Backpacking Gear 101
Are you thinking about getting into one of the most rewarding outdoor adventure activities there is? Backpacking will take you to some of the most incredible places you will have ever seen in your entire life. You will become 100% addicted and will want to explore more and more every single year!
This is how Dave and I feel about backpacking. We invested in our first backpacking gear items a little before we moved to Canada in 2021 and have switched up a couple of things here and there since.
Initially purchasing backpacking gear seems like a really expensive thing to do, but once you have it, it’s going to last you years and years of adventures. Once you have the right gear, backpacking becomes one of the cheapest ways to go away for the weekend.
In this guide, I will list all of our current backpacking gear, along with some alternative options that you could consider for both Canada and the USA.
How to Choose Your Backpacking Gear
If you keep these 3 things in mind when choosing your gear, it will help you narrow your choices down to make the right selections for you.
Choose Light Gear
The best way to choose your backpacking gear, is to find the lightest option that you can find that is within your budget. The way you are going to enjoy backpacking the most is by keep your bag as light as possible.
Consider Where and When You Will be Backpacking
The type of backpacking gear that you end up getting will greatly depend on what trips you will be taking. Where will you be going? What will the terrain be like? What will the weather and temperatures be like?
EG: You can get different temperature ratings of sleeping bags, tents are rated by season and different hiking boots can specialise in different types of terrain. These are just a few examples of how weather and location can affect how you choose your backpacking gear.
Set a Budget
If Dave and I have learnt anything from choosing our backpacking gear, we know that it is extremely easy to want to forget about our budget and just buy the best of the best.
If you set a budget in the beginning and try to stick to it as much as possible, this will help you narrow down what gear to get based on what is within your budget, the lightest possible and perfect for the type of backpacking you are going to be doing.
Our Backpacking Gear List
This is everything we currently have in our backpacking bags, including the backpacks themselves. I have also included some alternative options.
We currently have a MEC Spark 2 / 2 person tent. This tent packs up super small and is very lightweight. It literally will only fit 2 people inside it and you will need to keep your bags in the vestibules, which is what we did already with our old tent so it doesn’t bother us.
Price: CAD $475
Pack up size: 46 x 11cm
The tent is super small and can fit easily pretty much anywhere! We never have any issues in finding a camping spot in the backcountry.
Packing the tent away is super easy and it packs up very small.
It is a little squishy inside and Dave and I fit perfectly side by side but we can’t fit much else in there. Our bags go in the vestibules which is fine and we usually just have our clothes at our feet with a drink bottle.
There are only 2 small pockets at each head. There is none on the top of the tent so there is definitely less storage space inside.
The fly is grey for the version we have so it is not easy to spot from a distance. It looks very much like a rock.
This tent can only be purchased in Canada as it is MEC branded.
MSR Hubba Hubba
Price: CAD $699 / USD $549
Pack up size: 46 x 11cm
The MSR Hubba Hubba 2 person tent is really popular amongst backpackers and we see it everywhere we go. It is slightly more lightweight than the MEC Spark 2 and more roomy on the inside.
MEC Zephyr 65L Backpack – Womens
Price: CAD $269
I love this backpack! I find it really comfortable and actually used to have the Osprey Aura which is a very similar design, but I found the hip straps would bruise my hips after a couple of days backpacking, whereas the Zephyr has a softer hip belt.
Price: CAD $247 / USD $260
If you aren’t wanting to break the bank but really keen for a lightweight backpack, the Osprey Exos is a great choice! Dave has had this backpack for a few years now and still love it.
Hyperlite 3400 Southwest 55L Backpack – Unisex
Weight: White: 899g / Black: 980g
Price: CAD $525 / USD $379
If we could go back in time and had the money for it, we would probably get the Hyperlite 3400 Southwest 55L Backpacks because of the savings in weight. You can get this backpack in white or black but the white one is the lighter of the two so I definitely recommend getting the white.
Before I tell you what sleeping bag I have, you should know that I am a super cold person and when I camp I am ALWAYS cold. I do think it is overkill for Summer in British Columbia and at some point I will probably get a 9 degree Celsius bag. I have the Marmot Ouray -18C Women’s.
Kerry’s Sleeping bag – Marmot Ouray -18C Womens
Price: CAD $425
Temperature Rating: -18C / 0F
The Marmot Ouray is super warm and cozy and has kept me warm on snowy camping trips in the Fall as the weather has started to change. It is on the heavy side and does get a bit hot in Summer in the mountains.
For cold sleepers like me, I recommend a -9C sleeping bag for backpacking in the mountains in places like British Columbia, Washington State and the Canadian Rockies.
Marmot Bantamweight 15, Reg, -9C / 15F
Price: CAD $700 / USD $619
Temperature Rating: -9C / 15F
This sleeping bag is a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for. It is made from high quality down (900+ fill power) which means it is nice and warm without the weight.
Marmot Teton, Reg, -9C / 15F – Womens
Price: CAD $390 / USD $216
Temperature Rating: -9C / 15F
With this sleeping bag, you are sacrificing weight for cost which comes from a lower quality down of 650-fill power. The effect of the warmth of the bag is technically still the same but due to the 650 fill power versus the 900 fill power down, there is more down needed to be used in this bag which makes it heavier.
Dave’s Sleeping Bag – Custom Made Quilt
Dave is currently using a custom made quilt, which is no longer possible to purchase so I have listed some alternatives below. Dave’s quilt is a 0C comfort rating which is quite a bit colder than my sleeping bag.
Dave is much more of a warm sleeper than I am and he has rarely found that he has gotten cold through the night. When it is extra cold, he will as many layers as possible including his beanie and puffer jacket.
Sea to Summit Ember Ebll Down Quilt 850+ Reg (35F)
Price: CAD $539 / USD $399
Temperature Rating: 2C / 35F
This quilt is the cooler and lighter of the 2 options and is a great choice for Summer camping trips. If you are planning on camping high up in the mountains, I recommend the second option which is a warmer version of the same quilt.
Sea to Summit Ember EbIII Down Quilt 850+ Regular (25F)
Price: CAD $629/ USD $489
Temperature Rating: -4C / 25F
Price: CAD $269 / USD $210
Pack up Size: 8 x 3 in / 20 x 7.5 cm
We both have the same sleeping mats, the Nemo Tensor Insulated Regular Mummy. You can get these sleeping bags in a mummy shape which saves some weight, or in a wide version. We decided to save some weight so the above version is based on the mummy shape.
These sleeping mats are great! They pack up really small and are very lightweight. They are also super easy to inflate because they come with their own pump sack and are pretty quiet when it comes to crinkling.
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT, Regular
Price: CAD $289 / USD $219
Pack up Size: 9 x 4.1 in / 23 x 10 cm
This sleeping pad is the lightest insulated 3 season pad on the market, however it is prone to crinkling noises due to the insulation. It is more durable than the Nemo Tensor.
You can get the Therm-A-Rest sleeping pad in different sizes just like the Nemo.
There are 2 different kinds of pillows that you can get. The first is a blow up pillow which is best for saving both weight and space in your backpack. The second it foamed based.
We both have the blow up pillows but I recently invested in a second foam based pillow which I find way more comfy than the blow up one, however it does take up a lot more room in my bag.
MEC Camp Pillow
Price: CAD 25
Pack up Size: 24 x 12 x 38cm
Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow
Price: CAD 65 / USD 50
Pack up Size: 34 x 24 x 11cm
This is a popular backpacking blow up pillow and both Dave and I have used these pillows for loads of backpacking trips.
Backpacking Gear – Smaller Accessories
Now that I’ve listed our big ticket items for backpacking, here are some of the smaller items that we always bring along with us. Some of these are 100% necessary and some just make the trip more comfortable.
Price: CAD 90 / USD 44
I didn’t invest in camp shoes until our second year living in Canada. Now I live by my Tevas! I got them recently and feel silly for not getting them sooner. The only downside is that if you step in water wearing them, the fabric straps do take a while to dry. Otherwise they are the best!
A headlamp is a necessity on any camping trip. Without a headlamp, you will struggle to do anything after it gets dark.
We have both been using headlamps from Nitecore for years and they have been great! They have a different settings for brightness including red light options for when you are at camp so that you don’t blind anyone.
Therm-A-Rest Z-Seat SOL
Price: CAD 40 / USD 32
Pack up Size: 30 x 6 x 7 cm
This is an absolutely game changer when it comes to backcountry camping! The Therm-A-Rest Z-Seat SOL is a lightweight foam pad that makes sitting anywhere in the backcountry comfy!
GSI Infinity Backpacker Mug
A mug is a necessity on every backpacking trip. Whether you are a tea, coffee or hot chocolate drinker, having a mug adds a bit of luxury to your experience.
We use a long spork over a normal-sized fork or spoon because we always eat dehydrated meals for dinner and without a long spork, you would get very dirty hands because the packets are pretty deep.
If you speak to anyone who likes to camp, most of the time they will tell you they have a Jetboil. We actually don’t have a Jetboil. We have a much cheaper and super lightweight option from Amazon which you can find here.
Our stove is awesome because of how light and powerful it is, however it is quite delicate and some of the prongs have bent out of shape over the past couple of years of camping.
We use the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System on all of our backpacking trips and it stops us from ever running out of drinking water!
Rab Puffer Jacket
I take my RAB Puffer with me whenever we are camping in the mountains. As soon as the sun goes down, the temperatures tend to drop so this jacket is a lifesaver!
Again, if we are camping up in the mountains, we usually will both bring our fleeces with us. My favourite and cosiest fleece is the Patagonia Los Gatos 1/4 Zip Fleece.
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