Best Backpacking Gear
Whether you are going on a camping trip, hiking trip, or a leisure adventure, there is a strong chance that backpacking gear can come in handy, as you will need to bring some supplies to ensure you not only have fun but are safe while in the wilderness. Making sure you have all of the proper gear you will need is very important when you get to your destination, as there is no sportsman store in the middle of the woods. When you start making a list of all the gear you will need, it starts to get overwhelming as you only have limited space, so how do you know which gear should be prioritized over the rest? The terrain you will be camping in and the duration are two very important things when determining which gear to pack in your backpack and below we have made a list of the top ten best backpacking gear on the market today, to help you pack the essentials and not get overwhelmed.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 10 hrs of research
A durable open-cell foam adds maximum comfort and airflow
Lower compressions straps help to organize your gear
Top and bottom straps to secure sleeping bag or tent
- Teton Sports Explorer 4000
- Outlander Packable Lightweight
- Victorinox Swiss Army Spartan Hardwood
- Pwrxtreme Insulated Lunch Bag
- Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent
- J5 Tactical V1-Pro 300 Flashlight
- Simple Modern Summit Water Bottle
- Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag
- Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro
- Sportneer military compass
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Teton Sports Explorer 4000
A durable open-cell foam adds maximum comfort and airflow
Lower compressions straps help to organize your gear
Top and bottom straps to secure sleeping bag or tent
The hip pads do not provide adequate comfort
Some pockets are hard to access while the pack is on
With a sensational amount of comfortability and gear compartments, the Explorer 4000 from Teton Sports rightfully takes the top spot on this list. But, it was very close!Read more
The backpack is made from a rugged internal frame for the perfect shape and the bendable aluminum is extremely durable. In addition, the thick lumbar and upper back provides, even more, stability when carrying heavier loads.
To fit a wide range of bodies, the torso, shoulder, and hip possess straps that can be adjusted. The Explorer 4000 also has a durable open-cell foam lumbar pad and molded channels that provide an excellent amount of comfort and airflow.
When it comes to storage and compartments, there a plenty to enjoy. This large capacity pack includes a sleeping bag compartment, six pockets, three mesh pockets, side pockets for storing tent poles, multi-directional compression straps, upper and lower gear loops, and will hold up to a 3-liter water bladder.
There are not too many colors for you to choose from, but the options are open for gray, hunter green, and navy blue.
Size and Weight
This pack is large and rugged, with a 4,000 cubic-inch (or 65L) capacity. It accommodates for men, women, and youth and will fit essentials for a 2-5-day trip.
No product is perfect, and there are some slight downsides present here, but this is as good as it gets for backpacking gear.
2. Outlander Packable Lightweight
There are no flaps with the zipper ensuring an easier experience
Stress points are reinforced with bar tacking for great longevity
There is a durable 2-way abrasion resistance metal zipper across the pack
No strap around the waist to support larger loads
A little small for longer uses
While the Outlander Travel Backpack is better intended as a lightweight backpack, it still provides plenty of storage space and phenomenal design.Read more
Durability is key here and it is constructed from water-resistant and rip-resistant (to an extent) nylon fabric. This provides incredible strength and long-lasting performance without adding extra weight. For extra longevity, the stress points are also reinforced with bar tacking.
To start, this pack is considered to be ultra-lightweight. Thus, adding little to no weight to your load. This combined with adjustable, breathable straps that allow for customization and airflow, make for a comfortable experience.
Just because it is lightweight does not mean it suffers in the storage compartment. With a spacious main compartment, two side pockets for water bottle and accessories, and two front zipper pockets to hold any additional items, there is plenty of room for all your goodies.
Everyone should be able to find a color for them with options for blue, green, black, dark blue, fuchsia, gray, orange, purple, red and pink.
Size and Weight
This Outlander pack only weighs 0.7 pounds and has a roomy interior that will hold 35L.
For non-hiking enthusiasts, or for people looking for short trips, this is a perfect backpack. It may not be large enough for some people, but its smaller size does hold advantages in comfortability.
3. Victorinox Swiss Army Spartan Hardwood
Included is a lifetime guarantee against material and workmanship defects
Makes a perfect addition to your set of keys
Features 12 functions
It is too small for substantial cutting
For a multi-purpose tool on the road, the Swiss Army Spartan Pocket Knife from Victorinox can’t be beaten. It will accommodate for so many situations that you eventually feel lost without it.Read more
Victorinox designed this Spartan Pocket Knife to meet most of your needs while out on a trail, camping, or backpacking. It's a sleek design that looks great, but it also, of course, is functional. It has 12 functions that were designed specifically for an active person who loves the outdoors. Not to mention, the new hardwood design is highly appealing and a refreshing take on the classic.
Besides a traditional pocket knife, this fourteen-function knife also features a nail file, a screwdriver, scissors, tweezers, a toothpick, and a key ring. In addition, the entire knife will easily fit inside of your pocket and is a perfect addition to your set of keys.
Besides taking up very little space no matter where you put it, its small nature makes it easy to use. Each blade and function are easy to utilize and provides little confusion.
Aside from the hardwood, there are many colors to choose from that everyone is guaranteed to find one for them. This includes blue, yellow, silver, black, and camouflage.
Weight and Size
This lightweight knife clocks in at a messily 2.08 oz.
If there ever were to be a perfect product, this Swiss Army knife would be pretty darn close. Its usefulness, simplicity of design, and variety of color options make it a must-have for every backpacker.
4. Pwrxtreme Insulated Lunch Bag
The high-quality nylon will resist against ruptures, punctures, and wears and tears
Lined with PEVA material to keep the contents inside safe
Premium insulation that helps maintain optimal temperatures
Could be a little taller to stand up water bottles
The zipper on top could be of higher quality
When you are backpacking, no matter the length, there is a strong chance you will want some food and refreshments. What better way to do that than with an insulated lunch bag? Better yet, how about the Pwrxtreme model that is nearly perfect in every way?Read more
The high-quality nylon is resistant to stains, punctures, and tears. To keep your contents safe, the bag is also waterproof. Plus, the non-toxic EVA lining and PE foam insulation will prevent the bag from leaking while also sustaining optimal temperatures for your contents inside.
Past the interior storage, there are extra storage compartments that you can utilize. The side mesh pockets and front-zipper pockets can hold all your accessories including your keys, wallet, and smartphone. However, inside you can hold stacked food storage containers and water bottles (but may have to set the bottles down on their side).
The included shoulder strap is not only handy but also versatile. It is painless to attach and detach the strap with the quick-release plastic thumb clips.
Unfortunately, there are no extra color options available. But, the jet-black design will satisfy most people.
Weight and Size
By itself, this pack weighs just under 12 ounces. However, obviously, this will change depending on the number of items you place inside.
Good luck finding another lunch bag that is as impeccable as this. Everything comes together perfectly and it makes a terrific acquaintance.
5. Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent
Three season tent
A lot of ventilation
It has been known to stand up to a lot of rain
Some feel it is heavy for one person to carry
For some of you, backpacking may be an overnight or multiple-day trip. In this scenario, you may not want to sleep under the stars. If you do not, you need a tent, and with the Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent, you will find everything you're looking for in a backpacking tent.Read more
The dome design of this tent makes it perfect for ventilation. Along with this, there are two zippered doors that are made of mesh to add easy access as well as air ventilation. This tent also comes with a fly that has more air vents on it. The bathtub type of floor keeps you dry when dew sets in at night.
This tent is ultra easy to set up, as it is a free-standing, two-pole design. It is meant to be set up in minutes so that you can get back to enjoying the outdoors knowing you have a cozy place to sleep.
Overall, it is very simple to set-up. The design creates this simplicity by offering a two-pole design and a color-coded fly for easy set-up.
Mountaineering products, such as this tent, are made to an excellent set of standards that ensures quality, as well as a technical design that is meant to be used for many seasons.
Weight and Size
This two-person tent weighs 4.5 pounds, so it definitely is a light option to go with and won't weigh down your backpack.
Tagging along with a tent as superb as this will allow you to sleep in peace when the time comes. But, for day trips, it is okay to leave this one at home.
6. J5 Tactical V1-Pro 300 Flashlight
A refund is included that states if you are not happy with the flashlight, you can receive a refund
The beam of light can cover the length of two football fields (over 200 yards)
Runs off a single AA battery and has great battery life
You must toggle through multiple functions to change the intensity
A small manual would have been nice
This may not be a piece of gear that you think about, but it can come in handy. Due to its brilliant design, the V1-Pro 300 flashlight from J5 Tactical is the best for backpacking.Read more
No matter how dark the environment is ahead of you, with its 300 lumens LED light it will produce an intense beam of light to clear the path. However, you can properly adjust the light (choosing between high, low and strobe) to adapt for the level of darkness that surrounds you.
To save you money, this flashlight only runs off a single AA battery. In addition, it does not require much energy and will provide you with hours of use. For wider illumination, you can also control the width by zooming in and out.
This can be tricky because the V1-Pro 300 flashlight can easily fit in the palm of your hand and be used with one hand. But, when you need to switch the intensity of the light, you must toggle through multiple functions. While not necessarily difficult, it is a little unnecessary.
There are a pretty good amount of colors to choose from including blue aqua, hunter orange, forest camo, and black.
Weight and Size
As with most flashlights, this is very lightweight in nature clocking in at only 2.4 ounces.
Looking past the execution of the different intensity settings, the V1-Pro 300 is pure greatness. When you are lost in the thickest part of the woods in the middle of the night, you will be thankful you have this.
7. Simple Modern Summit Water Bottle
It is made from premium stainless steel
Comes in multiple sizes and colors
For added insulation, the exterior of the inner wall was dipped in copper
For the sizes without a handle, they can be slippery to pick up
The cap does not unscrew very easily
In times of food and refreshments, you now know of a great lunch box. However, what if you a lunch pail is overkill? Perhaps you are just looking for a refreshing beverage and if so, check out the Simple Modern Summit water bottle.Read more
To keep your drink cold or hot, depending on if you put ice inside, this water bottle is both vacuum insulated and double-walled. Outside, it is constructed from premium stainless steel and will never rust or leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Each separate size has its own unique design, for the most part. The 14 oz., 18 oz. and 22 oz. versions, while they do not have a handle, come with a flip lid. However, the 32 oz. version comes with both a handle and flip lid. Meanwhile, the 40 oz. and 64 oz. versions have a handle on the lid for simple transport.
Water bottles are not a consumer product that evokes a lot of confusion as they are self-explanatory. But, the 14 oz., 18 oz. and 22 oz. will fit in a standard-sized cup holder.
Besides the size options already listed, there are multiple colors to choose from including candy apple green, slate gray, deep ocean blue, and sunshine yellow.
Weight and Size
The weight will vary depending on the size you get and the amount of liquid you put inside.
Besides the stellar design and features, it is convenient that you can select between multiple sizes. For backpackers looking for the lightest load possible, you could invest in the smallest capacity.
8. Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag
Western Mountaineering is renowned for making high quality sleeping bags. They seem to create such a fine balance between light weight, warm, and quality that many other brands just can't compete with. This is definitely true of the ultra light backpacker friendly Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag.Read more
The design of this sleeping bag has draft tubes that interlock consistently throughout to ensure that you stay securely snuggled and warm all throughout the night.
When backpacking, you can simply place the sleeping bag in its accompanying carry bag with compression straps. Not to mention, this bag is both breathable and water resistant in one go, so that you have both the convenience of airflow and protection from moisture.
The only tricky aspect of sleeping bags is storing them away and this one is no different. Just ensure you roll it up tightly and it should easily fit in the carry bag.
What you see is what you get as there are no other seller options to speak of.
Weight and Size
The official weight rating for this sleeping bag is 1lb 14oz.
When the night arrives and the cold follows behind, you will be thrilled to crawl into this sleeping bag. It has 850 quality down filling to keep you warm, will protect you from moisture, and comes with the Western Mountaineering seal of quality.
9. Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro
Great battery life of 16 hours when using Bluetooth
Direction, speed, time, altitude, longitude, latitude, satellite lock, and battery life are all displayed on the screen
Up to five members of your party can connect to this GPS at the same time
The reception is not the best under heavy trees
Downloading the data can be a bit confusing
The one huge essential that has not been covered yet is navigation. In the middle of nowhere, you might want to know where you are. To do so, there are not a better means than to invest in a GPS. While there is many to choose from, the Bad Elf 2200 GPS is as good as it gets.Read more
It is designed to be simple and effective. Outside of its external GPS receiver, the exterior is IPX4 splash-resistant which makes it safe for outdoor use. Plus, the large LCD screen comes equipped with a backlight for easy viewing during night-time operation.
The Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro has Bluetooth technology and can be paired with up to five iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch devices. When using this mode, you can track and log up to 16 hours of data.
When you download the Bad Elf Utility app on your iPhone or iPad, you can monitor the GPS straight from it. However, note that when you are downloading data you need to have data logging disabled.
It is both a unisex design and color, so while there is only one, it should accommodate everyone.
Weight and Size
Being just 3.2 ounces in mass, it is very lightweight and easy to carry.
You may have a GPS installed on your smartphone already, but the Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro could either be used as a backup or alternative means altogether. No matter, its quality speaks for itself.
10. Sportneer military compass
It has military construction and is built to last
Compass glows in the dark
Included is a 12-month replacement warranty
Can be a little tough to read through the sight
A lockdown feature would have been nice
Speaking of backups, why not go old school? In the midst of this technology-driven world, sometimes a compass can be your best friend.Read more
To increase the accuracy of the compass, there is a lens on the rear sight that magnifies the card dial. Plus, it is built to survive in the harshest conditions with its shake proof and waterproof nature.
Besides being very portable, with it having a belt loop attachment, the interface will also glow in the dark during nightfall. This way, you do not have to point a flashlight on the compass to use it in the darkness.
The big downside to compasses is they can be complicated. Practice makes perfect no matter the model, so it will take a little discipline to get this device down.
Weight and Size
This device will easily fit in your pocket or bag weighing in at 0.39 pounds.
In the case of a smartphone or GPS malfunction, a compass is a great backup. While not for everyone, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When talking about any product on the face of this earth, it all starts with the design. The design is paramount with any product you want to invest in and backpacking gear is no different. However, because of the diverse nature of backpacking gear, there are different design elements that you need to look for in different pieces of gear. There are some similarities with some of them, but just keep an eye out for the unique traits.
Take, for example, a water bottle and a lunch bag. For both of these, pay a special mind to the insulation that is designed inside. It is important for them to either keep your contents cold, with ice or hot. How about a compass or GPS? Insulation does not matter for them, but you can look for aspects such as their display and navigation capabilities. The same goes for gear such as backpacks and sleeping bags as they have their own unique factors like comfortability and space. This could go on forever, but you understand the point. When looking at the design, you can’t judge each piece of gear by the same criteria. Each will be special in their own way.
Backpacking can be a very difficult activity, but a rewarding one. However, your gear can make the experience all the better. But, it depends on how convenient it is. Outside of the gear itself, which will be convenient for you regardless, keep an eye out for additional design features that provide an extra amount of usefulness. Much like the overall design, this will vary from gear to gear but there are some general criteria you can look for.
Firstly, analyze any pieces of gear that offer you more functions and/or extra features to use. For example, with a Swiss army knife, you can also use several other blades and objects such as tweezers, scissors, a nail file, a screwdriver, etc. Also, for gear such as lunch bags, backpacks, and tents, you may find they are designed with extra storage compartments that can be used for additional accessories. Given that you will most likely be stock piling a lot of gear, you will need all the storage you can get. Past all this, simply look for features that offer convenience to you. Such as a backlight on a GPS or compass for easy viewing at night or an accompanying storage bag for certain gear.
Truthfully, this one all comes down to you. As soon as you answer this question, how much weight do you want to carry on your backpacking trip? The smaller the number, the more careful you need to be about the gear you choose. Always pay attention to the product weight as even something as small as two pounds can easily add up your total weight. If you are aiming for a smaller load, prioritize the gear that is most important to you. For example, if you know you are not staying overnight, ditch the sleeping bag and tent. For the most part, though, gear such as a GPS, flashlight, and pocket knife are so lightweight that you will not even notice their weight.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Knowing the length of your trek can save you a lot of time and backaches. If you are going for one day or four days, you will be packing differently. Even the amount of water that you bring can make a big difference in the weight of your bag. Luckily, you most likely only have to carry that water one way.
A durable backpack is the most important pieces of gear that you can invest in. Every other item will go inside this bag so it is important that this powerhouse is strong and the right size. It is important to investigate the materials of the bag, the zippers, and the weather resistance.
Other Factors to Consider
Ease of Use
There are certain activities and events in life where some people will prefer a challenge associated with it. Even with backpacking, this could come into play. For instance, you may want to backpack on hilly or uneven terrain to get more of a workout. However, when it comes to your gear, it should be kept as easy and user-friendly as possible. Again, for each gear, there are different ways for manufacturers to make it simple.
With any equipment that requires you to carry it, such as a backpack or lunch bag, adjusting them should be a painless experience. The same could be said for equipment that requires a manual operation such as pocket knives, compasses, flashlights, and GPS. Except for these, the simplicity should be focused solely on the operation. While a caveman could figure out how to turn on a flashlight or GPS, using it is another story. Multiple functions are great but they can often make a device more complicated. Keep an eye out for that and if you are ever hesitant on how to operate a device, test it before you go backpacking. Finally, for sleeping purposes, be sure that you choose a tent that is simple to construct (even at night).
Take a load off here, as there is no need to stress yourself out about this criterion. Up until now, each category is paramount in the enjoyability of the gear that you select. While additional seller options are not pointless, as it would not be on this list if it was, it is all about user preference. Sometimes, you may find gear from manufacturers where they provide you with extra size options. But, the most frequent option you will come across is color.
Changing and altering a product’s color will do nothing to affect the performance or usability, but it can add a nice touch. No matter what gear you are searching for, whether a backpack, sleeping bag, pocket knife, water bottle, flashlight, compass, tent, GPS, or lunch bag, there is a great chance you will have several color options at your disposal. As everyone has their own unique style, this is a nice addition in the buying process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Any type of physical activity is going to lose weight in some manner, whether small or large. Thus, backpacking is no different. But, how well can it lose weight? A few factors come into play with this question including a person’s body weight, the amount of weight in the pack, the terrain in which is being traversed, and the elevation. As an example, The Mayo Clinic lists how many calories will be brunt for a plethora of activities.
They have a section for backpacking and they claim that a 160-pound individual could burn 511 calories per hour, while a 200-pound person could burn 637 calories per hour. Unfortunately, no weight (or other leading factors) was specified so this is not always going to be the case. But, this at least gives you a rough estimate on what you can expect if you want to lose weight from backpacking.
Yes, you can wash a backpack and for some, you can even machine wash them. But, if you want to be on the safe side, you can hand wash them. To do so, start off by removing all the contents inside the pack (even the internal frame if it is removable). Then, fill a large area with lukewarm water (such as a bathtub). It is important to do so with lukewarm, or cold, water as hot water can negatively affect colorization.
From there, grab a soft brush and add a minuscule amount of soap (without any detergent). Take your brush and scrub the filthy areas of the pack. Once you feel satisfied with the end result, be sure to avoid placing it in the dryer. Allow the backpack to simply air dry, but not directly in the sunlight. To speed up the process, you can hang it upside down or place it next to a fan (but not in direct sunlight).
Weight has already been discussed and you know it is up to you to manage the amount of gear you place inside. However, there are some general tips that you can follow to ensure that you have all the gear you need without destroying your shoulders and back. Ironically, the most beneficial step to execute is after you are done backpacking. The first time you go, construct a list of everything you bring. Then, when you end up using it, place a checkmark next to it. The next time you go, you could then opt to not bring any items that did not receive a check (unless they could save you if something detrimental were to happen).
Some other pointers to ponder are limiting the amount of clothes and food that you bring along, never packing any heavy entertainment items (such as books), and opting for a tent pitched with ski poles.
This question plays off the previous one to a tie but they are both equally important. Lightening your load is one thing, but properly organizing it is an entirely different animal altogether. Even with a lighter load, you can make it both uncomfortable and annoying to access if your gear inside is in complete disarray. Each person may bring along slightly different gear, but you can follow this general method of packing.
If you are planning on a multiple-day trip, be sure to pack your sleeping bag (in its accompanying bag) on the bottom. From there, place any heavier items so they are square with your back. This could include your lunch bag and tent. Then, you can place your clothes evenly along the sides and top of the pack. Any lightweight essentials, such as flashlights and pocket knives, can be placed in the extra storage compartments on the front and sides of the backpack.
The reason why Swiss army knives are so popular is that of their multiple uses, but why would they come in handy when backpacking? If nothing else, even if you find it useless for the entire trip, it could come in handy in a do or die situation. Unfortunately, when you go backpacking, you are exposed to the dangers and unpredictability of the outside world. You may never think that you will end up in a scenario where you are left to fend for yourself in the wild, but you should always be prepared for it.
Due to its unique nature, possessing so many different types of blades and objects, it could assist you in building a shelter, constructing a rabbit stick, skinning an animal, and making a fire. This could save your life if need be.
In the modern world, in terms of navigation, GPS devices dominate. Whether a standalone device or one that is integrated into your smartphone, they are the most popular form of navigation. This begs the question, why should you worry about bringing along a compass? After all, they do not offer the plethora of functionalities that a GPS does. But, do not think for one second that they are rendered useless.
What if you GPS runs out of battery life and you forgot your charger? What if it breaks altogether? Better yet, what happens if you are under heavy tree cover and the reception is minimal? The answer to all these questions is you are screwed without a compass as although they are old school, they are more dependable.