Backpacking Gear Kits: Beginner, Intermediate & Ultralight
By Mekenna Malan | June 15, 2021
When backpacking, most of your pack weight comes from your four largest pieces of gear: your backpack, tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Sometimes referred to as "The Big 4," the weight and durability of these items has the ability to make or break your hike.
GEAR:30's resident thru-hiker Bryden Bowley recommends his top picks for each item below, as well as the perfect hiking shoe, water filter, and stove system for your skill level.
If you're a backpacking beginner or are about to embark on a short trail, these picks will do more than just get the job done. Every piece of gear listed in this beginner kit is top-notch: you'll be able to hike on with the assurance that only a durable, technical, trustworthy and comfortable kit can afford you.
When backpacking longer or more difficult trails, every pound counts. This kit edges into ultralight territory, ensuring you can hike as many miles as possible with a pack that's super light without sacrificing your comfort.
We don't currently carry our top pick for an ultralight pack, but it's more than worth mentioning: Pa'lante packs. One of the buzziest ultralight backpacks on the market today, Pa'lante packs are currently manufactured right here in Utah. Learn more about them by reading our recent interview with Pa'lante founder Andrew Bentz, then attempt to get your hands on one by shopping their site.
You might notice there isn't a backpacking stove recommendation in this kit. If you didn't know, now you know: many thru-hikers opt for a cold-soak system to shed a couple pounds off their pack weight. This usually consists of filling a single plastic container with an airtight lid—like an empty peanut butter or Talenti gelato jar—with dry ingredients and water, allowing it to "cook" in their packs while they hike. Want to see how going stoveless works? Check out this YouTube video.