We've taken the time to list all of our favorite backpacking gear in one place. This dream list has options for any type of trail treader. Whether you love to go fast with the lightest backpacking gear or are just curious as to what items our testers have labeled the best hiking gear, we've got options. We also consider the best value options to help you save money. Links are provided to each review category, as well as more info on any recommended product.Editor's Note: We updated this article on December 2, 2022, to incorporate our latest picks for Long Underwear.
Finding the right backpack is one of the most essential backpacking trip decisions. Getting the right balance in weight, storage, cost, and comfort is key, but needs to fit with your intended use and budget. We've tested more than 200 backpacks of all different types, putting each through an intensive evaluation and rating process.
Backpacking packs are designed to carry large loads (30-50 pounds) for multiple days and usually range between 50-80 liters in capacity. If you plan to hike long distances with smaller loads, see below for ultralight packs.
Many backpacks are designed to be used by either men or women, with a unisex design. Most men use this kind of pack, while most women prefer a pack designed specifically for women (see our picks below). Here are our review's top picks for these backpacking packs.
Granite Gear Blaze 60
REI Co-op Flash 55
Backpacks Designed for Women
Most, but not all, women will prefer a pack designed specifically for a women's body. Women's packs typically offer shorter torso lengths, narrower shoulder widths, and waist belts designed for the angle of women's hips. Here are our top picks from our review of women's backpacking packs:
Gregory Deva 60
Osprey Renn 65
Ultralight backpacks are for experienced hikers that want to reduce weight and carry only the bare essentials. These packs are best suited for light pack loads of 10-25 pounds but can work reasonably well for heavier loads too. If your pack load is above 30 pounds, we'd recommend a traditional pack. But, if moving light and fast is your thing, then these favorite ultralight packs are right up your alley:
Gossamer Gear Mariposa
Osprey Exos 48
To help you keep hydrated on the trail, you might also want to consider a hydration bladder which most modern backpacks are designed to accommodate. Here are our top picks for hydration bladders:
Gregory 3D Hydro
Tents for Backpacking
Our experts have put hundreds of tents to the test, and can help you find just the right balance between weight, comfort, packed size, and cost. Whether you are looking for a traditional backpacking tent, or the lightest possible shelter you can find, we've got you covered.
Your tent can make all the difference on a backpacking adventure. A traditional backpacking tent is designed to protect you from the weather as well as provide you with a comfortable spot to hang out in the backcountry. Here are three of the top-recommended backpacking tents from our latest review:
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
NEMO Dragonfly 2
REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+
Ultralight Tents and Shelters
An ultralight tent can provide you shelter from the storm while weighing less than 2 pounds. While more expensive, the best ultralight tents are perfect if want to carry as light a load as possible. Here are our top picks from our latest review:
ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade
Durston X-Mid 1P
If you are packing solo, a bivy sack can be a comfortable, lightweight, smaller alternative to a tent and can be just as waterproof and durable. Here are the top picks from our best bivy sacks review:
Outdoor Research Helium Bivy
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy
Whether you're an ultralight hiker, a comfy camper, or a backyard bum, we've got the perfect hammock option for you and your budget. Here are our three favorites:
Warbonnet Original Blackbird
Hennessy Expedition Asym Zip
Sleeping Bags and Pads
The perfect night's sleep on the trail can be elusive, especially when trying to minimize the weight of your pack. Our backcountry experts spent thousands of nights, sleeping in the top models on the market, to help you choose the right now.
Backpacking Sleeping Bags for Unisex/Men
Sleeping bags are one of the most critical components of your backpacking kit. And, choosing the right bag is arguably one of the best ways to reduce weight. Here are our top picks for backpacking sleeping bags designed for men/unisex:
Western Mountaineering MegaLite
Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30
Backpacking Sleeping Bags Designed for Women
Women's products are starting to catch up with the unisex market and are coming in hot with lightweight materials, high-quality down, and creative features to give you a better night's sleep. The best backpacking sleeping bags for women are cut differently to fit a female form better — they are a bit wider in the hips (an average of 2 inches) and narrower in the shoulder (an average of 2-6 inches less). A better fit helps your body warm the air inside the bag more efficiently. Here are the bags that stood out most in our review testing:
Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 - Women's
Sea to Summit Flame 15
Ultralight Sleeping Bags
While the top ultralight sleeping bags are ideal for backpacking, they are also great for any outdoor sports that require a "light is right" ideal. Long-distance thru-hiking, bike-packing, fast-packing, and bike touring have become somewhat commonplace, and ultralight sleeping bags are one of the pieces of a lightweight kit needed to make these adventures happen. Here are some of our favorites from our latest review:
Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL
Western Mountaineering Summerlite
Backpacking Sleeping Pads
There are a mind-boggling number of pads out there today. Our best backpacking sleeping pads review breaks down each of the competing sleeping pads by comfort, weight, packed size, durability, and more. Here are the top picks from our latest review:
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
Backpacking Sleeping Pads Designed for Women
Choosing a woman's specific product is a smart and easy way to maximize your gear without increasing the weight of your pack. Sleeping pad manufacturers have taken this into account when designing pads specifically for women. Here are our top picks from our review of sleeping pads for women:
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's
Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated - Women's
Backpacking Stoves and Camp Gear
Once you arrive at your day's destination, you'll set up your camp. An essential piece of gear is going to be a quality backpacking stove, but may want to indulge in a comfy (yet lightweight) chair for chilling at your campsite. Below you'll find our picks for those and other smaller items you might consider.
A canister stove is our favorite choice for almost all backpacking trips. They are lightweight, small, and easy to use. But, there are a lot of competing products, and our review of the top backpacking stoves can help you make a smart choice.
If you are a backpacking weight-weenie, then a chair is just too much of a luxury to consider. But, for the rest of us, the joy of having a comfortable place to sit while in the backcountry can motivate a passionate search for the best chair for backpacking trips. We've got you here with our top picks:
Big Agnes Skyline UL
Moon Lence Backpacking Chair
Many of us have fond memories of a first backpacking trip when we were sitting in camp, whittling a stick, just because. A quality pocket knife can be a practical addition to your backpacking kit, as well as a fun distraction. Here are the top contenders from our updated best pocket knife review:
Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585
Benchmade 535 Bugout
The spork is the perfect combination of utility and portability. Lightweight, small in your pack, and offering the versatility of both a SP-oon and a f-ORK. You won't find us on the trail without our handy spork. Here are the top picks from our spork review:
Snow Peak Titanium Spork
humangear GoBites Uno
If you want an easy snack on your work break or need the most palatable quick sugar fixes for your backcountry adventure, our detailed review of the top energy bars has you covered:
Kate's Real Food
Honey Stinger Organic Waffle
Backpacking Water Filters
Carrying water (and making sure it's safe to drink) is the most basic and essential backpacking need. We look at everything from the best backpacking water filters to options that weigh less than a cell phone and can be used in seconds. Be sure to also check out our best water bottle reviews and hydration bladders too.
Aquamira Water Treatment Drops
Happy feet make for a happy hike. We do side-by-side comparisons of a wide range of the best backcountry footwear whether you are going 10 miles or 1000+.
Men's Hiking Boots
Hikers with concerns about twisted ankles, or previous ankle injuries, will want a stable, supportive boot. And, we've tested hiking boots like nobody ever has before with hundreds of miles of hiking over all kinds of terrain. Below are our three favorite hiking boots from our review:
Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex
Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof
Women's Hiking Boots
For some women, hiking shoes may result in the most efficient use of energy, but others will find that boots, now in lighter weight models, provide added support that leads to greater comfort and enjoyment on the trail. Below are the best hiking boots for women:
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX - Women's
Merrell Moab 3 Mid WP - Women's
Men's Hiking Shoes
In our review of the best men's hiking shoes, we compare the comfort, support, weight, and traction offered by the most popular models on the trails today.
Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex
Columbia Facet 60 Outdry
Women's Hiking Shoes
Hiking shoes are the love child of lighter-weight trail running shoes and burlier hiking boots. They share the low ankle and aggressive tread of trail running shoes but tend to be heavier, sturdier, and more durable. Here are the best hiking shoes for women:
Merrell Moab 3 WP - Women's
Oboz Sawtooth X Low Waterproof - Women's
Trekking poles have risen from obscurity and are now a key piece of gear for hikers, backpackers, trail runners, trekkers, and climbers. They allow you to incorporate your upper body into uphill travel and help absorb shock on your knees while descending. Here are the top picks from our trekking pole review.
MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon
Leki Jannu FX TA
Backpacking Clothing Essentials
Finding the right clothing layers for men and clothing options for women can make bad weather a mere nuisance and not a morale crusher. Check out our How to Layer Clothing to Keep Warm article to help develop a strategy to stay warm.
Men's Down Jackets
Down is the lightest and warmest insulator you can find, but not all down jackets are created equal. We've spent months testing more than 55 of the best down jackets to find our favorites.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2
MontBell Superior Down
Women's Down Jackets
There are many choices when it comes to lightweight down jackets designed for women, and we've put more than 40 of them through extensive field testing. Here are our favorites.
Feathered Friends Eos - Women's
Rab Neutrino Pro - Women's
Men's Base Layers
A quality base layer is the kick-off point of having functional clothing set up for getting outside to play. Our expert review will help you find the perfect base layer top to regulate body temperature, wick away moisture, and keep you comfortable.
Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino 1/4 Zip
Cotopaxi Liso Top
Women's Base Layers
A solid base layer top sits right next to your skin, and its biggest job is to keep moisture off your skin while providing comfort. Our picks will help you find the best base layer top that'll have you lookin' fine while keeping you safe from cold weather.
Black Diamond Solution 150 Merino Quarter Zip - Women's
Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip Neck - Women's
Men's Long Underwear
Base layer bottoms are a fundamental ingredient in staying warm and comfortable while outside playing in a range of temperatures and environments, and, as such a critical piece of gear, they deserve the same level of respect.
Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Bottom
REI Co-op Midweight Bottoms
Women's Long Underwear
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of gear to consider is the one that sits next to your skin. A great piece of women's long underwear does its job by wicking away moisture and transporting it away from your skin to ensure that you stay dry.
Icebreaker BodyfitZone Merino 260 Zone Thermal Leggings - Women's
Ridge Merino Inversion Heavyweight Merino Leggings - Women's
Many of us go to the wild to escape the tether of modern communications, but we may still want the ability to keep in touch or call for help in an emergency. Enter the array of satellite messengers, personal locator beacons, and other backcountry communication technologies. We've been testing these devices for almost 10 years, and below are our favorites.
Garmin inReach Mini 2
ACR Bivy Stick
Portable Solar Chargers
If you are in the backcountry and have devices you want to keep charged, a portable solar charger can be just the ticket. Here are our favorites.
Get Out There!
We hope this summary of our favorite backpacking gear has been helpful. We have a number of other gear lists in key outdoor categories from hiking to climbing coming soon. In addition, be sure to see our Buying Advice articles for most major categories where our experts guide you through selecting the perfect type of backpacking gear for your needs. See you on the trails!
— Chris McNamara
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