Our favorite backpacking gear

If you’re looking for the best backpacking gear, then you’ve come to the right place. On this list, you’ll find the lightest, smartest, and most innovative hiking products on the market. This is what we take to Alaska, Patagonia, Utah, Appalachia, the Sierra, and everywhere in between.

It’s what we recommend to our closest friends, and it’s what we recommend to you if you want to improve your gear and your backpacking experience. For a complete item-by-item kit, check out our 9 Pound Ultralight Gear List. Happy trails!

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Best Backpacking Gear Table Of Contents

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 55

31 oz | $399

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 55 is HMG’s biggest backpack update in years, building off their original design. It’s still waterproof, incredibly durable, and similar to the Southwest/Windrider in overall performance and composition. However, it offers larger side pockets and a Dyneema stretch mesh rear pocket in addition to a removable hip belt and smaller buckling hardware. We still haven’t decided if we like this more or less than the Southwest, but it’s extremely close and definitely worth considering if you’re shopping for top of the line ultralight backpacks. Read more in our full-length Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound Backpack Review.

REI Flash 55 Backpack

REI Co-op Flash 55

45 oz | $199

REI Co-op Flash 55 is a well-rounded lightweight backpack that delivers excellent performance at an impressive value. From our perspective, it is the singular best backpack one can purchase for under $200. For a 45 oz backpack, there’s lots of modular pockets and features, plus the fit is adjustable. Almost everyone finds this backpack to be comfortable, and we love the distinct yellow colorway.

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack

21.9 oz | $399

The magic of the Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack is that you get a full external frame backpack at a super ultralight weight without any sacrifices other than the price tag. The pack is designed with Challenge Ultra 200 fabric, so it’s waterproof and has a better durability-to-weight ratio than Dyneema or Robic nylon.

We commend the Arc Haul’s old school full-external-arched-frame design for an incredible load transfer from shoulder to hips. While we feel it’s perfectly durable enough for typical on-trail hiking, it’s true ultralight backpacking gear and must be handled respectfully

Zpacks Offset Duo

19.7 oz | $799

The Zpacks Offset Duo Tent is the best and most spacious 2P Zpacks brand tent to-date, and one of the very best trekking pole supported tents on the entire market. Offset Duo builds on the success of Zpacks’ flagship Duplex design by increasing its length and width, adding vents, zippered storm doors, magnetic roll-ups, a 32″ end strut, and ingeniously offsetting its trekking pole placement towards the head-end to maximize ceiling space directly above where users sit up. Learn more in our full length Zpacks Offset Duo Review.

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2

43 oz | $550

If you want the best overall freestanding backpacking tent that money can buy, choose the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2. Compared to similar freestanding models, it’s taller, lighter, better ventilated, and more livable. This is the backpacking tent we’d want to hang out in on a rainy day because the innovative awning system adds ventilation, and the near-vertical sidewalls and fully lofted ceiling provide excellent headroom for sitting up. The Copper Spur is sturdy, lightweight, and fully featured. This tent does it all and does it all extremely well. Read more in our full-length Big Agnes Copper Spur Review.

Ultralight Daypacks

Not technically backpacking gear, but we wanted to share our favorites nonetheless.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Elevate 22

17.9 oz | $249

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Elevate 22 (shop now) is an ultralight daypack that is basically a slimmed down version of their Unbound backpacking pack design. This includes its Dyneema construction, roll top closure, and full suite of external Dyneema Hardline side pockets and Dyneema Stretch Mesh rear pocket. We love this design and find it be extremely functional and well-thought out. Read more in our Hyperlite Mountain Gear Elevate 22 Review.

Gossamer Gear Loris 25 Daypack

18.7 oz | $130

For an all-around excellent, user-friendly, and lightweight daypack at a fair price, grab the limited edition Gossamer Gear Loris 25, new for 2023. In addition to beloved Gossamer Gear sitpad back panel, this one features a full suite of external storage normally only reserved for backpacking packs. This includes a zippered lid pocket, one large rear stretch mesh pocket, and two side stretch mesh pockets. It is also a fold over, not a roll-top closure, and with added zippered entry for extremely easy access to gear. We love the look of this pack, its price, and the sub-20-ounce weight. Our only complain is that it doesn’t come with a hip belt.

Zpacks Mummy Sleeping Bag 20

Zpacks 20F Mummy Sleeping Bag

23.2 oz | $539

The Zpacks 20F Mummy Sleeping Bag is our pick for the best traditional sleeping bag, and the highest performance sleeping bag money can buy. At only 23.2 oz and over stuffed with 900 fill power RDS hydrophobic goose down. It is very easily the lightest weight hooded sleeping bag on the market, with the highest warmth-to-weight ratio. On colder nights, we love cinching down the hood to stay cozy, and on warmer nights, we love how it can fully unzip and convert into a blanket for better ventilation. The Zpacks Mummy Sleeping Bag 20 raises the industry wide performance bar on how good a mummy bag can be and it is our number one recommendation for anyone who prefers a traditional sleeping bag over a camping quilt. Read more in our full-length Zpacks Mummy Sleeping Bag Review.

REI Magma 15 Sleeping Bag

28 oz | $399

REI has been steadily expanding the Co-op brand’s ultralight offering, and the Magma 15 is their crown jewel. On stats and price, it is our pick for best value sleeping bag currently available, only outperformed by an elite few of significantly more expensive models. The Pertex shell and 850 fill power goose down are absolutely premium and fully ultralight, and its design is a time-tested and backpacker approved mummy.

Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20

Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20

18.4 oz | $440 

Quilts are the most effective way to sleep in the backcountry, and the Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20 with 950 fill power down and 7d nylon is the single best tool for the job; our pick for best overall quilt. This versatile sleep system offers a stellar warmth-to-weight ratio, cold-spot-preventing U-baffles, A grade materials, and a flawless minimalist design. We strongly recommend this quilt. Truly an excellent piece of ultralight backpacking gear.

Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt 20

Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt 20

19.0 oz | $460

Weighing only 19 oz, Therm-a-Rest Vesper is likely the best ultralight quilt REI has ever sold. With 900 fill power hydrophobic goose down and 10d fabric, this one is seriously ultralight and keeps campers comfortably warm down to freezing. The boxed baffle construction helps prevent cold spots and it has a neck snap, cinching, and sleeping pad attachment points to prevent drafts. Stay cozy and carry less weight with this ultralight quilt!

Backpacking Gear – Sleeping Pads

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Sleeping Pad

13 oz | $210

Building on excellence, the new for 2023 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT (shop now) delivers a higher R-Value (4.5 vs 4.2), an extra half inch of thickness (3″ vs 2.5″), and a quieter and less crinkly user-experience. The stats show this is the highest performance sleeping pad on the market. Until proven otherwise, the NXT is now our go-to sleeping pad. Consider saving an ounce by switching to the short, 66 oz length! Read more in our full-length Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Review.

Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated Sleeping Pad

19 oz | $150

Big Agnes Rapid SL Insulated Sleeping Pad is the warmest, thickest, comfiest pad in the mid-tier price range that is also under 20 oz. It is 3.5″ thick with an R-value of 4.2, similar in performance to the best of the best, only six ounces heavier and $60 less expensive.

Jetboil Stash Stove Review

7.1 oz | $145

The lightest fully integrated stove-pot combo system available! We love Jetboil Stash Stove‘s amazing heat fuel efficiency, and how nicely all of the components nest into the pot. This is our go-to stove, and a very smart piece of ultralight backpacking gear. No other stove is this good for all-purpose backpacking.

MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe

2.9 oz | $85

The MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe improves on the baseline Pocket Rocket II by adding pressure regulation, a built-in ignitor, and a dash of wind resistance. And it boils a liter of water in just 3.5 minutes on full blast. Crank it back to medium output for slightly better fuel efficiency. This is our top pick for a standalone stove unit.

 

Gerber LST Ultralight Knife

Gerber LST Ultralight Knife

0.6 oz | $26

With an impeccably sharp 2” blade and weighing a scant 1.2 oz, this Gerber Knife is great for basic backcountry food prep and general-purpose cutting; a perfect piece of ultralight backpacking gear.

TOAKS Titanium 900ml Pot

3.7 oz | $45 MSRP

The TOAKS 900ml titanium pot is easy-to-clean, ultralight, and reasonably affordable. Choose between the wider 130 mm pot which weighs 3.7 oz, or the taller 115 mm pot which weighs 4 oz. The wider pot is easier to use, clean, and balances better on stoves. Downside is that it feels a little bit flimsy. The narrow pot is slightly heavier and feels more sturdy, but is harder to clean/eat out of and more top heavy.

TOAKS Titanium 450ml Mug

2.7 oz | $20

Built with sturdy, ultralight titanium, the TOAKS Titanium Single Wall 450 is our go-to camp mug. It holds 15 oz, is a great value, and may just last forever. Pro tip – ditch the orange mesh bag – you don’t need it.

Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon – Long

Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon – Long

0.4 oz | $12

Specifically designed for freeze dried bags but perfect for all backountry food ingestion, the Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon – Long is 8.5″ in length and weighs only .4 oz. Constructed with tough and durable aircraft grade aluminum alloy, it is the perfect ultralight eating utensil.

Ursack Major Bear Sack

Ursack Major Bear Sack 10L

7.6 oz | $90

Unless a canister is strictly required by land management, we always prefer the Ursack Major Bear Sack, now made with ballistic grade Spectra. It’s lightweight, comfy to carry, and does actually protect your food in the overwhelming majority of bear encounters. We recommend pairing it with the Loksak Opsac bag as a smell-proof, waterproof, liner system. When full, it holds about 4-5 day worth of food.

 Best Backpacking Gear – Trekking Poles

Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Trekking Poles

Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

15.6 oz | $65

Sturdy, lightweight, durable, well-built, the CMT Carbon Fiber Collapsible Trekking Poles for $65 are an incredible deal on ultralight backpacking gear. Marginally lighter options from traditional brands go for $150-$250. These aren’t fancy, but we just can’t stress enough how preposterously good of a value proposition Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles are.

Gossamer Gear LT5 Carbon Trekking Poles

Gossamer Gear LT5 Three Piece Carbon Trekking Poles

9.8 oz | $195

Weighing just 9.8 oz, Gossamer Gear LT5 are some of the most effective super ultralight trekking poles on the market. Carbon fiber is the best material for the job, and these feel fast and sturdy with a precise swing. They use as a twist-lock design to save weight. The padded wrist straps are comfy. LT5 are our preferred trekking poles for fastpacking.

Satellite Communicators and Electronics

Garmin inReach Messenger

4.0 oz | $300

Garmin inReach Messenger is the latest contender in the satellite communicator genre, and offers best-in-class battery life, signal receptivity, and nearly all of the most desirable features for just $300 and four ounces. As such, it takes our top slot award, narrowly beating out ZOLEO and inReach Mini 2.

Nitecore NU25 UL 400 Headlamp

1.6 oz | $37

If you don’t have a rechargeable headlamp yet, now is the time to upgrade. The Nitecore NU25 UL 400 Headlamp is our go-to for super ultralight fastpacking endeavors. But it works just as well as for short backpacks and as an emergency light for a day hiking kit. NU25 has a good battery, basic controls including locking, red or white light, different levels of brightness, and can generate up to 400 lumens of light. The two thin straps are marginally less comfortable than a wider one.

Anker Powercore 10000 Battery Charger

6.3 oz | $20

Weighing just 6.3 oz, this powerhouse, rechargeable USB battery can charge most phones multiple times with 10,000mAh— great for use on trips longer than three days. And unlike many “smart” batteries, the Anker Powercore 10,000 will detect & charge low drain devices like a fitbit or smart watches.

COROS APEX 2 Pro

2.0 oz | $450

If you are serious about your outdoor adventuring and training, then the COROS APEX 2 Pro is the right watch for you. Over the past two years we’ve run this watch through the wringer, guiding in Alaska, mountaineering, nordic skiing, ocean kayak racing, trail running, mountain biking, etc. The verdict? This an exceptional performer in the field and our favorite outdoor smartwatch. In particular, its battery life blows the competition away with 200 hours of in-field GPS tracking. As such, it’s a perfect choice for those who play and train hard in the backcountry, especially for multiple days at a time. Read more in our full-length COROS APEX 2 Pro Review.

Gaia GPS App

Gaia GPS App

0 oz | $40

Available on iPhone or Android, Gaia GPS offers a Google Maps-like experience but pinpoints you on topographic maps with trails and routing. No cell service or internet is required, so long as you download the maps in advance. It’s much lighter, more affordable, and user-friendly than dedicated GPS units. Gaia GPS is our primary backcountry navigation tool, backed up by paper maps. And, if you subscribe to your first year of Gaia GPS by clicking the button below, they’ll give you 20% off! Considering that phone apps are weightless, we think this is some pretty great ultralight backpacking gear.

Best Backpacking Gear – Hiking Shoes

HOKA Speedgoat 5

10.3 oz | $155 

Technical, cushioned, very sturdy, and very very grippy, even on challenging terrain. The HOKA Speedgoat 5 is great for hiking long days thanks to the comfortable foam. While still offering a wide toe box, the slightly narrower fit prevents sloshing around on uneven surfaces. The mesh outer is breathable and quick drying. Read more in our full-length HOKA Speedgoat 5 Review.

HOKA Challenger 7

HOKA Challenger 7

8.9 oz | $145

A true Goldilocks, HOKA Challenger 7 is the best all-around hiking shoe for use on trail. It’s lightweight, well-cushioned-but-not-too-cushioned, and just the right balance of traction to energy return. We love this shoe best for crushing long mileage days without sore feet. Read more in our comprehensive HOKA Challenger 7 Review.

Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket

6.4 oz | $250

Choose the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket because it is the most breathable ultralight rain shell with an unprecedented MVTR rating of 83,000. The three layer Visp weighs just 6.4 ounces in a unisex size medium, has a very layer-accomodating fit, and comes with most of the bells and whistles including pit zips for even more breathability. The only downside is no pockets, but hey, this is Alan’s preferred rain jacket and we know you’ll love it too!

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

14.1 oz | $179

We love when sustainable gear made with recycled materials performs as well as unconstrained designs, and the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket leads the pack for rainwear. But not only is it eco-friendly, it’s also a fully featured 3L rain jacket, making it one of the most affordable of it’s kind. We love the pit zips, and the tricot backed membrane is waterproof and comfortable to wear. Learn more in our full-length Patagonia TorrentShell 3L Review.

Arc’teryx Beta LT Jacket

13.9 oz | $450

If you’re looking for the best hiking rain protection money can buy, the Arc’teryx Beta LT Jacket is for you (shop now). This what we would wear for hiking into a torrential downpour, and we would feel safe and comfortable in doing so thanks to the durable 3L design with pitzips. It’s not ultralight, but it sure will keep you dry. Learn more in our full-length Arcteryx Beta LT Jacket Review.

Zpacks Vertice Rain Pants

Zpacks Vertice Rain Pants

3.2 oz | $149

Fully waterproof, preposterously breathable, and only three ounces, the Zpacks Vertice Rain Pants are top tier rain pants for minimizing weight. Vertice has a breathability rating of 56k, that’s more than than triple Gore-Tex, perfect for high intensity fastpacking. True, this isn’t the most durable pair of rain pants, but we find them to be sufficient for on-trail use and are the current best option for a super ultralight gear list.

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants

6.7 oz | $130

Incredibly light, fully waterproof, great value, and more durable than the competition, thanks for the Pertex DiamondFuse shell fabric. The Helium Rain Pants are our go-to rain pants for hiking and backpacking, and exemplary ultralight backpacking gear.

Best Backpacking Gear – Down Jackets

Zpacks Goose Down Jacket

Zpacks Goose Down Jacket

6.8 oz | $375

The Zpacks Goose Down Jacket blows the hubcaps off competitors like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. In particular, it’s almost two times warmer for the weight. This is because it’s filled with top-tier 950 fill power down (and more of it) vs mid-tier 800 fill. And they didn’t skimp on features either. The Zpacks Goose Down Jacket still has a drawcord hood, two pockets, full front zipper, and drawcord hem to seal out drafts. It isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s still a great performance to value ratio costing only marginally more than Ghost Whisperer. Read more in our full-length Zpacks Goose Down Jacket Review.

REI Magma 850 Down Hoodie

12.3 oz | $249

The REI Magma 850 Down Hoodie exemplifies the notion of premium-basics-done-well. This is a durable workhorse puffy with good quality, ethically sourced materials for a fair price. Similar models from most mainstream outdoor brands cost $50-100 more. Our hands-on testing indicates that Magma is a bit warmer than average.

Alpha Direct Hoody

Alpha Direct Hoodie

~5.0 oz | ~$100

A hoodie made with Polartec AD fleece is lighter weight, has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio, higher breathable, less water absorption, and a faster dry time than any competing alternative. However, it is also far less durable than average and has zero wind resistance. But they’re basically perfect for fastpacking and super ultralight backpacking. Use it respectfully and pair with a UL windbreaker or breathable rain shell for maximum modularity, versatility, and surprising warmth. Read more in our guide to the Best Alpha Direct Hoodies.

The North Face FutureFleece Hoodie

7.3 oz | $160

The North Face FutureFleece Hoodie is a lightweight, all-purpose mid-layer with excellent breathability and a high warmth-to-weight ratio. This is thanks to its Octa hollow-core yarn and grid fleece design. The interior surface alternates between voluminous loop clusters that insulate, and channels of empty space to encourage breathability. Read more in our full-length FutureFleece Review.

Best Backpacking Gear – Windbreakers

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

3.7 oz | $109

Patagonia Houdini is perhaps the most classic ultralight windbreaker of all time, and it’s still the most well-rounded, well-regarded, most trustworthy option today. Features include a single chest pocket/stuff sack, hood cinch, drawcord hem, and half-elastic cuffs. Houdini is now fair trade certified, and made with 100% recycled ripstop nylon. Weighing in at 3.7 oz, it’s right in the sweet spot for ultralight windbreakers.

Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell

1.8 oz | $100

At only 1.8 oz for a M’s medium, the Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell stood out to us as one of the very lightest windbreakers on the market. It’s constructed with 7D Ventum ripstop nylon fabric, which is soft, breathable, and water/wind resistant. And in fact, it’s the same performance fabric they use on their high quality ultralight sleeping bags. The hood, hem, and wrists are elasticized to keep drafts out.

Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie

Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie

5.2 oz | $75

For a majority of three season hiking, we recommend the Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie. This sun hoody is incredibly light, stretchy, comfortable, breathable, airy, quick drying, moisture wicking, and rated to UPF 15-20 (depending on color). This shirt does it all, and is perfect compliment to an ultralight backpacking gear kit. Pack a sun hoody and you’ll find that you will save weight carrying less sunscreen and also get less sun burns. We’ve worn this shirt around the world and are always impressed. What’s more, it’s built with eco-friendly recycled polyester!

REI Sahara Shade Hoodie

7.5 oz | $50

For extreme sun exposure, we prefer a hiking shirt rated to UPF 50, and that’s where the REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie comes into play. This is what we would choose for activities like climbing a Cascade volcano in spring, backpacking through high altitude plateaus in the San Juans of Colorado, traversing a glacier in the Alps, or hiking in the Altiplano Desert of South America.

Best Backpacking Gear – Hiking Pants

Kuhl Renegade Convertible Pants

15.2 oz | $109

There’s so much to like about the Men’s KUHL Renegade Convertible Pants. You want the best cargo pockets in the biz? Check. The most durable pants fabric for bushwhacking and scrambling? Check. Zip off lower legs to convert to shorts? Check. Add in a dash of stretch and a comfortable, roomy fit and these Renegades make for some of the best hiking pants imaginable. Our only knock is that they’re a bit heavier than average, but it’s not a huge deal since you wear them rather than carry them.

Kuhl Freeflex Roll-Up Pants

14 oz | $99

The Women’s KUHL Freeflex Roll-Up Pants offer spandex-free stretch, which doesn’t sag or bag. But more importantly, they have much sought-after dual cargo pockets on the thighs for handy storage of knickknacks like lip balm or a small tube of sunscreen. As the namesake implies, they have mid-calf snaps for converting into a capri. A functional and flattering Design from KUHL.

 

REI Sahara Cargo Shorts

8 oz | $60

Alan’s choice! The REI Co-op Sahara Cargo Shorts are a well-done-but-basic pair of hiking shorts that check all of the boxes without getting too fancy. Made with 96% recycled nylon, they are durable, sustainable, and quick drying. The addition of 4% spandex adds just the right amount of stretch. The men’s version has killer cargo pockets. And compared to similar models, they are priced very competitively..

Kuhl Freeflex Cargo Shorts

8.5 oz | $89

Based on our extensive research, the W’s KUHL Freeflex Cargo Shorts have the best and most plentiful pockets available in a women’s specific cut. What’s more, they’re made with a fabric that’s as durable and stretchy as it is soft and comfortable. The 10″ long inseam is necessary for cargo pockets and provides good thigh coverage.

Patagonia Multi Trails Shorts

4.0 oz | $79 M’s | $69 W’s

We love the wearing the Patagonia Multi Trails Shorts because they offer the best blend of stretch, comfort, breathability, and zippered pocket security. This is a great all-purpose pair of shorts that’s particularly good for hiking, but also great for trail running and athleisure. Pro tip – cut the liners out and use your preferred underwear. Read our full-length Patagonia Multi-Trails Shorts Review.

Paka Performance Socks

1.7 | $24

For the ultimate blend of comfort and functionality, pull on a pair of Paka Performance 3/4 Crew socks, our editor’s choice award winning model for hiking socks. They have all of the right features, and are made with a dreamy blend of alpaca wool, Tencel, recycled nylon, and spandex that keep your feet comfortable, thermo-regulated, dry, blister-free, and less smelly, all day long. We’re even prepared to say that alpaca wool is superior to merino.

 

Darn Tough Ultralightweight Cushion Socks

1.5 oz | $22

The Darn Tough Ultralightweight Cushion Socks are perhaps the most all-purpose activewear socks in our quiver. This model is perfectly well-rounded for any activity and any temperatures, whether running, hiking, or just hanging around. Light duty underfoot cushioning spans the length of the socks from toe box to lower Achilles, and is comprised of terry loops. Unlike models from Smartwool, there is cushioning in place underneath the arch. This sock is made with a blend of Nylon and Merino. Nylon increases durability and dries quickly, while still offering the comfort, wicking, and anti-bacterial properties of merino. These high tech zonal socks seem to have a section for everything, including “fatigue zapping arch support”, and breathable flex zones in the upper forefoot and ankle. And they come with Darn Tough’s lifetime warranty.

Glacier Gloves Islamorada Fingerless Sun Gloves

2.5 oz | $25

A simple pair of fingerless UPF 50+ sun gloves for use in harsh sun with heavy UV Exposure. The Glacier Glove Islamorada Fingerless Sun Gloves are dexterous, stretchy, breathable, quick drying, and durable thanks to the synthetic leather palms. This is technically a fishing glove, but we prefer it to similar and more expensive sun hiking gloves from traditional outdoor brands. Read more in our full length Glacier Gloves Islamorada review.

Black Diamond Lightweight Screentap Gloves

Black Diamond Screentap Lightweight Gloves

1.4 oz | $35

Minimalist and touchscreen compatible, the Black Diamond Lightweight Screentap Gloves are a basic pair of lightweight fleece liner style gloves at a good price. This unisex style is constructed with Polartec Power Stretch fleece, a premium name-brand fabric. Note, this is a lightweight fleece, and we’ve picked it because it weighs very little, not because it’s the warmest.

Best Backpacking Gear – Hiking Hats

Outdoor Research Swift Cap

Outdoor Research Swift Cap

2.5 oz | $30

A simple UPF 50 sun cap gets the job done best. The Outdoor Research Swift Cap is comprised of a lightweight, breathable mesh, with a 3-panel nylon layer on the crown to block the harshest UV. It also has a moisture wicking sweat band and adjustable at the back. We’ve worn this one all around the world.

REI Sahara Path Hat

REI Co-op Sahara Path Hat

2.5 oz | $50

Based on the popular Tilley sun hats, REI’s Sahara Path Hat offers even more ventilation and at half the price . This safari hat looks great and is rated to UPF 50. The brim is stiff enough to hold its shape and floats in water. The hat is quick drying and wicks sweat off of your brow. A great buy for $50.

REI Co-op Lightweight Logo Beanie

2 oz | $20

The basic-but-functional REI Co-op Lightweight Logo Beanie keeps your head warm and looking good at a great price. We like the wool/acrylic blend and found it comfy and cozy while hiking and while at camp. The doubled back beanie cuff provides extra warmth around the ears, or can be pulled down for a deeper fit.

 Best Backpacking Gear – Accessories

Katadyn BeFree water filter

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter

2.1 oz | $40

Squeeze-based water filters are where it’s at, and Katadyn BeFree has the best flow and the most usable shape. Critically, the .6L size can be front-shoulder-strap mounted, which is the fastest and most efficient option for drinking from water sources as you pass by. It’s lighter and more compact than Sawyer Squeeze and MSR QuickDraw, albeit slightly less durable.

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration

3.6 oz | $41

Faster and more efficient than pumping or waiting for chemical treatments, the Sawyer Squeeze System offers on-the-go hydration at a good flow. This product is long-lasting, affordable, reliable, cleanable, and very user-friendly. We also like the sawyer water bags for compressibility and having on hand so you can camel up at the last water source before dry camping at a viewpoint. This is ultralight backpacking gear. The filter itself weighs only 3 oz, and the 3.6 oz listed total also include a .6 oz 1L bag.

TheTentLab The Deuce #2 Trowel

TheTentLab The Deuce #2 Trowel

0.6 oz | $20

Ditch that clunky, orange, plastic trowel and upgrade to TheTentLab The Deuce. It’s is the sturdiest sub-one ounce trowel we know of. And at $20, it’s also a great buy and an easy ultralight backpacking gear gift with universal appeal for the hiker in your life.

Tifosi Swank Sunglasses

Tifosi Swank Sunglasses

1.0 oz | $30

Backpacking is hard on shades. They tend to get scratched, lost, crushed, or otherwise damaged. That’s why we recommend a basic, functional, and more economical option like the Tifosi Swank Sunglasses. They look great and you can replace them without breaking the bank. But you may never have to as they polycarbonate lenses are shatterproof, 20x more impact resistant than glass, and provide 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays. The frames are similarly durable.

AnyGear 7075 Aluminum Tent Stakes

AnyGear 7075 Aluminum Tent Stakes

0.5 oz | $0.66 per stake

The starter stakes that came with your tent are OK. But we prefer these inexpensive & far stronger Y-stakes as they make tent pitching easier and more secure in rocky dirt. The ANYGEAR 7075 Aluminum Stakes have a Y neck and only a single notched rib at the head making them extremely resistant to bending and damage when pounding in with a rock.

Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth

Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth

3.7 oz | $11

For camping on abrasive surfaces, we recommend the Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth. As simple as it is, it’s some of the smartest ultralight backpacking gear. It’s much, much lighter than the sil-nylon version that came with your backpacking tent, and will still protect against puncture and microtears. This is the preferred footprint for ultralight tents. For solo shelters, cut the width down by 1/3 for a total weight of 2.4 oz

Staff Picks Best Backpacking Gear Conclusion

Thank you for trusting us with your next backpacking gear purchase. This is some truly excellent kit, and we know it will serve you well on your next trip! Got a suggestion? Drop us a line in the comments. Happy trails!

12 replies
  1. John M
    John M says:

    ……Well, sorry Alan, I did see the review on the Best Backpacking Tent article. I recieved my Durston X-Mid 2 person tent a few weeks ago. Can’t wait for the snow to melt here to try it out. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  2. John M
    John M says:

    Great reviews and work Alan. Most of your ‘best’ reviews reflect other sites choice for top rated gear and it’s interesting to read your point of view. I know you’ve probably heard of Durston Tent(s). There have been good things said about these tents and seem to check all the boxes for a top ten list. What is your take on these tents and will you review one soon?
    Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Scott Roach
    Scott Roach says:

    Alan, I’ve been in the industry for along time (since 1988).I’ve worked as an alpine mountain guide, a product developer and in retail sales and I really appreciate your truly unbiased opinions on your site. I recommend your site often.

    Reply
  4. Bill in Roswell GA
    Bill in Roswell GA says:

    Alan,
    Been reading your site for years. I always respect your calls even if I don’t agree as you use sound logic in your choices. But I must say, this years Staff Picks is the soundest, most solid picks of any you’re done. Gear keeps getting better (though hard to come by at the moment) and it’s a challenge to keep up with changes, but you guys do a wonderful job of staying on top of things.

    The only item I have qualms with is the Jetboil Stash. The Pot itself is great – high efficiency at low weight. However, the stove is lame when the regular Jetboil stove is rated at 10,000 btu. When given a stove that can’t achieve enough heat to provide a boil at 30 degrees on a windy day is quite lame IMHO, regardless of it using less gas at moderate temps. Put the Stash pot on a Soto Windmaster or Pocket Rocket Deluxe and then you’ve got something top notch. I do wish you would take the time to move outside of the manufacturer box to put together better kits than what most companies provide. You do that with several items on the list (gators, rain jackets) so why not offer that advice for weekend backpackers?
    Cheers
    Bill in Roswell

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Thanks for the kind words Bill. And in fact I am using the JetBoil Stash pot on top of a MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe for my go-to stove system [I am calling it FrankenStove!]. And I have done extensive testing on it in winter conditions (wind + cold). And surprisingly it comes quite close to the MSR Reactor in those conditions while weighing a LOT less — and it pretty much blows away any other stove system on the market. Only on full on wind (and now windscreen for the FrankenStove) does the Reactor beat it out, (and the JB MiniMo is a runner up to these two sytesm). So for almost all trips besides short solo ones, I have abandoned my alcohol stove in favor of the FrankenStove. Best, -alan.

      Oh, and there are some “touchy areas” with the FrankenStove. 1) for asking folks to buy the Stash System just for the pot and then get the MSR PR Deluxe Stove. That’s pricey! 2) You are using the JB pot on stove the manufacturer never intended it to go on. And there is some concern that the fins on the Stash Pot might not be up to the full output of the MSR PR Deluxe Stove. As such, I have been very careful to only boil water with the system and to make sure that it’s a good amount of water in the pot. -a

      Reply
      • Coleman Timberlake
        Coleman Timberlake says:

        I would like to add to this topic Bill. Some of Alan’s article dive into a lot more options. One of my favorites I found from you Alan is the GooseFeet Gear Anorak. Just got it in the mail. I got mine a little heavier but love the extra warmth for essentially the same weight as the Ghost Whisperer. Between this site and Reddit’s ultralight sub, you can find lots of opinions and facts for lots of gears. YouTube supplies us with visual use of some gear.

        Reply

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