What’s In My Backpack – Backpacking Gear Guide

Backpacking season is almost here! So as we start to dream about frolicking through the colorful wildflowers, setting up camp next to a refreshing lake, and enjoying the feeling of just being outside – it’s also an excellent time to start looking for those seasonal deals! 

I’ve been getting tons of backpacking questions from people I would have never thought would be interested, which is AWESOME. There is nothing more I love to see that more people exploring the outdoors. 

Hiking is the one activity that almost anyone can do. To dip your toes into hiking, check out How To Get Started Hiking At Any Skill Level

When you think about the places hiking can take you to – places that only a tiny percentage of people will ever see – it’s pretty freaking incredible. That’s one of the main reasons I love hiking so much. 

Now add backpacking into the mix, and wow. If you are interested in backpacking, that can open doors to places you would have never thought possible. It’s discovering untouched wilderness, allowing you to immerse yourself into a world others can only dream about. 

So if backpacking feels more like your vibe or something you’re interested in exploring more – I will share with you everything I carry with me on a backpacking trip so you can be one step closer to starting your adventure!

What's In My Backpack?


Osprey Ariel Plus 65 Extended Pack

This Osprey backpack has been my VIP backpack for almost 5 years. I originally purchased it to backpack Europe, but it’s excellent for traveling and longer outdoor adventures. I especially like that it has a secondary backpack that unzips from the front of the bag, making it perfect for short trips. This pack holds way more than it looks and has plenty of loops and straps to connect your tent, sleeping bag, and overnight essentials. 


Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL Tent

I just upgraded to the Big Agnes, and while I haven’t camped many nights in it, I have heard excellent things. The ultra-lightweight features were enough to pique my curiosity. You might want to try this bad boy if you’re in the market for something for the backpacking season.

Sleeping Pad

Having a comfortable sleeping pad is essential. When your pad is the only thing between you and the uneven, cold, wet ground – you’ll want to ensure you have something durable. We recently upgraded to the Nemo Ultralight and the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir, and both pads seem to work great! We were using the REI sleeping pads, and while the REI co-op pads were comfortable – they took up way too much room (and weight) in our backpack.

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags will differ for everyone. Women and men have different size bags, there are longer bags vs. shorter ones, bags that sleep below zero degrees, and bags that are better for warmer weather. When picking out your sleeping bag, I suggest going to an outdoor recreation store and shopping around. You will want to consider the following things; your destination, time of year, the average nightly temperatures in that area, whether you are a hot or cold sleeper, and space in your bag. I would suggest picking a bag that I at least 10 degrees warmer than the average nightly temperature at the time of your trip. The last thing that you want to be is cold. At least if it’s hot, you can open it up. 

Sleeping bags can be big and add a ton of weight to your pack. Most bags, like the two I use below, are compression bags, so they are made to compress down tighter and fit more easily in your pack. You can also strap your bag to the bottom, back, or side of your backpack. Most backpacks have special straps for this! 

Outside of food and water, your sleeping bag is going to be your most crucial piece of equipment, so if you are going to spend some money, spend it on something that’s going to protect you and keep you warm at night. 

NEMO Forte 20 Degrees Sleeping Bag

Marmot Always Summer Sleeping Bag

Camera Equipment

When you are backpacking, weight is going to be your #1 enemy, so you’re going to need to decide how vital high-resolution images are to you. If it’s unimportant, you can probably get away with your smartphone for almost everything. Just make sure you carry plenty of portable chargers or solar chargers to keep your phone alive for trail finding and in the case of an emergency. 

If having a camera is essential for you, like it is for me, then I would guess you already have your camera set up. But, if you don’t and are interested in what I use – I’ll drop my complete backpacking set-up below.

Sony α7R IV

I have been shooting on the Sony Alpha series for five years, and I love it. If you are still deciding on your brand, the Sony Mirrorless cameras are an excellent option for beginners and advanced shooters. While the Sony A7r IV is top-line and will cost you a pretty penny, it will allow you to expand your photography portfolio. If you want something more budget-friendly, look at the older Sony Alphas like the Sony A7 II. And if you aren’t quite sure that’s in your budget, everyone suggests the Sony a6400 for travel. It’s a great starter camera and can produce some high-quality images. 

Sony - FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Wide-angle Lens

SONY FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM Lens


Peak Design Travel Tripod

Investing in a good tripod is one of the best purchases you can make, especially if you are self-shooting. The Peak Designs travel tripod is heavy-duty enough to hold tight in water, wind, and on uneven surfaces and packs down small to fit in your pack. 

You will add a lot of weight to your pack with this. If you are traveling with someone that can help you take photos, really don’t love pictures of yourself, or aren’t planning to take any time-lapses, this is one of the items I would suggest you lose to lighten your load. 


Peak Design Capture Camera Clip

One of the silliest things you can do is take all that camera equipment and have it packed so deep into your pack that you never take it out of your bag. The peak design clip makes it super handy to clip your camera to the outside of your backpack, so you never miss a shot! 


DJI Mini 3 Pro

While different drones are great for various purposes, I think the best (all-around) drone you can get for your adventures is the DJI Mini 3 Pro because it’s lightweight, captures crisp shots, and shoots vertically.

*Check drone laws and air maps before packing your drone because if they are prohibited on your hike, you’ll want to leave this at home.  


Preparation is the best thing you can do to stay safe when out in the wilderness. 

You will not be an expert starting, and that’s okay! No one is. We learn the more we go out and become more practiced. But there are a few things I want you to make sure you do before you hit the trails.

  1. Make sure you are knowledgeable about your trail. I recommend downloading AllTrails on your phone. Alltrails is a very precise trail navigation device. It lets you download your trips offline to access them for the entire hike. AllTrails will notify you if you’ve gone off route and has a lifeline feature set up in case of an emergency. It’s also a great resource to learn more about the trail. Read the comments from people who have traveled the route before you. Find out if anything was abnormal, like hidden paths, false summits, tons of mosquitos, heavy snow, and slippery conditions. The comments section will be your best friend. I would also recommend having a secondary communication system like the Garmin inReach
  2. Let someone know where you are going and an estimate of how long you will be gone. So many people head out to the trails without communicating their location, which is unsafe. Anything can happen, and these things are not in your control. 
  3. Do a little research about what types of animals, reptiles, or insects are in that area. Do you know what to do if you encounter these things, and are you prepared?  

The products that I mention below are products that I 100% would recommend. 

Adventure Medical Kits

The Adventure Medical Kit organization system helps you find what you need at a moment’s notice. This kit is packed for cuts and scrapes, fractures and sprains, medication, instruments to stop bleeding fast, and wound care. It also comes with an ‘A Guide to Wilderness Medicine’ guide.

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Compact satellite communicator for off-grid contact. Two-way messaging allows texting, posting, and inReach communication. SOS alerts triggers messages to GEOS in emergencies. GPS tracking location shares with folks back home. Global Iridium satellite network goes beyond cellphone coverage. InReach weather forecasting gives detailed weather updates

Smart Pepper Spray

The Plegium Smart Pepper Spray 5-in-1 is a maximum-strength pepper spray equipped with a siren, a strobe light, free automatic location texts, and phone calls to your emergency contacts. 

Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray

Counter Assault Bear Deterrent has a 40 feet spray distance – 8 seconds spray duration. It works on all bear species to deter bears from attacking humans. 

It’s registered with the EPA, and meets the requirements of the EPA.

Light and Chargers

Duracell 550 Lumen High-Intensity LED Headlamp

Really, you can get almost any type of headlight, but I’ve just been using these Duracell Lumen High-Intensity lights and have been loving them. You can find them on Amazon or at Costco. 

LuminAID - 2-in-1 Camping Lantern/Solar Phone Charger

I personally love my LuminAid Camping Lantern. It packs down small and light, so it’s easy to pack. You can clip it to the outside of your backpack to recharge while hiking and use it to charge your phone or batteries. This lantern powerful and will light up your space, giving you extra protection while hiking or once you get to your campsite. 

Portable Charger

I always carry at least 1 portable charger per day for charging things like cameras, phones, and speakers. Don’t forget the correct cables. 

Bear Bin

One of the most important safety measures you can take is to store your edibles and scented items in a dedicated bear bag or canister. A bear’s sense of smell is 7 times better than a blood hound’s and 2,100 times better than a human’s. They also have among the most powerful jaws and claws in the animal kingdom. This means they’ll have no problem locating and accessing your food unless you stash it in something capable of checking their prying claws and jaws. After plenty of research, and trying these personally – here are my top two picks for bear protection. ⤵️

It’s also important to note that not all sacks are approved. You will need to check the specific wilderness requirements for the areas you’ll be hiking through. Rangers do check on the trail, and can fine you if you do not have the proper bear protection. This is for your safety. 

BearVault Bear Canister for Backpacking

The BearVault Canisters are designed to be wide, round, and slippery to reduce leverage points for entry from bear jaws, claws, and paws. Sizes vary depending on how long you plan to camp out in the wilderness. Linked is the size that we use for all of our trips. 

Ursack AllMitey Kodiak Bear and Critter Sack - 30 Liters

Another option is to use a Bear Sack.

Lightweight, flexible, and made of absurdly strong Spectra fabric, this bag is as close to “bear proof” as you’ll get.

While the other bear bags on our list are meant to provide a bag to hang your food in, this bag is proven to be bear-resistant. It’s so resistant that the manufacturer, Ursack, recommends that you tie it to a tree trunk rather than bother hanging it from a branch.

I would use this bag when hiking in areas that require the use of bear-resistant containers. Ursack products are now listed on the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s list of bear-resistant products. Just to be sure, however, make sure to check with the park rangers wherever you’ll be going to ensure that the Ursack is acceptable.

Food Ideas

You can do so many different things with packing food for backpacking. Just do yourself a favor and make sure you pack extra food. TRUST ME.  I suggest picking up some dry food packs on hand because they are easy, and many of them are pretty tasty.  We also pack ramen, coffee, nuun, and Drip Drops for rehydration, gu or something for an energy boost, and snacks that I like or give energy like Trail mix, nuts, etc. I try to pack fruit or a pre-made sandwich to start lunch on the first day. Also, don’t forget to pack a couple of hot sauces, mayo packets, salt and pepper, or things to make your food taste better. 

Cooking Supplies

AeroPress Go Portable Travel Coffee Press

Jetboil Flash Cooking System

GasOne Camping Fuel

Portable Camp Stove with Piezo Ignition

Water Filtration

Water filtration is super important. Although I recommend carrying extra water, water filtration will be necessary for longer hikes and to help you minimize your weight. We have two that we use and love. We use the Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System to filter into our bladders, the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System, and the Katadyn BeFree Water to squeeze into our water bottles. But we found that having more than one filtration option with you is always good if something happens to one. Remember, water is life.

Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System


Hot Hands Warmers

Rechargeable Hand Warmers

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase from one of my links. If you do decide to use these links, thank you so much for your support! I recommend these products because I have experience with them and use them for my own business.

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