Backpacking Gear Reviews – What’s actually good?

As someone that backpacks around 1000 miles a year, I need to have gear that works. There’s nothing more frustrating than being in the wilderness only to discover that a piece of gear has failed, or that it’s not working as expected. Fortunately, when this has happened to me I’ve been able to avoid most dangerous situations, but I have had to bail from some trips.

I hope that my backpacking gear reviews can help you! If any of what I write means that you can spend less time figuring out gear and more time backpacking, I’ll take it as a win!

I intend to add detailed reviews of gear that I have used extensively. I do not think that all gear is worthy of a review, but some certainly is. Does the Bear Vault 500 really need to be reviewed? Does it matter if a backpack I used for over 300 miles was perfectly adequate, but not exceptional? Probably not. I’ll only post long-form reviews for gear that I think stands out, either because it’s exceptional or because a lot of folks seem to use it and I really think there’s better gear that’s worth mentioning.

If you would like me to test something out, please feel free to get in touch! I will not opine about any gear that I’ve used until I’ve used it for at least 300 miles.

The Gear I Aggressively Defend

Exceptional Gear

  • Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL20 Sleeping Bag
  • Katabatic Alsek 22 Down Quilt
  • Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket
  • Borah Gear Cuben Bivy
  • ZPacks Hexamid Twin Tent (unfortunately, no longer being made)
  • Columbia OutDry Ex Featherweight Rain Jacket
  • Hoka Challenger shoes
  • Thermarest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad
  • Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers

Gear I Often Use (’cause there’s nothing better)

  • Black Diamond FLZ Trekking Poles
  • Black Diamond Alpine Cork Trekking Poles
  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter
  • Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket
  • Kahtoola Microspikes
  • Bare Boxer Bear Canister
  • Icebreaker Tech Lite Short Sleeve Crew
  • ZPacks bear bag kit (bag)
  • Talenti Jar
  • SPOT GenIII Tracker (the InReach might be better)

Other Gear Worth Mentioning

  • La Sportiva Wildcats
  • Zelph Starlyte Stove
  • Toaks Titanium 750ml Pot
  • Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Pants

The Backpacking Gear I don’t Care For

  • Altra Timps
  • Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Pants
  • Smartwool Socks
  • Smartwool T-Shirts
  • Frogg Toggs Rain Suit
  • Smart Water Bottles paired w. Sawyer Squeeze
  • Hiking Boots (for snowshoeing they’re fine)
  • MSR Whisperlite stove

If you find any of my backpacking gear reviews useful, please feel free to share them with your friends. Please let me know if you end up using anything based on my recommendations, and how it works out for you!

Abbreviated List of Other Gear I’ve Extensively Tested

  • Outdoor Research Helium Pants
  • MLD Prophet
  • MLD Duomid (still testing)
  • Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60L
  • Osprey Exos
  • Osprey Talon
  • Borah Gear SilPoly Solo Tarp
  • Mountain Hardware LightPath2
  • Marmot Pulsar
  • Tarptent Stratospire
  • Stabilicers
  • REI Mojave Sleeping Bag
  • Platypus, Camelbacks, and other Hydration Bladders
  • Various Petzl and Black Diamond Headlamps
  • Nitecore NU25 Headlamp
  • Petzl e+lite
  • Various Snowshoes — the type of snowshoe to get is highly dependent on the kind of snowshoeing expected
  • Hoka Speedgoat shoes (still testing)

* the best purchase of my child-life was an Unlimited Edition Black Lotus