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The backpacking gear you didn’t know you needed

My very first backpacking trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience – I spent 3 days in the bottom of the Grand Canyon with some of the most magnificent waterfalls in the world. Yes, my first backpacking trip was to Havasupai Falls (more on that later).

Camping Gear for Beginner Car Campers

Before that trip, I didn’t have any backpacking gear and I spent a lot of time doing research and taking to the experts at REI. Now four years into backpacking, through trail and error, I’ve accumulated what I consider to be the best backpacking gear. And not the best because I’ve spent a ton of money (but yes, this is an expensive hobby) but the best because it is the gear that I use regularly and it has stood the test of time. Thoughout this blog, you’ll notice I mention weight a lot – that’s because you want your gear to be as light as possible! The weight of your gear adds up fast and you have to carry all of your food and water so packing light is essential.

So if you are a novice backpacker or like me, you are always looking for innovative gear to take on your next adventure, keep reading!

Here is the backpacking gear you didn’t know you needed:

backpacking gear for beginners

First let’s start with some basic backpacking gear you need.


I have used REI’s Half Dome 2 since my first trip to Havasupai and I love it. Not only do I use it on backpacking trips, I use it on car camping trips… that’s how much I love it! It fits my partner and I (I’m 5’8 and he’s 5’10) and weighs about 4 pounds. They don’t sell our version anymore but here’s a similar model.

Sleeping bag

I use the Big Agnes Buell 30 Sleeping Bag. Unfortunately it’s no longer in stock, but all you need to know is it only weighs 2 pounds and 10 ounces, it is temperature rating is 25 degrees (F), and it is best use is backpacking. When looking for a backpacking sleeping bag, the most important thing to look at is weight and temperature rating!


I use the Osprey Aura Ag 50 Pack for women. I have a size M, which holds 50 liters. I LOVE this backpack! Every time I get to use it, I get excited because it is so innovative and comfortable!

This pack has anti-gravity technology which helps balance heavy loads and provides cooling comfort through a mesh backing. It’s hydration compatible (more on that later) and weights just over 4 pounds.

One awesome feature of this pack is there is a removable compartment at the top so it could be used as a day pack. I’m all about gear with multiple functions!

When buying a backpack, I highly recommend trying one on in-store to make sure you get the right fit.

Sleeping pad

I love my Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad (Regular). It’s insulated, 1 inch thick, self-inflating and only 1 pound, 6 ounces. It packs super tiny and is easy to get back into its pouch.

When I’m going on a shorter backpacking trip, I like to splurge and bring two sleeping pads! In those cases, I grab my NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad. It’s insulated (perfect for colder nights) and at 10.5 ounces, it’s extremely lightweight.

Now that I have the three basics out of the way, here’s the backpacking gear you didn’t know you needed:

backpacking gear

Down blanket

What’s cozy, lightweight and folds into the size of my Nalgene? My down blanket (pictured lovingly above)!

I don’t go on any backpacking or camping trips without a down blanket. My favorite way to use it is to shove it *inside* my sleeping bag to provide extra cozy insulation. And if I’m warm enough, I’ll roll it up to use as a pillow (instead of using my dirty clothes as a pillow). It’s another great multi-use piece of gear that I couldn’t live without.

I’m sorry to say I couldn’t find a link to mine (I got it on sale at Costco a couple of years ago) but here is a similar one at REI.


If you can spare the weight, bringing a chair is really nice – especially after a really long hike. My favorite chair is the REI Co-op Flexlite camp chair because it’s surprisingly comfortable and weighs a little over 1 pound. It’s easy to set up and fold down, and can hold up to 250 pounds.


Another essential piece of backing gear for me is a bandana. Not only is it extremely lightweight, it has multiple purposes:

  • Face mask (@ COVID)
  • Sweatband
  • Tissue/napkin
  • Pee rag – bring a little bag to keep it in to leave no trace
  • Sun protection
  • Sleep mask
  • Cooler-downer – put it in cold water and place it across your neck
  • Tourniquet
  • Wound stancher – no bandaid, no problem
  • Cute accessory for your hair or around your neck
Underrated hikes in Sedona, Arizona

Two+ Water Sources

A long time ago I ran out of water on a hike and it was absolutely terrifying and a mistake I will never make again. When I backpack, I bring two water systems and a backup! My main source of water comes from my hydration bladder. I use a 3 liter bladder and it’s my source of drinking water while hiking.

When I’m at camp, I drink out of a 48 fl oz Nalgene bottle. I like to have two separate sources because you never know what could happen in the backcountry! It’s also a great way to monitor how much water you are drinking, which is important after a long day of hiking.

My third source (the extra, extra backup) is a LifeStraw Water Filter. It’s lightweight, lets you safely drink straight from a stream or lake, and offers great peace of mind.

backpacking gear you didn't know you needed
backpacking gear you didn't know you needed


The final piece of backpacking gear you didn’t know you needed is Moleskin! It’s an anti-blister remedy that protects your feet from friction. After hiking 10+ miles in to camp, I usually need some Moleskin for the hike out!

backpacking gear you didn't know you needed

I hope you enjoyed this blog and got some ideas for your next backpacking trip! If you are interested in a more in-depth look at what I pack, let me know in the comments below.

And if you are interested in reading about some of my backpacking adventures, check out these blogs!

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