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Backpacking Gear

Most backpackers can agree on one creed, and that is "every ounce count".  When backpacking, you have a limited amount of space and weight you can carry, so want to make sure you can use everything you take with you. 

Depending on the quality of your gear, will determine its cost (general rule is better is more expensive).  There are a few things that are important to remember about your gear.  The right gear will help keep you alive and make your trip more comfortable/enjoyable.  I can tell you for personal experience that is true.

Other considerations are the seasons you will be backpacking.  During the winter you will need warmer gear.  Spring and fall will require you to bring rain gear for those wet days.

Below is my list of basic essentials that you will need:
  • Everyone should have the 10 Essentials.
  • Backpack: Considerations: weight, physical size, storage capacity, and physical comfort
    • Make sure the backpack is comfortable, if its not adjusted correctly it can hurt your shoulders and back.
    • Most backpacks will come with a lot of straps to attach gear to the pack.
  • Tent: Considerations: weight, physical size, one to two man, comfort, and vestibule.
    • The vestibule is great for storing your gear outside the tent.  There are several options available here, you will have to research what works best for you.
    • Consider purchasing a tarp for underneath the tent, this protects the bottom from wear and tear.
    • Tents come in all shapes, sizes, and features.
  • Sleeping bag: Considerations: weight, physical size, temperature rating, and insulating material (natural or synthetics)
    • Natural - Down is always a top favorite,it's warm, light and compressible, but its expensive and if it gets wet it becomes useless until its dry again.
    • Synthetics - Synthetics are not as good as down, and keep getting better every year. Although they have a few advantages, they tend to dry quicker if they get wet and be less expensive
  • Stoves: Considerations: weight, physical size, and fuel type
    • When you're cooking outdoors, don't forget it can be cold, windy, and/or wet. certain types of stoves do better in different conditions.
    • There are some other types of stoves that are not as common, but have been around for decades:
      • Penny Stove: Instructions are available online for building one of these stoves (Wikipedia)
      • Esbit Stove: This is a solid fuel stove that can make addition to an emergency kit (Wikipedia)
      • BioLite CampStove: Cooks your food and charge your USB devices using biomass (e.g. twigs, leaves, etc.) found locally.
  • Water Purification: Considerations: boiling, tablets, pumps/filters, or UV light.
    • The type of water purification you will need varies from area to area.
    • Types of water purification methods:
      • Tablets: I consider these great for emergency kits, but can have a bad after taste if you use iodine.  Kills germs, but can't remove contaminance like small particles.
      • Pumps/filters: They are more bulky then other methods, but can remove germs and other types of contaminance.
      • UV light: Kills germs, but can't remove contaminance like small particles. Make sure you have extra batteries.
      • Boiling: Uses heat to kills germs, but can't remove contaminance like small particles.
  • Water Containers: Considerations: You should bring as much water as you can carry. 
    • If you have a hike leader talk to that person (or some other expert you trust), recommendations will change on the type of hike you're doing and how long it is.
    • There are three main types of water containers:
      • Bladders: Can hold a great deal more water then bottles, but requires a backpack that is compatible with these types of hydration devices.
      • Plastic Bottles: Lighter then metal bottles, come in several different shapes and sizes.  Plastic bottles are not as strong as their metal counterparts, can be broken.
      • Metal Bottles: Heavier then plastic bottles, come in several different shapes and sizes.  More durable then plastic bottles, can also be used for boiling water if needed.
  • Food: Considerations: make sure you bring enough of it, and it will last long enough for you to eat it.
  • Air Mattress: Considerations: weight, physical size, and insulation value
    • Some air mattresses only offer some comfort on the hard ground, others offer extra insulation to help protect you from the weather.
  • Rain Gear (jacket and pants): Considerations: weight, and can easily be compacted in your bag.
    • Depending on the season that you will be hiking, will determine the type of gear you need.
  • Hiking Clothes: Considerations: avoid cotton, and buy clothes that use synthetic materials or wool that can dry quickly and doesn't hold moisture next to your skin, this can cause hypothermia.
    • Hikers will tell you that "cotton can kill" because it can hold you moisture next to your body.  On a cold day this can be very dangerous.
    • Another consideration is clothes that use smart wool.
    • Look for light clothes that have a high thermal insulation value, wick away perspiration and dry quickly if they get wet.
  • Waterproof Boots: Considerations: weight, ankle support, and physical comfort
    • Depending on the type of terrain you will be covering, your boot can protect your feet from the elements and from hurting yourself.
    • Spend the extra money for waterproof boots they will come in handy when your foot accidentally slips into a shallow stream or deep mud.
  • Hiking Poles (Optional): Considerations: weight, physical size, and locking latches
    • One thing I was universally told about poles was to buy the ones with locking latches and not twist locks.
    • My poles they give me extra stability across a lot of different types of terrain and other environment obstacles (such as: rocks, streams, snow, etc.)
  • Flashlight: Considerations: weight, physical size, and type (hand or head).
    • There are generally two types of flashlight ones you hold in your hand, and others that you strap to your head.
    • My personal preference is the head mounted models because it free your hands when hiking at night.
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Sanitation Trowel: Considerations: weight, and physical size.
      • Most of these are plastic, and pretty basic not too many different options are available.
    • Toilet Paper: Not to much to comment on.
    • Eating/cooking ware: Considerations: weight, and physical size.
      • Personally this is where I am willing to compromise on weight.  If I can, I will try to eat out of my cookware.
      • You can buy collapsible cups, plates, and bowls.  Personally I just carry a collapsible cup, that I use as a cup and bowl
    • Emergency Kit: Considerations: weight, physical size, and contents.
    • Napkins/Paper Towels: These are always nice to have with you, if you have a came fire they can also be used for fire-starter.
    • Sponge: For cleaning eating and cookware.
    • Toiletries: Toothpaste, deodorant, etc.
  • Winter/Cold Weather
    • Extra Clothes: What you bring here will depend on the weather, and how long you're going to be out in nature.
      • For colder environments, check out non-cotton thermal underwear.
    • Gaitors: If you're hiking in wet or snowy environment, these are a great item to have. 
      • They prevent prevent water, snow and from getting on the bottom of your pants and in your shoes.
    • Gloves: Considerations:Warm and lite
    • Jacket: Considerations:Warm and lite
    • Traction Devices: When hiking in snow you might need some type of traction device, such as micro-spikes for your shoes.
    • Ice Axe: Can be used for safety when crossing snow fields.

Optional
  • Hat: Can help keep the rain and sun off your head
  • Sawvivor: This is the best portable camp saw I have ever seen.
    • If you need to cut wood for a camp fire this is awesome.
  • Bear Canisters: These are contains that you can place your food into to hide it trees from racoons, bears and other animals
  • Tarp: Great for making rain/emergency shelters.
  • String/Rope: Considerations:Light, strong, and long.
    • A dry line twisted construction reel has a million uses, you can use to string food into trees to keep it from animals, holding up tarps to create portable shelters, etc.
  • Waterproof Bags: Great for storing stuff that can be effected by moisture.
  • Compression Sacks: Allows you compress some items like a sleeping bag into a smaller space.
  • Knife: This item can come in all shapes and sizes and have a million uses from opening stuff to skinning an animal.
  • Carabiners: Great for hooking stuff on to your backpack, these device come several sizes and colors.
  • Hiking Towel: There are several backpacking towels available that compress well and are lite.
  • Foldable Bucket: These are great for having water at your camp site for cleaning dishes and filtering drinking water.
  • Hammock: There are very lite backpacking hammock available that can be used as an alternative to tent in dry and warmer weather.
  • Chair Kits: Turn your self-inflating or backpacking air pad into a comfortable seat, complete with backrest.
  • Trail Seats: Small and lightweight, these pads offer a comfy place to sit out on the trail.
  • Backpack Chair: A small fold-able seat with a backrest, generally weights between 1 to 2 lbs.
  • Rain Poncho: An outer garment made from a watertight material designed to keep your body dry during rain.

Electronics
  • SPOT Device: Uses GPS (Global Positioning System) satellite navigation to acquire your coordinates, then it can send the location information to the recipient of your choice.
    • Useful for requesting help if you're lost, or hurt in the wilderness.
  • GPS Device: Receives GPS (Global Positioning System) signals for the purpose of determining the device's current latitude and longitude information on Earth.
    • Useful for finding your way to a specific location anywhere on the planet as long as the device can receive a signal from the GPS satellites.
  • Portable Power Generation: If you carry any portable electronics with you while you're traveling for extended periods of time without regular access to power.  These devices can charge or help extend the available power for your electronics.

Tips
  • Never put away your tent or other equipment wet.  Let it dry out totally or it will smell and grow mold.
  • Avoid leaving your sleeping bag in a compressed state, its can lose some of its thermal capabilities.
  • In a wet environment, store your clothes in a plastic bag.  Try using plastic shopping bags.
  • You always want to be able to dress in layers.  When you're hiking its easy to get hot or cold depending on the weather
  • Over time the waterproofing on your gear will fail, its important to re-waterproof it on a regular basis (6 months to a year).
  • Need free topographical (topo) maps of the US, check out MSR Maps.
  • Never leave food (or toiletries [toothpaste, deodorant, etc.]) in camp when you sleep at night, hang in tree a few hundred feet out side of camp.
  • When cleaning your eating and cookware, clean it outside of camp to avoid attracting animals into camp

Resources

Places to buy gear your gear (note: these sites have been recommended to me by others and they are not a personal endorsement of the businesses below):