Best Backpacking Gear of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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Published Jul 25, 2023 5:56 PM

From packing out on an elk hunt to exploring the alpine wildernesses of the west, our Field and Stream writers and editors have invested countless hours on the trail and in the field testing gear. While we offer gear-specific roundups and individual product reviews, having the best of the best all in one place is a great way to get an overview to help guide your next gear pick.

Whether you’re putting together your first backpacking gear setup or upgrading an item or two, we compiled our top 20 gear picks for backpacking. Our list features most of what you’ll need but is not an all-inclusive overview of what to bring on the trail. Check out the “things to consider” section at the end of the article for a more detailed list of what we recommend packing for backpacking.

For more of the best backpacking gear we’ve tested, check out our camping gear page.

Best Backpacks

Best Tents and Shelters

Best Sleeping Gear

Best Camp Kitchen Gear

Best Lighting and Tools

How We Picked the Best Backpacking Gear

The best backpacking gear list is not all-inclusive. While it may not cover everything you need on a backpacking trip, it includes 20 of the most important items on your packing list—at least in our expert opinion.

We selected the products based on previous testing and gear picks made by Field and Stream staff. If the product isn’t currently featured in a gear roundup, I’ve tested them to ensure they’re suitable for a wide range of recreationalists. The products included in this list are subject to change as further testing is conducted.

Best Backpacking Gear: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Backpacks

Best Backpacking: Osprey Aether 65 / Osprey Ariel 65

Best Backpacking Backpack

Ranked as our best backpacking backpack, the Osprey Aether / Ariel offers a highly adjustable and durable option that fits most hikers and adventures.

Full product review: Best Backpacking Backpacks

Camping photo
Unpacking an Osprey backpack at camp in the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness in Michigan – Meg Carney
Specs (Aether 65) Pros Cons
Materials: Bluesign-approved 420HD
nylon packcloth, PFC-free DWR
Capacity: 65L
Weight: 4.9 lbs
– Durable construction and materials
– Adjustable back panel
– Osprey Lifetime Warranty
– Comfortable fully loaded
– Versatile design
– Water bottle pocket is
hard to access
– Heavy

Best Ultralight Backpack

Ranked as our best ultralight backpack, the ULA Circuit is a favorite among thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers because of its comfort and durability even on long-haul treks.

Full product review: Best Ultralight Backpacks

Specs Pros Cons
Materials: 100% Robic Nylon fabric, Teflon DWR,
PU Coating, carbon fiber and Delrin suspension hoop,
internal foam frame, aluminum stay
Capacity: 68L
Weight: 2.3 lbs
Max Load: 35 lbs
– Made in the USA
– Lifetime warranty and repairs
– Customizable fit and features
– Fits any bear canister on the market
– High level of comfort
– Heavy for an ultralight pack
– Wish the closure was
more secure

Best for Women: Deuter Aircontract Ultra

Best for Women

Ranked as one of our top lightweight backpacks, the Deuter Aircontract Ultra has an excellent weight-to-volume ratio and a high level of comfortable suitable for most women’s bodies.

Camping photo
Testing the Deuter Aircontact Ultra in Eastern Washington – Meg Carney

Full product review: Best Ultralight Backpacks

Specs Pros Cons
Materials: 175D Polyamide Ripstop Ultra HD, PFAS Free
Capacity: 45 + 5L
Weight: 2.6 lbs
Max Load: 35 lbs
– Deuter Lifetime Warranty
– Bluesign-certified backpack materials
– Exterior attachments for additional gear
– Customizable design
– PFAS free
– Heavier than other ultralight models

Best Tents and Shelters

Best Backpacking Tent: Nemo Dragonfly OSMO

Best Backpacking Tent

The Nemo Dragonfly OSMO is our best overall pick for ultralight and backpacking tents because of the proprietary poly-nylon ripstop fabric that offers a higher level of water repellency and stretch resistance when wet. The OSMO fabric is also made from 100% recycled yarn and is PFAS-free.

Camping photo
Testing Nemo Dragonfly OSMO in Eastern Washington – Meg Carney

Full product review: Best 2-Person Backpacking Tents and Best Ultralight Tents

Specs (2-Person) Pros Cons
Materials: 10D Nylon Ripstop, No-See-Um Mesh
Floor Area: 29 sq ft
Peak Height: 41 in
Packed Size: 19.5 x 5.5 x 3.5 in
Weight: 2 lb 10 oz
– Two large vestibules
– Light and packs down small
– Interior pockets
– Easy to set up, even alone
– Bluesign-approved fly/floor materials
– Footprint not included
– Tapered foot section may minimize space
– Price

Best Camping Hammock: Sea to Summit Pro Hammock Set

Best Camping Hammock

Ranked as the best camping hammock, the Sea to Summit Pro Hammock Set offers a comfortable, durable lounging or sleeping area in camp at an affordable price.

Full product review: best camping hammocks

Specs Pros Cons
Hammock Package Weight: 19.7 oz (single),
23.6 oz (double)
Weight Capacity: 400 pounds
Materials: ripstop 70D nylon
– Easy set up
– Versatile
– Lightweight
– Affordable
– Only compatible with
branded suspension system
– Bug net and tarp sold separately

Best Sleeping Gear

Best Synthetic Sleeping Bag

Likely the most sustainable synthetic sleeping bag option currently on the market, the Nemo Forte Endless Promise is made from recycled materials and is fully recyclable.

Camping photo
Nemo Forte Endless Promise – Meg Carney

Full product review: Nemo Forte Endless Promise Sleeping Bag Review

Specs Pros Cons
Shell Fabric: 100% Recycled Polyester
Lining Fabric: 20D 100% Recycled
Polyester Taffeta
Insulation: Synthetic
Temp Rating: 20F / -6C, 35F / 2C
ISO Comfort: 30F / -1C, 40F / 4C
Weight: 3 lbs 7 oz, 2 lbs
– Bluesign Approved fabric
– Available in both regular and long
– Made from recycled materials
– 100% recyclable
– Ideal comfort for side sleepers
– Synthetic insulation continues
to insulate when wet
– Long fits up to 6′ 6″
– Price
– Synthetic insulation makes it
heavier and larger to pack down
– Sheds microplastics

Best Down Sleeping Bag

What would be ranked as one of our top backpacking sleeping bags, the Western Mountaineering ExtremeLight is a surprisingly durable and spacious ultralight bag option made in the USA with quality materials.

More sleeping bag options: best sleeping bags

Specs (5′ 6″) Pros Cons
Shell Fabric: 7-12D nylon ripstop
Lining Fabric: 10-15D nylon taffeta
Insulation: 850+ fill down
Temp Rating: 22F
ISO Comfort: 35F
Weight: 1lb 7oz
– Lightweight design
– Several height variations
– Highly compressible
– Excellent comfort rating
– High tread count for durability
– Spacious for a mummy design
– Water-resistant
– Made in the USA
– Price
– Hood is a bit awkward
– Zipper durability/quality
could be improved

Best Backpacking Quilt: Outdoor Vitals StormLoft Down TopQuilt

Best Backpacking Quilt

Ranked as the best overall backpacking quilt, the Outdoor Vitals StormLoft TopQuilt is an excellent value for the performance as a three-season quilt offering several temperature rating options to fit individual needs.

Camping photo
Outdoor Vitals StormLoft TopQuilt – Meg Carney

Full product review: best backpacking quilts

Specs Pros Cons
Weight: 23 oz (15F Regular)
Fabric: 10D Ripstop Nylon w/ VitalDry DWR
Fill: 800-Fill Power HyperDry Water Repellent Down
Temperature Rating: 0 to 30F / -17 to -1C
– Lightweight and highly packable
– Several temperature ratings options
– Excellent water resistance for down
– Clips and pad straps included
– Outdoor Vitals lifetime warranty
– Draft collar cinch is in a
weird spot
– Can improve material
sourcing and sustainability

Best Sleeping Bag Liner: Big Agnes Wool Sleeping Bag Liner

Best Sleeping Bag Liner

Ranked as our best overall sleeping bag liner, the Big Agnes Wool Sleeping Bag Liner can bolster comfort in the backcountry in various conditions and is durable enough to be a longstanding staple in your gear lineup.

Full product review: best sleeping bag liners

Specs Pros Cons
Weight: 16 oz
Materials: 87% Merino wool,
13% nylon
Increases Warmth Up To: 5-10°F
– Made from mostly natural materials 
– Snaps open and closed on the side
– Mummy-style liner
– Hooks on hood and foot to attach
to sleeping bag
– Same design is also available in
cotton and fleece, but those fabrics
do not perform as well and
are much heavier 

Best Sleeping Pad

Featured in our best sleeping pad article, the Nemo Flyer Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad is made from recycled and bluesign-approved materials for a highly functional and easy-to-use backpacking pad.

Camping photo
Nemo Flyer sleeping pad (right) during sleeping pad testing – Meg Carney

Full product review: best sleeping pads for camping

Specs Pros Cons
Type of Pad: Self-inflating open-cell foam
Materials: 100% Recycled PU Polyester, Bluesign Approved
Thickness: 2 in
Weight: 1 lb 7 oz
R-Value: 3.3
– Horizontal coring improves warmth and comfort
– Made from recycled materials
– Nemo Lifetime Warranty
– Rapid self-inflation and easy deflation
– Lighter weight than expected for the pack size
– Pack size is larger because of the foam
– Can be hard to roll back up

Best Camp Kitchen Gear

Best Water Filter: CNOC Outdoors Vecto and Versa Flow

Best Water Filter

Featured in our best backpacking water filter review, the CNOC Vecto and Versa Flow is one of the easiest-to-use and versatile water filter systems that still offers a high level of durability.

Camping photo
Using the CNOC Vecto and Versa Flow in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota. – Meg Carney

Full product review: best backpacking water filters

Specs Pros Cons
Type of Filter: Gravity, squeeze, straw
Liters Per Lifetime: 378,541 L / 100,000 gal
Weight: 2 oz (filter), 1-3 oz (per bag)
Effective Against: Particulates, bacteria, protozoa
– Lightweight system
– Durable CNOC bags
– Versatile filter application
– Clear window to see when cleaning is needed
– Affordable price
– Needs to be backflushed often for best flow rate

Best Water Container

Water storage is a must for backpacking trips, and this is my go-to water storage option for backpacking and paddle camping. It offers a versatile water storage option that can double as a shower in a highly portable and surprisingly durable package.

How to Clean a Water Bladder

Specs (4L) Pros Cons
Materials: 400D Nylon Fabric
Dimensions: 11 x 8.5 x 4 inches
Weight: 6 oz | 170 g
– Available in 4 sizes
– Multi-functional cap
– Food-grade TPU lining is BPA and PVC free
– Durable and easy to pack
– Works with any 63mm water filter
– Easier to fill than MSR Dromedary
– Handle could be more durable
– Price

Best Camp Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe 

Best Camp Stove

Ranked as our best overall camp stove, the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe is a compact, dependable stove with both simmering capabilities and consistent boil times. Or try the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 as a more affordable alternative.

Camping photo
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 – Meg Carney

Full product review: best backpacking stoves

Specs Pros Cons
Weight: 2.9 ounces
Fuel Type: Isobutane/propane canister
Average Boil Time: 3.5 minutes
– Lightweight, compact design 
– Simmer doesn’t burn food while cooking
– Easy to use 
– Built-in pressure regulator 
– Works well in the wind 
– Piezo ignitor is can be unreliable 

MSR Trail Lite Solo Cook Set

What would be ranked as one of our top picks for best backpacking cookware, the MSR Trail Lite Solo Cook Set is a lightweight, durable backpacking option available in solo and duo sizes.

Camping photo
Using the MSR Trail Lite Duo Cook Set to prep Good to Go Meal while backpacking the Enchantments in Washington – Meg Carney

Pair this cook set with one of the Best Backpacking Stoves

Specs Pros Cons
Materials: aluminum, plastic
Weight: 12.5 oz
Diameter: 5.7 in
Height: 4 in
Width: 15 cm
Trail Lite Set is available in a duo as well
– Packs down into the pot
– Easy to clean
– Durable materials
– Mug keeps coffee/tea hot for a surprising amount of time
– Excellent MSR repair policy
– Pairs well with MSR cook stoves
– Price
– Yellow bowl holds stains
– Would be nice if they
considered materials other than plastic

Best Camping Utensil: Sea to Summit Alpha Long Spork

Best Camping Utensil

What would be the best overall camping utensil, the Sea to Summit Alpha Long Spork is a durable and lightweight option you can bring anywhere. The long handle design makes it perfect for eating out of backpacking meal bags, and the spork design adds some versatility.

Keep this on hand and pair it with one of the best insulated lunch boxes for work or day hikes.

Specs Pros Cons
Materials: Aluminum
Weight: 0.48 oz
Dimensions: 8.66 x 1.57 x 0.98 in
– Lightweight and functional
– Made from durable materials
– Long handle is great for pots or
backpacking meal bags
– Doesn’t bend or break as easily as
plastic alternatives
– Comes with a carabiner to keep it
accessible while hiking
– Easy to keep clean
– Hand wash only
– Price
– Could just be a spoon,
the spork isn’t that handy

Best Backpacking Meal

Perhaps the most flavorful and best-tasting pre-made backpacking meal I’ve ever tasted, the Fernweh Fods Green Tamale Pie will surprise you. Being a plant-based meal, it suits a wider audience and can be paired with your favorite proteins. Fernweh Foods offers a variety of other flavors as well.

Camping photo
Prepping the Fernweh Food Co Green Tamale Pie on a bikepacking trip in Western Montana. – Meg Carney

Try this fish recipe to elevate your camp cooking.

Specs Pros Cons
Weight: 4.5 oz. per serving
Calories: 630
Protein: 25 grams
Packaging: Omnidegradable
Vegan / Plant-based
Gluten Free
– Excellent portion sizes
– Pair with additional proteins well
– Friendly dietarily
– Delicious and flavorful
– Easy to cook
– Made in Portland, OR
– Even avid meat eaters love it
– Packaging only compostable
if appropriate microbes are present

Best Lighting and Tools

Best Flashlight: Goal Zero Torch 500 Multi-Use Light

Best Flashlight

Featured in our best flashlight article, the Goal Zero Torch is versatile enough to become a tool you use on the trail and at home.

Full product review: best flashlight

Specs Pros Cons
Lumens: 500
Power Source: monocrystalline 5200 mAh battery
Weight: 12.8 oz
Run Time: 50 hours (low spotlight)
Waterproof: Yes
– Spotlight and floodlight modes
– Built-in solar panel to recharge
– IP67 waterproof rating
– Charge small devices like phones
– The outer casing isn’t the most durable

Best Headlamp: Biolite 330 Rechargeable Headlamp

Best Headlamp

Featured as the best rechargeable headlmap in our best headlamp article, the Biolite 330 has a sleek design, and despite the rechargeable battery on the back, it doesn’t bounce when secured properly.

Full product review: best headlamps

Specs Pros Cons
Weight: 2.4 ounces
Max Lumens: 330
Beam Distance: 75 meters
Runtime: (High) 3.5 hours, (Low) 40 hours
– No bounce design
– Integrated battery indicator 
– Moisture-wicking band fabric
– Rechargable
– Several lighting settings
– The power button can be difficult to
access (especially wearing gloves)

Best Multitool: Leatherman Wave Plus

Best Multitool

Ranked as our best multitool for backpacking, The Leatherman Wave Plus contains 18 tools and is still compact enough to be versatile on and off the trail.

Full product review: best multitools for backpacking

Specs Pros Cons
Weight: 8.5 oz
Closed Length: 4 in
Open Length: 6.25 in
Materials: 420HC stainless steel
and black oxide
Number of Tools: 18
– Includes serrated and straight-edge blades
– Made in the USA
– Tools lock into place
– Can access tools with one hand
– Sheath included
– Pocket clip sold separately
– Expensive

Best First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kit Mountain Series Hiking

Best First Aid Kit

Ranked as our overall best first aid kit, the Adventure Medical Kit Mountain Series Hiking is simple and effective to ensure you’re prepared for anything in the backcountry.

Full product reviewbest first aid kits

Specs Pros Cons
Weight: 10 oz
Dimensions: 6.5″ x 5.5″ x 3″
Best Use: Hiking, short backpacking trips
First Aid Book Included: Yes
– Relatively compact
– Easy-to-use book
– Affordable
– Great organization
– No CPR mask
– Limited trauma supplies
– Not good for big groups

What to Consider When Choosing Backpacking Gear

Everyone’s backpacking gear setup contains the same base items, but the specific gear that best fits your adventure varies. While we did our best to choose products that appeal to the masses, our best pick may not be the best option for every type of trip. If you’re just starting, use our list as a starting point, and know that investing in everything at once isn’t necessary. Consider borrowing gear from friends or seek out used equipment from reputable brands. Renting is also an option for some equipment, but it isn’t accessible in all areas.

The type of backpacking gear needed depends on the kind of trip, time of year, personal preference, trip duration, and terrain. Most backpacking tips and gear lists found online include an outline of similar items and can be helpful while you shop to compare and contrast what different experts recommend. Ultimately, the best tent or sleeping bag for me may not be the best fit for you, so first identify the intended use and a baseline of requirements to help narrow down your top picks.

Backpacking Essentials Checklist

Camping photo
Gear setup for bikepacking trip. What you bring is highly dependent on the type of trip and personal needs. For instance, on this trip, I was bringing a dog and biking, so I also needed to consider gear for him and bike repair.
– Meg Carney

As mentioned, personal preference and the exact trip details can influence what is on your backpacking packing list. The 20 items included in our picks above do not include everything needed while backpacking, so consult the list below for a more detailed packing list.

Backpacking Gear Essentials

  • Backpack
  • Pack rain cover
  • Sleeping shelter
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Headlamp + Batteries or Charger
  • Backpacking stove + Fuel
  • Cooking pot
  • Eating/Cooking utensils
  • Water container
  • Water purifier or filter
  • Bear canister or bag (if needed)

Backpacking Emergency Kit and Personal Hygiene Essentials

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, & floss
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Trowel or wag bag
  • TP/Wipes with bag to pack it out
  • Menstrual items
  • Prescription medications (if needed)
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent
  • First aid kit
  • Navigation (maps, compass, GPS)
  • Whistle
  • Bear spray (if needed)
  • Waterproof matches & firestarter
  • Multitool
  • Knife
  • Repair kit (duct tape, needle, thread, etc.)
  • Itinerary with emergency contact & in car

Backpacking Clothing Essentials

We recommend that all clothing is moisture-wicking and should be chosen based on knowledge of climate and weather conditions. Cotton is not recommended. The amount of clothing you pack may vary according to personal preference, climate, and duration of the trip.

  • Underwear
  • Synthetic or wool socks
  • T-shirt
  • Long-sleeve shirt
  • Light jacket
  • Shorts or pants
  • Shoes appropriate for terrain
  • Sun hat/glasses

Optional Backpacking Items

To you, some of the items below may qualify as essential to your trip. To others, they may be luxury items that they only bring on certain expeditions.

Optional Backpacking Items

  • Tent footprint or tarp
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Pillow
  • Trekking poles
  • Camera
  • Smartphone
  • Battery charger
  • Journal & pen
  • Apps: Star charts, navigation, bird & plant ID
  • Backpacking chair
  • Organizational bags or stuff sacks
  • Paracord


Q: What is a good base weight for backpacking?

A good base weight for backpacking depends on gear and if your goal is to be ultralight, but most average backpackers can get away with a base weight between 10-20 lbs. When the pack is fully loaded, it should not exceed 20% of your body weight, but an ideal range is closer to 10-15% of your body weight.

Q: How many clothes do I need for a 3-day backpacking trip?

You can get away with one outfit for a trip as short as three days, but most hikers prefer to have a few options or, at the very least, a change of underwear for each new day. It is nice to have a hiking outfit that includes layering, clothing for camp, and something clean to sleep in at night. The amount of clothing you bring may change depending on the time of the year, the weather conditions, and personal preferences.

Q: What order should I pack for backpacking?

The general recommendation is to pack mid-weight items on the bottom (sleeping bag, clothes, etc.), heaviest items in the middle (food, water, etc.), and then lighter items that you may need to access easily (rain jacket, snacks, first aid kit, etc.) on the top and in the front of the pack.

Q: Are backpacking backpacks worth it?

In most cases, yes, backpacking backpacks are worth it if you plan to do overnight trips. For day hikes and car camping, a backpacking backpack isn’t necessary. The benefit of backpacks designed for backpacking and hiking is the design to help distribute weight more comfortably and balanced.

Best Backpacking Gear: Final Thoughts

Camping photo
Gear layout for bikepacking in Western Montana – Meg Carney

The best backpacking gear for you depends on the type of trips you enjoy, the time of year, the terrain, and the distance. It was impossible to include all potential gear picks that fit everyone’s needs and preferences without making this list incredibly long, so we had to narrow it down to our top 20 gear picks. We’ve included top-of-the-line tents, sleeping bags, pads, and more that fit a broad audience and promise to be long-lasting and functional during most 3-season backcountry adventures.

If you’re new to backpacking, renting equipment is one way to test gear if that’s available in the area you’re backpacking. The gear prices won’t fit everyone’s budget, so consider buying used equipment if that’s the case. Many large retailers like REI, North Face, and Patagonia offer used gear at a discounted price.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.

Source link: by Meg Carney at