Backpacking Gear Kits: Beginner, Intermediate & Ultralight

By Mekenna Malan | June 15, 2021

Image credit: Visit Ogden

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.

BEGINNER KIT

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.

Osprey - Atmos AG 50 Liter Pack
Osprey - Atmos AG 50 Liter Pack
Osprey - Atmos AG 50 Liter Pack
Osprey - Atmos AG 50 Liter Pack
Osprey - Atmos AG 50 Liter Pack

Osprey - Atmos AG 50 Liter Pack

$240.00
Therm-a-Rest - BaseCamp Sleeping Pad
Therm-a-Rest - BaseCamp Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest - BaseCamp Sleeping Pad

$79.95
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag

Nemo - Tempo 20 Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag

$149.95
Danner - Men's Mountain 600 4.5
Danner - Men's Mountain 600 4.5
Danner - Men's Mountain 600 4.5
Danner - Men's Mountain 600 4.5
Danner - Men's Mountain 600 4.5
Danner - Men's Mountain 600 4.5

Danner - Men's Mountain 600 4.5" Boots

$209.95
Oboz - Women's Sypes Mid-Leather Waterproof
Oboz - Women's Sypes Mid-Leather Waterproof
Oboz - Women's Sypes Mid-Leather Waterproof
Oboz - Women's Sypes Mid-Leather Waterproof
Oboz - Women's Sypes Mid-Leather Waterproof
Oboz - Women's Sypes Mid-Leather Waterproof

Oboz - Women's Sypes Mid-Leather Waterproof

$165.00
MSR - MiniWorks® EX Microfilter
MSR - MiniWorks® EX Microfilter

MSR - MiniWorks® EX Microfilter

$99.95
MSR - WindBurner Personal 1.0L Stove System
MSR - WindBurner Personal 1.0L Stove System
MSR - WindBurner Personal 1.0L Stove System
MSR - WindBurner Personal 1.0L Stove System
MSR - WindBurner Personal 1.0L Stove System

MSR - WindBurner Personal 1.0L Stove System

$149.95

INTERMEDIATE KIT

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.

Osprey - Levity 45
Osprey - Levity 45
Osprey - Levity 45
Osprey - Levity 45
Osprey - Levity 45
Osprey - Levity 45
Osprey - Levity 45
Osprey - Levity 45

Osprey - Levity 45

$250.00
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

$149.95
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2
Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2

Big Agnes - Copper Spur HV UL2

$450.00
Big Agnes - Anvil Horn 15 Sleeping Bag (650 DownTek)
Big Agnes - Anvil Horn 15 Sleeping Bag (650 DownTek)
Big Agnes - Anvil Horn 15 Sleeping Bag (650 DownTek)
Big Agnes - Anvil Horn 15 Sleeping Bag (650 DownTek)
Big Agnes - Anvil Horn 15 Sleeping Bag (650 DownTek)

Big Agnes - Anvil Horn 15 Sleeping Bag (650 DownTek)

$269.95
Oboz - Men's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Men's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Men's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Men's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Men's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Men's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Men's Sawtooth II Low

Oboz - Men's Sawtooth II Low

$115.00
Oboz - Women's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Women's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Women's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Women's Sawtooth II Low
Oboz - Women's Sawtooth II Low

Oboz - Women's Sawtooth II Low

$115.00
Platypus - Platy QuickDraw
Platypus - Platy QuickDraw
Platypus - Platy QuickDraw
Platypus - Platy QuickDraw

Platypus - Platy QuickDraw

$45.95
MSR - PocketRocket 2 Stove
MSR - PocketRocket 2 Stove
MSR - PocketRocket 2 Stove
MSR - PocketRocket 2 Stove
MSR - PocketRocket 2 Stove

MSR - PocketRocket 2 Stove

$44.95
MSR - Titan Kettle
MSR - Titan Kettle

MSR - Titan Kettle

$59.95

ULTRALIGHT KIT

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.

Therm-a-Rest - NeoAir Uberlight Sleeping Pad
Therm-a-Rest - NeoAir Uberlight Sleeping Pad
Therm-a-Rest - NeoAir Uberlight Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest - NeoAir Uberlight Sleeping Pad

$159.95
MSR - FreeLite 1 Ultralight Backpacking Tent
MSR - FreeLite 1 Ultralight Backpacking Tent
MSR - FreeLite 1 Ultralight Backpacking Tent

MSR - FreeLite 1 Ultralight Backpacking Tent

$389.95
Altra - Men's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe
Altra - Men's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe
Altra - Men's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe
Altra - Men's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe
Altra - Men's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe

Altra - Men's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe

$130.00
Altra - Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe
Altra - Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe
Altra - Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe
Altra - Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe
Altra - Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe

Altra - Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe

$130.00
Platypus - Platy QuickDraw
Platypus - Platy QuickDraw
Platypus - Platy QuickDraw
Platypus - Platy QuickDraw

Platypus - Platy QuickDraw

$45.95

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