

Hiking Boots

Paracord 425 lbs

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.

Carbineers, S-Biners rope ties

  • 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 guy line tighteners.

Light 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 aluminum poles. For 3 season tents look at the range of 4-5 lbs for two people. Always have an aluminum pole repair sleeve or two handy, that with a bit of tape can save the trip until you can replace the pole.When dealing with more extreame weather or potential for a lot of snow fall or below 25°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 environments. Expedition tents can often be up to 15°F warmer maybe more on the inside than the outside temperatures by better trapping in 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
    • Eureka Midori Solo Tent – 20 sq. ft. plus 1 vestibule, 1645g, 315 cu. In. volume, 16” poles, 1800mm floor coating. $129.90
      • A great 3 season single person tent tent at a great value when full rain fly coverage and light weight is ideal.
    • Eureka Down Range 1 Tent - 20 sq. ft. plus 2 vestibule, 2382g, 453 cu. in. volume, 16″ poles, 3000mm floor coating, $189.90
      • Military inspired (TCOP) tent built to withstand heavy use and harsh 3.5 season use. Although a bit heavier than most single person tents that weight will pay off when a really cold night or heavy wind and rain. If you are the kind to plan for the worst this might be your tent. Uses a three pole dome structure to better withstand wind.
    • Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 Tent – 18.8 sq. ft. plus gear storage areas, 1340g, 325 cu. In. volume, 17” poles, 3000mm floor coating, $219.95
      • Great for summer and fair weather camping to light rain. Super lightweight with a design that is quick to setup due to the integrated rain fly and allows you to enjoy the outdoors inside the tent. There is also an UL (ultra lightweight) version available.
  • Double / 2 Person Tents
    • 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.
    • Eureka Mountain Pass 2XTE Tent – 37.5 sq. ft. plus 2 vestibule, 2950g, 692 cu. In. volume, 18” poles, 5000mm floor coating, $229.90
      • Great for cooler weather to light snow camping or wet conditions. Ideal with a more durable and roomy but yet moderately lightweight tent is required. If you want one tent for everything except winter mountaineering adventures and appreciate comfort and livability in the outdoors this would be it.
    • Sierra Designs Lightning 2 Tent – 30.5 aq. Ft. plus 2 gear storage areas, 1760g, 480 cu. In., 18” poles, 3000mm floor coating, $259.95
      • Great for summer and fair weather camping to light rain. Super lightweight with a design that is quick to setup due to the integrated rain fly and allows you to enjoy the outdoors inside the tent. There is also an UL version available.
  • 4 Season / Winter / Expedition Tents
  • Tarp / Shelter
    • MSR E-Wing Tarp – 65 sq. ft., 450g, 143 cu. in. $174.95
    • DIY
      • With the right DIY footprint shape you can use that for an emergency tarp. Double up tape reinforcement.

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, 8 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, 6pack – 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, won’t hold as well as the GroundHog.
  • 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 connecter 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; its 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.

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 & Coffee Filters

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

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 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.

Favorite Navigation Products

 

Flare / SOS LED / Whistle

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Shovel

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.

backpacking-personal-items

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