Comprehensive Technical Gear List for Long Distance Backpacking

campgearPlanning any size of a backpacking trip can be a bit overwhelming. Whether you are staying out just for the night or for an entire thru-season, the logistics can swim in your head. From transportation to meal planning, from distance tracking to emergency supplies, and from simple questions like “where’s my toothbrush” to planning out your meals, where do you begin? Maybe a good place to start is seeing what technical gear you’re going to need. And for a skeleton look at your backpacking system, the gear list below, based on thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, might help you organize your own. Not intended to be the best, or the lightest, use the format below to make your own dream backpacking system:

The Backpack: There are plenty of backpacks on the market that could be right for you; the hard part is forecasting the lifelong future use of your backpack. Are you planning on taking weekend hikes or multi-day quests? Are you packing ultralight or bringing the skis along? Will you be traveling through airports or stowing it in the trunk? All these and many more questions need to be answered to find the specific pack that fits your needs. For this example, a long-distance hike carrying at least a week’s worth of supplies at a time, the tried and trusted products from Osprey have been chosen.

Osprey Exos 58 Pack 40.00 oz. $219.95


Sleeping System: When gear is concerned, the sleeping system is where you can rack up the weight and cost of your backpacking system. A good way to lose weight and save money is replacing the tent with a tarp, but depending on your preference, four walls is an added comfort. Down is the way to go with sleeping bags, saving space and weight compared to synthetics. And while air mattresses are nice, nothing compares to the weight and cost of a foam pad.

MSR Flylite 2-Person Trekking Pole Tent 36.00 $349.95
MSR Swift 3 Trekking Poles 16.00 $129.95
Zpack 900 Fill Down Sleeping Bag 16.70 $390.00
Sea to Summit Silk Sleeping Bag Liner 4.60 $74.95
Thermarest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad 14.00 $44.95
Sleeping System Totals 87.30 oz. $989.80


Cooking System: Cooking in the backcountry is a rewarding experience when you have the right gear and ingredients. There are a lot of varieties in stoves regarding the fuel they use, the intended use, the space in your pack, and how many people you are cooking for. Whatever fuel type you choose, be sure to pack enough of it. And when it comes to extra utensils, remember that you can get a lot of use out of one thing and as in this example, splurging on your morning coffee mug is a certified good move. If you are camping in bear country, be sure to have the appropriate safety bins.

Primus ETA Express Backpacking Stove (pot & bowl) 15.80 $129.95
Primus stove canisters (2)(100G) 3.53 $9.34
Light My Fire Titanium Spork 0.71 $14.95
Bear Vault BV500 Bear Canister 41.00 $65.00
Sea 2 Summit Mug 4.40 $16.95
Cooking System Totals 65.44 oz. $238.19


Water System: Hydration is essential on any size hike, and if you are going for a long haul through dry environments, having an extra reservoir in your pack is also a good idea. Purification systems vary, and there are a lot to choose from, but this example uses a classic water filter with replicable parts as well as backup iodine tablets. One way to save some ounces on the water system is replace the Nalgene water bottles with recycled plastic soda bottles.

MSR MiniWorks Microfillter 16.00 $89.95
Potable aqua 6.00 $8.99
Nalgene Water Bottle (2)(empty) 32.00 $10.99
Platypus Platy 2L Reservoir (empty) 1.30 $12.95
Water System Totals 55.30 oz. $122.88


Emergency and Tools: The last big category, the catch-all for the rest of your gear, many items of which can be stowed and found in the brain of your backpack deal primarily with safety and emergency situations. A good knife is always handy for repairs, medical kits need to know how to be used, and headlamps are essential even if you think you are only going out for a day hike. Throw in some emergency fire starters and shelter and you’re set. This example includes a notebook and pen, plus the varying weight of guidebooks for note taking and guidance.

Leatherman Skeletool 5.00 $74.85
Adventure Medical Kit – Ultratight and Water Tight 3.68 $17.00
Princeton Tec Byte Headlamp 2.20 $23.00
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp 3.20 $39.95
Energizer Lithium AAA Battery (X3) 1.29 $10.95
1 Lighter with Duct Tape 1.00 $2.00
UST BlastMatch Fire Starter 2.30 $24.99
UCO Stormproof Match Kit 1.70 $7.99
Vasoline Cotton Balls 1.00 $3.00
SOL Emergency Bivvy 3.80 $17.00
Rite in the Rain Field Flex Book 6.72 $13.95
Rite in the Rain All Weather Pen 0.64 $15.95
Suunto A-10 Classic Compass 1.05 $17.50
Maps and Guidebook varied varied
Emergency & Tools Totals 33.58 oz. $250.63


DOPP Kit: The Dopp kit refers to the personal hygiene kit you want to carry with you. Think of a trimmed down version of the amenities you would pack to stay overnight at your parent’s house (toothbrush, face wash, sewing kit, etc…). These kits will vary from backpacker to backpacker and all throughout experience levels. Less is better and anyway you can avoid making a mess on the trail, the happier you will be.

Toothbrush (trimmed) 0.20 $2.50
Tooth Paste Dots 0.20 $5.00
Camp Suds 2.00 $4.14
Homemade Repair Kit 5.20
DOPP Kit Totals 7.60 oz. $11.64


The Total: Both in price and weight, the amount of technical gear adds up fast. Once you get the base work done though, you can start molding your gear to your style of backpacking and find what works best for you. Fill in your own list and see how your system can evolve as the adventures continue on:

Total Weight (oz.) 249.22 oz.
Total Weight + Pack (carrying load)(oz.) 289.22 oz.
Total Carrying Weight in Pounds 18.07 lbs.
Total Cost $1,611.14


What Are We Missing? Two large categories are missing from the list that are going to add significant weight to your pack. The first, Clothing, will vary from destination to destination but always have the same end goal in mind: comfort in the elements. The second, Food, can really add some weight depending how far you’re going before a resupply or how extravagantly you want to dine each day. Stay tuned for separate clothing and food pack supply lists.

What Else Are We Missing? Have some neat products, essential items, or anything else you think this list is missing? What would you do differently? How light can you go? Backpacking, although a solitary pursuit is a community driven vehicle, and with your help, perhaps we can build the perfect backpacking system.

For more information on choosing packs and going ultra-lite, check out the following resources:

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