It’s been a couple years since I first wrote my “What’s in My Bag” post, and since then, I’ve gone through a lot of changes, so I felt it was time for an update.
As you may have noticed, for many years, I have carried a very heavy camera gear setup, ranging from 6 pounds at the very lightest to as much as 12 pounds with all the works. I carried all that gear with a pretty minimal pack. As I’d mentioned in 2015, I was evaluating packs to handle the heavier loads that my camera gear often lead to.
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[/table_header] 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||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||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).
Update: I no longer carry the hydration tube, and prefer instead to have an accessible water bottle pocket. This has saved about 2.5 ounces. I also carry only one Platypus (either a 1 liter or 2 liter depending on the trip) since my new filter is built into a water bottle.
|BeFree Water Bottle||Update: This replaces my old Aquamira water filter, which required significant effort to drink out of. It weighs a bit more, but includes a water bottle in that weight, so overall saves about a quarter of an ounce.||2.3 oz|
|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.
Update: I’ve always been bothered by how many plastic bags I go through with my TP kit, so I’ve replaced the storage bag with a small nylon stuff sack (that I already had). This has added an ounce of weight, but is worth the weight for a more sustainable solution.
|Deuce of Spades Trowel||Update: I’ve replaced my steel trowel with the titanium “Deuce of Spades.” This light trowel is more sturdy than the old plastic trowels and lighter. It has saved 4.4 ounces—well worth the $20 I spent on it.||0.6 oz|
|Jetboil Mini Mo||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.
Update: My old JetBoil Flash stopped working reliably, so we’ve had to since replace it. We went with the MiniMo due to it’s design and ability to work at low temperatures. It has saved having to bring a liquid stove on some cold weather or high altitude trips.
|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|
|Ursack||Update: This is one area where I’ve increased weight … sort of. The Ursack is a new bear-resistant food storage solution. Compared to bear canisters, it’s a huge weight savings (though some areas still do not accept the Ursack as a replacement for Bear Canisters). Compared to a stuff sack and bear line, it’s about 5 ounces heavier. However, the convenience is worth accepting some extra weight.||7.8 oz
|Black Diamond Storm||Update: I’ve replaced my older rechargeable headlamp with the Black Diamond Storm. It has much greater reach when navigating in the dark and is quite weather resistant. Unfortunately it is not rechargeable, so I have to bring my own rechargeable AAAs.||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, Flip 10, or Flip 20||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.
Update: I’ve got a few additional size batteries depending on the need for the given trip.
|3″ 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|
Update: To save weight, I put these items in my 10+ essentials kit now.
Update: This has been removed due to the new Ursack.
|iPhone 6 Plus in Waterproof 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.
Update: I’ve since upgraded to the iPhone 6 Plus, which offers a much larger screen for backcountry maps.
|Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H3 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.
Update: I’ve replaced my standard Apple earbuds with an upgrade.
|< 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 OR Echo Tees||Update: my old smart wool shirts have worn through. I’ve replaced them with 2 OR Echo Tees. Depending on the trip, either 2 long sleeve or 1 long and 1 short.||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 or Cirque Jacket or Radiant Fleece Shirt||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.
Update: I have a few more jackets since I wrote this post. Depending on the conditions, I’ll bring one or more of these light jackets, plus one of the heavier jackets below.
|Outdoor Research Neoplume Jacket or Transcendant Hoodie||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.
Update: In colder conditions, I’ll bring a warmer hoodie instead of the Neoplume.
|Fleece Cap||For warming the noggin.||2 oz|
|OR Active Ice||For keeping the sun out of the eyes and off of the face.
Update: The OR Active Ice is a lighter, foldable cap that also has a neck skirt for keeping the sun off my neck, ears, and sides of my face.
|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|
|Ex Officio Briefs||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.
Update: I’ve gone away from Underarmor in favor of Ex Officio.
|2 oz each|
|OR PL Sensor, Stormtracker, or Extravert Gloves||For warming the handsies. Windproof for good measure.
Update: I have quite a few different glove sets now. It really depends on the conditions I expect to find. The Stormtracker are my go to gloves. I bring the PL 100-Weight gloves for lighter trips, or the Extravert for snowier trips. Or I bring PL 1100 or 400-weight plus the Stormtracker or Extravert for dry camp gloves and wet active gloves.
|2 Pairs of Smartwool PhD Hiking Socks||The socks last long and remain soft.
Update: New favorite sock.
|3 oz each pair|
|REI Zip Off Pants or OR Voodoo 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.
Update: Sometimes I bring the very light Voodoos instead. They don’t zip off, but they save weight and are so light I generally don’t need to convert them.
|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 Synthetic Puffy or Virtuoso||The name of this jacket is escaping me at the moment, but it’s significantly warmer and puffier than two jackets I normally bring.
Update: For true winter conditions, the Virtuoso is the jacket to bring. It’s heavier, but it is very warm.
|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 or OR Neoplume 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.
Update: The Neoplume full zip pants are lighter, but also not as warm.
|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
Update: I have retired and sold my Osprey. I recently purchased a Gregory Baltoro and have found Gregory to be a much better fit for my body, in particular for the deep curve in my lumbar area. The support on the Baltoro is far more comfortable than my Osprey and I found myself wanting to bring the Osprey out less and less, despite it’s lighter weight. I’ve tried a few of Gregory’s lighter packs, but as of yet have not found one as comfortable as the Baltoro. I am interested in the new Paragon, and may check that out for when I hike with lighter loads.
I have 2 versions of the Baltoro. The Bsaltoro 65 is my main pack and is plenty big for most of my needs. I also purchased the Baltoro 85 on a steep discount, in anticipation of the need to pack much heavier for family trips in the future. I’ve already pulled it out once on a hike with Amy’s nephews. I do like the extra two pockets the 85 (and also 75) has, but I generally don’t need such a bulky pack.
One bonus feature of the Baltoro is the top lid. The way it is setup, there is a pocket that is perfect for a telephoto lens, eliminating the need for the bulky Mountainsmith chest pack I used to carry.
4. Camera Equipment
Update: This is where my gear has changed the most. After 20 years as an almost exclusive Canon photographer, I have finally made the leap to mirrorless with the Fujifilm X-T1. This new setup has significantly reduced my weight. Where I once generally carried 10 pounds of camera gear, I now carry around 7, and that includes a tripod. On trips where I think wildlife is likely, the weight savings is a little less (9.5 lbs instead of the 11.5 lbs with my Canon), but it is still significant. And there are other benefits to the X-T1 that make it a super fun camera to shoot with. I’ll go more into my switch to Fuji in another post.
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.
|Lowepro Toploader 50 AW||
Update: Between the new lighter camera setup, and the design of the Baltoro top lid, I’ve been able to permanently remove the Mountainsmith from my kit. Now I can carry the much smaller and lighter Lowepro Toploader 50 AW
|1 lb, 12 oz|
|Optech 2-Filter Pouch||For carrying all my filters when backpacking
Update: With the move to mirrorless, I’ve also reduced the number of filters I generally bring out. This small and light filter pouch carries an ND Filter and Polarizer for my Fuji 14mm and 18-55mm lenses.
|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 Remote Switch RS60 E3||This remote release allows for some advanced photography techniques with slow exposures. It also allows me to release the shutter while the camera is stable without causing any camera shake.
Update: This old release from my film SLRs and early consumer DSLRs works perfectly with my Fujifilm.
|Fujifilm X-T1||Update: A pound lighter than my 6D, this guy is a big weight saver, and still takes amazing photos. In fact, it’s faster than my 6D, with 8 fps and a far more sophisticated autofocus system.||13.7 oz|
|Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R||Update: This is my new wide angle landscape lens. Replacing the Canon 16-35 at a 1/3 of the weight, this lens is not quite as wide as my Canon, but it is faster and I love shooting with small, fast primes.||8.3 oz|
|Fujifilm XF 18-55 f/2.8-4 R LM OIS||Update: A perfect replacement for the Canon 24–70 or 24-105 f/4 with better image quality and faster on the wide end. With a prime for my wide angle shots, adding this lens helps fill in the mid range, especially if I’m carrying the 100-400mm below. This lens is great for landscapes, people shots, and all kinds of interesting subjects. And conveniently it shares a filter size with the 14mm.||11 oz|
|Fujifilm XF 55-200mm or 100-400mm||Wildlife photography is one of the reasons I bring a camera, so a good telephoto lens is essential. Luckily, I have two to choose from.
Update: The 55-200mm can be a bit short for wildlife, though often I find with patience and quiet, wildlife often will get close enough for this lens to do the trick.
Update: The 100-400mm is much better for capturing a variety of wildlife, especially if I bring the 1.4X Converter as well. Combined, this gives an 840mm equivalent field of view on a full frame sensor. It’s heavy, but can be worth it, especially when visiting places that I often find wildlife.
|1 lb, 4 oz or 3 lbs|
|Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR||Update: I picked up a used copy of this lens recently, with the intent of using it when I want to go super light or plan on heading out in nasty conditions, where changing lenses is not idea, and the weather resistant treatment would be beneficial. I’ve brought it out once so far. It’s not long enough for serious wildlife, not fast enough for serious bokeh, and wide enough for sweeping landscapes. So generally, it’s just not as fun a lens. But the idea of having an all in one of this caliber is nice, and the potential weight savings on trips is worth noting. We’ll see how often it works it’s way out on trips with me.||1 lb, 1.3 oz|
|Circular Polarizer Filter||Circular Polarizers are amazing for cutting the glare off leaves, water, and other surfaces with a high sun.||2 oz|
Update: As I’ve gone lighter and simpler in my camera kits, I’ve ended up leaving my ND filters behind. Part of the problem is that with such small lenses, I need smaller filters to really be useful. But for the time being, I appreciate having one less filter to think about.
|ND Filters (6-stop or 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. In shade, a 6-stop filter is generally better. Though I don’t usually carry both.||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 NP-W126’s last 300 shots or more. I generally go through more than 1 a day, especially when shooting long exposures and star trails.||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|
|Sirui Ultralight Traveller||Update: Replacing the Gorillapod, I picked up this super light carbon fiber tripod. Although it’s not full height, it does a lot better than the GorillaPod and is still pretty light. I removed the center column to save weight.||1 lb, 12 oz|
|Giottos Aluminum Tripod||For serious support, I bring this heavy Giottos Tripod. It only comes out on very special occasions.||3 lbs|
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.