Preparing for Summer Adventures - My Backpacking Gear List
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When the temperatures finally starts warming up in spring and the snow is slowly melting in the mountains, I get stoked on planning for all the summer adventures and backpacking trips. I often feel that I wait for summer like a kid is waiting for Christmas, and then it goes by in a blink of an eye. That is why I always try to make the most out of the warm summer days in the backcountry, and prepare early in the season to make sure I am ready for those long-awaited adventures.
I like to get out backpacking early in the season to test out the gear setup we have on some short and easy backpacking trips before committing to longer multi-day hikes to make sure I have the right stuff with me. This year, just before Memorial Weekend, we did a two night backpacking trip along Lake Chelan. We hiked the Lakeshore Trail from Prince Creek to the remote town of Steheken, WA. It was a new area for me, and I am always excited to go to places I’ve never been before. This low elevation hike is a great early season backpacking trip while there is still a lot of snow on trails higher in the mountains. It was great to start backpacking again and get my body used to carrying a heavy backpack. We learned on this trip what gear we need and what we can leave behind, and also little improvements we can make to our gear list to make our backpacking adventures easier and more comfortable.
Last summer when my daughter was still an infant, we were able to go backpacking with our regular backpacks because my husband carried her in the front carrier. Now that she is big enough (almost 13 months old) she transitioned to a backpack carrier that I am carrying, while my husband Jake is carrying the backpack with most of the gear and food. Years ago, before we had our daughter, we already invested in lightweight gear, and now that we have to carry her and other baby items, every ounce less does make a difference. Lightweight gear is expensive but for us it’s definitely worth the investment because we love to go backpacking in remote places together as a family. While some people get excited about new iphones or electronics, I get excited about new gear on the market because of the difference it makes on our adventures. I have to say that I am amazed by the improvements and innovation of the outdoor gear and clothing in the recent years that became even more lightweight, compact and comfortable without compromising the quality. If you are planning to invest in the new lightweight gear I highly recommend checking out Summer Gear Guide by Backcountry to see some of the newest gear and clothing for backpacking on the market. I wanted to share with you our current gear list with many items which we tested on many backpacking trips over the years, and also some new favorites.
My Backpacking Gear List
Sleeping Bag. The sleeping bag I’ve been using during summer adventures is Mountain Hardwear Phantom Spark Sleeping Bag:28 Degree Down. I love how lightweight and compact this sleeping bag is. It might feel not super warm high in the mountains (depends on your comforts with temperatures) but I still prefer it during summer and just wear my lightweight puffy if it gets colder at night or use a sleeping bag liner. I also own Mountain Hardwear Flame Sleeping Bag: 15 Degree Down which I use during colder seasons but I find it too warm for summer.
Sleeping Pad. Sleep is very important to me because if I don’t get quality sleep at night I just don’t function well during the day. Everybody might have different preferences on their sleeping pads but the one we used heavily and replaced over the years is Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm. This pad has 5.7R value so we use it during winter and summer. I am currently testing out Nemo Equipment Tensor Sleeping Pad which is very compact and comfortable but not suitable year around. I still like an option of having a more compact sleeping pad for summer backpacking adventures. For our daughter Zoey we bring Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad which we put between our pads. It is also a great pad to put anywhere on the ground without worrying about damaging it.
Pillow. I like Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow because it folds down very small and it is super lightweight. We used these pillows for the past four years.
Tent. When Zoey got a little older we upgraded to a three person tent. Of course, we needed a tent with enough space for all three of us to sleep in but we also wanted in to be spacious enough to hangout inside. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 Tent is the tent we are currently using and we really like it. It weighs about 4 pounds but it’s a very comfortable tent for us to just chill inside when the weather is not very good or when we are putting Zoey down for a nap. It has two big doors on each side for easy access and enjoying the views right from the tent.
Stove. We used many different cooking setups over the years. Our current favorite is Jetboil MiniMo Stove. We pretty much always cook dehydrated meals when we are backpacking, and this stove is very easy to set up and it also heats up water very fast. Our daughter is also fascinated by stoves and constantly trying to touch it, so having contained flame and being able to easily move the stove if necessary is a plus.
Filtration System. I used to felt that I spent a good portion of camp time while at the filtering water until I tried Platypus Gravity Works Filter System. In my opinion gravity filters is the way to go because you can just do something else or relax while the water is filtering on its own. Of course, sometimes there is nowhere to hang the filter water bag, but we have a tripod with us for photography pretty much all the time which also works for a gravity filter.
Utensils. This is probably pretty insignificant to some but Sea to Summit Delta Long Handled Spoons happens to be one of our favorite items for backpacking. If you are bringing dehydrated meals utensils with long handles are great for getting all that good stuff at the bottom and corners of the meal bag.
Mug. We actually saw someone at the camp drink out of GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug last summer, and we bought two of them right after that trip. These mugs are lightweight and will keep your drinks hot for a while. We love them so much that we often also drink out of them at home.
Headlamp. During summer backpacking we bring just one light source because sunrise is pretty early and sunset is late so we actually rarely use it but it’s great if you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or do night photography. Black Diamond makes the best headlamps in my opinion and we own several of different kinds.
Trekking Poles. I always make sure that I have Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles with me. While my husband Jake hikes without hiking poles 80% of the time, I really like to have mine because of the issues with my left knee on downhills, and in general for support and balance.
Sattelite-based Communicator Garmin inReachExplorer is one of our essential items especially now that we adventure with a little one. It comes with us on all our backpacking trips because you never know when an emergency situation might happen or when we might require help. Not only your are able to send a message to be rescued, but you can also send and receive messages to family or friends when in the wild. It sure gives us a peace of mind having this device with us.
Child Carrier. Now that our daughter is bigger and heavier we transitioned her from the front carrier to Thule Chariot Sapling Elite Child Carrier. It has adjustable back so that both of us can carry our daughter if needed, and both Zoey and I find this carrier pretty comfortable. I know that there are other great options on the market and I haven’t tested them on hikes so I can’t compare. But the one we have works great and we’ve been enjoying it so far. Still need to put it to more use on longer backpacking trips.
Clothing. I absolutely love t-shirts and underwear made with lightweight merino wool for backpacking trips. If you can bring only one shirt for several days of backpacking merino wool is the way to go because it dries fairly quickly and doesn’t stink as much as synthetic blends. Both Icebreaker and Smartwool have variety of options with different designs. This shirts are not cheap but I own few of them and absolutely love them. I do my best to take good care of them so that they last longer.
Even more important than other layers are good quality merino wool socks that make my feet a lot happier after hiking for miles. These socks also dry quickly and don’t smell as much.
Last but not least is a lightweight puffy that always comes with me when backpacking in the mountains. My new favorite lightweight puffy is Patagonia Micro Puff Insulated Jacket. I like that this jacket is made with PlumaFill insulation material instead of down but it’s still packable, lightweight and warm. I still need to test it out in colder temperatures and see how it compares to my down lightweight puffies, but I am really enjoying it so far.