In many ways, our love of backpacking is why we are nomads. Certainly, it is an extension of our passion for exploration. While YOLOM (our truck camper) takes us to many beautiful places, some of the most beautiful can only be accessed on foot. Backpacking isn’t just about the destination though. It is about returning to a time when the natural world encompassed humanity. There is something harmonious about immersing yourself entirely in nature. In order to do this without blowing out a hip or stressing your back/neck, it is helpful to have the best backpacking gear and you have come to the right place.
Price vs. Weight
Backpacking can be a surprisingly expensive past time so we are going to fill you in on what is a priority when getting started and what can be upgraded as you fall in love with the wilderness experience. Also, keep in mind that rental gear is available at many sporting goods stores. Jennifer and I have always been fairly active hikers but we didn’t start backpacking until 2008. Since then we have backpacked all over the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and China. We have thousands of miles underfoot and have played the upgrade game. We started off with heavy gear and have discovered the joy of backpacking with lighter gear. The best backpacking gear shaves ounces which leads to pounds and, yes, every ounce matters when you are carrying that gear anywhere from 5 to 20 miles a day.
This is a simple list of what we carry and recommend. This is the gear that we have found to be the best backpacking gear for us but it might not be the best for everyone in every situation. We will grade this list, not each product, on an A-F scale based on the relative importance to spend the money for quality gear. I am also grouping/categorizing what should take priority based on needs for backpacking. We’ve done more detailed posts for each of these areas and you can find those by clicking on the links below or by clicking on the gear/apps in the navigation bar above.
- A-Rating: Spend the money on a quality product that is durable, well-designed, and saves weight.
- B-Rating: Prioritize weight savings and design on a quality product if you can.
- C-Rating: Spend some money on a quality product if you can but if not you can save money now and plan on upgrading later.
- D-Rating: Save some money as the difference in a name-brand product isn’t necessarily worth the cost.
- F-Rating: Save money as this product often needs to be replaced regardless of the quality.
Throughout this post, you will see available Amazon links. We also have links for Backcountry and REI (when available) listed next to each item for your shopping preference. Any links you use will have no additional cost to you but we will receive a small advertising percentage from your purchase. This helps support this site and allows us to continue to create useful content. Thank You!
Best Backpacking Gear Essentials
- Backpacks: B-Rating
- Osprey Exos 58 (REI)
- Deuter Aircontact Lite 45+10SL (Backcountry, REI)
- Backpack Rain Covers: F-Rating
- Tent: A-Rating
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 (Backcountry)
- Tent Tarp (AKA: Footprint): D-Rating
- Camp Towel (XS): D-Rating
- Sleeping Bag/Liner: A-Rating
- North Face Women’s Blue Kazoo (Backcountry)
- McKinley Trekker D5
- Thermolite Reactor Fleece Liner (REI)
- Sleeping Pad: B-Rating
- Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated (Backcountry)
- Water Containers: C-Rating
- Standard 3L CamelBak Reservoir (Backcountry)
- Lumbar 3L CamelBak Reservoir (Backcountry)
- Vapur Element Flexible Water Bottle (REI)
Necessary Backpacking Gear
- Water Filter: B-Rating
- Katadyn BeFree 3L Gravity Filter (Backcountry, REI)
- Backpacking Stove: B-Rating
- Jetboil Flash (Backcountry, REI)
- Alternate Option: MSR PocketRocket (Backcountry, REI)
- with: 1.2L (6.6oz) Sea to Summit Alpha Pot (REI)
- Lighter: F-Rating
- Long Spork: B-Rating
- Sea to Summit Alpha Light (Backcountry, REI)
- Backpacking Mug: D-Rating
- GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Cup (Backcountry)
- Snow Peak Hot Lips (REI)
- Headlamp: B-Rating
- Black Diamond Revolt (Backcountry, REI)
- Emergency Medical Kit: F-Rating
- .5 Adventure Medical Kit (Backcountry, REI)
- Duct Tape: F-Rating
- Poop Trowel: C-Rating
- TentLab Deauce #2 Trowel (REI)
- Toilet Paper: F-Rating
Recommended Necessary Clothing & Apparel
- Pants/Shorts: C-Rating
- Men’s North Face Paramount Active Pants (Backcountry)
- Men’s Columbia Silver Ridge pants (Backcountry, REI)
- Women’s North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Pant (Backcountry, REI)
- Athletic Shirts: C-Rating
- Men’s Under Armour HeatGear Long-Sleeve Shirt (Backcountry, REI)
- Women’s Under Armour Iso-Chill Long-Sleeve Shirt (Backcountry)
- Women’s Patagonia Capilene Cool Long-Sleeve Shirt (REI)
- Underwear: A-Rating
- Men’s Under Armour Tech 6-inch Boxerjock (Backcountry)
- Women’s Under Armour Pure Stretch Hipster (Backcountry)
- Women’s Under Armour Mid Crossback Sports Bra (Backcountry, REI)
- Socks: A-Rating
- Men’s Darn Tough Hiker Marino Wool (Backcountry, REI)
- Wigwam Cool-Lite Hiker – Synthetic (Only Avaialble on Amazon)
- Women’s Darn Tough Hiker Marino Wool (Backcountry, REI)
- Hiking Shoes: B-Rating
- Men’s Merrell Chameleon (Backcountry)
- Women’s Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof (Backcountry)
- Women’s Keen Targhee II Waterproof (Backcountry, REI)
- Down Jackets: B-Rating
- Men’s Marmot Highlander 700 Fill Down Jacket (Backcountry)
- Women’s Marmot Hype 800 Fill Down Jacket (Backcountry)
- Rain Jacket: D-Rating
- Men’s Columbia Watertight II Rain Jacket (Backcountry, REI)
- Women’s Columbia Arcadia II Rain Jacket (Backcountry, REI)
- Thermal Pants: C-Rating
- Men’s Under Armour ColdGear Compression Leggings (Backcountry, REI)
- Women’s Under Armour Bade Leggings (Backcountry)
- Waterproof Gloves: C-Rating
- Sealskinz Gloves (Backcountry, REI)
- Hats: D-Rating
- Columbia Unisex Adult Bora Bora Booney (Backcountry, REI)
- Outdoor Research Sun Runner Hat (Backcountry, REI)
- Smartwool NTS Merino 150 Beanie (REI)
- Leg Gaiters: D-Rating
- Neck Gaiter: C-Rating
- Turtle Fur Neck Gaiter (REI)
Optional Backpacking Gear
- Trekking Poles: C-Rating
- Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock (Backcountry)
- Foxelli Carbon Fiber (Amazon Only)
- Backpacking Pillow: C-Rating
- Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Pillow (REI)
- Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow (Backcountry, REI)
- Solar Lantern: D-Rating
- MPowered Luci Outdoor 2 (Backcountry, REI)
- Bear Canister: B-Rating
- BearVault 500 (REI)
- Alternate Option: Ursack Major XL (Backcountry, REI)
- Bear Spray: B-Rating (REI)
- Utility Cord: D-Rating (REI)
- Carabineers: D-Rating (REI)
- Battery Backup: D-Rating
- Feelle Solar Charger
- Charmcast PD
- Dry Bags: B-Rating
- Microspikes: B-Rating
- Water Shoes: D-Rating
- Day Pack: C-Rating
- Bug Net: B-Rating
I’m not going to really touch on any of these in other posts because they are fairly obvious but this hopefully helps you create a complete packing list.
- Camping Food – Okay we wrote a post about the best backpacking meals after all 🤣.
- Toothbrush – There are ways to reduce weight by drilling holes in your toothbrush handle. Jennifer and I actually carry just the brush heads to electronic toothbrushes. They are less than half the size and weight of a full toothbrush.
- Toothpaste – Travel Size
- Sunscreen – We use small portable travel bottles to reduce weight.
- Deodorant – Travel size.
- Wipes – This is a common way of bathing when backpacking. Stay away from wipes with scents. We also only carry what is needed in a small plastic bag.
- Bug Spray – A small bottle with a high percentage of deet.
- Camera Gear – I carry way too much but this is obviously going to be preferential to each individual.
- Playing Cards – It is nice to have a small travel size deck of cards and it is an easy way of making friends with others in the backcountry campgrounds.