If you’ve touched more copier paper than you have trees lately, if you don’t remember the last time you looked down at your feet and saw dirt instead of concrete, and if you’ve wearily realized that your life firmly orbits around your cell phone, it’s time for you to go backpacking.
Escaping the modern world and turning your backpacking daydreams into reality, however, can seem daunting. The biggest hurdle, and the one that slows down far too many would-be explorers, is simply understanding what’s needed to have a successful trip. The good news is backpacking requires that you travel light, meaning you really don’t need many things, you just need the right things.
So to help eliminate this backpacking road block, we’ve created an easy to browse list of must-have items for your next backpacking trip (there’s even a shopping checklist at end that you can save and print out).
Before We Begin
- Let’s address money. Just like golfing, surfing, rock climbing, or countless other hobbies, backpacking requires that you invest in good equipment. And you should think of it as an investment — an investment in years of outdoor experiences and memories that can easily be attained once you own the gear you need to take part.
- But backpacking doesn’t have to break the bank. If you’re not in a rush, buy the gear you need over several months time and keep an eye out for both online sales (or lightly used secondhand items) and sales at your local sporting goods store or outdoor retailer, like REI.
- With that in mind, the items seen in this guide are top quality and mostly fall into the mid to mid-upper price range for similar items (the old adage you get what you pay for holds true when it comes to backpacking gear). And while you can’t go wrong with any of the suggested items below, feel free to use them as inspiration to find similar items that suit your respective budget.
- The specific items seen below have been personally tested by and come recommended by Uproxx. Testing included a trip by this guide’s author into Colorado’s Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness — a 183,000-acre national wilderness area near Aspen.
- This guide (mainly the clothing section) focuses on gear best suited for use during the fall. But, really, the majority of the items seen here are for three-season use (spring, summer and fall). Of course, always check current and projected weather conditions before backpacking and adjust your gear and clothing accordingly.
You can’t go backpacking without a backpack. And since it’ll hold every single one of your precious supplies, you’ll want to choose a high quality, comfortable one. First, you’ll need to know which size backpack to get. Most backpacks come in three sizes — small, medium and large — and your torso length will largely determine which size is best for you. While you could measure yourself at home with the help of a measuring tape and a friend, you’re best bet is to head to your local outdoor retailer and ask to be properly fitted.
For a top of the line backpack, check out Osprey — a company that does one thing and does it well: making backpacks and rugged travel luggage. For my recent backpacking trip, I used the Osprey Atmos AG 65 (which comes in a 50 liter and 65 liter capacity, as well as a women’s version, the Aura AG). The pack features pockets and compression straps in all the right places, but the real reason to use this pack is its signature Anti-Gravity suspension system which perfectly distributes the pack’s weight and contours to your body. I knew I found the right pack as soon as I put it on, and my choice was confirmed during my trip when I meet a park ranger, a guy who backpacks miles and miles as part of his job, wearing the exact same pack as me.
And don’t forget, you’ll also need to pick up a hydration reservoir (the blue bag seen above), like the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir 3 Liter. This’ll slip into a compartment in your backpack and provide easy accessibility to water while on the trail.
Yes, it’ll likely be one of the pricier items you’ll buy for your backpacking trip, but just think, once you own a tent, you’ll be able to go camping anytime, anyplace — nothing will hold you back. Remember, buying a tent suited for backpacking can be different than buying a tent for car camping. When buying a tent for backpacking, you’ll want to pay special attention to how much the tent weighs. Unfortunately, the lighter the tent often means the higher the price (lighter materials = more expensive materials). However, it is possible to find a perfect tent to fit all of your camping needs. Case in point, the Big Agnes Tumble 3 mtnGLO, a roomy and easy to set up three-person tent that’s light enough to take backpacking, but won’t break the bank (it also comes in one and two-person models).