3 Season Lightweight Backpacking Gear List
Shaun backpacking deep into the Absoroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana
Many people have wondered what we carry on our 3-season backpacking trips, so we decided to make a comprehensive list with links to purchase the gear. Some of the gear we use is no longer in production so we supplied links to comparable products. If you are needing companion PDF/Word checklists to print out or carry on your phone, the checklists can be downloaded here for free! We consider ourselves lightweight backpackers, and typically carry 25-35lbs on multi day trips.
Shelter and Bedding
☐ Tent / ground cloth - Tarptent Notch 1P with partial solid nest, $334, 30oz (currently don't use a groundcloth). When taking the dog or kids along we use a Drop X Mid 2, $280, 40oz. For a 1, 2 or 3P freestanding tent, consider the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL.
☐ Backpack - Currently using the Kelty Lakota 65 pack, $145, 3lb 12oz. I have used it for years and it's a very durable and inexpensive pack. For lighter options, check out the ULA Circuit or the Osprey Exos 58.
☐ Sleeping bag / quilt - We have an old North Face 20 degree down bag that is no longer in production. We recommend the Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt, $280, 19oz, or the REI Magma 15 / Magma 30.
☐ Sleeping pad - Sleepingo Ultralight Sleeping pad (cheap and comfortable), $40, 14.5oz. For colder weather, we use the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Trekker since it has more insulation.
☐ Pillow - TREKOLOGY Ultralight Inflatable Pillow, $16, 2.8oz
☐ Camera / tripod / batteries (optional) - Nikon D3300 $450, Peak Design Capture Clip $70, Pedco UltraPod Grip Lightweight Tripod $25, Batteries. The Peak Capture Clip is the best way we have found to carry a DSLR safely within reach.
☐ Insect repellent - Ben's 100 or similar, $$, 1.0oz. Put a small amount into a tiny ultralight bottle. We use DEET but don't apply it very often. Prefer to use long sleeve shirt with hood and pants.
☐ Map (hard copy) - Print out for free using Caltopo or Nat Geo, $0, 0.1oz
☐ Sunscreen - 50 SPF water resistant sunscreen, $10, 1.0oz. Put a small amount into a tiny ultralight bottle.
☐ Headlamp - Black Diamond Spot, $40, 3.1oz
☐ Knife - Gerber LST, $19, 0.6oz. For other options see our Best Ultralight Knife article.
☐ Bearspray and holster - UDAP or Counter Assault Spray, $35, 10.5oz
☐ GPS or satellite messenger - Garmin inReach Mini, $345, 3.5oz, or for a cheaper option definitely look at the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator, $200, 5.3oz.
☐ Compass - SUUNTO A-10 Field Compass, $21, 1.1oz
☐ Medications / pain reliever / lip balm - Use what you have, $$, 2.0oz
☐ Trash bags (double as pack cover) - Basic kitchen bags, $$, 0.5oz
☐ First aid kit / moleskin / leukotape - When I am solo I take an Adventure Medical Ultralight 1P kit, $13, 2.3oz. For larger parties, take a look at the Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series, which come in different sizes to cover up to 7 people. In order to be fully prepared for backcountry emergencies, also learn how to use and take a tourniquet and chest seal - Recon Medical Tourniquet, $17, 3.2oz and Halo Vent IFAK Chest Seal, $23, 2oz. Read our article on Backcountry First Aid with advice from a paramedic if you think you don't need a tourniquet. For foot issues, we take Dr. Scholl’s Moleskin Plus Padding Roll, $8, 0.5oz and Leukotape, $9, 0.5oz. Read our article on how to use Leukotape for blister prevention here. We also have terrible ankles and use these ankle braces.
☐ Whistle - LuxoGear Emergency Whistle, $8, 0.5oz
☐ Toilet paper - Use what you have, $$, 1.5oz
☐ Trowel - Tent Lab Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Trowel, $20, 0.6oz
☐ Stuff sacks - Use cheap ditty bags like these, $10, 1oz. You can also find lots of ultralight Dyneema bags on Etsy if you want a more waterproof, lighter option. I use one bag for all of my camera accessories, and one bag to hold my first aid kit, sunscreen, and other small items that I want readily accessible.
☐ Extra Ziplock bags - Use what you have, $$, 0.2oz. Take 2x gallon size bags to store trash, etc. You never know what you might need one for, they are handy to have around.
☐ Power bank - Ultralight 10,000mAh Power Bank, $33, 6.2oz
☐ Charging cables - Whatever fits your phone, $$, 1.0oz
☐ Trekking poles - Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles, $100, 17oz
☐ Book / podcasts - I usually bring one hard copy book to read and a dozen podcasts downloaded onto my iPhone.
☐ Phone / mapping apps - iPhone, $$, 5oz
☐ Daypack / summit pack (optional) - Venture Pal Lightweight Daypack, $19, 11oz. Don't spend tons of money on a daypack if you don't use it very often. Amazon has lots of decent lightweight/packable options under $30.
☐ Rope or paracord - 1.8mm paracord, $10, 2.0oz. Take 10-20ft to use in an emergency or if you need to secure your tent down better in high winds.
☐ Stove - BRS 3000T, $16, 0.9oz, or MSR Pocket Rocket II, $45, 2.6oz. The BRS stove is nice because it packs down small and is super lightweight. For a higher quality stove with more consistent burn, use the MSR stove. If you want a quicker boil time take a look at the Jetboil Flash or the new Jetboil Stash.
☐ Fuel - MSR IsoPro Fuel Canister, $5, 7oz
☐ Lighter / matches - Mini bic lighter, $2, 0.4oz. We also take a book of matches in a ziplock for a backup.
☐ Cup / pot - TOAKS Light Titanium 650ml Pot, $37, 2.6oz. This pot has a lid and is big enough to hold a fuel canister and stove. The lid doesn't attach well for transport however. The cup/pot we wish we had is the Vargo Titanium BOT 700. It as a screw top lid which is ideal for cold soaking meals and also for keeping your stove/fuel/lighter stowed away without spilling out.
☐ Spoon / cooking utensils - Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon, $12, 0.4oz. Make sure to get a long handled spoon so you don't get freeze dried food schmutz on your fingers while eating.
☐ Food (meals, snacks, coffee, energy bars) - See our food article here, and use our Meal Planner to make sure you have your calories dialed in.
☐ Bear canister / Ursack / bear hang kit - Ursack, $90, 7.6oz. The Ursack is our food bag of choice in the backcountry. Just tie it off chest high on a tree and forget about it.
☐ Water bottles / bladder - Smart Water 700ml Bottle, $2. We carry two Smart Water bottles with flip tops. They are nice and light but sometimes the flip top can break. If you prefer a bladder, the Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir is a nice option, it has a zip top for easy filling. If you want to carry your bottles on your shoulder straps, get a couple of Justin's UL Water Bottle Carriers. They work well and are pretty inexpensive.
☐ Water filter / tablets / Aqua Mira - Aqua Mira, $15, 1oz. Aqua Mira is about a light as it gets. Use mini bottles to take enough of parts A and B for your trip, and a mini eyedropper bottle to store enough mixed solution for 1-2 days. For larger groups, a filter like the Katadyn Hiker is nice. Another small filter to look at is the Sawyer Squeeze. Don't get the Sawyer Mini as the filter rate is painfully slow.
☐ Cooking kit storage sack - Use cheap ditty bags like these, $10, 1oz.
Our clothing is high quality and dries quickly. The only redundant items we take are socks and underwear. Everything else can be worn all at the same time. Wearing all of the layers at once, we can stay comfortable in temperatures down to 20-30 degrees. We sleep in our pants and t shirt/long sleeve shirts to add extra warmth. If the nights are especially cold we will wear a jacket and base layer bottoms.
☐ Synthetic T-shirt - Voormi Merino Tech T - $70, 5oz. All quality shirts are expensive but this one is a keeper. Like the Voormi Hoodie, it uses Dual Surface blended wool. It's one of the only merino wool shirts we have found that doesn't itch. Why merino? It won't take on odors!
☐ Synthetic long sleeve shirt - Voormi River Run Hoodie, $129, 7oz. Expensive but the merino material absolutely won't stink over time. They use Dual Surface blended wool so the shirt doesn't itch.
☐ Wind shirt - Patagonia Houdini Jacket, $100, 3.7oz. This jacket is amazing. It is extremely small and lightweight, and adds a ton of warmth on windy days in the high country. The hood is especially nice as it's well designed and comfortable.
☐ Long underwear bottoms (optional for cold weather) - Smartwool Men's Merino 150 Baselayer Bottom, $80, 4oz. We really only use this piece of clothing for sleeping on cold nights. You may also need it if you are hiking in September and run into a snow storm. There are lots of inexpensive options out there as well.
☐ Synthetic pants - Prana Stretch Zion, $90, 13oz. In our opinion, these are the best all around synthetic pants out there. We wear them every day, for backpacking, and for hunting. Since they can be used every day, that helps justify the cost.
☐ Belt - Hiker Belt, $17, 2oz
☐ Socks - Smartwool Hiking Crew Socks, $18, 4oz. We take three pair - one to wear, one for sleeping, and one as a backup in case the others get wet.
☐ Underwear - Use what you have or splurge for some Smartwool Men's Merino Sport 150 Boxer Briefs for more comfort and odor control on long trips. We take one extra pair to rotate out when washing the pair you are wearing.
☐ Hat - Outdoor Research Swift Cap, $28, 2.4oz. Comfortable and quick drying!
☐ Jacket / puffy - Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket, $200, 12oz
☐ Rain jacket - Marmot Precip Jacket, $100, 10oz
☐ Rain pants (optional) - Marmot Precip Full Zip Pants, $100, 10oz
☐ Beanie - We aren't too picky, something like this Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff Beanie works great, $23, 2oz
☐ Neck gaiter / Buff - Buff, $15, 1.5oz
☐ Gloves (optional for cold weather) - Black Diamond Men's Lightweight Gloves, $22, 2oz
☐ Boots / shoes - La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX Boot, $150, 18oz. If you prefer a lighter boot check out the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid. The X Ultras are as comfortable as running shoes and work great if you don't have heavy loads or lots of off trail travel (soles aren't very stiff for navigating boulder fields).
☐ Gaiters (optional) - Rab Latok Extreme GTX Gaiter, $70, 8oz. There are lighter gaiters out there but we prefer the Rab gaiters because they are durable and stay up.
☐ Down vest (optional for cold weather) - REI Co-op 650 Down Vest, $70, 8oz
☐ Sandals / Crocs (optional) - Crocs, $40, 12oz. Crocs make awesome lightweight shoes for stream crossings and for around camp. They don't take on water like other sandals.
☐ Sunglasses - Maui Jim Stingray, $250, 0.5oz. Make sure to get polarized if you are fishing.
☐ Watch - Garmin Instinct, $300, 1.8oz. For an inexpensive GPS watch, the Instinct is a great option.
Fishing Gear (optional)
If you are serious about fishing the backcountry, we recommend these two books. They have formed the foundation of our fishing approach for high mountain lakes.
- For more information on fishing locations, tactics, and flies, read Rich Osthoff's Fly Fishing the Rocky Mountain Backcountry. It's the best book we have found for backcountry fishing advice. Rich's mega scud fly is one you definitely need in your fly box!
- For overall stillwater tips, technique, and flies, read Denny Rickards Fly Fishing Stillwaters for Trophy Trout. This book is an absolute game changer for understanding how to effectively fish lakes for large trout (both low elevation and high elevation lakes). Denny mentions six fly patterns that he uses in lakes. These patterns work well in the high country as well - especially the seal bugger.
☐ Fishing rods - We take one spinning rod (Light action) and two fly rods (5wt and 3 or 4wt) on most trips. Read this article to learn what we take.
☐ Fishing reels / lines - Read this article to learn what we take. For fly lines we take a 5wt Cortland Camo Clear Intermediate, 5wt floating line, and an inexpensive Double Taper Floating line for the 3wt/4wt. For all fly lines (especially the ones used most often), consider the Titan series by Scientific Anglers. We have used them on our pike fly rods and love them. The Titan lines have a very heavy head section to load rods quickly and shoot line. The design is ideal for high mountain lakes where backcasting room can be limited.
☐ Lures / flies - Assortment of spoons including Thomas Buoyant, Panther Martin spinners (gold and silver blades w/ yellow and black bodies), assortment of seal buggers, maribou jigs tied on 1/16oz heads, orange and olive scuds, Clouser Minnows, and other attractor dry and wet flies.
☐ Leader / knot tools - We use Rio Powerflext tippets in 5x through 3x and predominately fish the 3x with all wet flies. Also carry a backup set of 3ea tapered leaders, 7.5ft 3x and tie on tippet from there. For a knot tool we use a Tie-Fast Knot Tyer.
☐ Fly floatant - Loon Outdoors Aquel Premium Gel Floatant
☐ Hemostats - Dr. Slick Scissor Clamps on a zinger retractor.
☐ Tape measure - Cheap sewing tape measure.
☐ Line cutting tool - Line nippers on a zinger retractor.