Our customers often ask if we have a suggested gear list for backpacking trips. This week, we’ll be providing not one but three different backpacking lists to use as a reference: one for traditional backpackers, one for beginners, and one for ultralight backpacking! Today we are taking a look at what the typical backpacker might carry for a weekend trip.
In the “good old days,” a pack loaded with a weekend’s worth of gear might weigh upwards of 30 pounds. Today, lightweight equipment and high-tech features make it easier to carry everything you need on your back. Most backpackers choose the appropriate gear by considering criteria such as comfort, durability, cost and weight. This can be tricky, as often an improvement for one criteria comes at the expense of one or more of the others. The list below highlights some of the most popular choices, for those seeking a balanced approach.
For the sake of this list we are going to assume that our example backpacker is heading out for a weekend trip with a friend, in the southeastern United States, at elevations no higher than 5,000 feet, between late April and early June. Our backpacking trip is not likely to involve night-time temperatures below 40 degrees.
I’ll be omitting clothing from this backpacking gear list, focusing instead on what you’ll have inside your pack. Here are the major items. Most of these are best-sellers and award-winners, all are available from Rock/Creek, and I’ve included a bit of information about each:
- Osprey Aether 60 backpack
The Osprey Aether 60 sets the bar for weight transfer and custom fit in a medium-capacity backpack. At just under 5 pounds, it’s not the lightest pack you can buy, but it’s arguably the most stable and comfortable pack in the category. You probably won’t fill a 60-liter pack for a weekend trip, but if you wanted to — or if you’re heading out for several days — the Aether 60 is built to handle the load.
- MSR Hubba Hubba tent
The MSR Hubba Hubba is our perennial best-seller, and has become the standard for two-person backpacking trips of any length. Lots of mesh for great ventilation, incredibly stable and weatherproof, freestanding, sets up easily, two doors and two vestibules… and weighs just 4 lbs, 3 oz on the trail (or 4 lbs, 10 oz with the sold-separately footprint)! If you’re going to buy one tent, this is the one to get.
- Marmot Never Winter 30° sleeping bag
Down sleeping bags are lightest, compress smallest, last longest, and feature the most efficient insulation available. Marmot down sleeping bags are available in all temperature ratings and sizes, and for 3-season camping we like the Marmot Never Winter 30°F sleeping bag. It lofts up big to keep you warm, but compresses smaller than a football and weighs just 2 lbs 7 oz.
- Therm-A-Rest Prolite sleeping pad
These self-inflating pads have long been the standard, and each successive generation of the Thermarest Prolite is lighter and more thermally efficient. The newest 1-inch-thick version (simply called the “Prolite”) weighs only a pound for the regular size, while packing down to half the size of a traditional closed-cell foam bedroll and providing significantly more cushioning.
- MSR Miniworks EX water filter
The MSR Miniworks EX is the most thorough mechanical filter out there, and is a best-seller worldwide. Effective against bacteria, protozoa, particulates and chemical toxins, it’s engineered for frequent use and makes sure you’ll always have clean, safe and taste-free water. The filtration media is easily cleaned in the field, making for a reliable filtering system without need for carrying an extra filter element.
- Jetboil Flash cooking system
Go ahead and retire that old white gas stove: the Jetboil Flash canister stove weighs just 14 oz, includes a 1-liter cookpot, and boils that liter of water in two minutes. What more can you ask for? You can pour the boiling water into your pouch of backpacking food, or drink hot cocoa directly out of the insulated pot. The whole kit, including fuel canister, fits inside the cookpot for storing.
- Marmot Super Mica rain jacket
Gone are the days of heavy rain jackets that don’t breathe while you hike; the Marmot Super Mica is a scant 9 ounces, completely waterproof and packs down to almost nothing, but breathes freely so the inside doesn’t end up as wet as the outside! Marmot has improved on the design of the ultralight Mica jacket here by adding pit zips and abrasion-resistant details where your pack’s shoulder and hip straps fall.
For a weekend in the wilderness, you’ll also need the following:
- Dehydrated food for dinner (Enertia Trail Foods, Mountain House, or Backpacker’s Pantry)
- More dehydrated food (or oatmeal) for breakfast
- Energy bars and snacks to eat while hiking
- Water bottles (enough to carry at least 2 liters at one time)
- A fleece jacket (in case things get chilly)
- Knife or multi-tool (I carry a Benchmade Griptilian)
- A rain cover for your backpack
- First aid kit (with Moleskin!)
- A warm hat (fleece or wool)
- Base layer top (for sleeping in, or wearing around camp)
- Extra hiking socks
- Trekking poles
- Compass (and don’t forget to bring a map!)
- Stuff sacks (to organize gear inside your pack)
- Toilet paper and trowel
- Sunscreen, lip balm, bug spray, etc
If your route includes significant stream crossings, you may choose to bring sandals or water shoes to use when wading through the water, keeping your hiking boots and socks dry; I usually carry an extra pair of socks instead, and try pretty hard not to need them, but in some cases wading will be unavoidable. I also choose to use my fleece jacket as a pillow rather than carry two items.
Likewise, some backpackers will opt to bring a sleeping bag liner, or a base layer bottom to go along with the top, or will choose not to carry trekking poles, or will want to cook something more ambitious in the backcountry than dehydrated food!
Just as on the trail, your mileage may vary. Your pack list should vary based on the elevation, weather forecast, time of year and the distance you intend to hike each day. There are a lot of different ways to tweak your setup, and this backpacking gear list is a good starting point for making those decisions.
The combination above — backpack, tent & footprint, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water filter, stove and rain jacket — will start you off a few ounces above 15 pounds, and this doesn’t account for splitting some of the shared gear with your hiking partner. Depending on how many extras you choose to bring, your remaining gear (plus food, plus water) should put you onto the singletrack with less than 25 lbs on your back… a far cry from the 30+ pound loads we mentioned earlier!
Stay tuned later this week for a second backpacking gear list with the ultralight backpacker in mind, and a third gear list for beginner backpackers who are looking to get started.