The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

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.
Monday November 19, 2018

Here is all the best backpacking gear we have reviewed in one place. What is in our ultimate backpacking set up where all we want are the best products? What you're on a budget? Or an ultralight fan? We have recommendations for all three backpackers below. Links go to our reviews of those products.

Last Update - November 2018
We just added a number of new picks as new products arrived and old ones were discontinued. Also, we now have updated budget picks for tents, affordable packs and lower cost sleeping bags.

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: NEMO Dagger 2 or Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
BB: Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 or REI Half Dome 2 Plus

UL: NEMO Hornet Elite

Tent Stakes


1: MSR Groundhog Stakes
BB: Kungix Tent Stakes
UL: MSR Carbon Core Tent Stakes- .2 ounces per stake.

For Winter Camping: REI Snow Stake

Tent Footprint


1: Tyvek - The only downside: without corner grommets, you sometimes can't "fast fly" pitch (using just the poles and fly and leaving behind the tent body to save weight).

Men's Sleeping Bag


1: Western Mountaineering MegaLite
BB: Kelty Cosmic Down 20 or REI Co-op Igneo 25

UL: Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL

Women's Sleeping Bag


1: Feathered Friends Egret UL 20
BB: Sierra Designs Cloud 800

UL: Either of the above - 27.4-27.5 ounces

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: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

Women's Sleeping Pad


1 and UL: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's

BB: REI AirRail 1.5 Self-Inflating - Women's

Men's Backpack


1: Arc'teryx Bora AR 63
BB: Osprey Volt 60

UL: Osprey Exos 58

Women's Backpack


1: Osprey Aura AG 65
BB: Osprey Viva 50 or The North Face Terra 55 - Women's

UL: Osprey Lumina 45

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: Montem Ultra Strong

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: Black Diamond Storm or Black Diamond Spot
BB: Petzl Tikkina

UL: Petzl e+LITE

Stove


1: MSR Pocket Rocket 2

BB: Etekcity Ultralight

Pot


1: Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set

UL: MSR Trail Mini Duo

Mug


1: Snow Peak HotLips Titanium Mug (also our UL recommendation)

BB: Olicamp Space Saver Cup

Spork


1: Snow Peak Titanium Spork
BB: humangear GoBites Uno

UL: Vargo Titanium ULV

Pocket Knife


1: Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585
BB: Kershaw Leek

UL: Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army Knife

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: YETI Rambler 26
BB: Nalgene Wide-Mouth
UL: Platypus SoftBottle
SUL: Recycled plastic water bottle

Bottle and Filter combo: Katadyn BeFree

Hydration Bladders


1: Geigerrig Hydration Engine
BB: CamelBak Crux Reservoir

UL: Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir

Water Purification


1: Platypus GravityWorks
BB: Sawyer Mini or MSR Trail Base

UL: Aquamira Water Treatment Drops

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: BigBlue 28W
BB: Instapark Mercury 10W

UL: Renogy E.Flex5

Men's Hiking Pants


1: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants

BB: REI Co-op Sahara Convertible

Women's Hiking Pants


1: Marmot Lobo's Convertible Pant - Women's

BB: Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch - Women's

Hiking Socks


1: Darn Tough Hiker Full Cushion (men) Smartwool Hike Medium Crew - Women's (women)

BB: Danish Endurance Unisex Merino Wool

Men's Long Sleeve Shirt


1: Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer

BB: The North Face Warm

Women's Long Sleeve Shirt


1: Smartwool Merino 250 1/4 Zip - Women's
BB: REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew - Women's

UL: SmartWool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew - Women's

Men's Fleece


1: Patagonia R1 Hoody
BB: Patagonia R1 Hoody

UL: Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody

Women's Fleece


1: Patagonia R1 Hoody - Women's

BB: Marmot Flashpoint - Women's

Men's Waterproof Jacket


1: Arc'teryx Beta SL
BB: Marmot PreCip
UL: Outdoor Research Helium 2 — under 7 ounces.

SUL: Zpacks Vertice 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.

Men's Wind Jacket


1: Patagonia Houdini
BB: The North Face Flyweight Hoodie

UL: Patagonia Houdini

Women's Wind Jacket


1: Patagonia Houdini - Women's
BB: Eddie Bauer Uplift Windshell - Women's

UL: Either of the above - 3.4 ounces.

Men's Down Jacket


1: The North Face Summit L3 Hoody
BB: Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody

UL: Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Hooded

Women's Down Jacket


1: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's

BB: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded - Women's

Men's Synthetic Jacket


1: Rab Xenon X Hoodie
BB: Black Diamond Access Hoody

UL: Rab Xenon X Hoodie

Women's Synthetic Jacket


1: Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's
BB: Columbia Mighty Light Hooded Plush

UL: Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody - Women's

Men's Hardshell Jacket


1: Arc'teryx Alpha FL

BB: Outdoor Research Interstellar

Women's Hardshell Jacket


1: Norrona Trollveggen Gore-Tex Light Pro - Women's
BB: Outdoor Research Clairvoyant

UL: Arc'teryx Beta SL - Women's

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.


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