Backcountry Backpack Gear List

Seems packing lists are all the rage these days, so I better add mine to the mix!  Here is my backpack gear list for backcountry backpacking* trips.

(Not to be confused with travel backpacking of the European/Southeast Asian variety.)

*Backpacking is the outdoor recreation of carrying gear on one’s back, while hiking for more than a day. It is often but not always an extended journey,and may or may not involve camping outdoors. In North America tenting is common. Backpacking as a method of travel is a different activity, which mainly utilizes public transport during a journey which can last months.

I started buying backpacking gear about 9 years ago, and went with mid-weight inexpensive items as I wasn’t yet convinced that my backpack gear wouldn’t end up in the same dusty pile as my ice skates and tennis racquet!  Since then I’ve been slowly upgrading my gear to more expensive, lighter items made specifically for backpacking.  I’ve found that camping and kayaking equipment are easily re-sold on craigslist, which helps fund new gear purchases!  I’ve tried to include weight and cost, where I can, in case that’s helpful.  I almost never pay full price, though – look for frequent 20% off sales from both and REI!

  • Big Backpack:  MountainSmith Daisy Pack – 65L – I get a lot of comments on how large my pack is, but it’s very comfortable and nicely distributes the load. Someday I may upgrade to a lighter, smaller pack, but this works for me! (REI Outlet/discontinued, $100, 66oz)
  • Smaller Backpack: Osprey Cirrus 36
Kickapoo Backpacking

Photo Credit: R.Schultz

  • Tent: Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 – ($350, 41 oz.) – much lighter than both my solo -tent and previous 2-person tent.  A little delicate though, especially with a dog!


  • Sleeping Bag:  Big Agnes Juniper SL Petite – rated to 26 degrees. ($280 , 34oz)
    • Stored in e-Vent Compression Sack (5.2 oz, $40)
    • I have a lighter summer and winter – a Mt. Hardware 45 degree and recently sold my 0-degree bag after using once in 4 years.
  • Sleeping Pads (yes, 2!) – NeoAir mattress and ThermaRest Z-Lite Foam Pad
  • Kitchen
    • Cookset – GSI Pinnacle Soloist – ($45, 10.9oz)
    • Stove – SnowPeak Giga Stove – fits right inside the cookset ($40, 3.25oz)
    • Bear Vault – BV450 – holds about 4 days worth of food and doubles as a stool (33 oz) – since I get very lazy at bedtime, this saves me from finding trees for a bear  hang.


  • First Aid Kit (10 oz) – includes Band-Aids, NeoSporin, Tylenol, Aleve, Pepto, water treatment, tweezers, Ace bandage, etc. –  mostly single use packages ordered from
  • Toilet Bag – TP, trowel, hand sanitizer and wipes.  Handy to keep in a separate stuff sack easily accessible at all times! (11 oz)


  • Clothing – this is some of my favorite clothing. What I actually pack is dependent on weather/trip length:
  • Personal Items or Toiletries (not to be confused with the toilet bag!) ~12oz
    • This contains the basic essentials for me – SPF face lotion, Kleenex, Toothbrush/toothpaste, Contact Solution and Case, eyeglasses, prescription meds and face wipes.  And Tums because Jerky always gives me heartburn!

Toiletry Kit Packing List

Luxury Items!  Depending on the trip, there may be room for additional “luxury” items, such as a Kindle, iPod shuffle, photography equipment, or my Aveda Foot Relief cooling lotion This stuff is magical on sore hiking feet!

Aveda Isle Royale

As for camera equipment, as much as I love photography, I’ve stopped carrying a tripod after two back to back trips where I was unable to stay awake past dark!  I also usually end up just using my camera phone on backcountry trips, due to the weight of my SLR.

All told, my pack usually weighs in somewhere between 30 and 40 pounds, depending on season and length of trip.  For reference, at the end of our Isle Royale trip (no food and water left) my pack weighed 30 pounds.

Every time I go out with a group, I come home with at least one new item on my wish list!  One thing I’m missing is a water treatment system.  So far, I’ve gotten by using Aqua Mira tablets, but likely my next purchase will be a SteriPen, which will also come in handy in Asia.

I would love any comments or thoughts on how to lighten my load!  I feel like most of my stuff is pretty lightweight, but it sure adds up quickly!


Backpack Gear List

2015 Travel Plans

It’s already March and I haven’t taken a single trip this year!  Still rebuilding my vacation time and savings accounts after 10 days in South America over Christmas!  First quarter is usually pretty busy at work, therefore quiet elsewhere, even though every February I swear I’m going to plan a tropical getaway for the next February.  This year was no exception – brutal cold, but we hunkered down and endured.

So, what’s on tap for 2015?  It’s big year as I have a monumental birthday coming up this year….

In March, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a customer panel for one of my vendor’s customer summits.  Despite a “dislike” of public speaking, I can’t pass up an opportunity for travel, even if it involves very little free time.  Besides, it’s good to challenge myself and leave the comfort zone every now and then!

So, first up is a two night trip to San Francisco – I have about 1/2 a day to explore, as well as the following evening before an early morning flight back to Chicago.  The following week, an even shorter trip to New York, but again, I booked my flights to give me a 1/2 day around town before the corporate events start.

In April, I’ll be attending another customer symposium for one of our vendors.  It will be my 4th trip to this symposium, which is in a different fun and warm city each year. This year, we’ll be traveling to Orlando and staying at Universal Studios.  Even though it’s a working weekend, they add a lot of fun activities, so I’m looking forward to this one!

That’s all work….what about play?

In August, I’m hoping to meet up with my Colorado backpacking friends for a week in the backcountry.  My last trip with this group was our 2013 basecamp in the Maroon Bells.  We’re still discussing this year’s plan, but Colorado – August – backcountry?  It won’t suck!  And of course, Bailey-girl will be tagging along, too!  I love trips where I can bring my puppy 🙂  In campfires and concierges fashion, I’ll leave the backcountry and head straight to the Westin Beaver Creek for some spa time and a Heavenly Bed!

September will bring another big bucket list trip for me.  I’ve dreamed of rafting the Grand Canyon for years. It’s expensive and books way in advance, so I never imagined I’d get to go for my 40th birthday, but I decided to just go for it!  Of course, I’ll be rafting with OARS (my 4th trip with them) and will spend 11 days on the Colorado River, followed by 3 days at Zion National Park.  I’ve got some unfinished business with Angel’s Landing!

So, looking at this list, I’m technically not going anywhere that I haven’t already been, but am incredibly excited as the nature of these trips will be entirely different than prior visits!

Lastly, I’m trying to leave some time at the end of the year to be spontaneous.  I pretty much plan out all 4 weeks of paid vacation from the get go and then can feel overbooked and unable to take advantage of last minute deals.  So…..we’ll see…..I’m a planner by nature, so it’s really hard for me to not book everything out.  I’m hoping for a Thanksgiving adventure and if that doesn’t work, then a Christmas trip for sure.

I’ve got some even bigger ideas for 2016, which will really require tight management of vacation time.  It’s always a struggle for me whether to take lots of long weekends and shorter trips, or go for the long, grand vacations.  The bigger trips usually win out as you just can’t decompress like you can on a 2 week “off the grid” trip.

So….here’s to 2015!  May it be my best travel year yet 🙂