Which Backpacking Gear Do I Need? | Hikers University

Figuring out what backpacking gear you need can be really confusing, especially if you're new to the sport. But don't worry, we're here to help.

Backpacking can be a great way to see the world and get away from it all, but if you don't have the right gear, it can also be incredibly uncomfortable and even dangerous.

These items are essential for a comfortable and safe backpacking trip:

  • Backpack
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Backpacking Tent
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Headlamp

If you're new to backpacking, the thought of packing all your gear into a backpack and hitting the trail can be daunting. What do you need? What can you leave behind? This article will serve as your ultimate checklist for what you'll need to have a successful backpacking trip. We'll cover everything from camping basics to clothing and food. So, whether you're a beginner or an experienced backpacker, read on for the essential gear that will make your next outdoor adventure a success.

We spent countless hours researching the best backpacking gear for all budgets and experience levels. We consulted with experts, read online reviews, and tested products ourselves to find the best backpacking gear for most people.

Table of contents


The Basics of Backpacking

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what gear you'll need, let's cover some basics. Backpacking is an outdoor activity that requires you to carry all your gear on your back in a backpack. This includes everything from your shelter and sleeping bag to your food and clothing. You'll also need to pack a few essential items like a map and compass, a first-aid kit, and a multi-tool. The good news is that there are many lightweight and compact options available for backpacking gear, so you won't have to sacrifice comfort for space.

For many people, backpacking is the ultimate way to experience the great outdoors. It allows you to explore remote and beautiful places while carrying everything you need on your back. However, backpacking can also be challenging, and it's important to be prepared before setting out on a trip.

First, you'll need to choose the right backpack. There are many different types of backpacks available, so it's important to select one that is comfortable and fits your needs. Make sure to try on different types of backpacks before making your final decision.

Next, you'll need to pack your backpack carefully. Start by packing the heaviest items first, such as your sleeping bag and tent. Then, fill in the rest of the space with lighter items like clothes and food. Be sure to pack everything securely so that it doesn't shift around while you're hiking.

Finally, remember to drink plenty of water and take breaks often when backpacking. Hiking can be strenuous, so it's important to stay hydrated and give your body a chance to rest. By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to having a successful backpacking trip.

Now that we've covered the basics let's get into the specific gear you'll need for backpacking. Here is a comprehensive checklist of everything you'll need for your next adventure:


When it comes to backpacking, having the right backpack is essential. After all, you'll be carrying all of your gear on your back for miles at a time, so you need a backpack that is comfortable and has enough space to store everything you need. Plus, with so many different types of backpacks on the market, choosing the right one can be a daunting task. But don't worry, we're here to help. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a backpack for backpacking:

First and foremost, you'll want to make sure that the backpack is comfortable. A good way to test this is by putting on the backpack and walking around with it for a bit. You should also make sure that the straps are adjustable so that you can find the perfect fit. Additionally, look for a backpack with padded shoulder straps and a hip belt, as these will help distribute the weight more evenly and make it more comfortable to carry.

Second, you'll want to consider the size of the backpack. Obviously, you'll need enough space to store all of your gear, but you also don't want something so big that it's cumbersome to carry. A good rule of thumb is to choose a backpack that is 60-70 liters in capacity.

Third, you'll want to think about the features of the backpack. Does it have enough pockets and compartments for everything you need to store? Is it made from durable materials that will withstand the elements? Also, consider whether you need a waterproof backpack or not. If you're planning on hiking in areas where there is a lot of rain, then a waterproof backpack is a good idea.

Best Backpacks on The Market

Here are a few of the best backpacks on the market:

Osprey Ariel AG 65 Backpack

The Osprey Ariel AG 65 is a top-of-the-line backpack designed for serious hikers and adventurers. It features a rugged and waterproof exterior, plenty of storage space, and a comfortable fit that can be adjusted to accommodate different body types. The Ariel AG 65 also has a number of unique features that set it apart from other packs on the market. For example, the built-in rain cover protects your gear from the elements, and the front panel zip allows you to easily access your belongings without taking the pack off.

REI Co-op Traverse 70 Pack

The REI Co-op Traverse 70 pack is a versatile option for everything from backpacking trips to weekend camping excursions. With a capacity of 70 liters, it offers plenty of room for all the essentials, and the easily adjustable straps make it possible to customize the fit for added comfort. The pack also features a number of handy pockets and compartments, including an integrated rain cover and an internal hydration sleeve. Best of all, the REI Co-op Traverse 70 pack is made with durable, lightweight materials that won't weigh you down on the trail.

Gregory Deva 60L Backpack

The Gregory Deva 60L is a great option for anyone looking for a reliable and stylish backpack. This bag can hold up to 60 liters, making it perfect for long trips or hikes. The backpack also features a number of pockets and compartments, which are perfect for storing all of your gear. In addition, the Deva backpack is extremely comfortable to wear, thanks to the padded shoulder straps and hip belt. And if you're worried about the bag getting dirty, don't be - the Deva backpack is made from durable and easy-to-clean materials. Additionally, it comes with a women-specific fit, making it more comfortable for female hikers.

Sleeping Bag

A good sleeping bag is another essential piece of gear for backpacking. When choosing a sleeping bag, you'll need to consider the temperature rating, weight, packed size, and padding. The temperature rating will tell you how warm the sleeping bag will keep you - typically, bags are rated for 20°F (-12°C) or higher. As far as weight goes, you'll want to choose a bag that is light enough to carry without being too bulky. Make sure to select a sleeping bag that can be compressed into a small size - this will make it easier to pack inside your backpack.

Padding is important for comfort and to prevent body aches. There are three types of padding: synthetic, down, and hybrid. Synthetic is less expensive but does not insulate as well as down. Down is more expensive but lasts longer and is more compressible. Hybrid combines the two types of padding. The best way to choose a sleeping bag is to go to a store and try different ones on with a backpack to get an idea of what feels comfortable.

With so many factors to consider, choosing the right sleeping bag for your next backpacking trip can be a challenge. But if you take the time to find one that fits your needs, you'll be sure to have a comfortable night's sleep.

Best Sleep Bags on The Market

There are a variety of different sleeping bags on the market, so it's important to do your research before making a purchase. However, some of the best options include:

REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30

The Trail Quilt 30 is a great choice for those looking for an ultralight quilt that can be used in a variety of settings. Weighing in at only 1 lb. 6 oz, this quilt is perfect for backpacking, biking, and even as an emergency blanket. It's also filled with 850-fill goose down, which provides excellent loft and insulation. The quilt has a Pertex Quantum shell, which is both water and tear-resistant. The Trail Quilt 30 also comes with a stuff sack and storage sack, making it easy to pack and store.

Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15 Sleeping Bag

The Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15 Sleeping Bag is a warm, comfortable bag that is ideal for cold weather camping. The bag is filled with 650-fill DownTek insulation, which provides excellent warmth and loft. The shell of the bag is made from durable ripstop nylon, and the lining is soft and comfortable. The bag has a mummy-style design, and the hood can be cinched tight to keep out the cold. The zipper runs down the side of the bag, making it easy to get in and out. The Lost Ranger 15 Sleeping Bag is an excellent choice for cold weather camping and backpacking.

Kelty Cosmic 20 Sleeping Bag

The Kelty Cosmic 20 Sleeping Bag is a great option for camping and backpacking trips. It has a mummy-style design that is lightweight and compresses well, making it easy to carry on long hikes. The bag is also rated for 20-degree weather, so it will keep you warm in most conditions. The bag is made from synthetic insulation, which makes it light and compressible. It also has a waterproof shell, so you don't have to worry about getting wet if the weather takes a turn for the worse. The Cosmic 20 also has a few extras that are nice for extended trips, including a zippered pocket for storing small items and an integrated pillow sleeve.

Backpacking Tent

A backpacking tent is a small, lightweight tent designed for overnight camping trips in the backcountry. Backpacking tents are typically made from waterproof and breathable fabric, and they usually have two or three poles for support. Most backpacking tents also have a rainfly, which is an extra layer of fabric that helps to keep the interior dry during inclement weather. When choosing a backpacking tent, it is important to consider the size, weight, and features that will best suit your needs. For example, some tents have vestibules that can be used for storing gear, while others have mesh panels that offer ventilation and bug protection.

There is a lot to consider when purchasing a backpacking tent. First, you need to think about the size and weight of the tent. A larger tent will be more comfortable but will also weigh more and take up more space in your backpack. Second, you need to consider the climate you'll be camping in. If you're planning on camping in cold weather, you'll need a four-season tent with good ventilation to prevent condensation buildup. Third, you need to decide on the type of tent. There are three basic types of tents: dome, tunnel, and convertible.

Dome tents are the most popular because they're easy to set up and have a lot of headroom. Tunnel tents are lighter weight and easier to pack, but they don't have as much headroom. Convertible tents can be used as either a dome or tunnel style, depending on your needs. Finally, you need to decide how much you want to spend. Backpacking tents can range in price from $100 to $500, so it's important to set a budget before you start shopping.

Best Backpacking Tents on The Market

Here are some of the best backpacking tents on the market:

REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus

The REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus is a versatile and reliable tent that's perfect for car camping, backpacking, and mountaineering. It has a roomy interior with plenty of headroom, and the two doors and vestibules make it easy to get in and out. The tent is made with waterproof and breathable fabric, so you'll stay dry even in wet conditions. The aluminum poles are strong and lightweight, and the color-coded clips make it easy to set up the tent quickly. The tent can accommodate up to three people, and it comes with a stuff sack for easy storage. Overall, the REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus is a great option for campers and backpackers who want a reliable tent that won't break the bank.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2

The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 is a great option for those looking for a lightweight yet durable tent. The tent body is made from waterproof ripstop nylon, and the canopy is made from breathable mesh. The poles are made from aluminum, and the entire tent weighs just over three pounds. The Hubba Hubba NX 2 can sleep two people comfortably and has two large vestibules for storing gear. The tent also has internal pockets for organizing small items. Setup is quick and easy, thanks to the color-coded pole system. The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 is an excellent choice for backpackers who value storage space and durability.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

The Copper Spur HV UL2 from Big Agnes is a great option for ultralight backpackers who value both comfort and weight savings. The tent features a spacious interior with plenty of headroom, and the double-wall construction helps to keep the inside of the tent warm and dry. The HV UL2 also has two large doors and vestibules, making it easy to get in and out and providing plenty of storage space for gear. The tent uses lightweight yet strong materials, and the overall design is both functional and sleek. At just 3 pounds 2 ounces, the HV UL2 is one of the lightest options on the market, making it a great choice for backpackers who want to minimize their pack weight.

Sleeping Pad

A backpacking sleeping pad is an essential piece of equipment for anyone planning an overnight hike or camping trip. Sleeping pads provide insulation from the ground, helping to keep campers warm and dry. They also cushion the body, providing comfort and support during long nights of sleep.

When choosing a sleeping pad, it is important to consider the weight, thickness and packed size. The lightest and most compact sleeping pads are usually made of inflatable air chambers or closed-cell foam. These materials provide good insulation but can be less comfortable than thicker, heavier pads. For extended trips into remote areas, it is also important to choose a pad that is durable and easy to repair. With so many options on the market, choosing the right sleeping pad can be a challenge. However, taking the time to find the perfect pad will pay off in a more comfortable and enjoyable camping experience.

Best Sleeping Pads on The Market

There are a lot of great sleeping pads on the market, but here are a few of our favorites:

REI Co-op Camp Bed

The REI Co-op Camp Bed is a great option for those looking for a comfortable and affordable way to sleep outdoors. This sleeping pad is made of PVC-free polyester and has an R-value of 7.6, meaning it will keep you warm in most conditions. The Camp Bed also features a die-cut foam layer that provides support and comfort, as well as a non slip bottom that keeps the pad in place. Additionally, the Camp Bed self-inflates in just minutes, meaning you won't have to waste time blowing it up when you're ready to hit the hay. The only downside of this product is its weight; at just over five pounds, it is one of the heavier sleeping pads on the market. However, its many features make it worth the extra weight for those who value comfort while camping.

NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad XL Wide

The NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad was created with the comfort of car campers in mind. With an XL wide size, it offers ample room for even the tallest sleepers, and the thick foam ensures a restful night's sleep. The inflatable design means that it can be easily packed away for transport, and the included pump makes setup a breeze. In addition, the Roamer features a built-in pillow for extra support and a storage pocket to keep small items close at hand. Whether you're enjoying a weekend getaway or an extended camping trip, the NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad will help you get a good night's sleep.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

The NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad from Therm-a-Rest is one of the lightest and most compact camping mats on the market. Despite its small size, the mat provides plenty of warmth and comfort, thanks to its innovative construction. The mat features a layer of airtight cells that are filled with millions of tiny spheres of insulation. This design makes the mat incredibly lightweight and highly effective at reflecting body heat back to the sleeper. The mat also has a soft, brushed surface that feels comfortable against the skin and an integrated pump that makes inflation quick and easy. Whether you're an experienced backpacker or a first-time camper, the NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad is a great option for a comfortable night's sleep in the great outdoors.


A headlamp is an incredibly useful tool for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors, especially when camping or backpacking. Not only does it provide a hands-free light source, but it can also be helpful in emergency situations.

When choosing a headlamp, it is important to consider the following factors: brightness, weight, and battery life. Brightness is measured in lumens, and the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light. However, more lumens also generally mean a heavier headlamp, so it is important to find a balance that meets your needs. Battery life is also an important consideration, as you will want to make sure your headlamp lasts for your entire trip. With these factors in mind, you can choose the best headlamp for your next outdoor adventure.

Best Headlamps on The Market

Here are a few of our favorite headlamps on the market:

Petzl TIKKA RXP Headlamp

The Petzl TIKKA RXP is a lightweight, versatile headlamp that is ideal for a wide range of outdoor activities. Featuring a bright LED bulb, the TIKKA RXP can provide up to 215 lumens of light, making it perfect for camping, hiking, and other activities in low-light conditions. The headlamp also features a red LED mode that preserves night vision and prevents disturbing nocturnal wildlife.

The headlamp features a rechargeable battery that offers up to 10 hours of runtime, making it perfect for extended use. Additionally, the TIKKA RXP is equipped with Reactive Lighting Technology, which automatically adjusts the brightness of the headlamp based on the surrounding conditions. This ensures that you always have the optimal amount of light, whether you're trekking through a dark forest or simply trying to find your way around a campsite at night.

In addition, the TIKKA RXP has a wide beam that is ideal for close-up work, as well as a narrow beam that can reach up to 110 meters. With its adjustable strap, the headlamp can be worn comfortably for extended periods of time, and its IPX4 rating means it is resistant to water and sweat. Whether you're an experienced adventurer or just getting started, the Petzl TIKKA RXP is a great choice for your next outdoor excursion.

Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp

The Black Diamond Spot 350 headlamp is a versatile and reliable light source for any outdoor activity. Powered by three AAA batteries, the Spot 350 provides up to 350 lumens of brightness, making it perfect for camping, hiking, or even running in low-light conditions. The headlamp also features four different light settings, including a strobe mode for emergencies.

In addition, the Black Diamond Spot 350 is equipped with a red night-vision mode that helps preserve your night vision while still providing enough light to see where you're going. Finally, the headlamp is fully adjustable, so you can find the perfect fit for any activity. Whether you're looking for a reliable light source for your next adventure or simply need a little extra light around the house, the Black Diamond Spot 350 headlamp is a great choice.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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