Top 6 Gear Requirements For Camping/Backpacking

I recently traded in my second home of five years as it was quite worn and weary (it was a three man tent) and I was now in need of smaller digs amenable to backcountry travel. Gear requirements for heading into the wild either on foot or by car are pretty simple when you break them down into necessities and I’ve learned a lot over the years about exactly what constitutes a necessity (note the top photo and my past advanced skills in overpacking non-necessities).

Gear purchase is a tricky subject for me as I stumbled into camping and backpacking without feeling like I was over-spending and this happened somewhat by accident.

Though I had car camped for years with perfectly acceptable tents from department stores, I did not fully enter the world of gear until I decided to climb Mt. Whitney solo and even then I casually borrowed a water purifier and purchased a daypack with bladder and a pair of cheap ($40) hiking boots from Big Five. That was the extent of my gear until a year later when I joined REI, bought a 3-man tent, and trekked back to Whitney with my two daughters. The tent was only part of the equation I discovered when we froze in our Disney sleeping bags and suffered through my choice of Indian food for the camp meals.

There have been many years of hits and misses with food and gear and they have taught me that the misses were not only survivable, they were partly what kept me coming back as they were inexpensive mishaps. I never felt I had to risk an exorbitant amount of money – rather the accumulation of gear was gradual, leaving my bank book free of triage.

Please know that these are 6 requirements/areas of focus designed to get you started once you’ve decided trekking will be an ongoing part of your life. My gear is not an objective choice, it’s subjective and chosen to meet the needs of my individual experience i.e. I am 5’5, have no feet issues, enjoy camping in designated sites, dispersed, and the backcountry, have hip soreness when I sleep on hard ground, and on and on. Please consider your needs when gear shopping and only use my list as your template and if your disposable income is feeling too disposed of, try borrowing gear or utilizing Gear Trade until you are ready to make bigger purchases.

* I save in the area of clothing, buying most items from thrift stores but I did recently order 2 – UV 50 shirts from Hanes for under $25.  I chose mens as the womens clothing is higher. I also belong to REI ($20 lifetime membership) and watch their clearance like a hawk.

The six places I now prioritize when doling out my money are listed below but I would love to hear your gear choices as we all benefit from the shared info so please leave specifics in the comments below and on Facebook in the comments as well.

1) TENT – For five years I depended on the REI Quarter Dome 3 person tent and it did the job so when it was time to trade in for a lighter weight/smaller backpacking tent, I compared the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2 and  the REI Quarter Dome 2 and by compare, I mean that the incredibly helpful sales associate at REI shared that he actually had the Big Agnes and then he set both tents up so we could weigh (literally) our options. By the end of the shopping session, the associate had decided the buy the REI tent for treks that involved 2 people as he too saw our concern regarding enough space and the REI tent is roomier though a little heavier (about a pound). I’ve had stellar luck with my tent and with REI’s return policy in the past and continue to patronize REI both for this and the yearly dividends I rack up to spend in the store. *I realize no gain from endorsing REI.

2) BOOTS – It has only been this year that I am at last crossing over into pricier boots. I will update as I knock back some wear and tear on my day-hikers and my snow-friendly backpacking boots but at the moment I am happy with my choices and felt with as much time as I spend on the trail, it was time for some big kid shoes. I am clumsy and having shoes that don’t fit snug like my past boots, leads to some ungraceful albeit hilarious tripping but also to the hammer slam of my big toe in the end of the boot which causes some shrieks accompanied by salty language. I now have the Saloman Quest 4D GTX Hiking boots and they are made to withstand weight on my back and snow on the trail. *I would take issue with the descriptive that states that they are “lightweight like trail-running shoes”, they do not feel lightweight. I picked them up on sale $160 from $230. My day-hikers are Merrell Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoes and they ran $90 regular price.

3) WATER PURIFIER – From experience, I can tell you there is nothing worse than being insanely thirsty and struggling with a compromised water filter. And I can also attest to the fact that in a number of cases, if you eschew the filtering, you will log some time in the latrine. My guy gifted me with the Sweetwater one I currently use and it has performed well.

4) SINGLE BURNER STOVE – My stove is old enough that they’ve improved and lightened them so this link is pretty close to what I currently use. They last if you are careful with them.

5) SLEEPING BAG AND MAT – I use a Sierra bag rated 20 degrees and it is very lightweight. I recommend paying close attention to getting a bag that will keep you warm as cold and sleep do not mix. As for a mat, for years I used a blowup but recently switched to a small $35 Therma Rest accordion mat that has me giving slightly on comfort but loving that it is very light and unfolds easily, no blowing it up.

6) BACKPACK – I carry an REI Flash 52 backpack that is currently on clearance for $123.73 from $179. I’ve been very happy with this pack and it is holding up beautifully. I was fitted for it in the store and it has been a good choice.

These six choices cover the necessities for a backpacking/camping trip and have served me well. Now it’s your turn, what do you use on your treks or if you have not been yet, what do you hanker for?