Dream Backpacking Gear List

Pairing your backpacking kit down to feather light weights can make rambles in the mountains much more enjoyable. Brandon on a fun overnight up near the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park  Colorado.
Article By:
Chris McNamara, Max Neale, and Briana Valorosi

Last Updated:
Tuesday
May 10, 2016

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Here we aim to synthesize OutdoorGearLab's backpacking related product testing efforts and present an up-to-date dream list of the best available backpacking gear.

There are many different ways to backpack. The items below aim to maximize comfort on "hiking-inspired" and "crossover" trips, where one walks for the majority of the day.

Legend


1 = If we were to have only one item in this category we would choose this product.
BB = Best bang for your buck: awarded as the Best Buy in each category.
UL= Best choice for long days or steep terrain where having a light pack is optimal.
SUL = For the tag trimming, toothbrush cutting, hikers & climbers.

Tent


1: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
BB: Tarptent Double Rainbow
UL: ZPacks Hexamid Twin Tent- or Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp- tarp shelter.

Tent Stakes


1: Easton Nano Tent Stakes or MSR Groundhog Stakes
BB: REI Aluminum Hook
UL: MSR Carbon Core Tent Stakes- .2 ounces per stake.
For Winter Camping: REI Snow and Sand Tent Anchors

Tent Footprint


1: Tyvek

Men's Sleeping Bag


1: Western Mountaineering MegaLite
BB: Marmot Hydrogen
SUL: Sea to Summit Spark III

Women's Sleeping Bag


1: Rab Neutrino 400 - Women's
BB: The North Face Cat's Meow 20 - Women's
UL: Katabatic Gear Palisade 30

Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack


1: ZPacks Medium Dry Bag or Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Sack
BB: Garbage bag
UL: ZPacks Large Stuff Sack

Men's Sleeping Pad


1: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
BB: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture and Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol
UL: Klymit Inertia X Frame and Gossamer Gear NiteLight

Women's Sleeping Pad


1: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
BB: Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite - Women's
UL: Gossamer Gear NiteLight

Backpack


1: Arc'teryx Bora AR 63
BB: Osprey Volt 75
UL: Gossamer Gear Gorilla
SUL: Granite Gear Virga 2

Women's Backpack


1: Osprey Aura AG 50
BB: The North Face Terra 55 - Women's
UL: Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's - under 3 pounds.
SUL: Granite Gear Virga 2

Backpacking through untrammeled wilderness near Independence Pass  Colorado. The Terra pack is simple and light  perfect for any last minute overnight trek.
Backpacking through untrammeled wilderness near Independence Pass, Colorado. The Terra pack is simple and light, perfect for any last minute overnight trek.

Trekking Poles


1: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
BB: Black Diamond Trail Back
UL: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

Both Brandon and Dora the dog are excited about the performance of the Fastpack 30. This ultralight pack is perfect for light and fast running adventures.
Both Brandon and Dora the dog are excited about the performance of the Fastpack 30. This ultralight pack is perfect for light and fast running adventures.

Headlamp


1: Coast HL7 or Black Diamond ReVolt
BB: Petzl Tikkina
UL: Petzl e+LITE

Stove


1: MSR Windburner
BB: MSR Whisperlite or Jetboil Flash
UL: MSR MicroRocket

Pot


1: MSR Quick 2 System
BB: Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set
UL: G4Free Outdoor Camping Set

Mug


1: Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium Mug (also our UL recommendation)
BB: Olicamp Space Saver Cup

Spork


1: Snow Peak Titanium Spork
BB: Light My Fire Spork
UL: Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork

Pocket Knife


1: Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585
BB: Kershaw Leek
UL: Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army Knife or Gerber STL 2.0 Fine Edge

Energy Bars


Here are some recommendations from our OutdoorGearLab review team:
ProBar Meal and Taste Of Nature
ClifBar Original
Kate's Real Food

Water Bottles


1: Klean Kanteen Classic
BB: Nalgene Wide-Mouth
UL: Platypus SoftBottle
SUL: Recycled plastic water bottle

Hydration Bladders


1: Geigerrig Hydration Engine
BB: CamelBak Crux Reservoir
UL: Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir

Water Purification


1: Platypus GravityWorks or MSR SweetWater Microfilter
BB: Sawyer Mini
UL: Aquamira Water Treatment Drops
SUL: Katadyn Micropur Purification

AG stands for Anti-Gravity. While bending over for a quick cool down or a water bottle fill  the pack remains comfortably conformed to the back. The Aura AG remains stable on your back as a result of this design.
AG stands for Anti-Gravity. While bending over for a quick cool down or a water bottle fill, the pack remains comfortably conformed to the back. The Aura AG remains stable on your back as a result of this design.

Portable Solar Panel


1: Anker 15W Foldable Dual Port Solar Panel
BB: Instapark Mercury 10M18U with battery

Men's Hiking Pants


1: Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Pants
BB: The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible

Men's Baselayer Pants


1: Patagonia Capilene Midweight Bottoms or Patagonia Men's Capilene Lightweight Bottoms

Women's Baselayer Pants


1: Patagonia Capilene 1 Silkweight Bottoms- Women's

Women's Hiking Pants


1: Marmot Lobo's Convertible Pant - Women's
BB: The North Face Paramount II Convertible Pant
UL: Ex Officio Nomad Roll-Up Pant - Women's

Hiking Socks


1: Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion
BB: Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Pro

Men's Long Sleeve Shirt


1: Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Crew
BB: Patagonia Capilene 3 Crew
UL: Under Armour Base 2.0

Women's Long Sleeve Shirt


1: Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip - Women's
BB: Patagonia Capilene 3 Crew - Women's
UL: Smartwool NTS 250 Crew - Women's

Men's Fleece


1: Patagonia R3 Hoody
BB: Marmot Reactor
UL: Patagonia R1 Hoody

Women's Fleece


1: The North Face Radium Hi-loft - Women's
BB: The North Face Tech-Osito Jacket - Women's
UL: Patagonia R1 Hoody - Women's

Men's Waterproof Jacket


1: Arc'teryx Beta SL
BB: Marmot PreCip
UL: Outdoor Research Helium 2 — under 7 ounces.
SUL: Zpacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket

Women's Waterproof Jacket


1: Outdoor Research Aspire - Women's
BB: Marmot Precip Jacket - Women's
UL: Outdoor Research Helium II- Women's– 5.5 ounces.
SUL: Zpacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket

Men's Wind Jacket


1: Rab Windveil Jacket
BB: Patagonia Houdini

Women's Wind Jacket


1: Patagonia Houdini - Women's
BB: The North Face Cyclone Hoodie - Women's

Men's Down Jacket


1: Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer
BB: Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody
Cold weather: Marmot Guides Down Hoody

Women's Down Jacket


1: Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer - Women's
BB: MontBell Frost Smoke Down Parka - Women's
UL: Arc'Teryx Cerium SL - Women's
Cold weather: Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's

Men's Synthetic Jacket


1: Rab Xenon X Hoodie
BB: Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket
UL: Arc'teryx Atom SL Hood

Women's Synthetic Jacket


1: Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's
BB: Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket - Women's
UL: Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's or Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - Women's

Men's Hardshell Jacket


1: Arc'teryx Alpha FL
TP: Outdoor Research Axiom

Women's Hardshell Jacket


1: Arc'teryx Theta AR - Women's
BB: Mountain Hardwear Torsun - Women's
UL: Outdoor Research Clairvoyant

The cut on the Theta is long  and has a lot of room for layering. It is still rigid  but not as rigid as the Alpha SV.
The cut on the Theta is long, and has a lot of room for layering. It is still rigid, but not as rigid as the Alpha SV.

You might also find our Backpacking Checklist useful as well, which lists key items to pack in order of importance, and our Introduction to Layered Clothing Systems article which goes over how to use a layered clothing system to help you stay warm when active in the mountains.

Chris McNamara at Big Sur  2008
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Chris is the founder of OutdoorGearLab and serves as Editor-in-Chief. Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara's life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris' sanity. He's climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, "Why?" Outside Magazine has called Chris one of "the world's finest aid climbers." He's the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 14,000 dangerous anchor bolts. Chris is also the founder and lead author of the rock climbing guidebooks publisher, SuperTopo. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or ChrisMcNamara.com. He also has two Lake Tahoe Vacation Rentals here and here.

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