My Backpacking Gear List – A Lightweight & Comfortable Approach

my backpacking gear list

My approach to backpacking gear is to be as lightweight as possible while still providing enough comfort items to make trips enjoyable. This is my complete list of gear with info about what I like about each item, updated for 2024.

Contents

Considerations before you buy gear

backpacker on trail

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, look for used gear from retailers like REI Co-op and Next Adventure, or in online marketplaces. As you gain experience, you can slowly add or replace items if you choose to do so.

My initial approach was to buy the best gear based on what was highly rated. Over time, I realized that I needed to focus more on the weight of every item I carry so I ended up replacing a lot of gear. My goal for the gear I use is to strike a balance between low weight and comfort.

Related post: How to Lighten the Load of Your Backpack

Take gear based on expected conditions

This is a full list of my backpacking gear. However, I don’t take every item listed here on every trip. What I pack depends on many variables, including the weather, trail conditions, hiking distance, etc. For example, on shoulder season trips in the spring and fall, I bring a warmer sleeping bag and extra layers, while in the summer, I use a backpacking quilt instead and add sun and insect protection gear. If there’s a good chance of rain, I’ll add rain pants (a rain jacket goes on every trip, no matter what the forecast is), and I might take an ultralight tarp to setup for group cooking out of the rain. Every trip is different.

Backpack

Osprey Aura LT 65 backpack

Osprey Aura LT 65 backpack (3 lbs 13 oz)

I’ve used Osprey backpacks ever since I started backpacking, and although I’ve tried many other traditional and ultralight brands, I find that Osprey packs work the best for me. I have back issues and find that most packs apply pressure on my back that is intolerable. The suspension system on the Osprey Aura eliminates this issue, with a hip belt that connects directly to the lumbar support, transferring the weight of the load to my hips. In addition, the heavily padded should straps prevent rubbing on my arms and shoulders. Overall, I find that the way the pack carries the load provides me with more stability on the trail without moving around on my back. For me, the comfort of this pack is worth every ounce that it weighs.

New in 2023, the Aura LT backpack is a lighter version of the original Aura AG. Several features were removed to make it weigh less, including the sleeping bag compartment, the “Stow and Go” trekking pole connector on the shoulder strap, and two extra zipper pockets on the front of the pack. I didn’t use these features and preferred a more streamlined backpack, so I was excited to upgrade to the LT. The materials used are recycled and are a bit stiffer than those on my older packs, but overall, the fit is the same. For most trips, I prefer to remove the top lid to simplify accessing the inside of the pack – and to shave extra weight.

View Women’s Aura LT at REI   View Men’s Atmos LT at REI

For more info on what to look for in a backpack, see Gear Basics: How to Choose a Backpack.

Rain protection for my backpack

I use two methods for keeping my pack and gear dry, depending on the probability of rain in the forecast.

  • waterproof pack liner: Nylofume pack liner (0.9 oz)
    For trips with a good chance of rain, I use an ultralight and waterproof pack liner made of nylon polymer inside my backpack for storing my sleeping quilt, puffy jacket and clothing items.
  • raincover for backpack: included with the Aura LT/Atmos LT packs
    When it is raining, I like using a rain cover so my pack doesn’t get wet (and heavier with water weight). Since I keep the backpack in my tent, this keeps the inside of my tent drier too. It has elastic cording to pull it tight on your pack regardless of the load or shape.

Shelter

backpacking gear list – Tarptent Aeon Li one person tent

Tarptent Aeon Li (1 lb 7 oz – with the optional support pole, 6 stakes, and stuff sacks for the tent and stakes)

The Aeon Li is a one person, ultralight, single-wall tent made with Dyneema fabric (which makes this an expensive option). It can be set up using a trekking pole, or with an optional support pole available from Tarptent. After using several other types of tents, this is my top pick for most backpacking trips. I love how light it is, and the setup is easy once you learn how to do it. For a one person tent, it’s fairly spacious and has plenty of room inside for storing all of my gear, including my backpack. Vents on both ends of the tent and another at the top help to prevent condensation, and the vestibule doors open wide for big views. See my full review of the Aeon Li tent.

View at Tarptent

REI Flash Air 1 backpacking tent

REI Flash Air 1 (2 lbs 2 oz – with the support pole, 6 stakes, and stuff sacks for the tent and stakes)

The REI Flash Air 1 tent is a good option for those looking for a lightweight one-person tent that doesn’t break the bank. A single-wall, non-freestanding tent, the mesh and outer walls are constructed in one layer instead of having a mesh inner tent body and a separate rainfly, and it requires staking all corners of the tent to create the structure. ompared to other one-person tents, the Flash Air 1 is spacious and allows me to store my backpack and other gear inside the tent while using a full length sleeping pad. See my full review of the Flash Air 1 tent.

View at REI

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2 Solution-Dyed Tent

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2 Solution-Dyed Tent (2 lbs 8 oz – with the tent poles, tent body, rainfly, and 6 stakes plus stuff sacks)

New for 2023, I purchased the Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent so I’d have more space on backpacking trips when I’ll be spending more time at camp. This is a two person tent, but the size is better suited for one person to have plenty of space to spread out and store gear inside.  The Tiger Wall is semi-freestanding, so the end corners need to be staked, while the tent poles create a spacious interior that’s perfect for sitting up or stretching without touching the walls. The interior pockets are my favorite feature, especially the super-sized ‘3D mezzanine’ pocket that can hold a lot of gear. I like to put all of my clothing and jackets in this pocket so they take up less floor space, plus it makes it easier to find what I need. When using a double-wall tent, condensation isn’t an issue since the mesh inner prevents brushing up against the rainfly. I purchased the bikepacking version of the footprint for full coverage in both vestibules. It weighs about 2 ounces more than the standard footprint, and is nice for keeping gear off the ground as well as getting less dirt inside the tent. I also use this tent for car camping trips.

View at REI

Tent stakes and footprint

  • tent stakes: MSR Mini Groundhogs – 6 (1.5 oz)
    These stakes are small, lightweight and have a better hold than stakes provided with most tents.
  • tent footprint: Gossamer Gear Polycro ground cover (1.8 oz)
    I always use a ground cover to protect the tent floor, and you can’t get much one lighter than polycro – a thin, clear plastic material that is strong while being very lightweight. It’s the same material used to insulate windows and can be found at hardware stores or from outdoor retailers online.

Sleeping Bag/Quilt

Zenbivy Light Bed review

Zenbivy Light Bed – 25 degree, regular size (1 lb 10 oz)

Out of all of the sleeping bags and quilts that I’ve used for backpacking over the last 10 years, I can honestly say that the Zenbivy Light Bed is the most comfortable sleep system for backpacking. While most backpacking quilts use straps to attach to a sleeping pad, Zenbivy Beds feature a sheet with an oversized hood and wings on the sides that attach to the quilt with clips. In my experience, this effectively eliminates drafts – especially for those of us who toss and turn a lot in our sleep – and provides better overall comfort. See my full review of the Zenbivy Light Bed.

View at Zenbivy

Therm-a-rest Parsec sleeping bag

Therm-a-Rest Parsec Sleeping Bag (2 lbs 2 oz – small size)

I’m a cold sleeper, so when the expected overnight temps will be below 40 degrees, I take my Therm-a-Rest Parsec 0 degree sleeping bag. For a mummy-style bag, it has plenty of room inside for movement so I don’t feel claustrophobic, yet it’s not so big that it’s difficult to warm up inside. The Parsec is a unisex bag, so the 0 degree rating is based on the limit temperature, while the comfort rating is 14 degrees. If you are comparing to a women’s sleeping bag, they are marketed at the comfort rating. Therm-a-Rest offers this bag in three sizes: small, regular, and tall. Since I’m 5’1″, I bought the small size and have some extra space at the bottom for gear that is sensitive to colder temps. The Parsec is a well-made, high quality sleeping bag that has several standout features, including an easy to use two-way zipper with a draft color, a generous footbox with an extra insulated panel to tuck your feet into, a small pocket that I use for stowing electronics to keep batteries from draining due to the cold.

View at Therm-a-Rest   View at REI

Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt

Enlightened Equipment Revelation Down Quilt (1 lb 6 oz)

The Revelation quilt is what I take when I want to go ultralight on trips. Quilts are much lighter than comparable sleeping bags due to not having full length zippers or hoods. Instead, they have clips and snaps on the bottom for attaching straps to go around a sleeping pad, or can be clipped together to close them up in colder conditions. Some have enclosed footboxes, while others can be opened all the way and used like a blanket. This custom Revelation quilt is rated to 10 degrees, with a 20 denier outer fabric and 10 denier inner fabric. It can be opened fully and used as a blanket, or closed at the footbox and strapped to a sleeping pad (which is most frequently how I use it). See my full review of the Revelation Quilt.

View at Enlightened Equipment   View at Garage Grown Gear

Sleeping pads

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT sleeping pad

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women’s sleeping pad (17 oz)

I upgraded to the Ether Light XT Insulated sleeping pad when I was looking to replace an older Exped mattress. With an R-value of 3.5, this pad is warm enough for three seasons, and it’s extremely comfortable due to the 4″ thick mattress-style tufting. The women’s version of the Ether Light is a bit shorter and wider than standard pads, at 22″ x 66″. I’ve used the Ether Light on dozens of backpacking trips and find that I sleep better overall, especially on my side – my hips never touch the ground with this pad, unlike with others. It comes with a stuff sack that has an integrated pump sack, but I prefer to use a small pump to blow it up instead (see the FlexTail pump in the Electronics section below).

View at Sea to Summit  View at REI

Therm-a-Rest Xtherm sleeping pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm sleeping pad (15 oz)

With an R-value of 6.9, the NeoAir Xtherm is the warmest sleeping pad available for the weight. Since staying warm in colder conditions relies on a sleeping pad warmth value as much as the rating of a sleeping bag or quilt, this is my preferred air mattress whenever the temps go below 35 degrees overnight. Some people find it to be noisy due to the reflective material inside the pad, but it’s never bothered me. I’ve been using this pad since 2015, but newer versions feature improvements to the valve as well as the materials used to make it quieter.

View at Therm-a-Rest  View at REI

Pillows

A good pillow is essential for sleeping well on backpacking trips. After trying stuff sacks filled with clothing, I found that I needed more support. I’ve tried quite a few air pillows and tend to like those that are designed with an indented center to cradle your head. Fill partway with air for better comfort (about two-thirds full).

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow (2.8 oz)

The Aeros has an internal air bladder with synthetic fill on top that cushions the air bladder for better comfort and provides insulation for additional warmth. A multi-function valve allows for easy adjustments for firmness level. The Ether Light sleeping pad includes “pillow lock” pads for holding the Aeros pillow in place on the pad.

View at Sea to Summit  View at REI

Additional pillow options

  • most comfortable pillow: Therm-a-Rest compressible pillow, small size (7 oz)
    This foam-filled pillow feels the closest to sleeping at home, but it’s a bit heavy and bulky.
  • budget ultralight pillow: Outdoor Vitals Ultralight Stretch Pillow (2.6 oz)
    The fabric on this air pillow is soft and stretchy for comfort, while the indented center helps to keep your head cradled.

Kitchen Gear

backpacking gear list – my stove setup

Simmer in a Pot Meals

For the flexibility of being able to simmer foods when I make my own dehydrated meals, as well as have a stove that can boil water quickly, I use a backpacking stove with an adjustable flame for simmer control. When I need to cook meals, I take an aluminum pot so food doesn’t burn as easily as it would in a titanium pot. In addition to a cook pot, instead of a traditional mug for hot drinks, I use an ultralight pot with a lid so it can be used on the stove when needed. Combined, this ultralight setup nests together and doesn’t take up too much space in my pack.

Freeze-Dried Meals Approach

After exclusively making all of my own backpacking meals for the previous seven years, I decided to give freeze-dried meals a try in order to do less up-front work and have easier meal prep at camp. After trying multiple brands of commercial foods, I found Peak Refuel and Pinnacle Foods. They both have several options for meals that I actually look forward to eating. With this approach to meals, I only need take a stove, small pot, long handle spoon, and a camp towel.

Having been a firm holdout in the “I’d rather clean a pot than eat from a plastic bag” camp for a long time, this is quite a switch for me. And after a full year of eating straight from the bag, I can say that I am now a firm believer in convenience… if you can find meals that you look forward to. A bonus is that I spend less time on kitchen camp chores and have more time to relax. Or hike.

Food Storage

backpacking food storage

Ursack Major XL Bear Bag (8 oz)
My preferred food storage method, the Ursack is made with bulletproof Spectra fabric for keeping bears from getting your food. Unlike a traditional bear bag, an Ursack doesn’t need to be hung high in a tree. Instead, I tie it around the trunk of a tree at least 100 feet from my tent. So far, it has also kept rodents out. Note that an Ursack cannot be used in areas where hard-sided canisters are required.

View at REI

Wild Ideas Bearikade Scout bear canister (28 oz)
When I backpack in areas where bear canisters are required, instead of relying on the rental canisters available at ranger stations that are often heavy and bulky, this carbon fiber bear canister 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.

View at Wild Ideas

To learn more about what to look for in backpacking kitchen gear, see my Backpacking Kitchen Gear & Food Storage post.

Hydration & Water Filtering

Initially, I used a hydration reservoir in my backpack, but I’ve switched to using lightweight water bottles. With a reservoir, it can be difficult to tell how much water you have, and it’s almost impossible to pull out of a fully loaded pack for refilling. The potential for leaking and getting gear wet is another reason I made the switch, as well as wanting a much lighter option. With this setup, I created my own gravity water filter system.

Hydration

Gear Review – One Bottle Hydration System

  • Nalgene Ultralight 1 liter water bottle (3 oz) View at Amazon
  • One Bottle Hydration System for wide mouth bottles. View at Etsy
    This system has a hydration hose, insulated cover, and a cap that fits on Nalgene bottles for easy access to water. The hose goes inside to the bottom of the bottle and has a bite valve on the other end, just like those on hydration bladders. I place the water bottle in the side pocket of my backpack with the hose connected to the shoulder strap on my backpack. See my full review of the One Bottle Hydration System

Water Filtration

water filter gear

  • HydroBlu 64 oz. collapsible canteen (1 oz)
    These collapsible water containers are great for storing filtered water while at camp. The handles at the top make it easy to carry, and the carabiner at the bottom makes it easy to backflush a water filter by hanging the bag to push clean water back through the filter. If I’m not camped near a water source, I take two of these containers for more capacity.
    View at HydroBlu
  • HydroBlu Versa Flow filter (1.4 oz)
    I’ve been using this filter for several years. It’s easy to backflush and the flow rate is consistently fast. See my full review of this filter.
    View at Garage Grown Gear   |   CNOC Outdoors
  • Sawyer Fast Fill Adapter
    This kit helps to connect a hydration hose to filters and water containers. I use one on the Hydroblu collapsible canteen so I don’t have to hold the hose while filtering water.
    View at REI Co-op   |   Amazon
  • HydroBlu silicone hose
    Water flows much faster from the filter when adding a hose to a gravity setup.
    View at HydroBlu
  • CNOC Vecto 2 liter water container (2.6 oz)
    The Vecto is the only water bladder with openings at both ends for ease in collecting water to filter. Remove the slider at the top to fill with water, then connect a water filter to the small opening at the bottom for filtering.
    View at Garage Grown Gear  |  CNOC Outdoors
  • HydroBlu Water Filter System Package
    This kit includes water filter, two collapsible canteens, hydration hose, and a clamp – and costs much less than purchasing each item separately.
    View at Amazon   |   HydroBlu

Essentials & Electronics

These are the hiking essentials and electronics that I take on backpacking trips:

  • 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 so there’s no need to carry spare batteries.
  • battery backup: Anker PowerCore 10,000mAh + two connection cords (4.9 oz)
    For recharging my DeLorme InReach, rechargeable headlamp, camera battery, and iPhone.
  • 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.
  • fire starter: Bic Mini and Sweetfire Fire Starters
  • repair kit: I take repair patches that came with my air mattress and tent, a spare carabiner, extra cordage, a small circle of screen repair, and Gear Aid Tenacious Tape.
  • multi-tool: Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multi-tool (2 oz) No longer available, so I recommend the Leatherman Micra.
    The Leatherman Squirt multi-tool includes pliers, scissors, 2 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 making adjustments to the Peak Design camera clip
  • air pump & lantern: Flextail Gear Tiny Pump (3 oz)
    Save your breath (and prevent mold inside the pad from the moisture in your breath) and use this small air pump to blow up your sleeping pad. This pump is rechargeable and includes a powerful light with three settings – perfect for hanging inside your tent to read at night.
  • dry bag for essentials: Zpacks Ultralight Small Dry Bag (0.4 oz)
    This roll top dry bag is made from waterproof Dyneema fabric and has velcro across the top for easy closing of the bag.

First Aid

first aid for hiking & backpacking

When I first starting backpacking, I carried a full-featured first-aid kit that weighed a pound. Over time, I discovered that I could carry fewer items while still having everything I need to deal with emergencies on trail. The weight of the kit shown above is 3 oz. For more info, see What’s in My First Aid Kit

Personal Hygiene & Bathroom Kit

personal hygiene for backpacking

Instead of bringing everything that I use at home, I only take a few essential toiletry items on backpacking trips. To save pack weight and bulk, I repackage toiletry items into mini containers and only bring the amount that needed for each trip.

  • lip balm, toothbrush, travel-size toothpaste, mini containers with sunscreen, lotion and insect repellent, hair ties, nail clippers
  • containers for various lotions and ointments – humangear GoTubb 0.9 cu. in.
  • laundry kit: cordage, gallon-size plastic bag, soap in mini dropper bottle, mini binder clips for hanging clothes
  • towels for sponge baths: REI Multi Towel Mini (0.6 oz)
  • stuff sack for toiletries: Space Bear Bags Poop-Moji Pouch  (0.3 oz)
  • insect repellent: Sawyer Picaridin

To learn more about how to stay clean while backpacking, see Personal Hygiene for Backpackers.

bathroom kit for backpacking

I carry a separate kit for using the bathroom in the backcountry so I’ll have everything I need when it’s time to dig a cat hole. I always pack out toilet paper by using an odor proof plastic bag, concealing the contents with a pet waste bag. And I use a portable bidet to stay fresh and clean, which reduces the amount of toilet paper needed.

  • trowel: Vargo Dig Dig Tool (1.2 oz)
    A lightweight, heavy duty trowel with serrated edges for easier digging.
  • odor-proof bag: Loksak Opsak, 11″ x 9″
    An odor-proof bag is the best way to pack out used toilet paper. I place a color plastic doggie bag inside it to conceal the contents and keep the outer bag clean.
  • bidet bottle: Cynpel Peri Bottle (2 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 in mini-dropper bottle
  • stuff sack for bathroom kit: Granite Gear Air Zipditty Pouch (0.3 oz)
  • toilet paper or wipes in a small plastic bag (always carried out after use)
  • pee cloth: Kula Cloth (0.5 oz)
    Instead of using tp for peeing, I use a bidet to spray water and use the Kula cloth (which is antimicrobial) for drying off. I keep it on the outside of my pack and it dries super fast.

Seating

Helinox Chair Zero backpacking chair

Helinox Chair Zero (16 oz)

While a chair is considered a luxury item for some people, I take a chair on every trip to prevent back and hip issues. This chair is ultralight, easy to setup, and comfortable. It’s also a great way to carry gear back and forth to a camp kitchen. I keep my chair in the tent vestibule overnight and place my water containers and filtering gear in it to keep them off the ground.

View at REI

Therm-a-Rest sit seat

Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Pad (2 oz)

One of the most versatile item in my pack is this seat pad. Besides using it to sit on for breaks when day hiking, I also use it as a doormat outside my tent door to protect my knees as I get in and out of my tent. When it’s cold out, I place it silver-side up in my backpacking chair to reflect body heat, or under my torso when I sleep for radiant heat. And if you need to fan a campfire to get it going, or a wind screen for your stove, the seat pad works for those purposes too. One more potential use is as a sling support if you get injured. All for just two ounces.

View at REI

Trekking poles

Leki trekking poles for backpacking

Leki Cressida Women’s Trekking Poles

I always hike with trekking poles, no matter the trail. They help to reduce strain on your lower body by distributing some of the work to your upper body, and provide stability on trail while ascending or descending or when crossing streams. I can also use one of the trekking poles to setup my Aeon Li tent.

View at REI

Camera Equipment

backpacking gear list – my hiking camera gear

One of the main reasons I backpack is to spend time in scenic locations in the wilderness. In order to capture some of that beauty, camera gear is one of the few items that I’m willing to carry extra weight for. I use a Sony full frame mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses that I can choose according to what I plan to photograph. For a full list of my camera equipment, see Professional-level Camera Gear for Hiking and Backpacking.

Clothing & Outerwear

backpacking gear list – clothing layers for hiking & backpacking

Since every ounce counts when carrying a loaded backpack, I take as few clothing items as possible, relying on layering techniques instead of bringing items for each day. For a full list of options, see Clothing & Outerwear Layers for Hiking and Backpacking.

Footwear

backpacking gear list – Altra Olympus trail running shoes

For a guide to footwear for backpacking and hiking, including my favorite footwear and socks, see Gear Basics: Footwear for Hiking & Backpacking.

 

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