16 Items I Never Backpack Without

Adventure photographer, blogger, and Curated expert Eva Seelye shares her favorite items that are always in her backpack when she hits the trail.

The author stands on a peak high above a large lake and its surrounding, tree-covered hills.

Photo by Eva Seelye

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What’s up, adventurers? I’m Eva and I’m an adventure photographer, blogger, and Curated gear expert who has a serious thing for the outdoors. When I’m not hiking with grizzlies in Alaska, backpacking to glaciers in Washington, or camping under the stars in the Grand Tetons, I’m writing about it on Wander in RAW so you have the materials for and feel confident about heading out on some of these adventures on your own!

If you’re thinking about hitting the trail for a multi-day trip, there are a few things you’ll want to bring along with you. From backpacks and sleeping bags to my all-time favorite trail snacks, here are 16 items I never backpack without.

Note that no backpacker is the same and my go-to list may not feature the gear that’s perfect for you and your adventure style! Whether you’re new to the mountain or a frequent adventurer, there are unique options perfect for you. If you want a personalized list of gear send me a message, we’ll chat, and I'll find your unique fit!

1) A Great-Fitting Pack

This is the key to peak happiness on the trail. There's a lot that goes into picking the perfect pack–you'll need to determine your priorities. If you’re not sure where to start, send me a message and we’ll get down to the details together! For me, it's a lightweight pack with two access points, side stretch mesh pockets, and exterior straps. A good all-around backpack I recommend on the daily is the Osprey Eja 58 for women.

2) Tent

The  MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 tent sits in a field of wildflowers with pine trees and jagged peaks in the background.

Photo by Eva Seelye

There are so many tents to choose from, all with their own unique features–it can be a lot of fun picking out your new wilderness tiny home that fits your style! The three most common in backpacking are your single and two-person tents, bivy tents, and hammock tents. I have the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 tent, which fits two people and weighs just 3 lbs. 8 oz. It's a great 3-season tent for your wetter adventures!

3) Sleeping Bag

The author sits on a boulder in her red sleeping bag, holding a warm mug. In the background is an alpine lake and peaks turned orange in the sunset/sunrise.

Photo by Eva Seelye

Your sleeping system can make or break a backpacking adventure, so take the extra time to figure out what's important to you, whether that's peak comfort, lightweight gear, or a combination of both! I'm all about down sleeping bags. While a little more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, down (feathered) is much warmer, lighter, packs up smaller, and can be water-resistant depending on which one you pick! My rec? Marmot's Sawtooth 15d Down Bag. It's rated for 15 degrees, is water-resistant down, lightweight, and warm–perfect for three-season camping. That said, no two sleepers are the same and this bag might not be the perfect one for you! Shoot me a message and let’s get you hooked up with one unique to you and your adventure style.

4) Sleeping Pad

If there's a chance you'll want to give snow camping a go down the road, splurge for the four-season pads rated 4 or above. The Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is a great quality, low-cost, 3-season option, which packs up super small (20 x 6.5 cm) and weighs just 12 oz.

5) Water Filtration + Storage

The author sits on a boulder that is surrounded by logs floating in a turquoise-colored alpine lake. The sky is baby blue above.

Photo by Eva Seelye

A lightweight water bottle and a quality water filtration system are important for multiple days in the backcountry. Water is HEAVY, so instead of carrying a ridiculous amount of dense water, refill your bottle along the way with a filtration system. The Katadyn BeFree 1L Filtration System is collapsible and weighs just 2 oz., making it a great lightweight option for backpacking! The Grayl is a great filtration option for shorter adventures.

**Check to make sure there is some type of water feature on your trail before heading out!

6) Food

Deciding on food can be just as tough as any other gear! A good rule of thumb is only bringing what you LOVE. If you only kind of love trail mix at home, you're going to like it even less on the trail, trust me. The best part is, you'll be burning a heck of a lot of calories, so snacking on your favorite sugary treats is encouraged for little boosts of energy throughout the day. I always bring M&Ms, nuts, granola bars/cliff bars, freeze-dried camp meals, and beef jerky or pepperoni sticks to name a few!

7) Stove + Pots + Fuel + Utensils

There's nothing like enjoying the sunrise in the wilderness with a steaming cup of coffee. The MSR Pocket Rocket Mini Stove Kit is a great lower-cost, light option (at 9.5 oz.) that comes with a 0.75-L pot and a lid, a 16-oz. bowl, and a grip. It's all I ever need to make a meal on a backpacking trip.

8) Bear Canister

It’s so important to store your food appropriately when in the backcountry to keep both wildlife wild and you safe in your tent! Snag a bear canister to save the animals some life-threatening belly aches and you any unwanted visitors.

9) Layers!

The author stands on a gravel field and looks towards a massive peak in the distance that is orange and pink in the light of the setting sun. She wears a jacket and beanie.

Photo by Eva Seelye

Always bring along a base layer like shorts, leggings and/or moisture-wicking hiking pants and a moisture-wicking short sleeve or long sleeve shirt (avoid cotton at all costs). Pack a mid-layer like a down puffer or fleece for chilly evenings, and if there’s a chance of rain, bring a lightweight and waterproof outer layer too (like Arcteryx’s Beta LT jacket). And don’t forget merino wool socks to keep your feet dry and happy! Want specific clothing recs? Shoot me a message and I’ll send some your way!

10) Hiking Boots

Find a comfortable pair of lightweight boots with good grip for all trail types. The Danner Mountain 600s are my all-time favorite–in addition to the features above, they’re also waterproof and breathable with ankle support! I can rave about these for days. But hey, every hiker is different! Maybe you’re looking for a more lightweight option and trail runners are more your style. Shoot me a message and let’s get you the best shoe for you!

11) Navigation

Phones die. It is what it is, so keep a tangible map and a compass just in case! For longer trips, consider bringing a GPS system like the Garmin inReach Mini.

12) Headlamp + Extra Batteries

Headlamps give you hands-free light so you can easily stoke a fire, dig a hole for a midnight poop, put a pot of coffee on to watch the sunrise, you get the gist! Black Diamond has some great, affordable options!

13) Sun Protection

A woman walks on a log that serves as a bridge over a creek. She wears shorts and a large backpack. The scenery is lush and sun-filled.

Photo by Eva Seelye

Save the skin! Higher altitudes mean less atmosphere, i.e., less of a barrier between you and the sun. Sleeping in a tent with a sunburn isn't fun. Pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Your skin will thank you.

14) First Aid

Snag a first-aid kit as a safety precaution. This one has everything you need to treat some of the most common backpacking injuries for up to four people.

15) Knife

There are SO many ways a knife and/or multitool could come in handy on the trail. This Swiss Army Knife has a good tool selection without being overkill.

16) Lighter + Waterproof Matches

You'll likely need a lighter to light your stove or campfire. Just something small and light! If your lighter gets wet or lost, you'll want waterproof matches as a backup.

A woman sits on a boulder with her backpack on and looks out over a large snowfield. In the background, fog rolls down the hill.

Photo by Eva Seelye

Just because these are some of my favorite, go-to items for every backpacking trip, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be yours too! You’ll definitely want a variation of each of the items listed above but getting down to the specifics is where individuality really comes into play. If you’d like an Expert’s opinion and recommendations unique to you and your adventure style, shoot me a message, and let’s get you the gear that’s perfect for you!

Lastly, don’t forget to Leave No Trace! That means pack out everything you pack in, stick to the trail, leave what you find, and respect each other and wildlife. More on the seven Leave No Trace principles here.

Meet the author
Camping & Hiking Expert Eva Seelye
Eva Seelye
Camping & Hiking Expert
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Written By
Eva Seelye
Eva Seelye
Camping & Hiking Expert
What's up adventurers?! I'm Eva and I have a serious thing for the outdoors. When I'm not working, I'm hiking with grizzlies in Alaska, camping on volcanoes in Washington, backpacking to glaciers or alpine lakes, catching sunrise in the Tetons, and everything in between. Well, let's be honest, I'm a...
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