Gear List

  • Tent - I recommend a 3-season tent and my personal favorite is the REI Half Dome for a bomber 2-person, 3-season tent.  I also carry the Big Agnes Copper Spurl UL2 which is super light. For car camping, we also have the REI Camp Dome 4.

  • Sleeping Bag - I recommend around a 20 degree down bag for backpacking.  Go synthetic if you are camping in wet areas and aren't real good about keeping your stuff dry.  I have the REI Mojave +15f down bag (no longer sold) which has been may favorite bag ever.  My wife carries the Mont-Bell Super Stretch #2 Down Hugger +20f (no longer sold). My son has always used a Kelty Light Year XP20 +20f synthetic which is super light and compressible for a synthetic, is priced right and he loves it, however, recently switched to a Klymit 20f bag. My daughter is currently in my wife's previous bag, a The North Face Cat's Meow +20f.  Both she and my wife say it doesn't keep them that warm, but it is always highly rated. The little guys are in search of new bags as they've outgrown their North Face Tigger bags.

  • Lantern - I have the Black Diamond mini lanterns for backcountry camping. For front-country camping, I use the Coleman Quad LED Lantern.

  • Head lamp - I use the Petzl Tikka 2 for the adults and the Princeton Tec Byte or the kids. However, I think I'm about to go to something a little brighter than the Petzl. Possibly a Black Diamond Spot or Storm. I'd like to have something, though, that has a red light for night time reading.

  • Backpack/Daypack - I recommend using something like the Gear Finder at or going to to whittle the list down, then going to an outfitter and trying it on.  I carry the REI Flash 65 and you can read my review where I think this is a great pack. My wife carries the Gregory Deva 60.  My son carries a Kelty Coyote 80 and daughter carries a Deuter ACT Lite 60+10. The two little guys for right now are just using the hand-me-down Gregory Jade 53 packs handed down from my wife and daughter.

  • Pocketknife/multi-tool - I picked up a Leatherman at the REI Garage Sale, but it's a bit heavy for my tastes.  I like the Gerber Torch Drop Point Knife I have.  It is not extremely light, but feels good in my hands, opens easily and stays super sharp. I highly recommend getting the Spyderco Tri-Angle knife sharpener to keep your blade sharp. Additionally, I recommend staying away from serrated blades in the backcountry. They can really tear you up and make it harder to close the wound if you can't get to help immediately. A straight-edge will leave a cleaner cut that can be glued back or steri-stripped easier.

  • Sleeping pad - I recommend the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core, see my review on this site. I use the petite size and just shove my sleeping bag under my feet. The recent models have a newer inflation system that I haven't tried yet, but they look a little sketchy.

  • Water bottles - I recommend the Nalgene big mouth BPA free, Camelbak Better Bottle or the Camelbak Reservoir for drinking on the go.

  • Camp stove - I recommend the Coleman 424 Dual-Fuel for car camping. I have two, one is from the 1960's and one is only about 20 years old, but they both work great. My son gets a little impatient, but I like tinkering with the pressurizer.  I carry the Snow Peak Giga Power Stove for backpacking. It is small, lightweight and has 4 pot supports making it more stable to cook on. I've purchased 2 of these now since I'm cooking for 6 now.

Cookware - I have a couple of options, and sometimes with the family bring both. I have the GSI Dualist. It's a bit heavy, but it has everything including a wash bucket. My other option is a Titanium pot/pan combo from It's very light and the frying pan has been used many times to make backcountry pancakes and pizzas.

  • Fire Starter - Carry at least 2 sources such as a lighter and matches or magnesium flint. I highly recommend the Soto Pocket Torch. It runs on a standard rectangular lighter, sorry, no Bic lighters here. 

  • Fire Tinder - You can try finding small stcks along the trail or take cotton balls soaked in Vaseline.  Coghlan's Emergency Tinder works great as well.

  • Rain gear - I finally wore out my old jacket, but you can check out my review on the REI Taku Jacket. I am now using a Sierra Designs Hurricane jacket. I pair that with the REI Ultralight Pants.  My wife has a The North Face Venture.  My son is wearing a Sierra Designs N2 Fusion from  My daughter has the Sierra Designs Cyclone Parka also from

  • Moisture wicking socks - Personal faves are the REI Merino Wool crew socks, see my review of these. SmartWool socks are great as well.

  • Trail shoes - Like my rain jacket, I wore out the Vasque Blur, but see my review of these. I have a pair of Adidas trail runners that I wear on short hikes. I wear some Asolo low-top hiking boots on longer hikes.  My wife has switched to Asolo as well.  My son and daughter both wear Vasque Breeze.  My son wears the mid hikers while my daughter wears the light hikers. The little guys just use either their tennis shoes or some old boots from the older boy that we keep around.

  • Pillow - I've tried lots of things here. My son prefers the ultralight method of a stuff sack with his clothes in it. I have purchased the Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core pillow for my wife and daughter and they swear by them for their comfort and they pack down to about the size of a 12 oz. Coke can. I use the REI inflatable pillow, which I don't think they make any more. I like it because it packs down to about the size of an 8 oz. Coke can or maybe smaller.

  • Compass - I recommend learning to use it and pairing it with a map. Oh yeah, the compass doesn't work without the map and the map is made easier with a compass. Sort of like a Reese's Peanut Butter cup. I carry a Suunto M2D Locator Compass.

  • Bug dope - I recommend using the Natrapel Picaridin bug spray. It works great, isn't toxic like the DEET and doesn't leave you feeling gross at the end of the day. I have also discovered the greatness of the Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller. No bug problems in the Boundary Waters. That's unheard of.

  • Sunscreen - This is really required at high altitude.  Use SPF 30+ and re-apply regularly. And don't forget the lips.

  • First aid kit - bandaids and antiseptics, tweezers, moleskin or something to prevent or fix blisters, ibuprofen, duct tape, scissors, gauze, a whistle and a mirror.

Popular Posts