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Best Backpacking Gear & Clothes


The latest generation of gear and clothing is lighter, warmer, and more functional. These advantages are evident in packs, tents, sleeping bags, stoves, jackets, pants, and waterproof shells.

Review your gear and clothes as per the Backpacking Checklist. Look for redundancies or gaps.

Anything worn out and/or significantly surpassed by better technology or materials may be worth considering for replacement.

On every trip one should consider how gear and clothes can be improved so that weight is reduced while improving performance and enjoyment. Possible goals:
  • Reduce your pack weight (excluding food) by 3 (or 5) pounds
  • Replace two pieces of clothing with a single multi-functional piece.
  • Improve the weakest link in your gear or clothing
  • Improve your protection against rain and cold.
Each team member should have clothing that is roughly equivalent with the others in terms of rain protection and insulation. This way all backpackers feel the rain/cold equally and are ready to retire to the tent at about the same time. If you want to do this really right, make sure that your girl has better protection than you do.

Following is a list of some of the best gear and clothes for backpackers in the Sierra Nevada environment. These items have been reviewed for their quality, light weight, features, and performance in 3-season mountain backpacking.

Tents

Notes

Tents

  • For 2-person: Under 5 lbs packed weight; ultralight under 4.5 lbs
  • For 3 person: Under 8 lbs packed weight
  • Ease of set-up
  • Room to sit up
  • Fly & Footprint only option for ultralight roughing it.
  • Dual door/dual vestibule is significant plus.

2-person, 3 season tents

Big Agnes Copper Spur 2
Marmot Aura 2P
The North Face Tadpole 23
Kelty Flight 2
MSR Hubba Hubba
Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2.1
Marmot Aeolos
REI Quarter Dome 2 TT
The North Face Vector 22

3-person, 3-season tents

Marmot Aeros 3P
MSR Mutha Hubba
Mountain Hardwear Skyledge  3
REI Taj 3
 
 

Stoves--Liquid

Notes

Stoves

  • Fast boil
  • Efficient use of fuel
  • Pot and Stove Stability
  • Ease of lighting and maintenance
  • Durability
  • Simmering capability is useful
MSR Simmerlite
MSR Whisperlite International
MSR Reactor

Jetboil
MSR XGK Expedition
Optimus Nova
Primus EtaPower

Sleeping Bags

Notes

Bags

  • 15 to 20 degrees F
  • Water resistant, windproof shell, breathable
  • Features: foot box, draft tube, collar and hood adjustments
  • Target 2 lbs, 12 ozs or less for down bags
  • Ultralights are in the 2 pound range
Marmot Helium
Marmot EcoPro 15
Mountain Hardwear Phantom
Marmot Pinnacle
Sierra Designs TradeWind
Exped Woodpecker
REI Sub-Kilo +20
Feathered Friends Hummingbird Nano

Sleeping Bags--Synthetic

Notes

Bags

  • 15 to 25 degrees F
  • Look for high performance fill--Polarguard 3d, or Polarguard Delta
  • Avoid over 3 1bs, 5 oz.
  • Backpacking features--draft tube, collar, stuffed size
Marmot Pounder Plus
The North Face Fission
Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15
Kelty Sonora

REI Zephyr
The North Face Cat's Meow

Waterproof Shells--Ultralight

Notes

Shells

  • Waterproof/breathable
  • Good venting: large vent pockets or pit zips
  • Drawcord hem
  • About 1lb or less
Arc'Teryx Alpha SL
The North Face Lightspeed
Marmot Essence
REI Ultralight Jacket
Marmot Precip

Waterproof Shells-Mountaineering & Expedition

Notes

Shells

Features above and beyond ultralight shell
  • Warmer linings/Warmer construction
  • Protection at zippers
  • Excellent venting
  • Improved stretch/movement design
  • Complete hood adjustments
  • Wear/Durability features
  • Improved waterproofing details
Arc'Teryx Beta AR
Arc'Teryx Theta AR
Arc'Teryx Theta LT
The North Face Mountainlight XCR
The North Face Exodus Guide Jacket
The North Face Flight Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Exposure II
Mountain Hardwear Recon Jacket
REI Liberty Ridge Parka
REI Switchback Parka
REI Ultra Stretch Jacket
The North Face Varius Light

Mid-Layer Insulation

Notes

Mid-Layer

  • Insulating when wet
  • Wind resistant/Water resistant/breathable
  • Good venting: large vent pockets or pit zips
  • Drawcord hem
  • Collar drawcord
  • Stretch/Movement support cut
  • About 1lb 6 ozs or less
Arc'Teryx Gamma MX Hoody Jacket
Arc'Teryx Gamma MX Jacket
Marmot Sharp Point Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Windstopper Tech Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Alchemy Jacket
REI Synchro Jacket
REI Muir Woods Jacket
REI One jacket
The North Face Denali Jacket
The North Face Pumori Jacket

 Pants

Notes

Pants

  • Nylon, quick dry, breathable
  • Gusseted crotch
  • Internal brief is good option
  • High UPF
  • Web belt or belt loops (the half belt, half elastic waist dont' work well with packs)
     
The North Face Paramount Pants
The North Face Paramount Convertible Pants
Ex Officio Amphi Pants
Ex Officio Convertible Amphi Pants
REI Convertible Sahara Pants
REI Sahara Pants
Mountain Hardwear Canyon Pants
Mountain Hardwear Pack Pants

Shorts

Notes

Shorts

  • Nylon, quick dry
  • Internal brief keeps things simple
  • UPF
Ex Officio Amphi Shorts
REI Sahara Shorts
Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shorts
Mountain Hardwear Pack Shorts
The North Face Paramount Shorts

 

 

Longer, Warmer Days Ahead! Get the inside line

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Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight Hiking

 

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