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Essential Backpacking Gear for Outdoor Explorers

When you take a trip into the woods or on the trails, making sure that you have the right backpacking gear is essential. The right equipment and tools can make or break your camping trip and be the difference between having a great time and having to cut your stay short.

We are going to break down the essential backpacking gear for your next outdoor trip and our top product picks along with it. Our backpacking gear list is broken up into two major categories – living gear for your campsite and tools to make you prepared for anything.

Keep reading to learn about the backpacking gear essentials!

Man at a remote campsite overlooking a lake. Essential backpacking gear.

Living Gear

1. Coleman Sundome Living Tent

Our first piece of essential backpacking gear is the Coleman Sundome Living Tent. Any camping trip requires shelter and Coleman is a brand that is recognized for quality and durability. This tent made it onto our backpacking gear list due to its lightweight and ease of set up.

The Coleman Sundome Living Tent weighs just 7.5 pounds which makes it easy to bring along with you and won’t weigh down your pack. It also can be set up in just 10 minutes, making it a quick job once you reach the campsite.

The Coleman Sundome Living Tent can sleep 2 comfortably while also fitting some of your gear if you need to keep it out of the elements and is suitable for 3 seasons (not winter) so it will satisfy most of your needs. As backpacking tents go, this one is hard to beat.

2. MalloMe Sleeping Bag

Having a great tent only matters if you have somewhere to sleep in it. That’s why our next piece of backpacking gear is the MalloMe Sleeping Bag. This sleeping bag is low-cost, lightweight and perfect for three-season camping. This sleeping bag is a great piece of backpacking gear because it’s rated between 40 and 77 degrees meaning that it will be perfect for most situations.

A rolled-up sleeping bag place against a rock near a river.

The MalloMe Sleeping Bag weighs just 2.9 pounds, meaning it’s easy to strap to the top of your pack and bring with you. It comes with a small bag to pack it into and can fit both adults and children. With insulation to keep you warm and a waterproof outer surface, this sleeping bag will stand up to almost any condition you will face.

3. Jetboil Flash Stove

Our last piece of living gear on the list of essential backpacking gear is the Jetboil Flash Stove. This camping stove is a great all-in-one unit to cook anything you need. With its design optimized for efficiency, and self-encompassing storage method, it is perfect for your next trip.

The Jetboil Flash Stove can boil water in just 100 seconds, making it faster than most other stoves. It comes with a 1-liter cooking cup that is insulated and makes boiling water for coffee or food a cinch. When it’s hot, the coating changes color to let you know it’s ready to be used.

This stove even comes with a fuel canister stabilizer to ensure it won’t move around on you and is compatible with a plethora of Jetboil products to handle anything you want to cook. Weighing just .82 pounds without fuel, it’s easy to pack up and bring with you without worrying about the additional weight. When you’re done using it, everything packs up into the cup for easy storage and transportation.


Assorted gear for backpacking trip camping.

4. Fiskars X7 Hatchet

Anytime you are camping or hiking for an extended period of time, having something to cut with is essential. Bringing a knife is a great option, but if you are going to be splitting wood or clearing paths you may need something more robust. That’s why we recommend the Fiskars X7 Hatchet as an essential piece of backpacking gear.

The Fiskars X7 Hatchet is a versatile tool that works great for splitting logs for a fire, shaving wood for tinder, and cutting branches for kindling. The ultra-sharp edge can be used to cut food when cooking, and the hard back end is great for hammering in tent stakes.

The Fiskars X7 Hatchet features a hollow plastic handle which makes it extremely lightweight but doesn’t sacrifice any durability. It also means that it has a top-heavy design, which lends itself to easier swinging and log splitting.

The tapered edge of the Fiskars X7 Hatchet makes it great for shaving wood tinder to start a fire and because the metal is forged it will retain its edge for a long time. It’s one of our favorite pieces of backpacking gear because it comes in a sheath / carrying case that can easily be strapped to your pack or stored for safekeeping.

If you wish to learn more about the Fiskars X7 Hatchet, check out our in-depth review on this amazing hatchet!

5. Leatherman Signal Camping Multi-tool

When people think about multi-tools, the name that always comes up is Leatherman. The company has been making the finest multi-tools in the world for over four decades and the Leatherman Signal Camping Multi-tool is no exception. This multi-tool is purpose built for campers, which is why it is one of our essential pieces of backpacking gear.

The Leatherman Signal Camping Multi-tool comes with everything you need on a camping trip with 19 tools in one package. The purpose-built multi-tool offers the standard blades and pliers but also more specific camping tools like a fire starter, crimp fish hooks, safety whistle, and more.

As backpacking gear goes, there is nothing as functional as a multi-tool\ packing so much of what you need into a small package. It even comes with a belt sheath, or you can clip it right to your pack using the built-in carabiner. A multi-tool weighs next to nothing and offers so many functions that it is absolutely a key part of your backpacking gear set up.

6. Backpacking Compass

A compass is probably the most basic piece of backpacking gear on our list, but that doesn’t make it any less essential. A compass is, of course, key to navigating your way, but this particular compass can feature other useful items such as a magnifying glass and measure for calculating miles on a map.

With its small size and easily attached drawstring, this compass can fit anywhere on your pack or in your pocket, so you can bring it with you anywhere. Knowing how to get back off the trail is essential, and a compass can guide your way.

7. Grayl GeoPress

Clean water is essential to survival, no matter where you are. Certainly, when hiking and backpacking, clean drinking water becomes even more essential. The Grayl GeoPress is a backpacking gear essential because it serves two important functions: it purifies water and is your water bottle.

The Grayl GeoPress is a press-water filter. You simply put dirty water in and press the filter insert down into it, pushing the water through the filtration system and making it clean. The design means you can purify water quickly and have clean drinking water in an instant. The fact that it is encompassed in a bottle means you have one piece of equipment that functions for both purposes, rather than requiring a separate filtration tool. This makes it a great piece of backpacking gear for your next trip.

The Grayl GeoPress holds an impressive 24 ounces of water, so it will last you a long time on one fill. The system filters 99% of impurities, which means it can handle even the dirtiest water that you may come across. It can fit in a pack or clip right to the outside of your bag easily, and because you don’t have to carry a filtration system and bottle separately, it means you will get more room with this all-in-one system.

Two metal water bottles placed near a river or creek.

8. Osprey Talon 2 Backpack

All the backpacking gear in the world is great, but if you don’t have the right backpack to carry it in, it becomes useless. Finding an ergonomic backpack that will survive the harsh conditions of hiking and has enough room to carry everything is difficult, but the Osprey Talon 2 Backpack accomplishes just that.

This piece of backpacking gear has a massive 22-liter capacity, which is plenty to fit everything you need for a trip. Osprey is a well-known brand whose products are renowned for their durability and comfort. With multiple straps to distribute weight, a breathable back, and padded straps, you can rest assured that you won’t be aching at the end of the day.

Additionally, the Osprey Talon 2 Backpack has a huge suite of clips and pockets which make it great for storing all your other pieces of essential backpacking gear with ease. Finally, this pack has a price point that makes it very accessible when compared to some of its rivals, offering similar capacity and features at a much lower price point.

9. Energizer LED Headlamp

A headlamp is a small but critical piece of backpacking gear that you don’t want to forget. Even if you don’t plan on hiking at night, a headlamp can help you navigate the campsite in the dark. The Energizer LED Headlamp is a low-cost option that is bright, easy to use, and lightweight.

This headlamp has a single ergonomic strap and runs off of batteries, so there is no heavy rechargeable pack. While that does mean you’ll need to bring batteries; chances are a fresh set will last your full trip. The bright LED lights are sure to light up whatever you need, and you can trust the build quality from a well-known brand like Energizer.

10. Garmin inReach Mini

While a compass and map are always good backups, they aren’t the easiest ways to pinpoint your location or find your trail if lost. Almost all state and national trail systems require you to bring a GPS if you are going on an unguided trip, and the Garmin inReach Mini is a great option for a GPS.

Garmin is a well-established brand in the space, and this GPS comes with a suite of options at a price lower than many competitors. Not only will it track your trail so you can walk back if lost, but it also has two-way messaging and SOS signal capabilities if disaster strikes or you get fully turned around. That means it can be the difference between life and death.

As backpack gear goes, a GPS is a requirement for most trail systems and multi-day trips. The Garmin inReach Mini can have up to a 14-day battery life, so you won’t have to worry about it dying or recharging it, and it will even pair with other Garmin products, such as a watch. It works off the satellite, so you never will be out of service, and you can ping your location back to loved ones so they know you’re safe. All of these features come in a durable reinforced casing that will survive whatever you throw at it.

11. Hiker Hunger Trekking Poles

The last item on our list of backpacking gear is trekking poles, specifically the Hiker Hunger Trekking Poles. These are great for stabilizing yourself on the trail, especially in sharp inclines and declines, and can fold up into your pack when not in use.

Using trekking poles allows you to distribute your weight off of your feet and helps for safer hiking as well as an easier time carrying a full pack. These are especially useful on very technical trails where having a pole to brace yourself can be the difference between being injured and continuing on.

Backpacking Gear Essentials for Great Adventures!

A packed backpack next to trekking poles and hiking boots.

There are many products on the market for backpacking and knowing what to get for your next trip can be hard. This list of essential gear should be a great place to start, with a focus on lightweight, multi-functional, and durable equipment that will last for years to come.

While there are tons of other products you could look into, the products we’ve listed here are those that are the key between thriving on the trails and having to pack for home early.

For more helpful articles and guides, visit our Backpacking page!