Check out our favorite backpacking gear for our base packs. See what our ultralight picks were, plus what we splurged on.
Shopping for backpacking gear can be overwhelming!
What's best? Should I go ultralight?
Here’s our current favorite gear, plus some gear we're going to try out soon!
Backpacking Packs (For Tall + Short People)
We tried quite a few backpacks, and have settled on our favorites.
My husband, who's six-foot-one, loves his REI Flash 65. It's a basic pack that fits him well, and it has held up to heavy use.
At five-foot-two, I had a much more difficult time finding a comfortable backpacking pack. Here are my top choices — and here's a post entirely dedicated to finding backpacking packs for petite women!
For years, I used this Deuter Kids 40 pack. It's sturdy, comfortable and has an adjustable back. Recently, I've found that it's just a little bit too small for our backpacking needs, so I started looking for other options.
The pickings were slim. Most backpacking packs in the 50 - 60 liter range were simply too long, even if they claimed to have a small or extra-small size.
It was pretty frustrating, and left me wondering if I really did grow to grown-up heights. But not to worry, I did find (not one but two!) larger packs that fit perfectly.
First, this Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 pack was fantastic. It's lightweight, and even when filled and weighed down, it was comfortable. I just wished that it was a teeny bit larger.
The pack I ended up keeping is the Osprey Eja 58 pack (in size extra-small/small). It fit my short torso well, and although the ultralight Deuter pack had been comfortable, I could instantly tell that this pack would be even more comfy. I'm excited to break it in soon!
If you're looking for an extra-small frame size, look for packs with adjustable torsos. In my case, I found that packs that adjusted to 14" (or ideally smaller) were more likely to fit. The kids pack I used for years would adjust down to 11", but the Osprey pack I ended up keeping adjusts to 13.5".
If you're flying to your destination, backpacks can work as a carry-on or personal item! Here are more tips for how to pack for backpacking when flying.
Water Backpacking Gear
Having clean water should be one of your top priorities on any backpacking trip!
We each carry an Osprey water bladder. I've used other brands in the past, and I really like the way these bladders open up wide on the top. I also like that you can buy replacement parts for these bladders instead of tossing the whole thing when something breaks.
We also carry this Sawyer squeeze water filter, along with a Cnoc water container. We find the Cnoc water container makes filtering water easier, and you can filter a larger amount of water at once than with the bag that comes with the filter.
Our Backpacking Sleep System
We use a sleep system for two instead of carrying separate sleeping pads and bags. It's more comfortable, and ended up being lighter.
For our sleeping pad, we've been loving this Exped Duo Sleeping Pad. It's rated 3R, and has helped keep us warm on cold nights.
We've been using a Therm-a-Rest Vela Double 20 Quilt, but have found that we still get cold when the temperature drops below 30. Adding these Sea to Summit Thermolite sleeping bag liners helped a lot, and the combination of quilt and liners worked really well!
To help prepare us for colder camping, we recently tested a quilt from Enlightened Equipment, and were thrilled with how warm it was! We plan to bring it along for any cold weather adventures.
We recently discovered these Outdoor Vitals ultralight pillows, and used them on our recent Colorado backpacking trip. They pack down to almost nothing, and are (by far!) the most comfortable pillows we've tried yet.
Our Favorite Backpacking Tents
In the past, we used this River Country trekking pole backpacking tent. For the price, it's still one of my top picks.
However, after using the tent in rainy weather, we discovered it let through quite a bit of condensation. Also, after a porcupine chewed my trekking pole in the middle of the night, I began to reconsider trekking pole tents that left the whole pole out in the open.
We've tried the TarpTent Double Rainbow once (so far) and were thrilled with it! However it didn't rain on that particular trip, so I can't personally vouch for how water resistant it is yet. That said, friends of ours rented one on a (much rainier) trip to Hawaii and were thrilled with this tent.
I'll update this post once we've tried the Durston X-Mid 2 out, and more thoroughly tested the Double Rainbow. Here are more thoughts on buying a tent.
Our Backpacking Cookware
We usually bring along some of our favorite freeze-dried meals when backpacking.
We also bring this hand-pump espresso machine to start our days off right.
Electronics We Take Backpacking
I carry an Anker battery bank. This is not a lightweight option, but it's worth it to me to be able to recharge things.
We also carry a Garmin InReach mini 2 (with an active subscription). This tiny GPS device has been so helpful, because it allows us to send our location and messages to family back home when we're in a wilderness area. Even more importantly, it includes an SOS button.
We always carry a headlamp when we're backpacking. Our most recent pick is this Black diamond headlamp.
Practical Backpacking Gear We Carry
I can't get over how much I love carrying these Black Diamond Alpine carbon trekking poles. They are so lightweight and the cork handle is extremely comfy.
These Black Diamond women's trekking poles are also a favorite, and I recommend them if you find that your normal trekking poles are almost too long or if you find the handle too large.
Another item we carry is this hatchet multitool. It's helpful for getting campfires started in backcountry camping areas.
Backpacking Gear We Splurged On
We definitely splurged on these Helinox ultralight camping chairs.
And it was so worth it to be able to sit in a chair (instead of on the cold or wet ground) after a long day of hiking. I highly recommend.
Is there any gear you love that we left off our list? Let us know what else we should try!