I Went Backpacking Last Weekend. This Is All the Gear I Brought.
Lighter gear leads to a much more comfortable trip
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If you’ve done some camping and want to take a slightly more out-there adventure, try backpacking. Even spending the night just a few miles away from your car and other people can be thrilling. But backpacking requires careful planning and a lot of gear. You can only bring what you can carry on your back, so each item needs to be chosen carefully.
I’ve spent years meticulously pouring over reviews, logging my gear on Lighter Pack, and testing hundreds of products. The result is a pretty dialed system that’s incredibly lightweight while still being comfortable. I don’t bring a camp chair, but I do have a plush pillow and a bright headlamp. If you’re new to backpacking, some of this might be overkill, but buy anything on this list and you won’t be disappointed.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest Backpack
Maine-based Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes some of the best ultralight backpacking gear on the market. All of their products are made from Dyneema, a sailcloth-like material that’s lightweight but five times stronger than steel. It’s also waterproof, so you don’t have to stuff your gear in a trash bag if it rains. The Southwest is pricey, but it will last a lifetime.
Nemo Hornet Elite Tent
The Hornet Elite is the best tent if you want to go as light as possible while still keeping the bugs out and a floor underneath you. It’s “semi-freestanding” meaning you do need to stake it to the ground to keep it upright, but it also comes with poles, and two doors and vestibules. Interior space was sacrificed to get the weight down, so if you plan on sharing this tent, make sure it’s with someone you like. A lot.
Thermarest Corus HD Quilt
If you don’t like the restrictive nature of a sleeping bag, try a quilt. The Corus HD is designed for minimalist summer backpacking, packs down to the size of a loaf of bread and is stuffed with hydrophobic, 650-fill down, which will keep you warm until the temps drop below freezing.
Sea to Summit Alpha 2.1 Cookset
This aluminum cook set only weighs 18 ounces and has most things needed to make a meal for two in the backcountry. It comes with a two-liter pot, two plastic bowls, and two cups/mugs. Everything nests inside the pot for a compact kit. For the price, there’s not a better two-person, ultralight cook set out there.
Sea to Summit Alpha Long Titanium Spork
This spork matches the Alpha cook set. It’s made from aircraft-grade aluminum and is dishwasher safe. I recommend getting the long version, which helps keep your fingers clean when stirring mac and cheese.
Nemo Tensor Sleeping Pad
I sleep on my side, which means most ultralight backpacking pads don’t provide enough padding and I wake up in the middle of the night with sore hips and shoulders. The Tensor is the most comfortable lightweight pad I’ve used. It only weighs 12 ounces but provides three inches of padding between me and the ground.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pods
Unlike stuff sacks, which keep gear organized but create a lot of dead space in your pack, pods are designed to fit perfectly inside your pack. I use two: one for spare clothes, and one for organizing gear and cookware. They’re designed to match Hyperlite’s packs, but I’ve used them with Grantie Gear and Osprey packs as well and they work great.
Jetboil MightyMo Stove
Surprisingly, a stove is one of the simplest and cheapest pieces of ultralight gear to buy. There are tons of nearly identical options on the market, but the Minimo is my favorite because it has an integrated ignition, which means I don’t need to fumble with a lighter, and a highly sensitive flame control that allows me to simmer nearly as well as on my home stove.
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody
No matter what time of year I backpack, a puffy jacket is a must. For summer and early fall, the Patagonia Micro Puff is my go-to. It’s super lightweight and packs into its own pocket so it doesn’t take up space. Plus, it’s stuffed with Patagonia’s proprietary PlumaFill insulation that mimics the lightweight, packable properties of down, while drying quicker and retaining warmth when wet.
Thermarest Compressible Pillow
A good pillow can make or break a good night’s sleep, and I recently upgraded to this pillow from a more lightweight option. A brushed fleece outer surrounds an expandable foam center that compresses down when not in use. It weighs a little more than I would like, but I’ll happily carry a little extra weight if it helps me sleep better.
Swiss Army Classic Knife
In keeping with the ultralight theme, the Classic is pretty much the smallest knife I can find that still functions well. Besides the 1.5-inch blade, it features scissors, a file, tweezers and a toothpick. I rarely use a knife when backpacking, but it’s nice to have if I need it.
Peak Design Capture Clip
This is one of my favorite pieces of relatively unknown gear. It clips to my pack and securely holds my camera on my chest where it’s easy to reach.
Biolite 200 Headlamp
After a few years worth of use, the Biolite 200 has become my new favorite headlamp. At 50 grams, it’s light enough to be a part of my kit while still pumping out 200 lumens. Its unique strap design (the strap is one seamless piece of spandex that integrates with the light) makes it the most comfortable headlamp I’ve worn. I also like that it charges via USB.
Anker PowerCore Slim Power Bank
I use my phone as a camera and for maps so I like to recharge it at night. This small battery pack takes up almost no room in my pack and holds enough juice to fully recharge my phone twice.
Platypus Big Zip Evo Reservoir
A hydration reservoir keeps me much more hydrated than carrying water bottles. This three-liter option hauls enough water for a solid day on the trail. I like the Playtupus options because they include a small clip that keeps the bite valve securely attached to my chest strap when not in use. Other brands use magnets, which I find don’t work as well.
Hoka Torrent Two Running Shoes
I’m a huge fan of Hoka’s maximalist design, but I like the Torrent’s for hiking because they’re actually a little lighter and less padded than some of Hoka’s other offerings. They’re supportive, but the slimmer, lower profile sole helps the shoe stay extra grippy and responsive on the trail.
Zeal See Grass Aspen Sunglasses
I’ve been testing the Aspen sunglasses, which are from Zeal’s recently released See Grass line. They’ve got polarized lenses and the frames are made from recycled bottles and grass fibers. They work great for sweaty activities, mostly thanks to the grippy rubber pads on the nose and temple tips.
Towards the end of the day when I’m exhausted but camp is still a few miles away, it’s easy to get demoralized. When I was a kid, my parents would pack pretzels to keep me motivated. These days I opt for a healthier option: pistachios. They’re salty, crunchy, and cracking open the shell gives me something to focus on while plodding along. Plus, they’ve got more antioxidants than blueberries.
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