My Backpacking Gear List – A Lightweight & Comfortable Approach (updated for 2023)

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 2023.


2023 updates

My gear list is pretty dialed in, so I’m only changing out a few items this year:

  • New sleeping bag: After being cold on too many nights, I added a new sleeping bag to my kit: the Therm-a-Rest Parsec 0 degree sleeping bag.
  • Hydration setup: I also changed the water bottle I use from a SmartWater bottle to an ultralight version of a Nalgene. Added to this is a One Bottle Hydration System with a hose and cap made to fit the Nalgene.
  • Camp shoes: I’ve never taken camp shoes backpacking before, but my feet get cold when I’m sitting around camp at night and in the morning, so I bought the Outdoor Research Tundra Aerogel Booties. I’m looking forward to having warm feet while I cook or hang out at camp!
  • Ultralight tripod: I finally found a high quality tripod that only weighs one pound yet can support my 2+ lb. camera – the AOKA Compact Carbon Fiber Tripod extends to 28″ and is very compact for carrying on a backpack.

Other than these items, everything else is the same as I’ve been using for several years. I tried to replace my backpack, testing several different models but nothing worked as well as my trusty Osprey Aura 50. In fact, everything else I’ve tried puts pressure on my lower back and causes pain. Only the Osprey doesn’t. I wanted to save weight since the Aura is a bit on the heavy side, but unless someone makes a lighter backpack with the same back support, I’ll be sticking with the Aura.

Considerations before you buy gear

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. I think of it as being “comfort-light”. For more info about lightweight gear, see my “How to Lighten the Load of Your Backpack” post.

This is a full list of my backpacking gear. However, I don’t take every item on every trip. What I pack depends on many variables, including the weather, trail conditions, hiking distance, etc.


Osprey Aura 50 AG backpack

backpacking gear list – Osprey Aura AG 50 backpack

For the past seven years, I’ve used Osprey backpacks, starting with the Osprey Aura AG 65 and downsizing to the Osprey Aura AG 50 liter pack. This smaller pack has plenty of space for all of my gear. If I need extra capacity, I use the lid, otherwise, I remove it from the pack to save weight. The Osprey Aura is a heavily padded pack with a suspension system that hugs your body. In other words, supremely comfortable. The shoulder straps are thick and cushy to prevent rubbing on my arms and shoulders. The hip belt is constructed with mesh that connects it directly to the lumbar support and transfers the weight of the load to my hips instead of pulling on my 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. The comfort of this pack is worth every ounce that it weighs.

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: Six Moon Designs pack liner (3 oz, $20)
    On every trip, I use a waterproof pack liner inside my backpack for storing my sleeping quilt, puffy jacket and clothing items. This pack liner from Six Moon Designs is a 50-liter dry bag that is seam-sealed to keep everything inside dry.
  • raincover for backpack: Osprey ultralight rain cover, medium (2.8 oz, $34)
    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. I only take this on trips when there is a chance of rain in the forecast. Otherwise, I leave it at home.


Tarptent Aeon Li backpacking tent

backpacking gear list – Tarptent Aeon Li one person tent

This is a one person, ultralight, single-wall tent made with Dyneema fabric. It can be set up using a trekking pole, or with an additional pole available from the manufacturer. After using several other types of tents, this is my top pick for every backpacking trip. 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 I love being able to open both doors for big views. See my full review of the Aeon Li tent.

  • weight: 16 oz
  • price: $569
  • purchase from Tarptent

Tent stakes and footprint

  • tent stakes: MSR Mini Groundhogs – 6 (1.5 oz, $22.95)
    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, $11.00)
    I like using a ground cover to protect the floor of my tent. Polycro is a thin, clear plastic material that is strong and very lightweight. It’s the same material used to insulate windows and can be found at hardware stores. To use, lay it down before setting up your tent, making sure to tuck in the edges so they are fully underneath your tent floor so water can’t pool on it and flow under the tent.

Sleeping Bag/Quilt

Therm-a-Rest Parsec Sleeping Bag

Thermarest Parsec sleeping bag

After exclusively using quilts for five years on backpacking trips, I spent too many nights cold in temps below 40 degrees, so I added this 0 degree sleeping bag to use in colder weather. This sleeping bag 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 unsex 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 it fits with some extra space at the bottom. I’m excited to give this a try in 2023!

  • weight: 2 lbs 2 oz (small size)
  • price: $530
  • purchase from Therm-a-Rest

Enlightened Equipment Revelation Down Quilt

Enlightened Equipment Revelation Down Sleeping Quilt

In warmer weather, I like to use a quilt instead of a sleeping bag. 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. This quilt 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.

  • weight: 1 lb 6 oz (depends on options chosen)
  • price: $410 (based on 10 degree 950 fill custom quilt – pricing starts at $250)
  • purchase from Enlightened Equipment

Sleeping pads

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women’s sleeping pad

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women's sleeping pad

I upgraded to the Ether Light XT Insulated sleeping pad when I was looking to replace an older Exped UL M. 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″. This pad comes with a stuff sack that has an integrated pump, but I haven’t been able to get the pad to fit back in the stuff sack and I use a small pump to blow it up instead (see the Tiny Pump below).

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm sleeping pad

Therm-a-Rest Xtherm sleeping pad

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 (maybe even more than) the rating of a sleeping bag or quilt, this is my preferred air mattress whenever the temps go below 40 degrees overnight. Some people find it to be noisy due to the reflective material inside the pad, but it’s never bothered me. The horizontal baffles are comfortable for sleeping, but I find that they collapse on the sides and my arms have a tendency to fall off. However, when I tend to use this pad, I setup my quilt like a mummy bag and that keeps my arms inside.

Air pump for sleeping pad

  • Flextail Gear Tiny Pump (& light) (3 oz, $29.98)
    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.


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 so your head doesn’t slide off. I recommend filling them only part-way for better comfort.

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

After trying many air pillows, I finally found the most comfortable one for me. The Aeros has an internal air bladder that’s curved to cradle your head, soft brushed knit fabric, and synthetic fill on the top that cushions the air bladder for better comfort and provides insulation for additional warmth. The multi-function valve allows for easy adjustments for firmness level. I like to keep it filled about three-quarters full.

Additional pillow options

backpacking pillows

  • most comfortable pillow (left): Therm-a-Rest compressible pillow, small size (7 oz, $29.95)
    This foam-filled pillow feels the closest to sleeping at home. It’s heavier and bulkier for packing though so I only use it on camping trips.
  • ultralight pillow (right): Outdoor Vitals Ultralight Stretch Pillow (2.6 oz, $24.97)
    The fabric on this air pillow is softer than most and is stretchy for better comfort.

Kitchen Gear

backpacking gear list – my stove setup

On backpacking trips, I sometimes struggle with appetite and find it challenging to get enough food in my body to replenish me, so it’s important to have food that I find appetizing and will eat. Due to this, I always cook breakfasts and dinners (sometimes even lunches) using a backpacking stove. Since I make all of my own dehydrated meals, having a kitchen setup that works for cooking rather than only for boiling water is important.

Initially, I used a Jetboil Minimo for several years and it worked great. I especially liked the simmer feature with an adjustable flame for cooking in a pot. But the Minimo is a bit heavy and bulky, so I updated my kitchen kit with a new ultralight setup that nests together and takes up less space in my pack.

For more info on the types of backpacking stoves to consider: Gear Basics: Backpacking Kitchen Gear post.

backpacking gear list – my stove setup

  • stove & pot set: Soto Amicus stove with Piezo igniter & New River pot (7.8 oz, $54.95)
    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. The New River pot is aluminum and has a non-slip base so it doesn’t move around on the stove. 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.
  • stuff sack for stove: Zpacks wallet/camera stuff sack (0.8 oz, $12.95)
  • 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, $29.95)
    I use this pot as a mug on backpacking trips. Since this is made of thin metal, it doesn’t keep drinks hot for long. But unlike plastic mugs, I can reheat on the stove if needed. Features that I like: 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, $4.99)
    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 (not currently available)
  • towel for drying dishes: REI Co-op Multi Towel Mini (0.6 oz, $8.95)
    I like to reduce the amount of disposable items I use and pack towels are a great way to do so. They are lightweight and dry super fast.
  • spoon: Toaks Titanium Spoon (0.6 oz, $8.95) not shown
  • stuff sack for kitchen kit: Zpacks Dyneema cooking pot stuff sack, size 1.3L (0.14 oz, $21.95) not shown

Food Storage

backpacking gear list – bear canister and bear bags for food storage

  • bear bag: Ursack Major XL Bear Bag (8 oz, $109.95)
    The Ursack is my preferred food storage method – it’s made with bulletproof Spectra fabric for keeping bears out of your food. An Ursack doesn’t need to be hung as high as a traditional food bag, and I find that it also keeps rodents out if you close it properly. I tie the Ursack around the trunk of a tree at least 100 feet from my tent. It does not count as a bear canister, so if that is required where you are going, you’ll need a hard-sided canister. I use odor proof plastic bags to store all of my food inside the Ursack. I figure if they can’t smell it, they won’t be as interested in it. So far, I have not had any issues with using it. Even though this is not the critter-proof version, mice have crawled all over it but didn’t get inside.
  • bear canister: Wild Ideas Bearikade Scout (28 oz, $300)
    I frequently backpack in the Olympic National Park, 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.

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.

This hydration kit is what I take for filtering water on backpacking trips. It’s compact, simple to use, and lightweight. I created a DIY setup for filtering water using gravity, without needing to purchase a kit designed specifically for this use. Learn more in DIY Gravity Setup Using Sawyer Squeeze or Hydroblu Versa Flow filters.

Total storage capacity with this system: 5 liters
Total weight of this setup: 10 oz

my ultralight backpacking hydration & filtering system

  • Nalgene Ultralight 1 liter water bottle (3 oz, $14.81) Purchase from Amazon
  • One Bottle Hydration System for wide mouth bottles ($28) Purchase from 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
  • HydroBlu 64 oz. collapsible canteen (1 oz, $3.50)
    These collapsible water containers are my favorite 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 my Versa Flow filter by hanging the bag to reverse the order of my gravity filter setup. If I’m not camped near a water source, I take two of these containers for more capacity.
    Purchase from: HydroBlu
  • HydroBlu Versa Flow filter (1.4 oz, $22.95)
    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.
    Purchase from: Garage Grown Gear   |   CNOC Outdoors
  • Sawyer Fast Fill Adapter (shown above with a blue cap and white adapter)
    This kit helps to connect a hydration hose to filters and water containers. I used one on the Hydroblu collapsible canteen so I don’t have to hold the hose while filtering water.
    Purchase from: REI Co-op   |   Amazon
  • HydroBlu silicone hose (pictured with a clamp and small adapter on one end)
    Water flows much faster from the filter when adding a hose to a gravity setup.
    Purchase from: HydroBlu
  • CNOC Vecto 2 liter water container (2.6 oz, $22.99)
    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.
    Purchase from: Garage Grown Gear  |  CNOC Outdoors
  • not shown: HydroBlu Water Filter System Package ($25.95)
    This kit includes water filter, two collapsible canteens, hydration hose, and a clamp – and costs much less than purchasing each item separately.
    Purchase from: Amazon   |   HydroBlu

Essentials & Electronics

I like to carry a few essentials and first aid items to stay safe while backpacking. And while backpacking is a great way to unplug, there are a few electronics that can be useful on trips.

I carry these essentials in a waterproof ditty bag.

  • headlamp: Princeton Tec Axis rechargeable headlamp (2.7 oz, $47.59)
    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.
  • 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: 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 tent, a spare carabiner, extra cordage, plus a small circle of screen repair.
  • battery backup: Anker PowerCore 10,000mAh + two connection cords (4.9 oz, $41.75)
    For recharging my DeLorme InReach, rechargeable headlamp, camera battery, and iPhone.
  • 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
  • dry bag for essentials: Zpacks Ultralight Small Dry Bag (0.4 oz, $29.95)
    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

This is my basic first aid kit for backpacking. I’ve taken the NOLS Wilderness First Aid certification course twice and it helped me discover what I needed for first aid. I highly recommend that every backpacker take one of these courses.

  • antiseptic towlettes for cleaning wounds
  • first aid tape
  • stretch bandage
  • moleskin
  • tweezers
  • antibiotic ointment
  • syringe for cleaning wounds
  • disposable gloves
  • gauze pads
  • assorted bandages
  • Second Skin burn gel
  • semi-transparent bandage for large wounds
  • Wilderness first aid pocket guide
  • assorted mix of over the counter medications, including antihistamine, anti-diarrhea tablets, ibuprofen and personal prescriptions
  • Salt Stick electrolytes: I tend to sweat a lot when hiking, so replacing electrolytes is essential. I like the capsules better than adding a powder mix to water. The capsules contain the same breakdown of minerals as your sweat: sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, plus vitamin D.
  • Ezy Dose Pill Pouches:mini plastic bags for first aid pharmacy
    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.

Personal Hygiene & Bathroom Kit

You don’t have to be dirty and smelly on a backpacking trip. Say goodbye to at least some of the funk by carrying a few toiletry items, and be prepared for using the bathroom in the backcountry with a simple bathroom kit. 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, repackage toiletry items into small containers such as tubs and dropper bottles and only bring the amount that you need for each trip.

For more info, see Personal Hygiene for Backpackers.

personal hygiene for backpacking

My personal hygiene kit, shown above:

Bathroom Kit

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 all toilet paper by using an odor proof plastic bag, concealing the contents with a pet waste bag. And I use a portable bidet cap on top of a water bottle to stay fresh and clean, which also greatly reduces the amount of toilet paper needed.

For more info, see How to Use the Bathroom in the Backcountry.

bathroom kit for backpacking

  • trowel: Vargo Dig Dig Tool (1.2 oz, $24.95)
    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 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.
  • bidet bottle: Cynpel Peri Bottle (2 oz, $8.99)
    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, $17.99 – set of 2)
  • toilet paper or wipes in a small plastic bag (always carried out after use)
  • pee cloth: Kula Cloth (0.5 oz, $19.99)
    Instead of using tp for peeing, I like using 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.

Additional Gear

Helinox Chair Zero backpacking chair

backpacking chair: Helinox Chair Zero (16 oz, $129.95)
While a chair is considered a luxury item for some people, it’s definitely worth carrying 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.

Therm-a-Rest sit seat

sit seat: Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Pad (2 oz, $24.95)
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, I place it silver-side up in my backpacking chair and it reflect body heat to keep me warm. When it’s super cold, I place it 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.

Leki trekking poles for backpacking

trekking poles: Leki Cressida Cor-Tec Women’s Trekking Poles ($159.95)
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. Most people find that they help reduce strain on their knees on downhill sections. I also use one of my trekking poles to setup my Aeon Li tent.

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 extra items for each day. For a full list of options, see Clothing & Outerwear Layers for Hiking and Backpacking.


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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