Gear For New Backpackers

Its spring time and people are busting out their backpacking gear.  Have a friend that is new to the game? Its tough to recommend gear since different people have such different styles and priorities when in the outdoors.  There is no standard set of gear that works for everyone.  I generally try and focus on a few quality items and then go for some cheaper gear for the pieces I find people having strong opinions about.  That way your new outdoor buddy can get going, have a few pieces they can carry for a while and upgrade a few things here and there to fit their new found outdoor style. The other thing to note is that everything on this list can be purchased at REI or so if the gear just doesn’t work out for some reason you can always take it back for something else. The picture featured in this post is one I took of my gear on an one of my first backpacking trips – not too much in that picture I still use.

  • Backpack – Go try some on.
    • I won’t recommend someone a backpack. You need to go to the store, get your back measured and try a bunch on.  Size wise I suggest people get a pack around the 55-60 L size (small enough for an overnight but big enough for a 5 day trip without being obnoxiously large like an 85 L pack). I’d also say to stay on the cheap side for your first one.  I rarely feel like people choose a pack that is truly comfortable their first time around.  People seem to just settle on a pack but if you had a pair of shoes that always gave you blisters you would find a different pair.  Same should go with a backpack.  If it, literally, rubs you the wrong way you should get a different one.
  • Sleeping bag – The North Face Furnace 35
    • I like to recommend this bag because its cheap ($169.99), is pretty lightweight (2 lbs. 1 oz.), is made of treated down, and has a temperature rating of 35 degrees F (rarely do you need something more than 35 degrees and if you go winter camping every now and then you can either wear down pants and a jacket to bed or get a sleeping bag liner to boost the bags temperature rating).
  • Sleeping Pad – Big Agnes Q-Core SL
    • Nothing ruins a trip like not sleeping.  Personally I’d invest in this pad to ensure a good night sleep.  Its pricey ($139.99) but I’ve yet to find a more comfortable pad.
  • Tent – Kelty Salida 2
    • Its cheap ($169.99), has a really solid amount of interior floor space (30.5 square feet), a big vestibule (10 square feet), and weighs under 5 lbs.
  • Stove – MSR Pocket Rocket
    • Its just a solid stove that never breaks.  Honestly who hasn’t owned one of these at some point in their backpacking career. This is one of the items you won’t need to replace and won’t speed a lot on.
  • Cooking pot – Snow Peak Titanium Cook N Save Pot
    • A slick, lightweight, medium sized pot.  Another item you won’t ever need to replace.
  • Water filter – SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Water Purifier
    • Hands down the easiest way to purify water when you are hiking.  Just fill up a bottle and wait 60 seconds.
  • Headlamp – Black Diamond Storm
    • The best headlamp for your money. Period.

This is the majority of gear you need to go on your first trip.  Outside this you could use a compass, map, fire starting device, fork/spoon, mug, bag to hang food in at night, the right clothing, and a few other things.  But finding out what those other things are is half the fun.  Go wander around REI or your local outdoor store with your friends and find some cool gadgets to try out.  You can always check out the packing lists I’ve posted to find out exactly what I keep in my pack.