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!
Be confident you have everything with our backpacking gear list spreadsheet!
Our interactive backpacking gear list spreadsheet is complete with all the essentials you need for backpacking adventure! Enter you email address below and we’ll send you a link to download the excel spreadsheet.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Looking for a good night sleep in the backcountry, with gear that won’t weigh you down? We’ve got your covered!
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.
Navigation & safety
The following section lists key pieces of gear for safety and navigation while backpacking.
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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 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
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)
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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)
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.
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.
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!
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!
- Idaho | Backpacking the Alice Toxaway Loop in the Sawtooth Mountains
- Utah | Complete Guide to Backpacking the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park
- Wyoming | Cascade – Paintbrush Canyon Loop: Complete Backpacking Guide
- Montana | How to Hike to Cracker Lake in Glacier National Park
- Camping Gear | Complete List of Road Trip Camping Essentials
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!