This post contains everything you might want to know about gear I use when backpacking, as well as some of my thoughts on gear choices. I have gotten some emails and messages about some items, so this is an effort to create something I can respond with. I am going to use this post as a place to link people to from other things such as future videos or posts as the one stop shop for my gear info. It will also contain some ramblings (more to come in the future) about gear and Ultralight ideas.
Like many, I follow most of the principals of Ultralight Backpacking. You will see this in some of my gear choices, but admittedly not all. I try to keep my base weight as low as possible, but it often varies between trips. Generally my base weight is under 10lbs, often much lower if conditions permit. I live in Vancouver, Canada, so weather and conditions are constantly changing. When I am out around home, I am often switching things up or taking more or less gear to suit the conditions. If you live somewhere where you can be certain it isn’t going to rain for the next 5 days, then you can adapt your gear accordingly!
My gear list is on LighterPack, which is a nice website for viewing gear lists, as well as maintaining your own. You might think it’s stupid to track your gear on a website, I know I did, but I think you’d be surprised with how useful it is. It is very helpful to be able to visualize all of your gear in the way that LighterPack allows you to, and it can help you pick out pieces of gear that are just too heavy, or things that you don’t need. Additionally, if you are prone to forgetting things, double check the gear in your pack against your list before heading out to make sure you have everything.
I suggest anyone reading this puts their gear into LighterPack. If you have a cheap kitchen scale, it is perfect for weighing your gear. If you don’t, try to find weights from other peoples lists, or as a last resort from the manufacturer (it isn’t a huge deal if you are off by a bit). I think anyone would benefit from seeing where the weight on their back comes from in a more detailed way. A final note about LighterPack: I like to put all of my gear into one list, even the stuff that I rarely use, or only bring sometimes. Once you have done that, you can easily adjust the quantity of each item on the far right of each row, and just set it to zero if you don’t plan to bring it. I don’t care enough to maintain several lists, so this is the best way I have found to do it.
If you are interested in lightening your load, do not buy anything right away. At least for your first few trips, focus on getting rid of things you already have but don’t really need, and lighten your essential gear later. Do you need a stove or cook system? Try a trip where you cold soak your food and leave the stove at home. Remember, the lightest version of a given piece of gear isn’t the DCF or titanium version of it, it’s the one that you don’t bring at all. Once you are confident that you have reduced your load to only things that you require to be safe and relatively comfortable in the backcountry, then you can begin the gear research process.
I’m not going to tell you what to buy, because the stuff that I use works for me, and probably isn’t the best option for you. The best way to research gear is to speak with people who use that gear. If you are considering buying an item, take advantage of the gold mine of info online. Bacpacking Light is a great resource, but I prefer /r/Ultralight (which is free). Both of those sites (as well as Google searches likely returning those sites) are your best friend. Check for gear reviews, trip reports using said item, or other threads posted by people in the same boat as you who are asking questions about the item. Almost all popular items are well documented with reviews and endless questions and answers from potential buyers, and you will likely find what you are looking for fairly easily. If you are having trouble finding an answer for a question with the techniques I just explained, you have a few options. First off, you could contact the company selling the item directly. Most cottage companies in the backpacking world are extremely friendly to potential buyers (for obvious reasons) and are often willing to provide detailed answers/measurements to any questions or requests you may have about their products. Another option is to reach out to someone who has the item. Most people will gladly answer your questions if you track down their email address or DM them on their socials (be cool). Lastly, if you really can’t decide or find the information you need, post on /r/Ultralight and someone can hopefully help you out.
If you are starting completely fresh, I would suggest you find some trip reports on Reddit from people who are hiking in areas that you plan on hiking (or places with similar conditions). Take note of the items that they bring and the items they don’t. I wouldn’t suggest you go out and buy all of the gear they have, but you could use their gear lists to get a general idea of what you will need. For example, if you are going to be hiking in the Appalachians and see that most Appalachian range hikers prepare for slightly wetter conditions than hikers who frequent the Arizona trail, you should aim to reflect this in your kit.
When buying gear, you will make mistakes, but being careful you can minimize those mistakes. Just make sure to put in the research and don’t make any impulse buys that you will regret later. Ultralight gear isn’t cheap, and also comes with some killer lead times in many cases, so it is best to put in the time and reap the rewards when you are happy with your gear. 8 weeks of lead time is a lot of time for buyers remorse if you aren’t sure what you want to purchase!