The enjoyment quotient of most outdoor adventures is directly proportionate to the level of preparedness. The two most important items in the “preparedness” category are proper gear and physical conditioning. In this article I discuss the gear that I use on all of my backpacking expeditions. The items and quantities of each listed below will work for camping trips in duration of two days up to fourteen days and beyond.
The higher the quality of your gear the better the performance and the longer it will last. When faced with a choice in choosing an item, I will always choose the lightest option and willingly pay more for a more compact and/or lighter item. There have been many occasions on trail that I have heard a companion utter the words, “damn, I guess that’s what I get for buying the cheapest ______ I could find.” Now, even if your gear breaks and you can’t fix it on the trail, if you practice “leave-no-trace” (as we all should), you still have to carry the broken item with you until you find a proper place to dispose of it without littering the trail.
My entire premiss for developing this gear list and sharing it with you is to help you have a better backpacking experience. My philosophy is pretty simple: take advantage of the newest advances in technology and materials and utilize the lightest and most compact equipment to lighten the load that I have to carry on the trail. This accomplishes a couple things; first, the newer technologies and materials out perform older gear, and second, the gear and equipment is much lighter than the gear we hauled around on our backs in the 70’s and 80’s.
My goal is to carry as little as possible and what I do have to carry be as light as I can find, but durable. It looks like I have everything divided into seven groups, but really it all fits into three categories: 1. everything that goes into the backpack (the stuff you carry), 2. everything you wear on the trail, and 3. the crew gear which is shared and split up amongst the crew evenly. There is a 4th group of items that is my “travel bag” which is made up of clothes and items I need on the road if we have to travel more than one day to get to the trail head.
Important note: I backpack with only two sets of clothes, one set I’m wearing on the trail and the second set is in my backpack. If you follow proper hygiene on the trail you’ll never need a 3rd set of clothes.
Gear (in backpack):
backpack, 2-man tent (split w/partner), sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, moccasins, camp towel (chamois), cup (bowl), spoon, rain gear (top + pants), 2-3 nalgenes (1 liter each), toilet kit*, essentials bag**, extra ziplocks, fanny/day pack, note pad/pen, pack cover, headlamp, extra straps
Clothes (in backpack):
socks, (1 pr), sock liners, (1 pr), underwear, (1 pr), shirt, (1), bandana (1), sleeping shirt & shorts, gloves (liners), long underwear (1 pr) OPT, fleece top, extra straps
Clothes (wear on the trail):
socks, sock liners, underwear, shirt, shorts, bandana, hiking boots, hat, watch
baby wipes (biodegradable), kleenex, toothpaste, tooth brush, chapstick, moleskin, baby powder, camp suds, insect repellent, nasal spray, Neosporin
various twines, fire tender, compass, insect repellent, nylon cord (50 ft), leatherman knife/plier, bic lighter, or, waterproof matches, carrabeaners, repair clips/buckles
Crew Gear (shared):
dromedarys (4 Lt) 1 for each 3 ppl., stove w/repair kit, back-up stove, fuel bottles (2), food, dining fly, bear bags & ropes, crew first aid kit, crew kitchen, toilet paper, trowel
first day hiking clothes, underwear (4 pr), t-shirts (4), socks (4 pr), shorts (1 pr), toilet kit, tennis shoes, swim suit & towel, camera w/charger or batteries, money
Download a PDF of my gear list: backpacking_gear_v9
The gear on this list has been honed and refined over many treks. This is the gear that I’m most comfortable carrying and ensures me that I’ll have an enjoyable backpacking trip. Based on your personal preferences you can add or delete from this list. One of the most important things to remember is to always choose the lightest option when you have choices for your gear and clothes. The other one is the old cliche “cotton kills”. The only cotton in my pack are my sleeping clothes and bandanas. Everything else is microfiber, different blends of polyester, nylon, and other synthetics that dry faster and don’t retain moisture. Microfiber material is also lighter than natural fibers. In a future post I’ll discuss the criteria I use to choose my gear. You may also want to reference my post about “Trail Tips”.