Having great wilderness backpacking gear is very important because it is the foundation upon which safe and enjoyable outdoor adventures are built. Whether you’re embarking on a multi-day trek through a remote mountain range or simply exploring your local backcountry for a weekend getaway, wilderness backpacking gear serves as both your home away from home and your lifeline, offering protection, comfort, and the means to navigate the challenges and surprises in the wild.
The right wilderness backpacking gear can be the difference between a memorable journey and a dangerous situation. From a reliable and comfortable tent and backpack, to clothing designed for outdoor adventures, to the necessary tools for minimal cooking in the backcountry; in this post I discuss what goes into a complete wilderness backpacking gear setup and also share what I personally love and use on the trail regularly.
A backpacking backpack is arguably the most important item in your backpacking kit because it’s what you carry everything else in. Your backpack needs to be comfortable, it needs to be able to handle load-bearing well, and most importantly, it needs to fit you properly; not all backpacks are made the same. I highly recommend going to a local outdoor gear store to size backpacks before purchasing.
The biggest deciding factor when first looking for backpacks is carrying capacity; there’s a huge variance in sizes for backpacks. I typically recommend between 40 L and 65 L for a one to two-night backpacking trip and between 65 and 85 for three nights or more. Any backpacks bigger than 85L I think are unnecessary unless you’re doing winter camping or mountaineering. If you’re debating between two similar size sizes (maybe a 40L and 50L), I’m about to offer the opposite advice here, but I would actually go with the larger of the two. The reason most people say go smaller is so you don’t stuff your backpack with unnecessary gear and make it extra heavy. But if you stay disciplined and stick to this gear checklist, you’ll be fine and give yourself flexibility for longer and/or colder (cold gear takes up more volume) backpacking trips without having to upgrade packs.
The backpacks I use:
The tent is also very important, as this is your home away from home. Additional specs when selecting a tent include weight, price, internal dimensions, number of people, etc.
The tent is also super important because it’s your home away from home. The tent needs to be comfortable and protect you from the elements. As with backpacks, there are a lot of considerations when getting a tent as well: size, weight, number of people, and price.
As a tall man, I always go one person up in sizing when getting a tent. So if I expect 2 people to share the tent, I’ll get a 3-person tent. I also prefer lightweight tents over ultralight tents. While UL tents are definitely the lightest, I would rather carry another pound or 2 for typically increased durability with a lightweight option.
I am not an ultralight backpacker. I try to stay as light as possible, but I’m also not afraid to increase the weight on some items if it increases my comfort at camp.
My sleeping kit consists of a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and camping pillow. Occasionally I’ll opt for a hammock if the weather forecast shows no rain and it’s not too cold. (I also skip the tent if I go the hammock route.)
There are a lot of design specifications to consider for all of these gear items as well. It’s important to stay warm, but not too warm.
While a camping pillow is optional, it makes a huge difference for me with the quality of sleep. And a legit camping pillow is so much more comfortable than bunching up your clothes to make a pseudo-pillow.
Many popular places and trails like National Parks require advance reservations.
I’m definitely not a backcountry chef, but I’m super impressed by people who cook nice meals in the backcountry. There is one meal I make a lot though: Bacon Mac and cheese, yummmmm.
I’m more of a dehydrated meals in a bag, protein bars, trail mix, kind of guy. And a big reason for that is because cooking is the last thing I want to do after an intense 15-mile day on the trail, I want a quick, easy, and delicious meal. Also, the fewer dishes I have to clean the better.
But even with simple or dehydrated meals, you’ll need a minimal cooking kit.
- Stove ( I use the Jetboil MightyMo Compact Stove)
- Fuel (This needs to be bought locally if traveling by plane)
- Backpacking Cooking Kit (I’ve been using the GSI Outdoors Microdualist for years and highly recommend it!). This kit contains
- Pot with strainer
- 2 bowls
- 2 cups/mugs
- 2 collapsible sporks
- Bear Canister (optional depending on where you’re backpacking)
- GSI compact scraper (optional, but this can really help with cleanup)