The Beginner Backpacker's Essential Gear Guide

The Beginner Backpacker’s Essential Gear Guide

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Happy Monday! We are already halfway through summer. Can you believe that? Summer is my favorite season because there is so much to do. I love being outside as much as possible during the summertime. That’s why today I’m sharing my essential gear guide for the beginner backpacker!

We just went on our first real backpacking trip about a month ago. We planned our trip for about a year in advance. We actually intended to go on the trip last summer, until my husband broke his foot and we weren’t able to go. But it worked out. Delaying our trip meant that we were able to do a TON of research on the best essentials for beginner backpackers like us. That means I did all the work in tracking down the best essentials so you don’t have to! Check out my picks below the break!

[Related: Letting Go of Expectations: What the Wild Taught Me]

Beginner Backpacker Essentials


Your backpack will be one of the most important items you’ll buy as a beginner backpacker. Consider if you’ll want a pack that has an internal or external frame. Internal frames tend to be less jarring when you’re hiking, so that’s what I prefer. Also, consider the capacity of the packs. Typically, a 30-50 liter pack will be the perfect size for a night or two’s worth of gear. 50-75 liters will serve great for a multi-night hike, between 3-4 days depending on how efficient of a packer you are. Any longer than that and you’ll likely want to invest into a 75+ liter pack.

We opted for the Teton Sports Scout 3400 and Explorer 4000 internal frame packs. The Scout pack has a 55 liter capacity, and the Explorer has a 65 liter capacity. We went this route because my husband is stronger than I am and can therefore carry the bulk of our heavier gear.  These packs also come with a built-in rain fly to keep your gear dry in the case of unexpected storms.

The Beginner Backpacker's Essential Gear Guide


We went hiking in the mountains, and I have weak ankles. Because of this, we opted for the traditional, higher-top hiking boots over a more minimal shoe. We both bought the Vasque Breeze 2.0 hiking boots and they did not disappoint! They provided great support, and were very waterproof. We trekked through small streams and our feet stayed nice and try. Not only that, but even after hiking 12 hour days, our feet were minimally sore. You will likely want to size up, as your feet will swell. I sized up a half size, but I could probably have sized up a full size.

Sleeping Bags

When shopping for a sleeping bag, make sure you are looking for an Ultralight bag that is made specifically for backpacking. You’ll want your sleeping back to take up as little space as possible! We decided on the Teton Sports +5F Ultralight sleeping bag because it only weighed 4.1 lbs and would keep us warm in all seasons. It is a mummy-shaped bag, which I prefer because it keeps me nice and warm at night. The sleeping bags come with a compression sack to easily pack your sleeping back into your backpack compartment.


If you’re going to be out in the wilderness for a few days, you’ll want to consider an ultralight, small tent. We opted for a 2-person tent that had just enough room for us to sleep and that was about it! You won’t be spending a lot of time in your tent, so it’s best to go with something small. After all, you will be carrying your tent with you for miles at a time. Make sure you pick a tent that has a full-coverage rain fly! We made the mistake with our first tent of not having a full-coverage rain fly, and ended up getting soaked in a storm.

Water Filter & Bladder

If you’re roughin it, you’ll absolutely want to invest in a good water filter. Luckily, the top-of-the-line water filters are extremely affordable! We bought the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System. The Sawyer promises to filter 99.99999% percent of all bacteria. It was simply incredible. We filtered stagnant, brown lake water through the Sawyer and out came clean, clear, thirst-quenching water.

A good water bladder is going to be essential as well. Make sure you fill up your bladder before you leave! Choose a water bladder with a large opening and an on/off valve to prevent leaks while you’re walking.

The Beginner Backpacker's Essential Gear Guide

Cooking Gear & Food

There is nothing like a delicious hot meal at the end of the day. So look for cooking gear that is lightweight and cools quickly. We use the Bisgear 12/16 pc set that comes with two size pots, a stove, stand, silverware set, cleaning cloth, biner clip, and a convenient carrying case. You will want to buy some portable gas tanks to heat your food, as they are not included.

We pack protein bars, trail mix, and other snacks for while on the trail. Our favorite meals though are by Mountain House. They are the best-reviewed freeze-dried food on Amazon, and they do not disappoint! Our favorites are the Chili Mac with Beef, Breakfast Skillet, and Chicken Teriyaki.

Lastly, don’t forget a cup! When you sit down at the end of a long day, drinking out of a cup feels like a mini luxury. We bought Starbucks Via packs to make coffee in the morning.

Shop my picks here! And stay tuned for more of my beginner backpacker’s essentials coming soon!

Are you a beginner backpacker or a seasoned hiker? What are your on-the-trail essentials? Let me know in the comments!

The Beginner Backpacker's Essential Gear Guide

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  • Cat Asteriou-Bintliff

    This was a perfect timing read for me, we just reserved a camp site in St. Ignace yesterday! I’m super intrigued by your camp stove; we picked up a small wood burning camp stove on Amazon last month and hope it’ll work out well.
    Just one question: did your sleeping bag have decent back support? I used to have one that was SUPER warm and soft, but caused some major back aches in the morning!

    We’re brining along our Bear Butt camping hammock to veg around in haha. I’m not sure that’s exactly an essential per say, but it’s super comfy and can be set anywhere! It’s actually capable of BEING a “tent” but…not sure we’re there yet 🙂

    • Thanks Cat! No, it does not come with any additional support. However, you can buy sleeping pads that are great! I was going to include those in my next list. They make inflatable sleeping pads that you can get for relatively cheap that are nice and light-weight and help with the back support. I didn’t feel sore at all after sleeping on mine!

  • This is so helpful! We’ve just started getting back into our summer hiking rhythm and I definitely needed a more comprehensive list of the things we need to upgrade or purchase for the adventures we have planned!

  • This is such a great list!! My husband and I are currently just day hikers, but we really want to get into backpacking and over-night hikes. Will definitely be saving this for the future!

  • This is so helpful! Thank you for all the recommendations. Will definitely save this 🙂

  • This was so neat to read. I’m not a big hiker but do love it when I can make the time!

  • It’s been so many years since I’ve packed my backpack and gone travelling. Part of me wonders if I can even still do it. But having used multiple backpacks for long trips (Europe and Africa), a comfortable backpack for your body size and shape makes all the world of difference. Don’t cheap on it!

  • Love your picks and these are some very useful tips too! And your dog is so cute!

  • This is so perfect! We were just gifted two hiking packs for our upcoming wedding and I can’t wait to use them! Mine is a 50 liter and his is a 60 liter and I am glad to hear those are well suited for a few nights! He has backpacked a lot in the past but I have only gone on day hikes so I feel like a total novice! Thank you for this great post! 🙂

  • Taylor Smith

    Great tips! I have never backpacked but I’d like to!

  • Love this!! Hiking is something we’ve been considering getting started on…and this is a great place to begin!! 😀

  • I’m going on my first overnight camping trip in a couple of weeks–so I’m looking for all the advice I can get. Thanks!

  • I’ve got a water bladder and a Steripen, but the water filter system sounds waaaay more efficient! I need to check that out.

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    This is really great info! I would not know where to begin when it comes to gear for camping or hiking.

  • Bailey

    I love this! I’ve been wanting to get into backpacking for awhile. Such a great resource.

  • Neely

    Ive always wanted to go backpacking!

  • This is super useful! Bookmarking for when my next backpacking trip comes up 🙂

  • Courtney Lee

    Absolutely in love with your blog. So much amazing content! I felt you deserved some recognition so I nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award! You can see this on my blog at congratulations 🙂
    Courtney –

    • Aw thank you Courtney! I am honored. I actually received the blogger recognition award about a month ago but it means a lot to me that you thought of me!

  • I love love love your blog, girl! This post was so insightful! I’ve never gone backpacking but it seems really helpful!

    Have an awesome day!

    xx Kris

  • SUCH a great list (work in those boots!!) I bought a backpack for a trek a few years ago and one of my favourite things about it is that it has a detachable small pack that clips in to the front, for when you’ve made camp but still need a small bag to explore with

    Laura @