I am what you might call a gear head. I’m not completely obsessed. I don’t go around telling everyone about what gear I have and asking them what gear they have, but I do spend a significant amount of time researching gear in the internet and building lists to help determine the best combination of gear to bring on trips. Through my searches, one of the most interesting and often helpful things I’ve encountered are posts and images showing what other people carry in their bags. These reality TV inspired peeks into other’s setups have offered inspiration, discoveries, and re-affirmation of my own gear decisions.
So, in an effort to give back to the network of information out there, today I’ll be showing you what’s in my backcountry overnight bag. We’ll begin with my overnight gear.
1. Backpacking Gear
Above from top to bottom and then left to right.
|North face Mica FL 1||This one-man tent offers a nice balance between roomy for a 6-foot hiker and light weight. And since it is partially freestanding, it’s easy to setup and arrange before staking it down.||2 lb, 6 oz|
|Sierra Designs Cal 30||This ultralight, ultra packable dridown sleeping bag is a perfect summer companion. In colder or wetter conditions, I replace this with my fully synthetic 2-lb Northface Windstorm.||1 lb, 5 oz|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite||While not the lightest sleeping pad I’ve carried, the comfort and room offered in this pad is well worth the pound of weight. I’ve gone back to ultralight options and regretted the decision each time.||1 lb|
|Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Pad||This super light ground insulation is perfect for quick stops to keep your rear dry and warm. It is super light, and nicely supports the bottom of my pack to keep it standing upright when I put it down. At a mere two ounces, it’s well worth the weight.||2 oz|
|Byers Traveller Lite Hammock||This is one of the lightest hammocks made. The clever fully adjustable attachments make this a flexible backcountry seat. Although it requires trees to setup, it’s lighter than any free standing chairs I’ve seen, and far more comfortable. I haven’t yet made the move to a hammock tent, but that is an obvious next step. When I’m trying to go lighter, this is often an item that gets dropped.||12 oz|
|10+ Essentials Kit||Weighing in at just over a pound, this has many of the key essentials you need for an emergency in the backcountry, along with a few non essentials. Included in this kit are: matches, fire starter, repair kit, compass, knife, duct tape, extra cord, emergency cash, sunglass clips, bug head net, chaffing cream, and backup water filter.||1 lb, 2 oz|
|First Aid Kit (not pictured)||This is the one piece or gear that almost every backpacker carries yet hopes he or she will never need to use. However, when you do need to use it, this well stocked kit has enough to deal with a variety of maladies.||1 lb, 8 oz|
|Platypus Collapsible Water Bottles and Hydration Tube||These are my mainstay for backcountry water storage. I tend to bring two 1-liter bottles with me. Generally filling up 1 during the day unless there is a long stretch without water. More or larger bags can be packed when water carrying becomes important (as on desert trips).||4 oz|
|Aquamira Frontier Pro Water Filter||This 2 ounce water filter is a no brainer. You drink right through it, so there is no need to wait for chemicals to do their magic or to pump water. It can be attached directly to the Platypus or many store-bought water bottles, attached with an adapter to the end of a hydration tube, or attached to the included straw to bring directly out of a stream or cup. Additionally, the bit valve can be removed and it can be used as a gravity or squeeze filter.||2 oz|
|Osprey Pack Cover||A pack cover is a very useful tool. It helps keep your gear dry while hiking, even if it’s too warm for a poncho. It also helps organize and keep gear at camp clean.||4 oz|
|TP||An obvious requirement. My bag is running a bit low in this picture. My TP kit includes toilet paper, extra bags for packing it out, and hand sanitizer.||2–4 oz|
|Trowel||Just below the TP is my steel trowel. I’ve broken too many plastic trowels to rely on them for longer trips. The extra 2 ounces are worth the security. However, on shorter trips or trips with frequent backcountry toilets, I do sometimes replace this with a 3 oz plastic trowel||5 oz|
|Jetboil Flash||With all the stove options out there, the Jetboil is still the most efficient one I’ve encountered, if not the lightest. However, with the Jetboil, I’ve lasted entire summers on a single fuel canister, and I get out a lot. One of these days, I may go in for the lighter version. However, if I’m really trying to go light, I bring my 4–6 oz alcohol stove and pot combination instead.||1 lb, 4 oz (with fuel)|
|Origami Bowl||These bowls are great. You can get a set with bowl, cup, and plate, however, I find just the bowl works perfectly. It can be used as a cup, it’s big enough to put any meal into, and it can be opened completely for use as a plate or cutting board or simply to lick clean.||1 oz|
|MSR Long Spoon||Very light and long enough to reach into the depths of a freeze dried package. Blue for character.||1/2 oz|
|Roll Top Silnylon Food Bag||Light, easy to hang, and as close to water proof as is needed for a heavy rain.||1 oz|
|Petzel Tikki XP||With a rechargeable battery, this has been a longstanding favorite. I have the Zipka back for this as well if I want to shave an ounce or compact it. However, the Tikka band is generally more comfortable and allows for better adjustments.||3 oz (with battery)|
|Delorme inReach Explorer||This is a combination GPS communicator and navigator. It allows for fully custom text messages to be sent from anywhere in the world. When paired with an smart phone, it makes a powerful GPS navigation tool. I carry it for emergencies, sending out a location beacon every half hour to hour in the event something should happen to me.||6 oz|
|Goal Zero Venture 30||On longer trips, sometimes some extra power is needed. If that is the case, this is the battery pack I’ll bring. It can be attached to an optional solar panel also made my Goal Zero, but few trips require more power than it already carries.||9 oz|
|Kero Lightning and Micro USB Cables||These tiny, super light cables allow my to charge my iPhone, headlamp, and inReach while in the field.||< 1 oz|
|Silnylon zippered bag||This is from an old first aid kit that I don’t use, but any small bag will do. This is my backcountry wallet. ID, cards, cords, and other small items go in here.||1 oz|
|Bear line||A simply 50-ft nylon cord with a light carabiner and small tension device are all that are needed to keep your food up and away from critters.||2 oz|
|iPhone in Lifeproof Nuud Case (not pictured)||My iPhone holds almost unlimited maps, trail guides, flora and fauna guides, and more. When paired with the inReach, it makes a great GPS navigation system.||5 oz|
|Apple earbuds (not pictured)||Sometimes I feel like some tunes in the backcountry. Although mostly these are for calling family on my way home to let them know I’m safe.||< 1 oz|
|Paper Maps (not pictured)||Never leave home without them. iPhones break and run out of battery power. I always have paper maps and a compass to be safe.||2–4 oz|
My clothes are perhaps the most flexible of the gear I bring. The exact combination depends on the time of year, the weather report, and the length of the trip. But this is a pretty good approximation of my standard outfit.
Again, top to bottom, then left to right.
|Therm-a-Rest Pillowcase||Not quite clothing, though my clothes often are stored in this. This pillow case helps control my clothes for a comfortable night’s rest.||1 oz|
|Pack Towel||For drying things off and keeping the sun of my neck and ears.||4 oz|
|2 Smart Wool Shirts||Generally, I like to have 2 shirts. One for the trail and one for camp. It’s also nice to be able to wash one and let it dry while wearing the other. I’ve gone to all smart wool because they retain smell much less than other fabrics. I have one that is a partial zip and one with no zip.||5–6 oz each|
|GoLite Silnylon Poncho Tarp||The poncho is the most versatile and light rain wear out there. It’s big enough to cover both my and my backpack. On day hikes it can double as an emergency shelter. On wet overnights, it can be an extra space to escape the rain.||7 oz|
|Outdoor Research Halogen Hoodie||This light hoodie has breathable soft-shell along the sides of the body and arms for extra ventilation. It is great as a summit hoodie or warm weather jacket.||13 oz|
|Outdoor Research Neoplume Jacket||Without the soft shell sides, this is a much better all around insulator. For colder conditions, this jacket is a must. Sometimes I bring this instead of the Halogen, sometimes in addition to.||15 oz|
|Fleece Cap||For warming the noggin.||2 oz|
|Baseball Cap||For keeping the sun out of the eyes and off of the face.||3 oz|
|Thermal Bottoms||In the summer, this is generally more than enough leg warmth. Lightweight and wicking, they are a good base layer if things get cold.||10 oz|
|Underarmor Boxer Jocks||They are boxers, they are swimming shorts. They keep everything from chaffing too badly. These are my favorite backcountry underwear. Though it would be nice to have something looser for camp.||2 oz each|
|Fleeve Gloves||For warming the handsies. Windproof for good measure.||2 oz|
|2 Pairs of Wigwam Wool Hiking Socks||My favorite brand so far. The socks last long and remain soft.||3 oz each pair|
|REI Softshell Zip Off Pants||They are pants, they are shorts. The zip off part zips fully up so that they don’t have to slip over your boots. The softshell material makes them heavier, but more durable and water resistant.||11 oz|
|Outdoor Research Mud Gaiters||For keeping things out of my boots. These are great with light snow conditions, or to keep dust, dirt, and mud out of my boots as I walk.||4–5 oz|
In colder weather, I have some additional components that I add to the mix.
|Outdoor Research Warm Puffy||The name of this jacket is escaping me at the moment, but it’s significantly warmer and puffier than two jackets I normally bring.||1 ln, 4 oz|
|Outdoor Research Paladin Rain Jacket||A full rain jacket is important when playing around in the snow. It also allows for some better insulation options when hiking. If there is going to be a lot of wet, a lot of windy, or a lot of snow, a rain jacket and pants often go with me.||1 lb|
|Marmot Full Zip Rain Pants||Full zip allows them to get on and off easily, especially over my bigger winter boots.||12 oz|
|Mountain Hardware Full Zip Puffy Pants||When the conditions are going to be particularly cold, these pants help keep warm the lower half. Again, the full zip make them easy to get on and off.||1 lb, 2 oz|
And finally, the footwear. On the top, my 3-season hiking boots (about 2 lbs together) and my crocs for around camp and river crossings (12 oz). On the bottom, my winter/alpine mountaineering boots. They are much warmer, much more water proof, and much sturdier for kicking steps.
3. The Pack
The pack I use to carry all this gear is the Osprey Atmos 50. It’s a great pack and is comfortable up to 40 lbs. After that, the suspension system can’t quite handle it. The load stabilizers are too low and the pack is not designed for loads that heavy. Generally this works out fine. For shorter trips (2–4 days), my pack is usually 25–30 pounds and my camera bag is 10. For longer trips, where food weight becomes a factor, I bring my lighter camera load. However, my upcoming Glacier trip is going to push those limits with 6–8 days of food and with too much wildlife not to bring my telephoto lens. The Atmost 65, however, is rated up to 50 lbs, which is an option, though the new model is a bit on the heavy side at almost 4.5 pounds (compared to 3.5 pounds on the older model). I will likely be evaluating packs that can handle a larger load for my Glacier Trip.
4. Camera Equipment
My full camera kit weighs a honking 10 pounds. It’s not light, but photography is a passion for me, and so far, the effort is worth the reward. I talk more about how I carry my camera gear in this article.
Again, top to bottom, then left to right.
|Mountain smith Decent Chest Pack (old model)||They no longer make this chest pack, which is a shame. The new Descent does not easily attach to a backpack like this one does. This pack is great for carrying all the gear here comfortably.||1 lb, 12 oz|
|Tamrac 5-Filter Case||For carrying all my filters when backpacking||3 oz|
|Cleaning and Maintenance Kit||This kit is the basic cleaning and care kit. It includes: a micofiber cloth, Giottos Rocket Blower, Lenspen, and filter wrench.||6 oz|
|Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3||This remote release allows for some advanced photography techniques with slow exposures included elapsed exposures. It also allows me to release the shutter while the camera is stable without causing any camera shake.||3 oz|
|Canon 6D with camera strap||Although heavy, this full frame camera takes some amazing pictures. And it’s one of the lightest full frame DSLRs out there. The thought has occurred to me to try and go mirrorless, but the cost compared to the minimal weight difference (generally only half a pound) has not yet been compelling to me.||30 oz|
|Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens||This is the most spectacular landscape lens I’ve ever used. The wide angle and sharpness of this lens make it well worth it.||1 lb, 6 oz|
|Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6L IS USM Lens||Wildlife photography is one of the reasons I bring a camera, so a good telephoto lens is essential. This lens it a bit short with my full frame camera, and I’ve seriously considered the 100-400 lens.||2 lbs, 1 oz|
|Circular Polarizer Filter||Circular Polarizers are amazing for cutting the glare off leaves, water, and other surfaces with a high sun.||2 oz|
|Graduated ND Filter||Graduated ND filters are invaluable at compensating for an overly bright background or overly dark foreground in your landscape shots.||2 oz|
|ND Filters (6-stop and 10-stop)||ND filters allow for slowing of water and clouds to show the smooth motion and make landscapes pop. in direct sun, a 10-stop filter is needed to slow the shutter speed enough to make these kinds go landscapes pop.||2 oz each|
|Extra Batteries||Of course, you need power to operate your camera. Don’t waste all that weight only to fall short on power during your trip. I find the LP-E6’s last a good 1000 shots or more. For me, that could be 3 days or it could be a single photo shoot with some interesting wildlife.||3 oz each|
|Extra SD Cards||Don’t run out of space, and in case something happens, it’s always good to switch up SD cards so you don’t lose everything with one accident.||< 1 oz|
|Giottos Aluminum Tripod||For serious support, I bring this heavy Giottos Tripod. It only comes out on very special occasions.||3 lbs|
|Joby GorillaPod||For most of my stability needs, the Joby GorillaPod is plenty. It’s also great for waterfall shots as it can wrap around boulders and logs in the middle of a river.||13 oz|
When I think there is less of a chance to see wildlife or am trying to go lighter, I do sometimes reduce my gear to a more minimal setup, using a LowePro Toploader instead of my Mountainsmith bag.