Ok, so this isn’t a comprehensive list of what I carry but this is a good foundational list to start off from. For weather reference, I tend to do late summer/fall backpacking (I REALLY hate mosquitoes), so the weather tends to be cooler. My go-tos are the sierras in Central California (elevation ranges from 8,000ft- 10,000ft). I have also done the Lost Coast trail in northern CA and Havasu Falls in winter (February).
First of all, although I know that REI can be expensive, if you have one nearby, they are a great place to begin for novice backpackers. Why? Their staff is extremely knowledgeable and their return policy is unmatched. You can even return items after use when you’ve discovered that it just wasn’t quite the right fit. Pretty great, no? *And, no, I do not get paid anything if you purchase any of these items or click on any hyperlinks, I am just being a nice person so that you can click and see what item I am talking about.
(In my tent with Banner Peak in front of me, overlooking Thousand Island Lake)
- Pack: I personally own the women’s Deuter Air Contact Lite 60+10L. My favorite parts about it: the pockets on the waist-straps, how light-weight it is (4lbs 3oz) and the side pockets with straps (I will usually use one of the side pockets/straps to tuck my tent into).
- Shoes: My flat feet really, really, really love the Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterprood (mid-rise because I have shitty ankles). They are super comfy and I have never, ever, ever, ever, ever gotten a blister in these babies.
- side note: clip your toes nails before you go backpacking, carry some duct tape (tape a length of it around a stick or something and go around it several times) and also moleskin–> these are for blisters or raw skin. Also, if you get a blister: NEVER pop it if you can help it.
- Sleeping bag: My sleeping bag is a women’s Marmot 20 trestles (the number denotes the degrees). You can get different degree rating temps on it depending on what weather you are going to use it in. I also bought a sleeping bag liner to go inside. Liners not only prolong the life of your bag & keeps it cleaner by keeping your oils off the inside but, depending on the type you buy, it can add anywhere from 5-15 degrees of added warmth to your sleeping bag.
- Sleeping pad: THIS IS A MUST FOR ME. And I don’t do any of that foam crap either, yuck. Those are too bulky and soooooo NOT comfortable. I’ve tried a couple different kinds and my favorite thus far is the Klymit Static V insulated. Why I love it: it’s extremely comfortable, especially if you’re a side sleeper like me. The insulation is great, especially on those 19 degree nights where the grass on the ground froze over. It’s also more quiet than most; I can move and turn without it being loud, crinkly-sounding and wake up my friends.
- Tent: First of all, you can rent these from REI. Secondly, REI Member’s Only Garage Sale can turn up with really awesome tents for cheap. I personally own the REI Quarter Dome SL 1 tent (as a cheap find at the aforementioned garage sale). It does it’s job and the material is decent enough. However, it packs up a bit bulky. The ultralight tents, although they pack down small, are a bit flimsy on the materials and they are outrageously pricey. Sometimes you can find them as a great deal second-hand or REI’s garage sale.
- Water pump: My pump that is tried and true over these last 8 years of backpacking and hiking is the Katadyn Hiker Microfilter. No, it’s not the smallest (although it is not heavy at 11oz) but it filters well, have never gotten sick, doesn’t have a funny taste and pumps out a lot of water in a timely manner. I have had many hikers and backpackers ask me to pump their water for them because it works so well with great output. I have found that the gravity ones take too long to filter the water through and have a tendency to clog up on you.
- Food storage: If you are going somewhere without trees and/or aren’t familiar or experienced with the food-hanging method, your best friend will be a bulky bear canister (some trails do require you to carry a bear can). Don’t get me wrong, I hate carrying them as they take up so much space but it’s much easier than trying to figure out how to hang food and/or trying to find a decent tree to hang your food. I have the Lil Sami 300 cubic inch bear can but there are bigger ones. This one is very small and not meant for long trips. It has worked for me for 3-4 day backpacking trips, although it’s a really tight squeeze. I chose Lil Sami specifically because it doesn’t require extra tools (unlike other bear canisters). Also, the neat thing is that the lid can double as a cooking skillet/pan!
- Cooking stove: I used to carry the MSR Pocket Rocket because it’s little but found it difficult to use because your pot doesn’t attach to the burner, like the APG does. As a result, you have to find a very flat area to place it so your pot doesn’t fall off– which is highly inconvenient. The APG system is cheaper than other competitors (i.e. JetBoil which runs about $150) and works just as well. It heats the water super fast & I’ve cooked for 3-4 people with the APG. Also, it comes with several pieces for cooking and its own pot that attaches to the burner for more stability (& its modifiable to have just a simple burner as well if u want to use your own pot or skillet).
- Meals: Mountain House has always been my go-to backpacking meals because they are large portions and pretty delicious. However, they do give me gas and upset my stomach. They are filled with tons of preservatives and now, as an avid backpacker, I make my own meals using this woman’s recipes as a base. Also, I had to fix these up to be gluten-free for my husband. With all kinds of dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients, my husband also came up with a backpacking version of the Vietnamese pho noodle soup. It’s especially delicious for those cold nights out in the wilderness! For this easy recipe, check out my Havasupai Falls post and scroll to the bottom!
(home-made backpacking pho soup)
- Luxury items that I have discovered & now can’t do without:
- Collapsible water jug: for your campsite for cooking and drinking. Makes it easier so that you are not walking back and forth to your water source. I use my handy-dandy, fast, efficient Katadyn water filter to pump 5 gallons into my jug.
- Foldable chair: You don’t realize how much you wanna be able to lean back and relax on something until you are in the middle of the woods with nothing but a pointy rock or a log to sit on. I have a different brand than this one but it looks almost exactly the same. Folds down nicely and I strap it onto the outside of my pack. It comes in clutch when you’re at camp relaxing and everyone without a chair will be sooooo, sooo jelly.
- Insulated coffee mug: I use this as a coffee mug and to heat my food up. It makes the dehydrated food heating process faster and keeps it warm longer.
*Feel free to contact me with any specific questions! Enjoy the outdoors!!!!