Backpacking Gear List
When it comes to choosing your gear for backpacking, it’s important to find what works for you based on your individual needs, and not necessarily what is used by your friends (or me!), or the most popular or award-winning. However, it can be helpful to hear about what works for others.
Consider the trifecta of cost vs. weight vs. comfort and where your needs fall within each. For example, if carrying less weight matters, you may need to spend more money on ultralight gear and forgo some comfort items. On the other hand, if comfort is king, your pack will most likely be heavier to carry. If you aren’t in a position to invest a lot of money into backpacking gear, don’t worry. It is possible to find bargains and/or buy used gear to get started. As you gain experience, you can slowly add or replace items if you choose to do so.
Almost all backpackers wish they had focused more on the weight of each item when initially purchasing gear. It doesn’t take long to realize that carrying less weight in your pack has great benefits. It’s less stressful on your body and makes it easier to cover more miles or hike in difficult terrain with less weight on your back. It also doesn’t zap your energy like carrying a heavy load does.
While what each person can carry varies based on their overall body type and size, age and physical strength, a general rule is to carry no more than 25% of your body weight. For me, that’s 27 pounds. When I first started backpacking, I carried up to 35 pounds and it was way too much. Since I’ve lowered my pack weight, I can hike farther and I’m not completely exhausted every day just from carrying my pack.
The best way to lighten your load is to take less gear. It’s easy to get in the “just in case” mentality, especially when it comes to safety and comfort. You can likely get by with less than you think. Each time you go on a backpacking trip, make note of items that don’t get used. Also think about how to get multiple uses out of your gear. For example, a headlamp can provide enough light in your tent at night so you don’t need to bring a separate lantern. A cookpot can be used as a mug instead of bringing a separate mug.
Key items to consider for lightweight gear are the largest and heaviest items needed: a backpack, shelter, sleeping bag and pad. Choose the backpack last since the fit and comfort will be largely based on the gear that goes in it. Keep in mind that carrying less weight won’t matter if the backpack you choose rubs you the wrong way (literally) when it’s fully loaded.
It can be helpful to weigh all of your gear and make note of your base weight – everything except food, water and fuel. A kitchen scale works well for smaller gear, and a luggage scale is useful for weighing a fully loaded pack.
When considering how lightweight to go, continue to keep safety in mind. Being strategic about pack weight does not mean taking unnecessary risks. You’ll still need to take the essentials with you.
My Backpacking Gear
This is my typical backpacking gear list, although I don’t take every item on this list on every trip. What I take depends on many variables, including the weather, trail conditions, hiking distance, etc. View a complete gear list without descriptions on LighterPack.
Since I started backpacking in 2015, I’ve changed out a lot of my gear in order to lower the weight of my pack. My current base weight without food or water is 18 pounds. For a typical three night backpacking trip, my final pack weight (including food and water) is about 25 lbs.
backpack: Osprey Aura 50 AG, small (58 oz) with top lid removed
I recently downsized from the Osprey Aura 65 to the 50 liter backpack. Since I’ve learned to take less on trips and have replaced some of my gear with ultralight items, the 50 liter pack has plenty of space for all of my gear. This is a heavily padded pack with a suspension system that hugs your body. In other words, supremely comfortable. If I need extra capacity, I use the lid, otherwise, I remove it from the pack to save weight. I’ve tried several ultralight backpacks but find that the comfort of this pack is worth every ounce that it weighs.
pouch on hip belt: Osprey Camera Case, small (1.8 oz)
I use this to keep my reading glasses and map handy while hiking.
raincover for backpack: Osprey ultralight rain cover, large (3 oz)
If there’s rain in the forecast, I like using a rain cover so the pack doesn’t get wet, and everything in the pockets stays dry too. Since I keep the backpack in my tent, this keeps the tent drier too. This rain cover has elastic cording to pull it tight on your pack regardless of the load or shape. Some people prefer to use trash compactor bags inside their packs for rain protection, but I use waterproof stuff sacks for a lot of my gear inside my pack, and this rain cover hasn’t failed me yet.
I have two tents that I use for backpacking, based on conditions. For colder weather or shorter trips, I use the Tarptent Moment DW. For warmer, longer or difficult trips, I use my new ultralight Tarptent Aeon Li.
ultralight tent: Tarptent Aeon Li (16 oz)
This is an ultralight single-wall tent made with Dyneema fabric. It can be set up using a trekking pole, or with an additional pole available from Tarptent.
tent stakes: MSR Mini Groundhogs – 6 (1.5 oz)
tent: Tarptent Moment DW (2 lbs 5 oz)
When I’m backpacking, I like using a single person tent better than sharing a shelter. The Tarptent Moment DW is a one person double-wall tent with two doors and two vestibules – great for storing gear outside of the tent while allowing for easy access in and out of the tent on the other side. An optional crossing pole (6 ounces) makes this tent freestanding, and adds four season capability with snow load support. The Moment DW can be purchased with a mesh interior or a partial solid interior. I have both and can swap them out as needed based on conditions. See my full review of the Moment DW tent
tent footprint: Gossamer Gear Polycro ground cover (1.8 oz)
sleeping quilt: Enlightened Equipment Revelation (1 lb 6 oz)
After purchasing three different sleeping bags, I’m now using a sleeping quilt. I was looking for something lighter in weight but still warm. I also wanted more flexibility: something more snug when it’s cold, and looser when it’s not. A quilt has the advantage of being more flexible in terms of how it it used. See my full review of the Revelation Quilt
sleeping pad: Exped Synmat UL M (16 oz) and Schnozzel pump bag
Extremely comfortable, lightweight, and quiet! The Exped Synmat has synthetic insulation and an R-value of 3.3. I love the raised baffles on the sides, perfect for keeping my arms off the ground. Almost like sleeping at home! This pad comes with the Schnozzel pump bag for blowing up the air mattress. It only takes two times to fill it. The bag doubles as a waterproof stuff sack, so I used it as a pack liner to pack my quilt, down jacket, and other items that need to stay dry.
ultralight pillow (left): Massdrop x Klymit Pillow X, small (1.8 oz)
This air pillow has an X shape that cradles your head so it doesn’t fall off the pillow. Since the fabric is slick, I wrap my hiking shirt around the pillow and use the shirt sleeves to tie the pillow to my sleeping pad.
ultralight pillow (right): Outdoor Vitals Ultralight Stretch Pillow (2.6 oz)
This air pillow is super soft for sleeping, and the stretchiness makes it very comfortable. I typically don’t use it fully inflated, letting about 1/3 of the air out so it conforms to my head more.
After using a Jetboil Minimo for several years, I updated my kitchen kit to be lighter weight and less bulky in my pack. Everything for my ultralight kitchen setup nests inside the larger cook pot and includes 1) cook pot, 2) pack towel for dishes and using as a cozy, 3) smaller pot to use a mug, 4) lid for the pot/mug, 5) backpacking stove, 6) soap in a mini-dropper bottle, 7) small piece of scrubber for cleaning, 8) silicone lid for cold soaking food in the mug, and 9) lid for the cook pot. This new setup saves me about 12 ounces over my old setup and saves a lot of space in my pack.
- stove: Soto Amicus stove with Piezo igniter (2.8 oz)
Features that I like about this stove: it’s ultralight; packs down small; has four supports for stability; has a concave burner for better wind resistance.
- stuff sack for stove: Zpacks wallet/camera stuff sack (0.8 oz)
- pot: Soto New River pot with lid (5 oz)
I purchased this pot as a set with the stove. It has a non-slip base so it doesn’t move around on the stove, and the lid has a silicone tab so you don’t need a pot holder to remove the lid when cooking, plus a small opening for steam to escape from.
- fuel for stove: 1 small canister (weight varies based on how much fuel is left – a full canister weighs 7 oz)
- ultralight mug/pot: TOAKS LIGHT Titanium 550 ml pot with lid (2.6 oz)
I use this pot as a mug on backpacking trips. Features that I love: it’s ultralight; has a lid; can be heated on my stove; doesn’t retain odors/tastes like plastic does. Bonus! This pot nests inside my cook pot for packability.
- soap: Dr. Brommer’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap – unscented (2 oz)
One soap, two purposes: for the camp kitchen to wash dishes, and in my toiletries kit for sponge baths.
- mini-dropper bottle for soap: Gossamer Gear mini dropper bottle set
- towel for washing dishes: camp towel, small – 14″ x 10″ – green (1 oz)
I like to reduce the amount of disposable items I use and pack towels are a great way to do so. They are lightweight, dry super fast, and this brand is antimicrobial.
- spork: Morsel Spork (0.6 oz) not shown
The silicone edges on this spork make cleaning food out of my pan much easier!
- stuff sack for kitchen kit: Zpacks Dyneema cooking pot stuff sack (0.14 oz) not shown
ALTERNATE KITCHEN GEAR
- stove: Jetboil Minimo system (14 oz)
I’ve replaced this stove with my setup listed above. However, I still think the Minimo is a great choice for backpackers. I like to cook, and love the simmer feature of the Minimo. The fuel consumption is minimal (even with simmering meals), so one canister lasts for multiple trips. I’ve used it on over 25 backpacking trips and it’s still working like new. The lid has holes for draining water, and an opening for pouring. The stabilizer clips onto a fuel canister to prevent your pot from falling over. And the plastic cover on the bottom can be used as a bowl at camp. All of these items plus a fuel canister nest inside the pot for carrying in your pack.
- mug: GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug (3.5 oz)
I’ve replaced this mug with an ultralight version but this is a great low budget option. This is an insulated plastic mug with a cozy that keeps drinks very hot and has a locking lid to prevent spills.
- food sack: Zpacks Bear Bagging Kit (3.4 oz)
This kit includes a large stuff sack made with waterproof Dyneema fabric, a small rock sack, carabiner, and Z-line slick cord.
- cord for hanging food: BlueWater 3mm NiteLine Utility Cord
The NiteLine cord is highly visible at night when you point your headlamp near it, making it look like a string of lights.
- bear bag: Ursack Major XL Bear Bag (8 oz)
This is my preferred food storage bag. The Ursack is made with bulletproof Spectra fabric for keeping bears out of your food. They don’t need to be hung as high as a traditional food bag, and I find that they also keep rodents out (so far!). I tie mine around the trunk of a tree at least 100 feet from my tent. They do not count as a bear canister though, so if that is required where you are going, you’ll need a hard-sided canister.
- bear canister: Wild Ideas Bearikade Scout (28 oz)
I frequently backpack in areas where bear canisters are required. Instead of relying on the heavier, bulky canisters available at ranger stations, this carbon fiber bear canister actually fits in my backpack and weighs much, much less. The Scout’s capacity is 500 cubic inches, which can hold up to 5 days of food.
(optional) bear canister:
LIGHTER1 Lil’ Sami Polycarbonate Bear-Resistant Food Canister (28 oz)
This is the first bear canister that I purchased. One of the smallest bear canisters currently made, it can hold 2-3 days of foods and fits easily into a backpack. Though I’ve never used it this way, the lid to the canister doubles as a lightweight cooking pan, and a lid for the pan is also included in the kit. A metal brace inside the lid adds strength to the plastic canister (and serves as a handle for the pan).
For filtering water on backpacking trips, I use a DIY gravity setup using a Hydroblu Versa Flow water filter. I recently switched to the Versa Flow over using a Sawyer Squeeze, but both are good filters.
- water bottle: Smart water or Life water bottle with sports cap (1 oz)
I use this water bottle to save weight, and for the convenience of having a water filter that will connect to it easily.
- soft water bottle: Versa Flow Collapsible Canteen (1.5 oz)
I use this canteen instead of an extra water bottle. It’s an important part of my hydration kit on backpacking trips, enabling me to have plenty of filtered water on hand at camp.
- water filter: Hydroblu Versa Flow (2.5 oz)
- bladder for collecting water: CNOC Vecto 2 liter bladder (2.6 oz)
I use this bladder for collecting water to filter. The opening at the top makes getting water into it super easy, and the opening at the bottom connects to my water filter.
- My Ultralight Backpacking Hydration & Gravity Filtering System
- DIY Sawyer Squeeze Gravity Water Filtering Setup
- Gear Review: Hydroblu Versa Flow Water Filter
Additional hydration gear
I changed my hydration kit setup to reduce pack weight, but I still use the items below depending on where I’m going.
- hydration bladder: Camelbak Antidote 3 liter (6.5 oz)
I drink water much more often while hiking when I use a hydration bladder, which is important to stay well hydrated. The Camelbak is easy to fill, with a plastic ridge to hold onto and two thin plastic brackets to hold it open. The tube is easily detachable at the bottom for removing the reservoir to refill. The bite valve is easy to use, and I don’t detect a plastic taste in the water. Once at camp, I pull the hydration bladder out of my pack and use it for water storage. Combined with a collapsible water container, I usually filter four liters of water at a time, which is good for a full day’s use for hiking and cooking at camp.
- water filter: Sawyer Squeeze (3.6 oz)
- headlamp: Princeton Tec Axis rechargeable headlamp (2.7 oz)
This headlamp has high-power LEDs that are dimmable, a red lamp, and it’s rechargeable using a mini USB cable.
- compass: Suunto MC-2 Pro
- Personal Locator Device: DeLorme InReach SE (7 oz) no longer available – I recommend the Garmin InReach Mini instead.
I added the InReach to my backpacking kit for the peace of mind that comes with an SOS device, but also so I could stay in touch with my husband when I’m out backpacking. The InReach SE is a two-way satellite communicator, so you can text back and forth as needed, which could be critical when an emergency requires it. The SOS button contacts emergency responders with your location and message. The device pairs with smartphones for use with the Earthmate app, adding mapping and the ability to type messages on a keyboard instead with the device’s clunky four-direction button. Annual or monthly service plans are required.
- emergency fire starter: Bic Mini and cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly
- repair kit: Gear Aid Tenacious Tape
This tape can be used to repair just about everything. I also take the repair patches that came with my air mattress, and a small amount of duct tape. The orange pole segment is used to repair a tent pole.
- battery backup: Anker Astro Ei 5200mAh + two connection cords (4.9 oz)
For recharging my DeLorme InReach, rechargeable headlamp, camera battery, and iPhone.
I carry these essentials in my hip belt pocket for use while hiking. Once at camp, I transfer these items to my camp “purse”.
- lip balm with sunscreen
- multi-tool: Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multi-tool (2 oz)
This multi-tool includes regular pliers, needle-nose pliers, scissors, 3 screwdrivers, wire cutters, wood/metal file, straight knife and a bottle opener. Of all the tools on it, I use the scissors the most.
- hex tool for camera clip, hair tie
- stuff sack for mini essentials: Zpacks wallet/camera stuff sack (0.8 oz)
- Salt Stick electrolytes
I tend to sweat a lot when hiking, and replacing electrolytes is essential. I like the capsules better than adding a powder mix to water. This product contains the same breakdown of minerals as your sweat: sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, plus vitamin D.
- First Aid kit: custom kit (4 oz)
I modified an REI first aid kit to make it lighter, removing duplicates of items and adding items not included, like a syringe for cleaning wounds, Second Skin blister care, and a tick remover. I highly recommend taking a wilderness first aid class so you know how use the items in your first aid kit.
- mini plastic bags for first aid pharmacy: Ezy Dose Pill Pouches
Instead of purchasing various pills in travel packets, I use these tiny plastic bags to customize what I take based on medications from my home supplies.
- stuff sack for first aid kit: Zpacks mini stuff sack (0.11 oz)
SUN & INSECT PROTECTION
- reflective umbrella: Montbell sun blocker umbrella (8 oz)
The reflective coating on this umbrella keeps you cool on hot and exposed hikes. I rig it to my backpack strap so I don’t have to hold it.
- sunscreen: Sawyer Stay Put Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 GoTube Bottle for sunscreen
- insect repellent: Sawyer Picaridin insect repellent
- insect repeller device: Thermocell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller (not shown)
- cooling buff: Columbia PFG Freeze Zero Neck Gaiter (1.2 oz)
- stuff sack: Granite Gear Air ZippSack, extra small
I use this stuff sack to hold items I need access to while hiking. On my Osprey Aura backpack, I place this in one of the mesh side pockets. These pockets have an opening on the front that so I can reach back and grab what I need while continuing to hike. In colder weather, it holds my hat and gloves so I can make adjustments without removing my pack. In hot weather, I’ll place a head net, sunscreen and insect repellent in this stuff sack for easy access while hiking.
Backpacking in all seasons means having options for warm essentials like hats and gloves. I choose which items to take based on the weather conditions for a trip.
- liner gloves: SmartWool 150 Merino Wool Gloves (0.8 oz)
These liner gloves can be combined with the waterproof mittens for more warmth.
- lightweight gloves: Outdoor Research Melody Sensor Gloves (1.4 oz)
My favorite gloves! They are lightweight and the sensor part works very well with my iPhone.
- heavier gloves: Black Diamond Mid Weight Digital Liner Gloves (1.7 oz)
These gloves are slim fitting and lightweight, which is great for actually being able to do things with your hands while wearing them. The digital tips make using a smartphone possible too.
- waterproof mittens: Event Waterproof Mittens (1 oz)
Slip over your gloves to stay warm and dry.
- rain jacket: Outdoor Research Helium II (5.5 oz)
One of the lightest rain jackets available. This jacket has a hood and a chest pocket, but no hand pockets or pit zips.
- rain skirt: made by a friend using Silnylon and velcro (2 oz)
- stuff sack for rain skirt: Zpacks mini stuff sack (0.11 oz)
- stuff sack for hats and gloves Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sack, 2.5 L
- lip balm, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, mini toothpaste, mini containers for sunscreen, lotion and insect repellent, mini-dropper bottles with essential oil insect repellent & No Rinse shampoo, comb, hair ties, nail clippers, emery board
- bug spray: Sawyer Picaridin
- containers for various lotions and ointments – humangear GoTubb 0.9 cu. in.
- towel for sponge baths: PackTowl, medium – purple (1 oz)
- stuff sack for toiletries: Zpacks glasses zip pouch (0.3 oz)
- trowel: Deuce of Spades trowel (0.6 oz)
Super lightweight and easy to use.
- odor-proof bag: Loksak Opsak, 11″ x 9″
An odor-proof bag is the best way to pack out used toilet paper. I keep one in my bathroom kit, and place a color plastic doggie bag inside it so it conceals the contents and keeps the Opsak clean. Also helpful for carrying out doggie poo.
- bidet attachment for water bottle: Culo Clean (0.7 oz)
There’s nothing like a strong spray of water to keep you feeling clean and refreshed on an overnight trip. This portable bidet is small and lightweight, and for going #2, it makes toilet paper almost not necessary. I use it every time I need to pee too… then my pee cloth is just used to dry off and stays cleaner.
- hand sanitizer: Babyganics Alcohol-free Foaming Hand Sanitizer
I use hand santizer without alcohol to prevent eczema on my hands.
- stuff sack for bathroom kit: Poop-moji Pouch (0.3 oz)
Used for my trowel, toilet paper, wipes, hand sanitizer and an odor-proof bag for carrying out used toilet paper.
- toilet paper or wipes (always carried out after use)
- pee cloth: Kula Cloth (0.5 oz) not shown
Instead of using tp for peeing, I like using a bidet to spray water and use the pee cloth for drying off. I keep it on the outside of my pack and it dries super fast, with no smell (this cloth is antimicrobial).
- camera: Sony a7RII Mirrorless Digital Camera Body (22 oz) not pictured
To get all of the photos that I need for my hiking books and this blog, I take hundreds of photos on every hike, so I always carry a DSLR. After dropping my Sony a6000 camera in a creek on a backpacking trip, I upgraded to the Sony a7RII. It’s heavier but I love the quality of this full frame camera!
- camera lens: Sony FE 28mm f/2 Lens (7 oz) not pictured
This is a wide angle prime lens that I use for landscapes.
- camera strap: PeakDesign Slide Lite Camera Strap (3.7 oz)
This strap is more comfortable than standard camera straps and is easily adjustable with quick-adjustor handles.
- camera attachment: PeakDesign Capture 3.0 Camera Clip (3 oz)
The Capture attaches to the straps on a backpack to keep your camera easily accessible.
- waterproof camera cover: PeakDesign Shell, small (2.4 oz)
This cover can be used on the camera while you carry it on a backpack strap. I also use it for protecting the camera when storing it in my tent.
- ultralight tripod: Pedco Ultrapod II (4.2 oz)
This tripod is easy to use and supports the weight of my camera.
- camp “purse”: Sea to Summit Traveling Light See Pouch (2 oz)
This wallet holds my eyeglasses, phone, car keys, cash, credit card, and ID. One side is clear plastic so I can use my smartphone without removing it from the wallet. I also like to take a small notebook for journaling.
- phone: iPhone XR with case (7.7 oz)
- backpacking chair: Helinox Chair Zero (16 oz)
A camp chair is certainly a luxury item, but it’s a game changer for me. It helps to be able to fully rest my back at camp, and I use it to load and unload all of my gear, keeping it from getting dusty, wet or muddy. I keep the chair inside the tent vestibule at night, storing gear in it off the ground.
- sit seat: Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Pad (2 oz)
One of the best multi-purpose items for backpacking! The Z-Seat is a butt warmer when you sit on it in your camp chair; a door mat outside your tent to save your knees from rocks or sticks; a place to sit on a day hike; and a torso warmer when used on top of your sleeping pad.
See my post on How to Layer Clothing for Hiking and Backpacking for info on the clothing I use on trips.
TRAIL RUNNING SHOES
I’m a complete convert to trail running shoes over hiking boots, and I’m not a runner. My feet used to get overheated and sore easily on hikes, with my toes squished in the typical toe box of a boot. Most trail running shoes use mesh on the top and sides of the shoe, and have a wider toe box to give your feet a more natural alignment when hiking. I find that the zero drop feature has relieved the pain I used to feel in the balls of my feet. Zero drop means that the toes and the heel are at the same height, with no “drop” for the toes. I even wear them when crossing streams. The mesh allows the water to drain out, and the shoes dry quickly. Bonus: there’s no need for camp shoes since these are so comfy to wear. I loosen the laces for wearing around camp and to make them easier to slip on and off. So, after wearing these on a few hikes, I retired my hiking boots.
- Saucony Peregrine Trail Running Shoes
These Saucony Peregrines are very comfortable right out of the box, extremely lightweight, and have the best traction of any hiking boot or shoe I’ve ever worn. They provide great support, even for backpacking with a 30 pound load.
- Altra Olympus Trail Running Shoes
Olympus zero drop trail runners are the cushiest shoes… perfect for keeping your feet from tiring on long trail days.
- Leki Cressida Cor-Tec Women’s Trekking Poles
I take these on every trip, but especially for backpacking to help reduce the impact on my knees. They also help with water crossings and going up (and down) steep steps. These trekking poles have ergonomic cork handles and easy to use locking mechanisms.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for some items, which means that I make a small commission if a purchase is made. This does not change the price of the item. Regardless, the items listed here are owned by me and are purchased with my own funds. All reviews are honest and not paid for by any company. Thank you for supporting this blog!