As avid backpackers, we’ve slowly built up a collection of backpacking gear that we absolutely love, and we’re excited to share the details with you! Our backpacking gear list includes everything that we take backpacking with us, including our favorite essentials, useful gadgets, and a few items we consider “luxuries.” For the most important pieces of gear, we’ll break out our recommendations into specifics for his and hers. We’ve compiled a complete list of our essential backpacking gear, along with a downloadable excel spreadsheet to help you prepare for your next adventure!

Hi there! We’re Sarah and Matt, two nomads road tripping across the United States with our cat, Fitzgerald, making a new place our home month to month while working full time and adventuring as much as possible. We spend any free time we can get hiking, camping, backpacking, and exploring new places! We hope that our experiences will help you plan for your next adventure and inspire you to be an outlier!


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    Details | Our Backpacking Gear List

    Good gear can make all the difference on a backpacking trip. Below we’ve compiled a list of our tried and true backpacking gear essentials – we use these items every time we backpack and couldn’t live without them.

    Backpacks

    The single most important piece of gear, your backpack can make or break a backpacking experience. We each have two bags: a smaller pack for short one-night trips and a mid-sized pack for longer trips.

    Small packs

    HERS: 40L Osprey Tempest
    For one-night backpacking trips, I (Sarah) love my 40L Osprey Tempest! It fits the essentials but is super lightweight and doesn’t weigh me down on short trips.

    Product Image of color Asphalt

    HIS: 55L REI Co-Op Flash
    Perfect for short backpacking trips, the REI Co-Op flash is super light-weight and incredibly customizable. It’s one of my favorite pieces of gear and is relatively cheap!

    Midsized packs

    HERS: 65L Osprey Ariel
    For longer trips and/or carrying more weight (ex: layers in cold weather or extra water in the desert), the 65L Osprey is more spacious, super comfortable, and provides more hip support to carry the extra weight.

    Osprey Packs - Aether Plus 85L Backpack - Axo Green

    HIS: 85L Osprey Aether
    This pack is a beast! With room for a week’s worth of gear, it’s super versatile with plenty of pockets and a hood that doubles as a day pack!

    Backpacking tent

    We have two backpacking tents and love them both, but they each come with a few tradeoffs:

    Mountain Hardwear Aspect 3
    A reliable tent makes all the difference in the backcountry, and the Mountain Hardwear Aspect 3 has not let us down. Though it’s not cheap, it’s super lightweight (less than 4 pounds), durable and easy to set up. The lighter weight does mean you sacrifice a bit on space, as this tent is certainly cozy for two people.

    Door open (Kabocha Orange)

    REI Coop Trail Hut
    For a more affordable option, we love our REI Coop Trail Hut! For only $200, it’s great quality – we’ve put this thing through the wringer and have been impressed with how well it holds up. The tradeoff is that it’s about 2 pounds heavier than the Mountain Hardwear Aspect 3.

    Sleep gear

    Looking for a good night sleep in the backcountry, with gear that won’t weigh you down? We’ve got your covered!

    Sleeping Bag | REI Co-op Women’s Magma 30 / REI Co-op Men’s Magma 30
    At this price point, you can’t beat the REI Co-op Magma 30 (Women’s and Men’s). We both use this sleeping bag, and it’s lightweight enough (1 lb 6 ounces) for backpacking without sacrificing on warmth and durability.

    Sleeping Bag Liner | Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner
    I’m a very cold sleeper so I typically pack my Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner, even for summer nights. It’s super cozy, lightweight, adds 8 degrees of warmth and helps keep your sleeping bag cleaner.

    Inflatable Pillow | Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow
    This Sea to Summit inflatable pillow is super lightweight and packs down tiny (I’ve actually lost it a few times because it packs down so small), so it’s great for camping and backpacking trips. The best part, it’s shockingly comfortable! I am a light sleeper (in a normal bed), so this is huge for me!

    Sleeping pad | Women’s Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad / Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad
    I often sleep better on my Them-a-rest sleeping pad than I do in a hotel bed… this thing is so comfy and weighs only 12 ounces! Only downside I have found is it is a bit noisy if you tend to move in your sleep a lot.

    The following section lists key pieces of gear for safety and navigation while backpacking.

    Garmin - InReach Mini - Orange

    GPS | Garmin InReach Mini
    The one piece of gear you hope you never need to use, but is worth its weight in peace of mind. We always carry our Garmin In-reach Mini in case of emergency in areas without cell service and it gives us (and our parents) peace of mind. It can also be used to simply let a loved one know you’ve arrived at your destination

    Black Diamond - Storm 400 Headlamp - Octane

    Headlamp | Black Diamond Storm 400
    Navigating around a campsite is nearly impossible after dark without a headlamp. We both use Black Diamond Storm 400’s, and we’ve found them to be reliable and long-lasting despite the compact size.

    Maps
    For longer trips or more complicated routes, we like to bring a good old-fashioned paper map. It’s more reliable than using a phone, and there’s something about laying the map out on the floor while planning that we love! National Geographic makes great maps for nearly every park in the United States.

    First aid kit
    We carry this pocket sized first aid kit with us on every backpacking trip. It contains just the basic essentials in case of an emergency, like bandages, gauze, painkillers and wound cleaners.

    Cooking

    Are dehydrated meals actually good, or does everything just taste better after a full day of hiking? Here we’ve broken down our favorite pieces of backpacking gear that make cooking and enjoying a meal in the backcountry a breeze!

    Jetboil - Flash Stove - Matrix

    Campstove | Jetboil Flash
    Picture this: you wake up in the dark in the backcountry, aiming to catch the sunrise somewhere nearby but its so cold you don’t want to get out of bed… then you remember you’ve got a Jetboil and piping hot coffee can be ready within minutes! Morning made.

    Coffee | Sea to Summit Collapsible Coffee Filter
    If you’re a coffee snob (like me…) who needs *real* coffee in the morning, even in the backcountry, the compact Sea to Summit collapsible filter makes it easy. Pair with the Jetboil Flash and Sea to Summit cups and you’ll have your cup of joe in no time!

    Backpacker's Pantry - Pad Thai with Chicken - One Color

    Dehydrated Meals | Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai with Chicken
    Backpacker’s Pantry has a huge variety of dehydrated meals that we’ve found to be surprisingly tasty. The Pad Thai and Chana Masala are our all time favorites!

    Sea To Summit - X-Cup Collapsible Cup - Navy

    Cups | Sea to Summit Collapsible Cups
    Sea to Summit makes our favorite lightweight items for backpacking, and these cups are no different! They are lightweight, durable, and pack down small. We take two on every backpacking trip and often use them as bowls as well. Just make sure you clean them out after dinner. It’s no fun to be sipping coffee with a hint of last night’s dinner!

    Sea To Summit - Delta Bowl + Lid - Pacific Blue

    Bowls | Sea to Summit Bowls
    To limit space and weight, we often eat dinner out of our Sea to Summit collapsible cups (or right out of the package). But if you prefer not to have your coffee taste like last night’s Pad Thai, these Sea to Summit bowls are super lightweight and great for backpacking.  

    Utensils
    For backpacking, we have given up traditional utensils in favor of the more versatile spork! We love it because we don’t have to worry about whether to pack a spoon or fork or keep track of multiple utensils.

    S.O.L Survive Outdoors Longer - Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter - One Color

    Matches/lighter
    If you use a Jetboil, you typically shouldn’t need these in the backcountry. However, we’ve found that the mechanism to create a spark can sometimes malfunction (usually happens in very cold temperatures). Rather than wasting fuel trying to light it, we always bring a lighter just in case.

    Water

    It’s important to to have a solid water filtration/purification system or plan for packing in water you will need in the backcountry. We always pack at least two methods of water purification in case of a malfunction:

    Katadyn - BeFree Water Filtration System - One Color

    Water Filter | Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter
    Our go-to water filtration system is the Katadyn BeFree. It packs down small and seriously couldn’t be easier to use – simply fill the pouch and squeeze!

    Platypus - Platy Plus Bottle - Clear

    Extra water | Platypus 2-liter
    We use these 2-liter Platypus bags to pack extra water on backpacking trips in the desert with no water sources along the trail, and we’ve found them to be very reliable!

    SteriPEN - Steripen Classic 3 Handheld Water Purifier - White/Blue Accents

    Backup water filtration | Steripen or Lifestraw
    It’s always a good idea to pack at least two water purification systems, in case of a malfunction. In addition to the Katadyn, we typically carry our Steripen and/or Lifestraw. We’ve found the Steripen to be finnicky, so we wouldn’t recommend it as your primary water system. The Lifestraw is great, but doesn’t help you to store purified water.

    Hiking poles

    Hiking poles are a game-changer for backpacking, helping shift some of the weight off your knees. Here are our favorite pairs:

    HERS: Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
    I had always thought trekking poles were silly until one very steep, exposed, slippery hike in Death Valley left me feeling quite insecure even with solid tread on my boots. Immediately after I bought my Black diamonds and haven’t hiked without them since.

    HIS: Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles
    I was a late convert to the trekking-pole life, but have not regretted my decision after taking the plunge with these Black Diamond’s. I bought the adjustable poles because I was between sizes, but I almost always have them set to 120 cm.

    For backpacking in bear country

    Counter Assault - Bear Deterrent Spray + Belt Holster - 8.1oz - One Color

    Bear Spray | Counter Assault
    When backpacking in bear country, each person in the group should have their own can and carry it within arm’s reach (ie. attached to your hip – it’s nearly worthless packed away in your backpack)

    Bear Vault - BV450 Solo Bear Resistant Food Canister - Transparent Blue

    Bear Can | BearVault
    For backpacking in bear country, you will need to fit anything that smells (food + toiletries) into a bear can. We can typically share the small can for short trips (1 – 2 nights) and the larger can or two small cans for longer trips.

    Clothing

    While this is not an exhaustive list, we wanted to highlight a few of our favorite pieces of clothing that we always take backpacking with us!

    Hiking pants

    Image number 1 showing, Headlands Hybrid Cargo II Tight

    HERS: Athleta Headlands pants & Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Rock Tights
    My two favorite pairs of hiking pants are my Athleta Headlands and my Mountain Hardwear Chockstones. The Athleta Headlands pants are bit thicker while the Mountain Hardwear pants are lightweight and cool. Both are very comfortable and durable.

    Product Image of color Sepia

    HIS | PrAna Stretch Zion Pants
    Super comfortable and stretchy, yet rugged, I love these pants because they function great on the trail and don’t look out of place around town.

    Rain jacket /windbreaker/hard shell

    HERS | Asics Packable Jacket
    The Asics Packable Jacket is perfect for backpacking in the summer. It’s incredibly lightweight, so it won’t add weight to your back and will keep you dry without overheating.

    Patagonia - Torrentshell 3L Jacket - Women's - Roamer Red

    HERS | Patagonia Torrentshell
    For colder weather or more serious rain, I wear my Patgonia Torrentshell over my down jacket, which is more sturdy and adds a lttle bit of warmth. 

    Outdoor Research - MicroGravity Jacket - Men's - Cascade

    HIS | Outdoor Research Microgravity Ascent
    I love this jacket because it’s super versatile. It’s very breathable and stretchy, but has some weight to hold up to the worst conditions.

    Outdoor Research - Ferrosi Hooded Jacket - Men's - Black

    HIS | Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hooded Jacket
    This is the one piece of apparel I almost always have with me. Perfect for cooler temps, gusty breezes, and drizzly days, but still lightweight and breathable.

    Hiking boots
    Danner - Mountain 600 Hiking Boot - Women's - Brown/Red

    HERS | Danner Women’s Mountain 600 Waterproof Hiking Boot
    Comfortable, durable, lightweight and even a little bit stylish, I love my Danner boots! From long distance backpacking trips to quick day hikes, these have never let me down.

    Salomon - X Ultra 4 Mid GTX Wide Hiking Shoe - Men's - Black/Magnet/Pearl Blue

    HIS | Salomon Ultra 4 Mid GTX
    These are more like trail running shoes with additional ankle support, than the clunky, heavy hiking boots of days past. These are super light, uber functional, water resistant, and breathable.

    Extras for cold weather

    Hand/toe warmers
    On the package these hand & toe warmers say they last for 10 hours, and they really are not lying! I was shocked how long these stayed warm – perfect for keeping your hands and feet warm on cold nights/mornings in the backcountry.

    Microspikes (Kaltoola)
    Essential to keep you safe on icy trails! Microspikes are a bit clunky, so they’re kind of a pain to carry backpacking, but we usually just attach them to the outside of our packs.

    Gloves (Smartwool)
    Essential for keeping your hands warm on chilly nights and morning in the backcountry!

    Hats (Patagonia Lightweight Powder Town Beanie)
    Stylish and perfect for keeping warm on the trail!

    Down Jacket
    Arc'teryx - Cerium LT Hooded Down Jacket - Women's - Wander

    HERS | Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody Women’s Down Hoodie
    Lightweight and incredibly warm with 850 fill down, if you hate being cold (like me) this is the jacket for you! The quality is top notch and totally worth the extra warmth.

    Cotopaxi - Fuego Hooded Down Jacket - Men's - Indigo & Mezcal

    HIS | Cotopaxi Fuego Men’s Down Jacket
    While not as technical as some other down jackets, you can’t beat the combination of price, style, and function. This jacket is very similar to the super popular Patagonia Down sweater, but comes in at a cheaper price point and is about one ounce lighter.

    Extras for swimming

    If camping near a lake or river, there’s no better way to freshen up and cool off after a long hike than taking a swim! For backpacking trips that involve a body of water, be sure to add the following to your backpacking gear list:

    Chaco - ZX/2 Classic Wide Sandal - Women's - Black

    Water shoes | Chacos
    These are great to protect your feet if you go swimming in a rocky lake, or to change into on trails that require stream crossings if you don’t want to get your boots wet.

    Product Image of color Cozumel

    Bathing suit | Is there anything better than laying in the sun on a warm summer day beside a beautiful alpine lake? The water is cold, but taking a plunge feels great after long day of hiking!

    Product Image of color Clover

    Compact towel | PackTowl lightweight towel
    This compact lightweight towel packs down small, making it great for carrying on backpacking trips and perfect for drying off after taking a dip in the lake!

    Toiletries & Hygiene

    We try to limit toiletries as much as possible on backpacking trips, but there are a few essential items we typically pack:

    • Bug Spray | especially important if camping near a lake or stream.
    • Sunscreen and chapstick
    • Cleaning wipes | these full body wipes are great to freshen up on longer trips.
    • Contact case + solution + glasses
    • Toilet paper & ziplock bag or biffy bag | for packing out waste (please do not leave toilet paper behind, it does not decompose quickly as most people assume!)
    • Kula cloth | this may be my new favorite piece of backpacking gear! An easy way to stay clean in the backcountry for my fellow lady backpackers.
    • Toothbrush + toothpaste (travel size)                                                          

    “Luxury” items

    The following items are by no means necessary, but we find they make our backpacking experience that much more enjoyable!

    Camera | Nikon Z6 with Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
    My camera gear is where all attempts to reduce pack-weight get thrown out the window. I always hike with my Nikon Z6 and 24-70mm lens, which totals just over 3lbs. Sometimes I’ll also carry my 40mm wide angle lens, which adds an extra half pound. One of my favorite parts of backpacking is waking up to photograph a beautiful sunrise and having the place to myself, so to me, it’s totally worth the extra weight. 

    Tripod (Sirui)
    This is the lightest weight tripod I could find that is sturdy enough to support my camera and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It clocks in at about 2lbs. 

    Inflatable flask
    My guilty backpacking pleasure is a glass of red wine in the tent after a long day of hiking. This inflatable flask makes it easy to pack!

    Kindle
    Books are too heavy to carry backpacking, but this Kindle weights only * . I’ll usually bring the kindle on shorter overnight trips when I know I ‘ll have some freetime to relax once we arrive at camp. 

    Other useful resources

    Planning a backpacking trip? Check out the following for great ideas on awesome backpacking trips!

    Questions about our backpacking gear list or spreadsheet? Let us know in the comments below and we’re happy to help as best we can!

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