2019 Best Cameras for Backpacking and Hiking

This post takes the BS & mystery out of finding the right camera. A camera that meets YOUR needs & YOUR budget. And you don’t need an expensive camera to take superb backpacking photos. Some of the best lightweight backpacking and hiking cameras cost far less than you think. You might already own one!

Cerro Castillo Trek Guide

2019 Smart and Light Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers

This gear is smarter, lighter and more thoroughly tested than your typical buyer’s guide. Enjoy our picks of the best light and practical gear in our Smart and Light Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers.

Cerro Castillo Trek Guide

2019 Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers – Expensive Gifts

This gear is smarter, lighter and more thoroughly tested than your typical buyer’s guide. Enjoy our picks of the best light and practical gear in our Smart and Light Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers.

Cerro Castillo Trek Guide

2019 Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers – Mid-Range

This gear is smarter, lighter and more thoroughly tested than your typical buyer’s guide. Enjoy our picks of the best light and practical gear in our Smart and Light Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers.

Cerro Castillo Trek Guide

2019 Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers – Inexpensive

This gear is smarter, lighter and more thoroughly tested than your typical buyer’s guide. Enjoy our picks of the best light and practical gear in our Smart and Light Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers.

2018/19 Torres del Paine W Trek and O Trek – Quick and Easy Guide to Essential Trip Planning

We believe this is the best guide to the Torres del Paine W Trek and Circuit Treks, in-print or online. This guide was inspired by Alison and I finding a scarcity of accurate and up-to-date information anywhere…

ultralight backpacking gear list

5 Pound Practical Ultralight Backpacking Gear List

Looking to reduce backpack weight to the absolute minimum? Then you’ve come to the right place. This ultralight backpacking gear list has the lightest possible gear that still makes practical sense.

Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Gear Checklist – stay safe, be light, have fun!

Day hiking is supposed to be fun. And part of the fun is a light pack for easy walking. Unfortunately, most day hiking gear lists are way too heavy.  But on the other hand, you DO want all the right gear to be safe!

So what to do? This ultralight day hiking checklist will help you select the right gear to keep your daypack light, a spring in your step, but still keep you safe and happy. Better yet, it has a lot of inexpensive gear so you won’t go broke in the process!

The Problem with Most Day Hiking Gear Checklists

This day hiking checklist is more comprehensive & useful than other hiking checklists. Here is why:

    1. Most lists don’t have weights for their gear. This inevitably leads to a heavy pack.
    2. They don’t give specific options for light gear or budget gear. E.g. the 10 oz!  $40 REI Flash 18 Pack or the value $40 Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles (on Amazon — 1/3 price but equal to the best poles!
    3. They are too focused on the 10 essentials and fail to recommend important items like packs, trekking poles; light, non-blistering hiking shoes; best strategies for Lyme & Zika protection, etc.

    Food and Water: They do not give good recommendations for carrying a sensible amount of food and water. Water carried should be based on water availability & hiker preferences. See more in Hydration in 13 Essentials. Food carried should be based on length of hike & hiker preferences. See more in Nutrition in 13 Essentials

    Photography: Finally, a major focus of many day hikes is getting great photos. We have a great post on The best lightweight Camera Gear for Hiking  which includes a bunch of photo tips and hacks.


    Day Hiking Gear Checklist

    Buckskin Gulch Utah: One of the longest and deepest slot canyons in the world. It’s a fabulous 21 mile, semi-technical canyoneering day hike where a light pack makes a huge difference in having fun!

    3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

    Like most day hiking checklists this is based on a core set of “essentials.” In this case, my popular “13 Essentials for the Modern Hiker —A Realistic 10 Essentials.” (It’s worth a quick read if you haven’t done so.) But my list goes further to give you all the OTHER gear you need to be safe and happy on a long day hike.

    Note: a Weight Summary Table is at the end of this post.

    Day hiking Backpacks

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    Pack opt 1$55 REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack 14.5
    or smaller $28 Flash 18 10.0
     10.0Very light, inexpensive & functional UL packs. Blessedly minimal which is wonderful!
    Pack opt 2Osprey Talon 22 M’sTempest 20 W’s DaypacksLots of pockets for fast access & gear org. Non-sweaty backpanel.
    Pack opt 3$90 Moutain Laurel Designs Core 22L Pack 6.5-7.5 ozLightest pack here. Made in USA. Minimal, durable, utilitarian.
    Your own “day” packMost small to medium backpacks! e.g. $16 High Sierra Riprap Backpack at Costco (25 oz)Most packs approx. 15 to 30 liters (900 to 1800 in3) should work. I’ve taken my city laptop backpack on daylong technical canyoneering trips!
    Waterproofing for packGossamer Gear Pack Liner
    or a trash compactor bag
     1.2Both are lighter less expensive & more effective than a pack cover.
    3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

    Light & low cost daypacks L to R from lightest to heaviest:  [Far left – $90 MLD Core 22L Pack (6.5-7.5 oz) Made in USA. It’s the lightest pack. Minimal, durable, utilitarian design.], $28 REI Co-op Flash 18; $55 REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack; Ultimate Direct. Fastpack (not low cost, but efficient & full of pockets ), $16 High Sierra Riprap from Costco, the least expensive but heaviest.

    Navigation

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    Primary mapPaper: type of map & weight varies 1.0See “Staying Found” in 13 Essentials Modern Hiker
    CompassSuunto M-3D Compass (1.6)1.6Lightest compass with declination adjustment
    Alt. navigationGPS App on Smartphone (~6 oz)See “13 Essentials for Modern Hiker” for more info. on GPS navigation and mapping via smartphone.

    Hydration

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    Water “bottle”Sawyer 32 oz Squeez Pouch 1.0 oz
    Sawyer 64 oz Squeez Pouch 1.5 oz
    1L commercial h20 bottle 1.0 oz
    1.0See “Drink When Thirsty” regarding best practices for good hydration
    Standard water bottles, e.g. Aquafina, work great.
    PurificationSawyer filter (3.0)3.0To drink on the spot – greatly reduces water cary/weight. Non chemical.
    PurificationChlorine Dioxide tablets (0.5)Light purification alternative. Filter backup.

    Emergency Gear and First Aid

    Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

    Day hiking headlamps R-L: $11 Energizer Vision HD, Black Diamond Spot, Black Diamond Ion

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    HeadlampBlack Diamond Spot Lite 160 (1.9 oz)
    Black Diamond Spot 325  (3.2 oz)
    $11 Energizer Vision HD (3.0 oz)
     1.9Ion for a “usual dayhike.” (REI Garage closeout)
    Spot headlamp if hiking dawn/dusk or dark
    Value $15 Energizer @Amazon, Target, or Walmart
    Batteries Spare1.0For headlamps and other essential gear
    First Aid$12 Adv Med Kits Travel Medic 2.0
    Adv. Medical Kits Day Tripper
     3.5
     2.0or assemble your own. See: 1st Aid – 13 Essentials
    See my Homemade 1st Aid Kit here
    SOS/TrackerPreferred: Garmin inReach Mini (3.2)2-way communication (a big deal!), visible GPS coordinates, and trip tracking+SOS
    SOS/Track (alt)SPOT Gen3 (4.8)Disadvantages: only 1-way com, no vis. GPS coord.
    ShelterEmergency bivy 3.8 Prefer bivy over blanket. Can also take a light tarp.
    FirestarterBic lighter, + fire starting material 0.5 Energy bar wrappers, or Coghlans Fire Sticks
    See: Fire Starters in 13 Essentials

    Knife or Multi-tool & Repair Kit

    ItemDetailsOzComments

    R-L: Cutting tools for ~1 ounce – Swiss Army Classic, Spyderco Ladybug, $14 Gerber L.S.T. Drop Point ,$4 school scissors

    Knife/scissors$4 Wescott school scissors0.9More useful than knife – OK for plane carryon
    Knife$14 Gerber L.S.T. Drop Point 1.2 oz
    Swiss Army Classic Knife 1.6
    Fave. Can cut bread & salami. Light for 2.6″ blade
    Well, it’s a “classic”
    Knife (alt)Spyderco Ladybug Knife (0.6)2″ blade – one of the lightest functional knives
    Multi-tool Leatherman Squirt PS4 (1.9)More a multi-day item. Bring small one if you want
    Repair Kit A minimal repair kit 1.0 See Repair Kit in 13 Essentials

    Warm Clothing Carried in Pack (select based on expected weather)

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    shirt/baselayer/ mid-layerPatagonia R1 Hoodie
    or Patagonia R1 Pullover
    Think of it as “fur for humans.” possibly the most versatile cool  to very cold weather base layer. It works over an astonishing range of conditions.
    Mid-layer topTNF TKA 100 1/4 Zip Pullover or
    Amazon 100wt fleece w zipper
    7.9Sadly it appears that 100 wt fleece shirts like this are a dying breed. You may still be able to find a few. Otherwise go for a 200 wt one, the Patagonia R1 Hoodie above or a Patagonia R2 garment
    WindshellPatagonia Houdini Jacket (3.3)If I don’t bring, will layer rain jacket over my fleece
    Warm jacketHgh quality down jacket (REI)
    or Feathered Friends Eos (10.5 oz)
    For colder hikes, and especially at rest stops. Stuffed with 900 fill power down!
    GiooValue wm jkt$24 “32 Degrees” Down Vest 6.0“32 Degrees brand” Packable Down Vest @Amazon.
    For more down clothing see: Recommended Down Jackets, Pants, and Booties
    Warm hatOR Option Balaclava1.2Warmer than hat. Or a fleece beanie.
    Gloves (basic)Defeet DuraGloves (2.5)Great liner glove – light, warm, durable!
    Gloves alt.$13 Glacier Glove fingerless (2.0) 2.0Dexterity & warmth for photog. & other activities
    Day Hiking Gear Checklist

    Good clothing is critical when the weather turns to crap!

    Rainwear Carried in Pack (select based on expected weather)

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    Rain JacketOutdoor Research Helium II (6.4) 6.4From REI: less expensive than many at this weight
    Rain Jacket (Value)REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket $45-$90 value rain jacket with a solid and functional design.
    RainJacket (alt)Patagonia Storm Racer  (6.0)Light! Minimal. Amazing it’s 3-layer fabric!
    Rain PantsOR Helium Rain Pants (6.0)Light, inexpensive. Don’t bring on many hikes.
    Rainpants (alt)Rain chaps or rain kilt (2.0 oz)For trips with low probability of rain, or warm rain
    Rain Mitts (alt)REI Minimalist Rain Mitts
    MLD eVENT Rain Mitts (1.2)
    Light. Waterproof. Add a lot of warmth over gloves.

    Hiking Clothes Worn – NOT Carried in Pack (select based on expected weather)

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    Note: Read more on clothing suggestions for Best Ways to Protect from Lyme & Zika
    ShirtRail Riders Adventure Top 7.3
    or Sahara shirts like these at REI
    Pers fave. For hot and/or brushy (not a baselayer)
    Shirt (alt)$40 REI 1/4-Zip Tech Shirt 6.5 REI Co-op Merino Half-Zip (8.8) 6.5Versatile, light, 50 SPF, nice collar, zipper neck
    Wool shirt & baselayer: for cooler weather – love new REI merio
    PantsREI Sahara convertible pants (14) 14Ex Officio and many others make similar pants
    Sun/hiking hatOutdoor Research Sun Runner Hat2.5Removable sun cape. Adaptable to most situations
    UnderwearExOfficio Give-N-Go M’s & W’s2.0Dry fast, don’t hold a lot of moisture.
    BraPatagonia Active spots braAlison’s favorite
    ShoesAltra Lone Peak Trail Runners 18.0Light. Huge toe room. Comfortable! Superiors lighter. Lone Peaks more protective sole.
    Shoes (alt)Brooks Cascadia (25 oz)Very popular trail shoe for hikers (& backpackers)
    Shoes (alt)Lightweight trail running shoes
    (you likely own a pair)
    Most non-Goretex trail/road running shoes that fit
    SocksSmartWool PhD Light Mini or
    Darn Tough 1/4 UL w cushion
    1.8All are great socks. For most hikers, the thinner & less padding the better.
    GaitersDirty Girl gaiters (1.2 oz)I rarely find the need for gaiters with long pants

    Gear Worn – NOT Carried in Pack

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    Watch value$35 basic solar wrist watch1.5My favorite basic watch for hiking.
    WatchSuunto Core w positive display 2.2Compass, altimeter, multifunctional timepiece.
    SunglassesRx and non-Rx (polarized)1.0http://www.zennioptical.com/ for cheap Rx options
    GlassesZenni clear Rx glasses (1.0 oz)Great glasses! for $20 or so. But 2-3 week delivery
    CameraVaries depending on photo goals
    Could be better using your phone!
    See Serious Lightweight Backpacking Cameras
    Poles value$40 Cascade Mtn. Tech Carbon15.2Personal favorite. 1/3 price but equal to best poles
    Trek PolesREI Flash Carbon Poles (14.8 oz)Stiff, light, travel-friendly, won’t break off-trail/rough terrain (readily available)

    Insect and Bug Protection

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    Hiking clothesSun & bug protective clothing is your first and best option…See clothing section above for best hiking shirt, pants, hats, trail shoes, etc.
    Insect repell.Sawyer Picaridin lotion 14 hrs!
    Pocketable Picaridin 0.5 oz spray
     1.0 Lyme Zika protection: Picaradin Lotion most effective & long lasting. Unlike DEET it has no odor & won’t melt plastic.
     Sunscreen Small 1 oz tube 1.0Or repackage your favorite into a 0.5 or 1.0 oz bottle. Best if applied before you go hiking.
    Lip balmHigh SPF water resistant types0.2Minimal wt for dedicated lip balm
    SunglassesNeedn’t be expensive (~ 1 oz) 1.0 e.g. Tifosi’s on discount in REI Garage
    Best Ways to Protect Yourself from Lyme and Zika

    Best Lyme & Zika protection: Picaridin (lotion) lasts 40% longer than most DEET products and lacks the downsides of DEET. It has no odor and doesn’t melt plastics or degrade clothing. In Hand: Airline friendly 0.5 pump sprays, last 8 hours are small, pocketable and easily applied in the field. Right rear: Picaridin lotion lasts 14 hours, and can be repackaged into small 1 oz squeeze bottles.

    Sanitation – Leave No Trace

    ItemDetailsOzComments
    Potty needsDeuce of Spades Potty Trowel 0.6
    $5 GSI cathole Trowel 2.9 oz
     0.6For digging catholes to bury human waste. See LNT Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly
    Sanitizer/soapAlcohol based, e.g.  “Purell” 0.51/2 oz or 1.0 oz travel size in most pharmacies
    Toilet paperPlain, white, non-perfumed Use sparingly. See LNT practices.
    Wag bag To carry human waste out (2.5 oz)When reg’s require, e.g. Mt Whitney CA
    Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

    Right: The 0.6 oz Deuce of Spades Potty Trowel, minimal TP, and small bottle of Purell allow for good LNT Waste Disposal for around an ounce. Left: “Wag bag” for when regulations require you carry everything out.

    Finally a Few Tips

    1. Bring a change of clean clothes, sandals for tired feet, water, & a snack in the car for post hike.
    2. Read more on clothing and repellent suggestions for Best Ways to Protect yourself from Lyme & Zika and other bug transmitted diseases.
    3. Leave one trip itinerary/emergency info document with a friend and another in your car at trail head. See more: “Why You Should Make a Trip Plan and Leave it with Someone for Every Trip”
    4. Practicing Leave No Trace Principals: e.g. proper tools & techniques for waste disposal; using light, low profile tread shoes for minimal impact, etc.

    Summary of Weights

    SECTIONTOTALSLbs
    Day hiking backpack & rain cover0.7List includes a range of packs for both cost & weight
    Navigation, Hydration, Emergency Gear…1.2also Knife/Multi-tool, Repair Kit, Insect & Bug Protection, Sanitation
    Rainwear, Warm Clothing1.1Carried in pack (not worn most of time)
    BASE DAYPACK WEIGHT (BPW) 3.0BPW = all items in pack = all items above
    Clothing Worn and Items Carried (not in pack) 3.8Includes hiking shirt & pants, hat, shoes, trekking poles, stuff in pockets, etc.
    Average amount of water carried in pack?Based on water availability & hiker preferences
    See: Hydration in 13 Essentials
    Snack food for day hike?Based on length of hike & hiker preferences
    See: Nutrition in 13 Essentials
    Camera Equipment Gear List (new page)Details for Serious Light Backpacking Cameras

    Disclaimer

    This post contains affilate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products are listed. For product reviews: unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.

13 Essentials for the Modern Hiker – A Realistic “10 Essentials”

This article proposes a more realistic 13 Essentials that will better keep the modern hiker safe. This is because the Classic 10 Essentials (first proposed in the 1930’s) need an update for the 21st Century given the realities of a modern day hiker.

  • First, a major conceptual trap of the traditional 10 Essentials is that they are all gear. I would counter that the two most important “essentials” are actually skill and knowledge items: 1) good trip planning and 2) the skill of staying found.
  • Second, why should there be only 10?
  • Third, why do none of the 10 Essentials take advantage of 21st century technology?
  • And finally, some 10 Essentials are a bit arcane & don’t match the skills & habits of the modern hiker.

Lead photo: A “freak” summer blizzard in the Wind River Range. I was super grateful to have all my warm clothing, a bivy sack and 1/2 lb tarp. And even more appreciative I had the skills and knowledge to use them.

The 13 Essentials for the Modern Hiker

My revised “essentials” are to help people be prepared for emergency situations outdoors. As such, it’s a good idea to bring them whenever you are in the backcountry—whether it’s just a long day hike, or a multi-day off-trail backpacking trip.

The following 13 Essentials favors a pragmatic approach to bringing the right gear. First and foremost, it relies on your best piece of gear, what’s between your ears.

  1. Trip Plan
  2. Staying Found
  3. Navigation Tools (not always paper map & compass)
  4. Sun and Bug/Disease Protection
  5. Insulation (extra clothing)
  6. Headlamp
  7. Emergency Shelter
  8. First Aid Kit
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. SOS Device (satellite based, like inReach or SPOT)
  11. Nutrition
  12. Repair Kit and Tools
  13. Fire Starter

 


1 Trip Plan

Use what’s between your ears. More problems arise from poor planning and lack of information about a hike than from not bringing the right gear. So, whether you’re day-hiking or backpacking you should:

  1. Do your research on hiking distances, trail conditions, campsites and water ability. Good examples of this type of research are: Map kiosks/Information Centers at major trailheads or park publications like the excellent Zion Park Map and Guide, or guide books. Much of this info is now online.
  2. Then make an honest/realistic estimate of how far you’ll hike each day. Be conservative. You don’t want to end up stranded somewhere because you only hiked ¾ of the distance you expected. And in case you end up short, have a backup camp area with a water source.
  3. Get a weather report for your trip and then plan and pack gear for those conditions! Since 90% of hikers or backpackers take 90% their trips for 3 days or or less, this weather report should be quite accurate. My favorite weather app for both smartphone and desktop is Weather Underground.
  4. And once on your trip, you also need to watch the weather and be prepared to deal with “freak” weather. This is especially true in high western mountains where a summer blizzard is always possible. Even the lower elevation Appalachian Mountains can have some cold and severe weather in the warmer months. Usually park info sites will let you know what sorts of extreme weather might be possible. [Note: This does not necessarily mean going overboard with gear—just taking the right gear.]
  5. Leave a copy of your trip intineary with someone. See: How to make and use a Trip Itinerary.

2 Staying Found

Staying Found is the key navigation skill that experienced navigators always use but never mention.

The highly effective, “Staying Found” approach to navigation is within the capability of all hikers.

Good navigators rarely get lost because they have a good idea (Trip Plan) in their head of where they are going and what to expect. That is, they are vigilant and observant while they hike—always comparing what they see on the trail against the plan in their head. They continually monitor their progress and check for upcoming trail junctions, lakes, stream crossings, a steep climb, a section of bog & other features to confirm that they are on the right track. If they stray, they quickly identify & correct it. You should do likewise. It’s your first and best navigation “tool.”


3 Navigation Tools (not always paper map and compass)

10 Essentials

(left) 21st century navigation tool: Gaia GPS App running on an iPhone. (right) Traditional nav tools: A fully featured compass with declination adjustment and paper USGS topographic map underneath. Both have pros and cons.

Important Note: I respectfully suggest that people read the Navigation Tools & Electronics Appendix carefully before commenting on this important topic. In particular, it covers the strengths and weaknesses of navigational tools, their proper use and the ways they can fail (yes, map & compass can “fail” too).

For Navigation – Take the tools you can actually use!

The first question that requires an honest answer is, “what navigational tools can I actually use?” Like having a bicycle but not knowing how to ride it, navigational tools (like a compass or USGS topographic map) without the knowledge to use them properly are not tremendously useful. It might even be dangerous if your are relying on them to navigate and keep you safe, but under false assumptions about your skills.

Topographic Map and Compass

If you are skilled with a map and compass, then take them. They are reliable, light, effective, inexpensive and don’t require batteries, or cell phone signal [I bring them on every trip.]

Alternatives to Topographic Map and Compass

But if you aren’t confident using a topographic map and compass there are alternatives. You might consider using tools that you are more familiar with and easier to operate— ones that you can reliably use in the field. Two options are:

  • A Simple Hiking Map like the Zion Park Map and Guide and using Staying Found Navigation as described above. This is your first and best strategy even when you bring other navigational tools!
    or
  • A Smartphone GPS App with dowloaded, Off-line Maps that does not need cell signal! (A quick test with your phone in airplane mode can determine if your App & maps work offline.)

A Smartphone GPS App Might be a Better Navigation Tool for Some Modern Hikers

Many traditionalists insist that a paper topographic map & compass are mandatory. But frankly, many modern recreational hikers may not have the map and compass skills to be able to rescue themselves using them. But they do have a lot of practice and skill navigating with their smartphones. And practice and familiarity are the key for successful use of a navigational tool!

Therefore, properly used* a Smartphone GPS App might be a better option for some.  [*Please see: Navigation Tools & Electronics Appendix for a caution and advice about using electronics in the backcountry, especially battery life management, backup batteries, and not relying on cell coverage.]

 

10 Essentials

Start of the JMT in Yosemite. Screen shot of NG Trails Illustrated Map using Gaia GPS on an iPhone. The beauty of a smartphone GPS App like Gaia GPS is that you have many map sources at your finger tips at no additional cost and weight. E.g. NG Trials Illustrated, full USGS 7.5′ TOPO maps, Satellite Imagery, and other specialized maps. [click to enlarge and see full map detail]


4 – Protection from Sun and Bug Transmitted Diseases, Like Lyme

10 Essentials

Full-coverage clothing is best for both sun and bug/disease prevention.

In addition to sun protection, I am adding bug protection to your basic trail needs. 2017 is forecast to be the worst year for tick/Lyme disease, and it’s only going to get worse in other parts of the US. Other diseases like Zika are also on the rise.

Your first and best option for sun and bug protection is appropriate full-coverage clothing like this. While chemical/skin applied sunscreen and bug repellants work (Picaradin Lotion is the most effective and long lasting without the problems associated with DEET) they are not nearly as long lasting or effective as sun & insect protective clothing and a good sunhat. And yes, wear those sunglasses. For more reading, see my piece on the Best Clothing & Repellants to Protect Yourself from Lyme and Zika.


5 – Insulation (extra clothing)

Sometimes

My warm clothing gets used on almost every trip. A good Down Jacket has saved my ass on numerous occasions such as a freak snowstorm on a summit, where I needed to stay warm enough to hike down to shelter and warmth. It’s also essential to keep an injured person warm until help arrives. Other invaluable pieces of warm clothing are a light rain jacket, warm hat and gloves like these.

While backup clothing is good, it’s usually best to first make the most of the clothes you are actually wearing. Towards that end, here’s a good piece on how best to use the clothes you are wearing: Top Mistakes Using the Layering System – How to Stay Warmer and Drier.


6 – Headlamp – A Good One!

10 Essentials

You need a seriously bright and long lasting headlamp to make an emergency retreat or exit. An example of a good one is the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp (right). The Black Diamond Ion (center) is marginally OK but would be better for following behind someone with a brighter light. On the left, the Petzl e+LITE Headlamp while low-weight and great for camp, is not bright enough for hiking.

If an emergency retreat or exit is necessary, your headlamp should be bright enough and last long enough that you can safely hike and navigate all night. To do that, you need a seriously bright and long lasting headlamp— putting out a beam of 50-60+ meters for ~12+ hours. A headlamp like this is likely in the range of 3 to 4 ounces. Examples: Black Diamond Spot Headlamp (Note: you only need one this strong for a party of hikers. The others following behind the leader can use smaller lighter headlamps, e.g. Black Diamond Ion.) And a spare set of batteries is always an excellent idea.


7 – Emergency Shelter

10 Essentials

Tarps & pyramid tarps provide tremendous shelter at a fraction of the weight & cost of a traditional tent. As such, they are light enough to be used as both a primary and/or emergency shelter. [Yes, another summer storm. This time the High Sierras.]

Light backpacking tarps (usually silnylon) make great emergency (and non-emergency) shelters. They provide tremendous protection from wind, rain and other precipitation. But make sure you have stakes and guylines for your tarp, and are practiced setting it up before your trip (having a pair of trekking poles to support the tarp provides you more options for pitching). And where you pitch a tarp makes a huge difference. Try and get out of the wind and into the shelter trees, rocks, etc. See more on selecting and using tarps. If you are backpacking, this could also be a light tent.

True bivy sacks like these also make good emergency shelters and even the light emergency bivy sacs are OK. I am not a big fan of the paper thin, mylar emergency blankets as they can’t really be staked out to provide a true shelter like a tarp. That being said, they are certainly better than nothing.


8 – First Aid Kit

10 Essentials

I prefer to assemble my own 3 oz First Aid Kit  (detailed list) as I can do a better job for less weight than pre-packaged ones. My kit includes bandages, tape, gauze, wound wipes, antibacterial lotion, and OTC med’s like Tylenol, Benadryl, Sudafed, Nexium, Imodium. I also carry some Rx meds like antibiotics. But you can also buy a pre-packaged First Kid Kit like one of these.

Most of the injuries I have treated have been scrapes and cuts (abrasions and lacerations) and all I had to do was stop the bleeding (direct pressure, always) and clean it up and dress the wound. I rarely get blisters since I train in the same shoes and socks that I backpack in. Even so, I carry Leukotape Tape and tincture of benzoin to treat hot spots and mild/early blisters.

A small first aid guide/booklet (often included in kits) is a good idea. Or even better, take a Wilderness First Aid Course at REI, or from NOLS or Landmark Learning.


9 – Hydration (prudent amount of extra water)

10 Essentials

A light, inexpensive, fast and effective water purification and hydration system: Sawyer Squeeze Filter and Water Treatment Tablets

Yes, bring a prudent amount of extra water because human beings don’t do well without it. For hiking in the desert, extra water would likely be right after Navigation Tools on the essentials list. But for most hiking and backpacking in the US, water is usually available every few hours. With a filter like the Sawyer Squeeze you can drink immediately at water sources. This means both quick, effective hydration/purification and less water to carry. An even lighter alternative (and backup system for a filter) are Water Treatment Tablets.

You may be drinking more water than you need: The healthiest hydration strategy is to drink when thirsty. The saying “If you are thirsty, it’s already too late” and “If your urine is yellow, you are dehydrated” are myths. In fact, over hydration (hyponatremia) is becoming more of a risk than dehydration. I’ve extensively researched this topic with experts in sports hydration here: “The Best Hydration – Drink When Thirsty.

10 Essentials

In cooler temps and/or where water is plentiful you may not need to carry as much extra water. Drink from the source, & you’ll likely not be thirsty by the time you reach the next water source. [But do know where your next water sources are.]


10 – SOS Device (satellite based, like inReach or SPOT)

10 Essentials

This is #10 because as noted earlier, prevention (having a plan, intelligently executing it), & having the right stuff (items 3 through 9) is your first & best way to stay out of trouble.

But even with the best planning and execution, stuff like a serious fall, an on-trail appendicitis, serious concussion, or a heart attack can happen. A SOS Tracking Device is the best and most reliable way to summon help in such an emergency. Two-way devices like a Garmin inReach allow you to get medical advice to care for and treat the injured party before help arrives. And they are a big help to arrange/coordinate a helicopter rescue potentially saving a life. For one thing, the EMTs know the exact nature of the emergency and come fully prepared. Read more on selecting SOS/Tracking Devices and their use.

Note: Another benefit of two-way devices like a Garmin inReach is to get in-the-field weather reports.


11 – Nutrition

10 Essentials

[Note: for a long day hike, 1 to 1.5 pounds of this nutritious food should work for most people]
It makes sense to bring an appropriate daily amount of food that is high in nutritional value and low in weight. (See: “How much daily food should I take?“) But unlike water, your body can go without food for much longer. Therefore, going overboard on too much extra food vs. a prudent amount is a trade off. Think of what other more useful gear for your safety you could bring for that same weight. For example, more warm clothes, a better shelter or an SOS device might contribute more to your safety. That being said, my favorite (extra/backup) foods are usually a high calorie energy bar, and homemade mix of dried fruit, nuts, and a few dark chocolate M&Ms. They are simple, fast, and don’t require cooking.


12 Repair Kit and Tools

10 Essentials

While a repair kit is nice to have, I’m not sure it is a true essential. But it’s light so no big deal. I maintain my gear, inspect it before each trip and then treat it with care on the trail. Therefore, while I do carry a small repair kit, I rarely use it. And when I do it’s not for what I would consider an “essential” repair.

I carry a small pair of school scissors (technically part of my first aid kit) which are far more useful than a knife and they can be transported on an airplane. I also have duct tape, needle and dental floss, a few cable ties and a small tube of krazy glue and one of Aquaseal, along with a some Gear Aid Tenacious Tape. All together they weigh less than 3 ounces. For non-do-it-yourself folks, Gear Aid also has a nice pre-packed Repair Kit altho I wouldn’t take all of the items. And if you own a NeoAir sleeping pad, consider NeoAir patch kit.


13 – Fire (lighter/matches/fire-starters)

10 Essentials

(right) Coghlans Fire Sticks are one of the easiest and safest fire starters to use. (center) A standard lighter is a first choice but Storm Matches are a good backup. (left) Most energy bar wrappers (mylar) also make great fire starters. And best of all I usually have a number of them in my trash bag.

While I do carry these fire starting items, they are last on this list. To this point, in over 40 years of hiking I have yet to use them in a dire emergency situation. Yes, I have started a fire a few times (where legal) to warm up and dry out a lot faster than getting into my sleeping bag in dry clothes—but this was more a comfort and convenience than an emergency. In contrast I’ve used my warm down jacket and my tarp a number of times for what I would consider to be an emergency or close to it. But my favorite fire starters, a lighter and energy bar wrapper (mylar), are already packed every trip so I have them by default.



 

Appendix – Navigation Tools & Electronics

A Critical Caution for Electronic Items

Neither an electronic GPS App with maps, or a paper TOPO map will figure out the best off-trail route for you. In both cases you’ll need to understand what they show you. That is, you’ll need to be able to tell where things like impassible cliffs are, etc. And you still need to make in-field assessments of the best route while you hike off-trail.

  • These electronic items need to work with full functionality without a cellular phone signal (voice or data). You should configure them to be used as such, and not rely in any way on having cellular data.
  • You should have backup batteries to recharge your electronic devices (phone, SOS/tracker, etc.)
  • Satellite SOS Device (or a cell phone if you have signal) should never be considered a license to do silly things or take unnecessary risks. And note that sometimes even when you can transmit emergency messages, a timely rescue is not possible. As they say, the best rescue is self-rescue.
  • Finally, to state the obvious, Goal One is not needing to make an emergency call/transmission in the first place. So do your pre-trip homework, be sensible and stay safe out there at all times.

Taking all this into account, electronic items are still serious tools that can do things that non-electronic tools cannot.

 

Pick the Right Navigation Tools for YOU!

I’ve used USGS 7.5′ Topo maps and a traditional compass to navigate for over 40 years. Much of this off-trail, in difficult to navigate areas. They worked then and they still work now. BUT that doesn’t mean a traditional compass is the best navigational tool for all people.

I suggest that there is no perfect navigation tool. All have strengths and weaknesses. In the end its a personal choice.  Select the right tools for you—tools that you have the skills to use and meet the navigational requirements for your trip. And whatever tools you decide on, you do need to know how to use them AND you’ll certainly want to bring a backup.


Paper Maps & Compass

a) Can I “use” a map and compass?

This is the first thing you should consider when deciding on the right navigation system for you. For example, can you can orient your map and compass to true north (taking into account declination), always find your location on the map, take a bearing to a point you want to navigate to, and then use the compass to sight and follow that bearing, taking into account elevation contours (reading Topo lines) and other physical features depicted on the map to make an informed decision on the best route. If not, you might want to 1) learn how to really use a map and compass and/or 2) consider a smartphone GPS App (or even a traditional GPS unit if you already have one).

b) What if you want to learn how use a map and compass?

If you want to learn map and compass skills, great. But to keep your newly learned map & compass skills sharp and effective, you’ll need to use them on a frequent basis. [Note: after teaching many people map and compass navigation, I’ve noticed a low retention rate for those that don’t regularly practice their map & compass skills each year.]

c) All types of navigation tools can fail – even maps

Contrary to what most say, paper maps and traditional compasses can “fail.” First, as stated earlier, many people are not proficient with them. This is a failure of sorts since the map and compass won’t deliver their intended function—and there are no backups to fix this. In addition, maps are accidentally left on a rock, they easily blow away in the wind, they mysteriously creep out of pack and pants pockets, and they can get ruined by water. A couple of times a year I pick up somebody’s full map-set that I found in the middle of the trail. Finally, compasses can be lost, misplaced or damaged (yes, I’ve had clients break a compass).


Smartphone GPS Apps

10 Essentials

The EasyAcc battery on the right will recharge the iPhone 6 Plus two times. (The wall charger and micro-USB cable [top center] are only needed if you’ll have access to electricity mid-trip). See more in Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear.

For many, a smartphone GPS App with downloaded off-line maps (no cell signal needed) may be a good choice for navigation. Many people are already skilled navigating with their smartphone since they frequently do it in their daily lives. And practice and familiarity are the key for successful use of a navigational tool! In addition to being fast and easy to use, this is both low cost and low weight since people likely already own a smartphone. That is, people have one, can use it, and are already bringing it.

Smartphone GPS apps (and traditional GPS units) work far better in low visibility conditions like white out and in the dark. I have navigated off of more than a few complex summits in complete whiteout with a GPS.

Finally, a big advantage of the smartphone GPS App is the maps are free and instantly downloadable. You can get superbly detailed maps for your hike in a matter of minutes. I’ve downloaded them from my motel room. In contrast, getting and/or printing paper maps is far more costly, time consuming and cumbersome (USGS 7.5 min Topo map are harder and harder to get).

Electronic Navigation Tools are not as unreliable as “experts” claim

  1. In five years of intense backcountry use my close hiking partners and I have never broken an iPhone or the GPS App. We’ve taken our iPhones on numerous packrafting trips in Alaska, winter rafting down the Grand Canyon, technical Canyoneering in Utah, climbing in the Wind Rivers and the Sierras, long hikes in the U.S.A, Turkey, Australia, Europe, and a canoe trip down the length of the Mighty Mississippi River. All without incident. No failures. No dead batteries.
  2. But as a backup, at least one hiking partner carries another smartphone with GPS App & offline maps. (sometimes even an alternate App and mapset).
  3. We do not need cell signal to use our GPS App.
  4. We get around 7 days of use before we need to recharge it—see more about iPhone/smartphone battery management.
  5. And a light USB battery gets us a couple more charges if we need them. The same USB battery charges all our other electronics like headlamps, cameras, and Garmin inReach. See more about field batteries for recharging electronics.

Always Bring a Backup Battery!

It’s critical safety precaution to make sure your electronics are always available for use. My three favorite lightweight and high capacity USB backup batteries are:

  1. Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh USB Battery (pictured right)- With two built in cables (lightening & micro-USB) it will charge just about any backcountry electronics. It has a faster charging rate than the EasyAcc below but has slightly less overall capacity.
  2. EasyAcc 6000mAh USB Battery This has slightly more capacity (tested) than the Jackery battery but has a slower charging rate & only a built micro-USB cable (altho you can attach your own lightening cable to charge an iPhone). It can charge a large phone like a Galaxy S7 about 1.4x and a smaller phone like an iPhone 7 2.3x.
  3. Anker PowerCore 10000 (only 6.4 oz) this is the lightest option f you need to recharge your electronics a lot. It can charge a large phone like a Galaxy S7 ~2.5x and a smaller phone like an iPhone 7 ~3.5x. Its limitation is that it only has one USB port for a cable.
  4. And of course for a SPOT messenger and many headlamps a spare set of lithium AAA batteries.


Traditional GPS Units

10 EssentialsFinally, traditional GPS Units like a Garmin Oregon run 16 hours on a single set of batteries that can be recharged. Assuming you don’t leave it on all the time, you could get weeks of use out of it before needing to recharge it or put in a new set AA batteries. These units are rugged and with reasonable care, difficult to damage in the field. But they are getting long in the tooth. The basic unit is quite expensive, where as you likely own a smartphone. And their internal maps are not as good as the ones for an App like GAIA GPS. Finally, any additional maps (beyond the pre-installed ones) are proprietary and very expensive. This only increases the already substantial investment into the unit itself.

 

Lightweight Backpacking Gear Checklist

9 Pound Full Comfort Lightweight Backpacking Gear Checklist

A 9 pound pack is all you need to be safe and warm. So, if you want to lower your pack weight but retain all the convenience and comfort of “traditional” backpacking, look no further than this Lightweight Backpacking Gear Checklist.

This Lightweight Backpacking Gear  Checklist is suitable for most backpackers on most 3-season trips in the lower 48 and most trips world-wideIn some instances, you may wish to fine-tune this list to your particular trip needs and/or backpacking style by selecting suitable optional or alternate gear in this list. I’ve also tried to list a number or items available from major retailers like REI, e.g. the excellent and reasonably priced Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket at only 6.4 ounces!

Note: feel like going even lighter? See: 5 Pound Practical Lightweight Backpacking Gear Checklist (link) New
The lightest gear that still makes practical sense. Focused on efficiency while staying warm, dry & safe

Looking camera gear? See our highly rated 2019 Best Cameras for Backpacking and Hiking


9 lb Lightweight Backpacking Gear Checklist

A summary table of weights is at the end of this post

Backpacks

BACKPACKItemOzComments
For more BACKPACKS see our 2019 Best Backpacks for Backpacking and Hiking
PackHyperlite Mountain Gear 3400/55L or 2400 Southwest Pack 40L32.0Staff Pick. Light, strong, (waterproof, seam sealed bag), great frame/carrying capacity, good pockets. 5
Through Hiker Favorite PackOsprey M’s Exos & W’s Eja Packs  48L & 58L models (40 oz)Good value! A staple on the AT and PCT. W’s & M’s models. Light & full featured, 58L fits bear canister. 
Pack (alt)ULAOhm 2.0 Pack (32 oz)Do-it-all pack, good value, durable, fits bear can.
Pack UltralightMountain Laurel Designs EXODUS 55L 15oz Dyneema Composite FabricTop Pick UL Pack.  Almost all DCF. Very little mesh. Nylon Version reinforced w Dyneema grid is 18 oz & less $
Pack UltralightGossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (31 oz)Big volume, fits bear canister, lots of pockets & features
Waterproofing for pack2x Gossamer Gear Pack Liner
or a trash compactor bag
(1) liner for sleeping bag and insulating clothes
(1) liner for everything else
2.0

Tents

TentItemOzComments
For more TENTS see our Backpacking Tents | Lightweight & Ultralight
TentBig Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 or UL3 Tent 2.2 lb for two peopleOne of the best and lightest backpacking tents. UL3 is exceptionally roomy and light for two people!
Tent (value)REI Quarter Dome 2 Tent
2.6 lb for two people
Good value in a lightweight free-standing backpacking tent. Lot’s of vertical room.
Pyramid TentMountain Laurel Des. Solomid XL [or lager DuoMid & DuoMid XL]14.0Extremely versatile shelter for low weight. (use MLD InnerNet for floor & bugs)
TarpMLD Grace Duo Tarp 8 or 15 ozHuge coverage. Great ventilation & views. Dyneema or SilNylon
BivyMLD Superlight Bivy (7.0)Perfect with tarp. Will cowboy camp under stars most nights
Ground clothGossamer Gear Polycryo M (1.6)1.6Not needed with a bivy or shelters with a floor
Stakes8 MSR Groundhog Y-stakes .5oz ea4.0Hold better than skewer stakes. Red easier to find!
Guylines3mm MSR Reflective Utility Cord  2.4mm reflect cord (8×4-ft lines)1.02 to 3mm – all work well – diameter your preference
TOTAL1.2 Lb

Sleeping Bag or Quilt and Pad

BagItemOzComments
For more SLEEPING BAGS see our 2019 Buyers Guide to Lightweight Backpacking Quilts
Sleeping QuiltHammock Gear Burrow Quilt +3014.5Pers fave. Great value! ~1/2 cost of sleeping bag.
Sleeping Bag (value)REI Co-op Magma Bag +15 & +30 M’s & W’s 20 oz for +30 bagAward wining & good value! +30 a great all-around three season choice! +15 or those that sleep cold.
Sleeping BagWestern Mountaineering SummerLite Sleeping Bag (19)Conventional +32 F sleeping bag. Light, warm, highest quality, long loft retention.
Sleeping Quilt
(off-the-shelf)
REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30 NEW 2019: a quilt version of REI’s award winning Magma bags. Available off-the-shelf from a trusted source!
Sleeping PadT-Rest NeoAir X-lite “Women’s”12.1Perfect size for most. Warm. Super comfortable! The best pad for both Men and Women.
TOTAL1.6 Lb

Stoves and Cooking Gear

Cook/WaterItemOzComments
Cookset (std)Jetboil MiniMo Cook System, Jetpower 100 Fuel Canister (20.8)EZ to use, fast, stable, reasonably light, and readily available.
Cookset (light)Trail Designs Toaks 900ml Pot, Sidewinder Ti-Tri, 4fl-oz fuel bottle5.3Lightest, most practical cookset on the market.
TD Kojin Stove stores unburned fuel.
Cookset(cheap)TOAKS 900 ml Ti Pot  or
TOAKS 1.3L Ti Pot
 Light and inexpensive for titanium. Pair these with a canister stove like Olicamp Kinetic Isobutane.
Fuel container Twin Neck Fuel Bottle (1.2 oz) The best! Easy measurement! Secure storage.
IgnitionStandard (not micro) BIC lighter0.2Larger is easier to use with cold hands
MugSnow Peak Ti 450 Cup1.3Eat breakfast & have coffee at same time
Bowl/Mug (alt)Ziplock 16 fl-oz bowl (0.9 oz)Pers fave: “mug” and/or bowl. Cheap & Light!
Mug (alt)Starbucks 16 fl-oz cup (1.6oz)$1 Readily available, inexpensive, reasonably durable
UtensilPlastic spoon with big shovel
or TOAKS Ti long-handled spoon
0.3cut plastic spoon handle cut to fit in pot OR use longhandle spoon to get inside of food pouches
Coffee brewMSR MugMate Coffee Filter (1.0)For using ground coffee (and not Starbuck’s VIA)
TOTAL0.4 Lb

Clothing in Pack (not usually worn)

ClothingItemOzComments
For more RAIN JACKET options see our Best Lightweight Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking
Rain JacketOutdoor Research Helium II (6.4) 6.4Less expensive than many at this weight
Rain JacketREI Co-op Rainier Jacket, M’s & W’s $45 to $90 is a good value for a great basic jacket
RainJacket(alt)Patagonia Storm Racer  (6.0)Light! Minimal. Amazing it’s 3-layer fabric!
Rain PantsOutdoor Research Helium (6.0)Light. Not expensive. Don’t bring some trips. Run small
Rainpants(alt)Rain chaps or rain kilt (2.0 oz)For trips with low probability of rain, or warm rain
Mid-layer topTNF TKA 100 1/4 Zip Pullover or
Amazon 100wt fleece w zipper
7.9For use as a mid-layer (and as a “windshirt”) Sadly it appears that 100 wt fleece shirts like this are a dying breed. You may still be able to find a few. Otherwise go for a 200 wt one, the Patagonia R1 Hoodie above or a Patagonia R2 garment
Mid-layer topPatagonia R1 Pullover (11.9)Alternative mid-layer if you can’t find 100wt fleece
WindshellPatagonia Houdini Jacket (3.3)If I don’t bring, will layer rain jacket over my fleece
For more DOWN JACKETS and down pants see: Recommended Down Jackets, Pants, and Booties
Warm jacketPatagonia Down Sweater Hoodie (14)Readily available, water resistant shell, 800 FP down.
Warm jacket1Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket (hooded)10.5Stuffed with 900 fill power down! Warmth Important for rest stops and in camp.
Warm jacket2West. Mtn. Flash XR Jacket (11 oz)Water resistant shell and 850+ FP down.
Warm pantsWest. Mtn. Flash Pants (6.5)
Montbell Superior Down Pants 8.4
For colder weather. WM pants light & warm!
Montbell’s a great value in down pants.
Warm hatOR Option Balaclava1.8Warmer than hat – great for quilt w/o hood!
Liner glovesDuraGlove ET Charcoal Wool (2.5)2.5Great liner glove – light, warm, durable!
Camp glovesGlacier Glove fingerless fleece (2.0)Dexterity at camp chores or climbing in cold Wx
Rain MittsZPacks Challenger Rain Mitts (1.0)
MLD eVENT Rain Mitts (1.2)
1.0For intermittent use.
Rain Mitts(alt)Outdoor Research Revel (3.5)For constant use: waterproof, durable, grip palm
Spare socksSmartWool PhD Light Mini or
Darn Tough 1/4 Sock Light
1.8Will bring to wash & switch between pairs
Sleep socksDeFeet Woolie Boolie (3.0)No day use; sleeping and dry camp only
Sleeping topPatagonia long sleeve Cap LW (3.5)Dry/clean for camp. Only bring in very wet climates
Sleeping bot.Patagonia Capilene LW (3.4 oz)Dry/clean for camp. Only bring in very wet climates
Sleeping (alt)Terramar Thermasilk top & botInexpensive alternative to expensive base layers
TOTAL1.9 Lb

Gear Packaging & Food Storage

PACKINGItemOzComments
Bear canisterBear Vault BV500 (41) or Wild-Ideas Weekender (31)(when reg’s require) Wild-Ideas is lighter but pricy. Bear Vault is a better value
Bear can alt.Ursack Major Bear Bag (7.8 oz)1st choice: bear storage req’ed AND Ursack approved
Food storageAloksak OP Sak 12.5″ x 20″ (1.0)control food scent – attract less animal attention
Food storageQuart-sized HD freezer bag0.5For storing organizing ‘todays’ snack food
Stuff sacksFor sleeping bag, clothes, etc.2.0Silnylon: keep gear organized, clean, protected
Map sleeveGallon-sized freezer bag0.5Gallon: fewer map folds & shows more map area
Eyewear casepadded nylon sleeve + Ziplock bag0.4No need for a heavy rigid case. The lightest cheapest sleeve your optometrist gives out is great.
TOTALBackpack and Gear Packaging1.9Lb

Clothing Worn and Items Carried (stuff not in pack)

Worn/CarriedItemOzComments
For more on PROTECTING FROM LYME AND ZIKA see: Best Lyme and Zika Prevention for Hiking
Shirt basicRail Riders Adventure Top or
Sahara shirts like these at REI
7.3Pers fave. For hot and/or brushy (not a baselayer)
Shirt SUN/HOTOutdoor Research Echo Hoodie4.3The best for sun protection & comfort in heat. Hood is key! Wear over a ball cap for full coverage.
Shirt (alt)REI Sahara LS Shirt 6.5 
Smartwool PhD Light 1/4-Zip 8.8
Versatile, light, 50 SPF, inexpensive
Wool shirt & baselayer: for cooler weather
PantsRail Riders X-Treme Adventure (16)16.0Pers fave. Very durable, no velcro on pockets!
Pants (alt)REI Sahara convertible pants (14)Ex Officio and many others make similar pants
Skirt or KiltPurple Rain — Kilt or SkirtFor hot/humid weather. Skirt (women), Kilt (men)
UnderwearExOfficio Give-N-Go Briefs M’s
Patagonia briefs Women’s
2.0Dry fast, will rinse/wash most days
BraPatagonia Active spots braAlison’s favorite
ShoesAltra Lone Peaks (21)
Altra Superior Trail-Running
 18Light. Huge toe room. Comfortable! Superiors lighter. Lone Peaks more protective sole.
Shoes (alt)Inov-8 ROCLITE 295 (20oz)Pers fave. Light, sticky rubber, durable, low heel rise
Shoes (alt)Brooks Cascadia (25 oz)Very popular trail shoe for LW backpackers
Shoes (alt)Lightweight trail running shoesMost non-Goretex trail running shoes that fit well
SocksDarn Tough 1/4 Sock Light
SmartWool PhD Light Mini or
1.8Light, thin, warm, simple, durable
GaitersDirty Girl gaiters (1.2 oz)I rarely find the need for gaiters
HeadwearOutdoor Research Sun Runner Hat2.5Removable sun cape. Adaptable to most situations
WatchSuunto Core with positive display2.2compass, altimeter, multifunction timepiece. No GPS
Watch/GPSGarmin Fenix GPS/Watch (3 oz)Accurate trip track: GPS, compass, altimeter, time
SunglassesRx and non-Rx (polarized)1.0http://www.zennioptical.com/ for cheap Rx options
GlassesZenni clear Rx glasses (1.0 oz)Great glasses! for $20 or so. But 2-3 week delivery
Camera (alt)Sony RX100 i-v or Sony a6000 or Sony a6500See Serious Lightweight Backpacking Cameras
GPS/CommIphone &+ Ziplock ba (7.5)
and GAIA GPS maps on iPhone
7.5Primary GPS & map source (not leaving in car!)
GAIA GPS maps on iPhone better than trad. GPS!
Poles bargain$40 Cascade Mtn. Tech Carbon15.2Pers fave. 1/3 price but equal to the best poles
Trek PolesREI Flash Carbon Poles (14.8 oz)
BD Carbon Alpine (18 oz)
Stiff, light, travel-friendly, won’t break off-trail/rough terrain (readily available)
TOTAL4.8 Lb

“Essential” Gear (smaller items not included in above)

EssentialsItemOzComments
MAPS11X17 Custom Maps in Ziploc
and GAIA GPS maps on iPhone
2.0Mapped with CalTopo and printed at Kinkos
GAIA GPS maps on iPhone better than trad. GPS!
ChargingJackery Bolt 6000 mAh batt 6.0
Anker PowerCore 10000 batt 6.5
Charge an iPhone 8+ or Galaxy S7 ~2.5x & a smaller phone like an iPhone 7 ~3.5x.
SOS/TrackerPreferred: Garmin inReach Mini 3.2Game changer. 2-way communication (a big deal!), visible GPS coordinates, and trip tracking+SOS
SOS/Track (alt)SPOT Gen3 (4.8)Disadvantages: only 1-way com, no vis. GPS coord.
GPS & CommIridium 9555 SatPhone (9.7 oz)
or Iridium GO!
Make no mistake: voice communication is still the gold-standard for high risk trips
OpticsROXANT 7×18 monocular (2.0)Light: scouting/route finding, decent, inexpensive
Optics (alt)MINOX BV II 8×25 binoc’s (10.8)Scouting, much better wildlife observation, value
Pen/pencilFisher Space Pen0.2To mark up maps, take notes about trip
ToothbrushGUM 411 Classic Toothbrush0.4Full head. minimal handle (but not cut in 1/2)
ToothpasteTravel size 1/2 full0.7
Toilet paperWhatever is on the roll at home1.0TP only for polish, use found materials first
Soap/sanitizerDr. Bronners0.5Dr. Bronner’s – repackaged into small bottle
Sunscreensmall plastic tube about 1/2 full0.5for face & hands: most of body covered—large hat
Lip balmHigh SPF water resistant types0.2Minimal wt for dedicated lip balm
First Aid KitMeds, wound/injury, foot care3.0See detailed list at bottom
HeadnetSea to Summit Head Net (1.2)Mosquito netting – don’t take on most trips
Insect repell.Sawyer Picaridin lotion 14 hrs!
Pocketable Picaridin 0.5 oz spray
Lyme Zika protection: Picaradin Lotion most effective & long lasting. Unlike DEET it has no odor & won’t melt plastic.
Foot care kitBonnie’s Balm in small balm jar0.5In case of wet feet. Never get blisters.
CompassSuunto M-3D Compass (1.6)1.6Lightest compass with declination adjustment
Knife/scissorsWescott blunt tip school scissors0.9More useful than knife – OK for plane carryon
KnifeGerber L.S.T. Drop Point (1.2 oz)Can cut bread and salami – very light for 2.6″ blade
Knife (alt)Spyderco Ladybug Knife (0.6)2″ blade – one of the lightest functional knives
FirestarterBic Mini Lighter + trash0.2Energy bar wrappers are great fire starter
LightBlack Diamond Ion (1.9 oz)
Black Diamond Spot (3.2 oz)
$15 Energizer Vision HD (3.0 oz)
1.6Ion for a “usual” trips.
Spot headlamp if hiking dawn/dusk or dark
Value $15 Energizer @Amazon, Target, or Walmart
Light (alt)Fenix LD02 w spare battery (1.0)Best mini light available, attach to hat brim with clip
RepairTenacious patch, duct tape, glue 0.2Also consider NeoAir patch kit, and Aquaseal
Finance/IDID, CCs, and cash in snack Ziplock0.2More secure on me than left in car
TOTAL1.3Lb

First Aid Kit (detail)

First AidItemOzComments
Pain, fever inflammationNaprosyn (Aleve), Ibuprofen, or Tylenol (fever)0.4In ziplock pill bag available at pharmacies
Foot/blisterGauze + Leukotape Tape0.3For taping over blisters, or pre-blister areas
Foot/blisterTincture of benzoin in micro-bottle0.2For getting tape or Bandaids to REALLY stick!
Wound careBandaids + gel blister covers0.5Assorted sizes – your preference
Wound careAntibact. packets + wound wipes0.4Wound cleansing, infection prevention
Wound care (12) 4×4″ gauze pads + 1 roll gauze Use duct tape to hold in place (from above – Repair Items)
OTC medsBenadryl, Sudafed, Nexium, Imodium, caffeine tablets0.4All in tablet/pill form
Rx medsPersonal Dr’s Rx meds0.4
Pain seriousDr’s Rx Painkiller0.2For serious injury, tooth abscess, etc.
Storage/orgBag Poly 5×8 to hold 1st Aid Kit0.2 Keep size down. Can only put in what can fit in bag.
TOTAL3.0 Oz (included in “Essential” Gear)

Water Storage/Treatment

SeeThe Best Hydration – Drink When Thirsty. This debunks the many myths about hydration and dehydration like “If you are thirsty, it’s already too late” and “If your urine is yellow, you are dehydrated.” This article suggests that Drink When Thirsty is the best and healthiest strategy for hydration during exercise.

Cook/WaterItemOzComments
BottlesSawyer 64 oz Squeezable Pouch1.5For collecting treating water in camp – dry camps
BottlesSawyer 32 oz Squeezable Pouch1.0Use during the day (note: Platypus doesn’t fit Sawyer)
PurificationSawyer filter (3.0)3.0To drink on the spot – greatly reduces water cary
PurificationChlorine Dioxide tablets0.5For treating 2L bladder in camp
TOTAL0.3 Lb

Sleeping Gear and Shelter – Hammock (*best for East Coast and other wooded areas)

In areas with plentiful trees like the East Coast of the US I feel that hammock camping has many advantages. When in the Sierras or other areas with few trees, the opposite is true and I usually camp on the ground using a NeoAir mattress, in a 7 ounce bivy sack, only putting up a tarp when it is actually raining (or sharing a pyramid shelter with my hiking partner). [And I fully realize that some readers will be unconvinced by my enthusiasm for hammock or tarp camping even in areas with lots of good trees. Ground camping is just fine!]

*See:  7 Reasons Why Hammock Tent Camping is Fantastic & How To Get Started

Sleep+ShelterItemOzComments
HammockUltralite Backpacker Asym Zip
or Hyperlite Asym Zip
Hennessy most readily available commercial hammock.
HammockDutchware 11 ft Netless Hammock
Dutchware Hammock w bugnet 10
8.01.0 Hexon single layer fabric, with ridgeline
Top quiltHammock Gear Burrow Quilt +3013.0Trimmed vers. (+40 quilt w 2 oz over fill = +30F)
Bottom quiltHammock Gear “Phincubator” +30 14.060″ ver. of “Phoenix 40” with down overfill to get +30. (no need for pad under feet)
 TarpHammock Gear Cuben Fiber Hex
+ Zing-it ridge-line w hardware
 5.6Light, hammock specific tarp, huge protected area
Hammock SuspensionKevlar tree straps
Whoopie Hook Suspension
 3.0Kevlar straps, w Amsteel whooppie hook susp. Talk to Dutchware to ensure you get the right stuff
Stakes4 MSR Groundhog Y-stakes .5oz ea 2.0 Hold better than skewer stakes. Red easier to find!
 Guylines 3mm MSR Reflective Utility Cord  2.4mm reflect cord (8×4-ft lines) 1.0 2 to 3mm – all work well – diameter your preference
 TOTAL 2.8 Lb

Weight Summary Table

SECTIONTOTALSLbs
Backpack and Gear Packaging1.9Backpack, stuff sacks, food storage
Sleeping Gear & Tent/Shelter (conventional tent)2.8best high Western Mountains & treeless areas
Opt. sleeping Gear & Shelter – (hammock)2.8 best East Coast and other wooded areas e.g. AT
Cooking Gear and Water Storage/Treatment0.8Stove, pot, cookware, water “bottles” & purification
Clothing in Pack (not usually worn)2.4Rain jacket, warm jacket, gloves, etc.
“Essential” Gear1.4Maps, SOS device, first aid kit, headlamp, knife, sunscreen…
BASE PACK WEIGHT (BPW)9.3BPW = all items in pack = all items above,
1 Pint of Water1.0Average! amount of water carried in pack
See: The Best Hydration – Drink When Thirsty
Food – for a long weekend – 3 day trip4.53 days x 1.5 lb per day
Fuel0.24 fl-oz alcohol = 3.2 oz wt
Total of Consumables5.7 Water, food, and fuel
TRAIL PACK WEIGHT (BPW + consumables)15.0 For a long weekend – 3 day trip
Clothing Worn and Items Carried (not in pack)4.8Not included in pack weight: clothing worn on the trail, hat, shoes, trekking poles, stuff in pockets, etc.
Also see: Best Ways to Protect from Lyme & Zika
Camera Equipment Gear List (new page) ?Details for Serious Light Backpacking Cameras

Disclaimer

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products are listed. For product reviews: unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.