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The Best Backpacking Equipment

Updated on September 21, 2016

That Is, The Best Backpacking Equipment I Don't Own Yet

So, how do I know this gear is so great if I haven't used it yet? Well, because I've watched lots of other people use this equipment and listened to their praise. And then I've compared it to what I had in my backpack at the time and thought, wow, their gear is so much better than mine.

But isn't that the way of the backpacker? Always wanting what other hikers pull out of their packs, be it a cool new tent, a lighter and cushier sleeping pad, a faster stove that's easier to use, or backpacking food that looks and certainly must taste better than our own.

So here's what I've seen lately that's now on my own wish list.

Photo: That's my friend, Sueanne, on the South Bass Trail in Grand Canyon. Every time I see her gear, I add something new to my list of gotta-haves.

The Best Backpacker's Sleeping Pad (that I don't own yet)

I was on a Search & Rescue mission in the Grand Canyon, where I camped with several other searchers. When it was time to stop for the night, I pulled out my thin, closed cell foam pad and placed it between me and the slab of rock we were camping on. Not a cactus-free piece of soft dirt in sight. Oh well, I figured, my pad may be thin and I'll probably have to do a quarter-turn every quarter-hour to give each side of me a break from the hard rock, but at least my pad is lightweight. Hmpf!

And then my search partner pulled out a Big Agnes pad. The thing literally started out the size of a Nalgene water bottle and blew up into a raft, I tell you.

"That's gotta be heavy," I remarked with a smirk.

"Nah," he said as he lay down and sighed in comfort. "It's only 1.3 pounds."

Hm, I thought, only 4 ounces more than my 3/4-length pad, and his is as long as his six-foot-three body. Dang! Gotta git me one o' those!

Big Agnes Q-Core SL Insulated Mummy Sleeping Pad Sleeping Pads REG Orange/Black
Big Agnes Q-Core SL Insulated Mummy Sleeping Pad Sleeping Pads REG Orange/Black
The Big Agnes Core Mummy sleeping pad is said to be "the lightest and most comfortable inflatable pad on the planet." Made of a durable nylon fabric, the Big Agnes has an "I-beam construction" whicgives shape to the pad and allows air to flow freely in and out. Inflation time is about two minutes, which I can attest to after watching my friend blow. As I mentioned, the Air Core Mummy pads stuff to the size of a Nalgene water bottle and weighs from 19-24 ounces, depending on the size you get. But then it inflates to 2.5 inches thick, so sleeping on a slab of rock is not a problem. And if you have a Big Agnes sleeping bag, the Air Core pad can be left in the pad sleeve, deflated and stuffed with the bag right into its stuff sack. How cool is that? All Big Agnes pads come with a stuff sack and 100% guarantee.

The Best Single Person Backpacking Tent (that I don't own yet

I do like a two-man tent even when I'm backpacking alone, because I like the extra room. Makes it easier to bring my gear inside and still have enough space to change clothes in there.

On the other hand, at just under five pounds, my two-man North Face tent is a bit heavy, especially when I have to add several days worth of food, cold-weather clothing and/or a lot of water for desert hiking, like in the Grand Canyon. That's when a lighter, single-person tent would really be nice. And that's an item lacking in our gear closet. Two- and three-person tents we have.

So when I was backpacking with a friend recently, each of us lugging two gallons of water, I sure would have liked to shave off a couple of pounds of tent. My friend's Big Agnes single-man tent weighed 3 pounds and set up quickly. I added that to my growing list of "Gear I Want."

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 Person Tent
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 Person Tent
With an all-mesh body, this free-standing tent with a single-pole system has great ventilation, while a full-coverage rain fly offers protection from the elements. Plastic clips attach the tent body to the frame for fast, easy set-up. The fly is made of 20D nylon rip-stop with a silicone treatment and waterproof polyurethane coating. The tent floor is a bathtub design, nylon rip-stop with a silicone treatment, also with a waterproof coating. The D-shaped door has a mesh pocket above, and there's a storm flap over the vestibule zipper. All seams are taped. There are 13 stakes included.

The Best Backpacking Stove (that I don't own yet)

So I'm sitting there futzing with my Esbit Fuel Tablet, because I never did make friends with my Whisperlite stove, closing my nostrils to the odd smell and burning my fingers as I try to light the thing while holding it ... and my backpacking buddy already has boiled water.

"You want to use my Jetboil?" she asks with a smile.

Proudly, I turn her down. But that doesn't mean I'm not a tad green with envy. All she had to do to light the thing was turn a knob and *poof!" She has flame. And talk about compact, convenient and fast. As I said, my friend's dinner was cooked in no time, and then the stove and little fuel canister fit all nice and snug in the pot that attaches to the stove.

I want. I definitely want. That night, I scribbled, "Jetboil," in my little notepad.

Several Months Later....

Okay, I DO have one of these now, and I love it! Really easy to use, easy to adjust, fast and compact. If you're in the market for a backpacking stove, I highly recommend a Jet Boil. It's nice and compact.

The Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System is compact and lightweight, and the whole system can be stored inside the FluxRing cooking cup, reducing the entire 15 oz Flash to only 4.1" x 7.1" of packed size.

You can also customize and expand the functionality of the Flash by adding companion cups, a 1.5-liter FluxRing cooking pot or any other Jetboil accessories you'd like. The Flash requires the use of a Jetpower Fuel canister, which is sold separately. Each Jetpower fuel canister provides enough energy to boil 12 liters or 100 cups of water and, at only 3.5 oz., stows conveniently inside the Jetboil cooking cup.

Need a double serving?

If you need something larger than the Companion Cup, you can purchase the 1.5-liter pot made especially for the Jetboil stove, with handles and lid. It also comes with a cozy and cover.

The burner and fuel container packs right inside the pot, and the plastic base cover turns into a serving plate or bowl. This pot is compatible with all Jetboil burners.

Or Fry It Up in a Pan

Here's another add-on or "instead of" for the JetBoil stove.

This lightweight (10-ounce) fry pan has a plastic bottom cover that does double duty as a preparation/eating plate, and the handles fold flat for storage. The curved sides make flipping and stirring easy.

FYI: You'll need a pot support kit to use this with the PCS/GCS burner.

The Best Sil Nylon Stuff Sack (that I don't own yet)

I do have stuff sacks, including one really nice compression sack that squishes my minus 15-degree sleeping bag into the size of a basketball, but the rest are old and on the heavy-ish side. So I definitely want some new ones of various sizes.

On that Grand Canyon search mission I mentioned, my field partner said, "I have all my hiking gear in stuff sacks, lined up on shelves in my gear closet. Whenever I have to go out on a mission or if I'm going backpacking for fun or just dayhiking, I pull the stuff sacks I need, stick 'em in whatever pack suits the trip, and I'm ready to go."

Dang, I love being organized like that. And stuff sacks are definitely the answer. Right now, I keep most of my backpacking gear in old milk crates and have to go through it all each time I pack for a trip. Stuff sacks for things like cooking gear, sleeping pad (ie. that Big Agnes), toiletries, navigational gear, clothing for different seasons, etc. would really help me keep things neat and tidy and make packing quicker and easier.

Granite Gear Air Pair Stuffsack, X-Large
Granite Gear Air Pair Stuffsack, X-Large
These sil-nylon sacks are three times lighter than typical stuff sack fabrics, and the fabric is impregnated with silicone to make it waterproof. The Granite Gear Air Pair packing system features 2 stuff sacks in one. Store your rain jacket on one side and rain pants on the other. This particular stuff sack comes in four sizes and features a hypalon grommet and micro-ultralight draw cord.

What Are Some Of The Best Backpacking Products You Don't Own Yet ... Or That You Do?

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    • profile image

      David Buckner 

      5 years ago

      Big Agnes :O always wanted one. Right now I'm using the ALPS Lynx single-person tent. Pretty lightweight, and get pretty compact in my backpack but still holds in heat if I keep the fly up. Thanks for posting, I'll check the other gear out as well!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      nice lens. Thanks for the info

    • mariacarbonara profile image


      8 years ago

      Great info. Those Enertia meals look awesome

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I enjoyed your lens. I have recently discovered the value of stuff sacks. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A water purification system is very important for backpacking in the back country.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is some great gear, wish I had some of them.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I've used the jetboil on several survival hikes. We went on a winter hike in January when it was 7 degrees out once, the jetboil made hot coffee in under 2 minutes. We always take it with now. You can boil water in about 90 seconds.

    • selah74 profile image


      9 years ago

      Valuable lens. I'm not sure I knew about some of those supplies.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This really a good website for every bit of backpacking

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This really a good website for every bit of backpacking

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      nice back packing collection here...

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      The personal stove would be on the top of my wish list. Lots of good suggestions here! Added to my How to Pick a Backpack Lens

    • BoyScoutPopcorn profile image


      10 years ago

      The Klymit X Frame and Inertia XL are great and very light. My dad and I took them to Northern Tier and we'd recommend them to anybody that has to go light and tight.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Well, if you are having trouble finding things here, I could come back and get the links and do a lens just for you shopping pleasure!

    • jackieb99 profile image


      10 years ago

      Some excellent choices!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      10 years ago from Colorado

      I definitely need one of those Big Agnes sleeping pads. Who was "Big Agnes" anyway? :-) Thanks for the review.

    • LouisaDembul profile image


      10 years ago

      I loved that stove! It;s been a long time since I went hiking, but I still remember the importance of what stuff you put in your backpack. After a few hours carrying, things seem to double in weight!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens, I love the way you put in 'That I don't own yet' that's a great touch. Wishlists are a must. I think wanting what other people have is a part of life, you did a great job writing it down to remember the next time you want to buy something for yourself. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Othercatt profile image


      10 years ago

      My sis-in-law's boyfriends has one of those jetboil things. When he got it, that's all he talked about for weeks. He even brought it with when we were just going for a day hike. lol. It's definitely worth having!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      If you don't mind carrying some extra weight (~2.5 lbs), the Therm-a-Rest ToughSkin sleeping pad is the most comfortable one I've tried; I always sleep like a champ with it If I'm going light though, a 3/4 length pad like the REI Lite-Core works out pretty well (~1lb).

    • MisterJeremy profile image


      11 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      That jetboil stove looks niiice. I like the idea for this lens. I always stalk gear for a while before buying it.

    • best-intentions profile image


      11 years ago

      Don't even get me started! My big Agnes insulated aircore pad rocks! My MSR Dragonfly stove, it's a little loud, but we generally hike with 5 people, and that thing can handle it so well! Shoot... I collect hiking gear like I collect yarn. I could probably finance the thru-hike Of the PCT I want to do if I just sold off some of it. I guess with putting off a big hike due to 3 kids, I've been living vicariously through our gear! :)

    • profile image

      Ted Curtis 

      12 years ago

      Your article hit home! I love the "that I don't have yet" approach.

      I am currently finishing up a long hike on the Appalachian Trail and wish I had been more selective when choosing the best backpacking gear. There are a lot of of items "that I don't have yet" that I will consider for my next trip.

      Thanks for the great lens,


    • Lironah LM profile image


      12 years ago

      Hmm, camping.

      Yeah, my family is still recovering from our trip last weekend. NEVER AGAIN will I rely on somebody else to provide sleeping bags for my children. I had a good one from my pack trail days, but I had to put my 3 year old in it. Now we all have colds.

      Won't even start on the camp pads my mother-in-law brought...

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      oh yes I think you need all this stuff especially big agnes! Nothing better than a good nights rest! :) Great informational lens!

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 

      12 years ago

      Very cool... our camp stove is made out of an olf fire extinguisher with the top cut off and a homemade vent door... it's just big enough for one pot or small fry pan...about 10 inch diameter and maybe 12 inches tall... It's great because you don't have to carry fuel around, can just use whatever twigs you can find...just dig a hole and dump the ash...cools pretty quick and then you can store other stuff in it...

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 

      12 years ago

      I agree - the Big Agnes looks cool!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      That Big Agnes pad looks sweet! At that weight and that compact, I'm definitely adding one to my list, too.


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