The Best Backpacking Gear of 2022, Tested by Experts

All the essentials, tested and reviewed by serious adventurers.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

These days, there’s so much backpacking gear on the market, it can be overwhelming to know what to choose (and that’s not to mention all of the jargon and newfangled tech that goes along with it). Our outdoor experts have spent the past year testing gear, giving us serious insights into the newest products on the market. We tested everything from packs to sleeping bags, from headlamps to tents. We even included a stove system and some food.

Below are our picks for the best backpacking gear.

Best Backpack: Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 + 10L Backpack

Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 + 10L Backpack

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Comfortable and good fit out of the box

  • Comes with a rain cover

  • U-shaped zipper for accessing the main compartment

  • Loads of back ventilation

What We Don't Like
  • Not much

It’s not often that one can fill up and put on a brand new pack, hike 20 miles' worth of elevated terrain, and walk away with no hotspots, blisters, or sore shoulders or hips. But that’s what happened the first time I put on Deuter’s Futura Air Trek in the 60-liter (50 plus 10) size. Deuter’s Futura Air packs are named after Deuter’s “Aircomfort Sensic Vario” ergonomically-focused mesh back. The brand claims the arched profile frame helps transfer up to 70 percent of the weight to the hips. Now, that comfort does come with some added weight. For example, the hip straps are plush, more so than many of the other packs we tested. At 4.5 pounds, it’s certainly not a heavy pack, but ounce-counters might want something lighter.

Besides the airy back and focus on ergonomics, this pack is hyper-adjustable and has a ton of cool features. We particularly liked the large U-zip into the pack’s main compartment; an added zipper that gives access to the main compartment without having to go through the top is such a smart feature in packs these days. I also like that this pack has a separate compartment at the bottom and zippered pockets on the hips for quick access to snacks, a pocket knife, or phone. It also comes with a rain fly and (compartment for storing it).

Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 + 10L Pack
Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 + 10L Pack. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Tent: Mountain Hardwear Strato UL2 Tent

Mountain Hardwear Strato UL2 Tent

Courtesy of REI

What We Like
  • Ability to separate out parts of the tent for packing and weight distribution

  • Ultra-light

  • Intuitive and quick setup

  • Durable for a flyweight

What We Don't Like
  • Could use more gear storage options

  • Didn’t deal with moisture/condensation as well as other tents

I came away thoroughly impressed with the Strato UL2 from Mountain Hardwear. Some other testers and I spent nights in this tent at campsites outside of Mammoth Lakes, California, in the Sierra Nevada backcountry, and in my backyard near the Pacific in Ventura County. The tent performed well in all conditions.

Mountain Hardwear claims its Strato UL 2 tent offers the most amount of space for weight in its class. And while virtually every ultralight two-person tent on the market can feel cramped for two people, this one did feel a bit roomier by comparison. The spaciousness is boosted by the dual doors and vestibules, and the three-quarter mesh walls were ideal for stargazing—I’m not sure I can ever go back to a backpacking tent that doesn’t have double doors and vestibules. It’s crazy how such a simple-minded design evolution can boost a backpacking experience and increase space in the tent. We had no problem storing all of our gear underneath the vestibules even in some sleet and snow in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

While the solution-dyed rain fly shed said sleet and snow well, condensation did form on our coldest night, which dipped below 20 degrees. Another tent we tested on the same night a few feet away had zero condensation and ice formed on the fly, like you want to see. A major concern with new backcountry tents that weigh next to nothing is durability. We were pleasantly surprised that despite camping on sharp rocks and coniferous cones, the 30D Nylon Ripstop floor held up. All of this, and it has a meager packed weight of under 2.5 pounds.

Mountain Hardwear Stato UL2
The Mountain Hardwear Strato UL2 backpacking tent. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Sleeping Bag: Big Agnes Sidewinder SL 20 Sleeping Bag

Big Agnes Sidewinder SL 20 Sleeping Bag

REI

What We Like
  • The long ambidextrous zipper

  • Does feel and perform roomier than typical mummy bag

  • Tested well down and below 20 degrees

What We Don't Like
  • No sleep system compatibility (yet)

No matter how much I fill my backpacking sleep pads, I always seem to have a problem while sleeping in the backcountry—waking up all night with sore hips and shoulders. When I heard Big Agnes was addressing those issues common to side sleepers like me with a new line of sleeping bags, I had to try one. It’s now my go-to bag.

Big Agnes took their typical sleeping bag construction like nylon ripstop with a PFC-free water repellent, 650-fill DownTek, and a polyester taffeta lining and then added savvy features for us side sleepers. There are body-mapped insulation points at the hips and feet—common pressure points for side sleepers. I’ve now used this sleeping bag for many nights with different sleeping pads with virtually no discomfort in the hips. The zipper was easy to move up and down, even while groggy in the middle of the night. And the "pillow barn" in the hood easily held my stuff sack full of clothes, which is my go-to backcountry pillow.

Two qualms: The current models only go down to 20 degrees. I was definitely a bit cold on some nights camped in the High Sierra when temps were at 20, and I’d like to see a 0-degree version. Second, I still had some shoulder soreness. The boosted insulated padding in the hips and feet would also be good in the shoulders.

Big Agnes Sidewinder SL 20 sleeping bag
The Big Agnes Sidewinder SL 20 sleeping bag. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Ultralight

  • Packs down small

  • Warm

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Didn’t see a huge benefit in the pump sack

Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir Xlite sleeping pad is an ultralight and warm backcountry pad. It weighs a pound or less, depending on the size, and has 2.5 inches of loft. Therm-a-Rest uses proprietary technology to simultaneously trap radiant heat while cutting convective heat loss. Sleeping pads are given an R-value rating for warmth, where 1.0 is a pad best used in warm conditions and a 5.5+ is for extreme cold. This pad rates at a 4.2, so it’s more of a cold-weather pad. It also comes with a pump sack that Therm-a-Rest claims will speed up inflation and deflation.

Our initial thoughts? This pad is warm. Our testers paired it with a 0-degree sleeping bag and had no problem staying warm when temps dipped into the teens. We were using the regular size, which weighs in at just 12 ounces and packs to a ridiculously small size. We tested the pad during many nights on ground with sharp objects like coniferous cones and rocks, and we found no issues with puncturing. 

While the pump sack was cool, we really didn’t see a major benefit in using it over the traditional mouth-to-valve style. We thought maybe we were doing something wrong, but multiple people tried with similar results. Overall, if you’re looking for an extremely lightweight and warm pad for backpacking into three or four seasons, the NeoAir XLite is a good option.

Best Cooking Stove: MSR Reactor Stove System

MSR Reactor Stove System

Moosejaw

What We Like
  • Superfast boil

  • Enough for multiple dehydrated meals at once

  • Lightweight and good packing size

What We Don't Like
  • Does not come with any sort of stand

MSR’s Reactor Stove System utilizes both convection and radiant heat for an incredibly fast boil time. The radiant burner head screws into a fuel canister; the pot, with a fully enclosed heat exchanger, rests on the burner head, essentially eliminating wind. While the Reactor comes in three sizes—1 liter, 1.7 liters, and 2.5 liters—we prefer the middle-of-the-road 1.7-liter size, which is ideal for a backpacking duo. That size weighs in at just over a pound.

After using MSR’s Windburner system for years, I was immediately impressed with the boil time of this Reactor model. That’s not to say the Windburner doesn’t boil quickly. It does. But the Reactor is at another level—literally—burning 9,000 BTU per hour compared to 7,000 for the Windburner. The Reactor isn’t for everyone, to be sure. It’s for those looking for a very fast boil and not much else. Think: Alpinists boiling snow for water or minimalist and speedy thru-hikers (or those impatient with their morning cup of joe). For those looking for a smaller and more integrated system—but with half the BTU output—check out the Primus Lite+ Stove, which is a solid choice for the solo backpacker or minimalist duo.

MSR Reactor Stove System
The MSR Reactor Stove System. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Dehydrated Food: Good To-Go Dehydrated Backpacking and Camping Food

Good To-Go Dehydrated Backpacking and Camping Food

Amazon

What We Like
  • The food is legitimately good

  • Lots of veggie and vegan options

  • Can order in kits

What We Don't Like
  • Nothing to speak of

It can be tough to find good dehydrated meals (especially if you practice vegetarianism, as I do). But Good To-Go is legitimately tasty. Not just "backcountry, I’ve been hiking all day, I’m about to eat my foot" good. That's what happens when an award-winning New York City chef moves to the southern coast of Maine and decides she likes backpacking and other outdoor adventures. Thanks to that career shift, the rest of us get to benefit from some seriously good backcountry eats.

Jennifer Scism, who trained at The French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and spent decades at some of New York’s best restaurants, launched Good To-Go less than a decade ago. Good To-Go now has 14 entrees and two breakfasts in its rotations. You can purchase individual meals or buy kits like the Weekender Pack or emergency food kits. I’m not ashamed to admit I seek out and eat Good To-Go at home when I’m flying solo. I’d recommend a favorite, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the 14 entrees. OK, fine, the mushroom risotto.

Good To-Go dehydrated meals
Good To-Go dehydrated meals. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Water Filter: Katadyn BeFree 3.0L Water Filter

Katadyn BeFree 3.0L Water Filter

Amazon

What We Like
  • Incredibly lightweight filtering system

  • Collapsible so doesn’t take up much room in the pack

What We Don't Like
  • Can take a while to fill bottles

The Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System is an incredibly lightweight and efficient way to filter water in the backcountry. At just 3.5 ounces, it weighs next to nothing, and the collapsible nature of the filter is great for saving space. It's been my go-to backcountry water filtration system for a few years now. Despite trying other water filters, I keep using Katadyn’s BeFree System. Some reviews online complain about the difficulty of filling the actual bladder—particularly in high alpine lakes—and a slower rate of actually filling bottles from the nozzle. Maybe it’s me not being in a real hurry while backpacking, but I’ve never had issues with slowness. Sure, the filter can take some time to fill multiple water bottles. But it’s also easy to hang from a tree limb and let the water flow into a water bottle while doing other things, like pitching tents or grabbing a snack.

Best Headlamp: Petzl Bindi Rechargeable Headlamp

Petzl Bindi Rechargeable Headlamp

Amazon

What We Like
  • Super small and lightweight

  • Good battery life

  • Solid vision

What We Don't Like
  • Can only recharge with a USB

  • Can get uncomfortable after wearing a long time

There’s no shortage of headlamps on the market. We like Petzl’s Bindi for its small yet surprisingly strong illumination: At just over an ounce, the Bindi is incredibly light but can illuminate up to 200 lumens. It uses a rechargeable battery and features three white and two red color settings. 

I first got this headlamp for running, but it rapidly became my preferred headlamp for basically everything: backpacking, bike commuting after dark, nighttime hikes, car maintenance—you name it. I love that there are no batteries required, but if you’re out for many nights without access to solar or other ways of using a micro USB port to charge, you’ll need a backup or totally different headlamp. A happy medium is getting a headlamp that takes batteries paired with Pale Blue Earth’s rechargeable batteries.

Petzl Bindi Headlamp
Petzl Bindi Headlamp. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Shoes: Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Shoes

Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Shoes

Backcountry

What We Like
  • The blending of trail runners with hikers

  • No hotspots or blisters after multiple uses with weight

  • Waterproofing held up

What We Don't Like
  • Only two colorways

These hikers have all of the latest tech you’d expect from a modern hiking shoe, including Gore-Tex waterproofing, proprietary sole technology that boosts traction while minimizing trail roughness, and lightweight materials. But they also cover the basics, like having a comfy fit and reducing friction that might cause hotspots or blisters.

I’ve used these shoes on multiple backpacking and hiking trips and have yet to get a hotspot or blister from them. That’s my ultimate—and basic—initial evaluation of a shoe. Beyond that, these kicks do everything else they’re supposed to. For instance, I walked through creeks with them and no water broke through. And the continued blending of trail runners with hiking boots has led to another super lightweight, comfy, and grippy shoe. Bonus: They’re offered in both men’s and women’s sizes, and they’re vegan.

Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Shoes
The Scarpa Rush Mid GTX hiking shoes. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Socks: Minus33 Merino Wool Day Hiker Crew Socks

Minus33 Merino Wool Day Hiker Crew Socks

Minus33

What We Like
  • Comfortable

  • Durable

  • Merino wool masks odor for multiple days

What We Don't Like
  • N/A

Socks are one of those things you don’t really notice and might take for granted until something goes wrong. But When backpacking, a solid pair of socks might be one of the most important pieces in your kit. There’s nothing more miserable than hotspots or blisters forming on your feet with each step. That’s why I love the Day Hiker socks from Minus33, which are the brand's top-selling sock. (That’s saying quite a lot, as Minus33 sells a lot of socks.) They’re comprised of Australian-sourced merino wool with a bit of stretch nylon and a touch of spandex. The result is a pair of socks that can literally go multiple days without concern over blisters or stink. We love the seamless toes and the extra durability on the bottom, and the midweight style of these socks make them a solid all-around option. The majority of my backpacking is in rugged mountains with lots of ups and downs and bad footing, and I’ve never had a blister or hotspot with these socks.

Best Pants: Prana Stretch Zion Straight Pants

Prana Stretch Zion Straight Pants

Courtesy of Prana

What We Like
  • Stretchy, comfortable material

  • Trail-to-table style

  • Water repellent and UPF 50+ rating

What We Don't Like
  • Testers said pockets could be bigger for larger smartphones

Prana’s Stretch Zion line is a bit of a classic in the backpacking space. They're made of abrasion-resistant nylon with a touch of elastane and woven with PFC-free DWR (so they can repel water without the use of PFCs), They also have a UPF rating of 50+, so they’re solid in rain or shine. And they’re decked with nifty features like zipper pockets and snaps to roll up the legs. We chose the straight style for its slim fit, but if that's not for you, try the regulars, which are a roomier version with the same features.

These are my favorite on- and off-trail trousers for many reasons. First, as their name implies, these pants are super stretchy. They’re comfy and very easy to hike in. I also love that they have some UPF protection and some PFC-free DWR. But they're more than hiking pants. I’ve worn them to work, breweries, holiday dinners, even a couple of weddings (although that might say more about the couples getting married or my own style sense than the pants) and have not felt out of place or underdressed.

Prana Stretch Zion Pants
Prana Stretch Zion Pants. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Shirt: Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody

Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody

Black Diamond

What We Like
  • Comfy

  • UPF 50+ rating

  • Can be worn in multiple settings and outdoor activities

What We Don't Like
  • Could be better at odor control

I wear a lot of hoodies, and Black Diamond's Alpenglow has quickly become my favorite. It's pretty much the ultimate mountain hoody, great for backpacking, hiking, running, mountain biking, and everyday wear (I’m wearing it as I type this.) Its polyester and elastane blend is comfy and decent at wicking sweat, and the UPF 50+ rating is always good for outdoor activities. Black Diamond’s proprietary BD.cool technology is good at cooling, while the Polygiene odor control treatment does a decent job at masking odor (though not quite at the level of a Merino wool). I’ve never had any issues with chafing, even when running. Bonus: Black Diamond claims its proprietary BD.cool technology reflects 71 percent of nearby infrared rays.

Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody
Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best App: onX Backcountry App

onX Backcountry App

onX

What We Like
  • Offline maps

  • Snow mode

  • Downloadable regions

What We Don't Like
  • N/A

OnX Backcountry is a solid adventure app that does everything you'd want or need in a backpacking app. There are ways to create routes, download regions, and access maps offline. And it allows you to search nearby trails—and trails in your upcoming destination. We also love the snow mode, which opens up safe ski touring, cross-country skiing, and backcountry downhill skiing routes.

Best Wearable GPS Tracker: Garmin fēnix 6 Pro Solar

Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar

Amazon

What We Like
  • Loads of features

  • Solar charging lens

  • Customizable power saving modes

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

If you’re looking for one watch to do it all, this is it. I’ve been using this watch for months now and still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of its potential; it tracks things I didn’t even know were important to track. I'll stick to covering some of my favorite features here. The solar charging lens opens up the possibility of wearing it for multiple days (in the sun) without charging—Garmin claims it can go for weeks without traditional charging. It’s got a wrist heart rate monitor, running pace guidance, music uploading ability, TOPO maps, and loads of sport-specific modes. For backpacking in particular, I’ve found things like the built-in compass, sunset and sunrise times, weather, barometric pressure, and altitude very helpful. As a runner, I also enjoy the coaching suggestions, recovery time, and race predictor. Garmin’s fenix 6 Pro Solar multisport watch is the ultimate outdoor enthusiast watch.

Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar
Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Final Verdict

Backpacking gear can be personal. And it’s constantly evolving. But of the gear we’ve tested, we love items like the Mountain Hardwear Strato UL2 (view at REI), MSR Reactor Stove System (view at REI), and the Big Agnes Sidewinder Sleeping Bag (view at Amazon), among the others in this roundup.

What to Look for in Backpacking Gear

Weight

When looking at backpacking gear, weight is probably one of the most important things to consider. (It is backpacking, so you’ll be carrying everything on your back.) While you may not want to be a gram-counting nerd, the weight does add up. Depending on size, most backpacks will weigh between 2.5 and 5 pounds. Similarly, most two-person backpacking tents will range from 2.5 to 5 or six pounds. Depending on the temperature rating and size, sleeping bags will generally range between 1 and 3 pounds. And sleeping pads come in at just below a pound up to two pounds, again depending on temperature ratings and size.

Weight is totally a personal preference decision. The lightest weight gear can be the most expensive and potentially easier to damage. But can also make long-haul missions more enjoyable. Heavier backpacking gear tends to be a bit more durable and less expensive, but can get cumbersome and tiring on longer trips.

We recommend beginners find a balance that works best for them. As a beginner, you probably don't need the lightest gear, but you also don't want heavy gear that can make a trip tougher than it needs to be.

Fit

Fit is another crucial piece of the gear puzzle. It's perhaps more important than weight because backpacking will be more enjoyable if your gear and clothing fit correctly. One way to make sure things fit well is to go to a local gear shop and try on stuff. Most REIs or other gear shops will be able to fit you properly for backpacks and boots. You can certainly take your own measurements based on online sizing guides and watch YouTube videos on how to fit certain backpacks to your torso, but having a professional do it—especially for your first time trying backpacking gear—can ensure gear fits properly from the get-go.

Price

Like most outdoor activities, backpacking gear is expensive. Backpacking also requires a lot more gear than other outdoor pursuits. So things can add up quickly. If you’re new to backpacking or just want to give it a try, look for some local gear libraries to rent gear. 

Derick Lugo, the author of The Unlikely Thru-Hiker and host of The Unlikely Stories Podcast also suggests looking for used gear online.

“There are hiking gear flea markets on Facebook, that sell used gear,” Lugo says. “There are stores that sell low-priced gear that are great to start with. I know many thru-hikers that purchased a lot of their gear at Walmart. It’s cheap, and the quality may not be the best, but it’s a great way to get started without breaking the bank.”

But if backpacking is going to be something you're committed to, having your own gear certainly reduces the barrier to getting out with it. Many of the products we suggest in this roundup are fairly middle-of-the-road buying suggestions in terms of price and weight.

Comfort

Backpacking and camping can be comfortable. Properly fitting items will help with this. But, unfortunately, comfort often comes with a cost as the most lightweight and comfortable gear can also be the most expensive. Still, purchasing clothes made with synthetic materials that are breathable and moisture-wicking can help reduce hotspots or chafing. 

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What are the basics I need to spend a night in the backcountry?

    While Lugo says he leans towards “being prepared for anything,” the basics he takes for an overnighter in the backcountry are: “a tent, headlamp, sleeping bag, paracord to hang your food bag, a couple of Nalgene bottles for drinking and cooking water, water filter, mini stove, fire starter, ziplock bag for trash (leave no trace) and a suitable backpack to carry it all.”

    We’d also suggest a sleeping pad and proper layers, including an extra pair of socks in case your socks do get wet.

  • What’s the best way to try backpacking?

    Lugo says to start small and not immediately go on a big expedition.

    “Don’t do what I did; I started a thru-hike, and I didn’t even know if I liked to hike,” Lugo advises. “I luckily fell in love with hiking and the outdoors. Still, I’d say, start with short hikes, then longer ones, and then work your way up to an overnight and weekend backpacking adventure. If you start big, and you don’t know what you are doing; let’s say a 10-mile hike up and down mountains, you will have a horrible experience and may never return because of it. There’s no rush, the outdoors is not going anywhere. Take your time and enjoy every moment.”

    You could even start by going on hikes with your backpacking gear and not necessarily camping, but getting used to the weight of your pack near your vehicle or home. Practice setting up your tent and cooking some meals in your backyard or a nearby park.

  • Is backpacking dangerous?

    Anything you do in the outdoors comes with a bit of risk. You’re out in nature and at the mercy of the environment. When done right, however, backpacking has minimal risk. Make sure you know the area, your gear, and weather conditions. We don’t recommend solo backpacking, especially as a beginner. And we strongly recommend always letting at least a couple of people know your plans before heading into the backcountry and when to expect your return.

Best backpacking gear
Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Allen is the Outdoor Gear Editor at TripSavvy. He’s a lifelong camper and backpacker and has also carried overnight gear bikepacking and on ski hut trips. Nathan started backpacking carrying heavy, ill-fitting gear, then overcompensated by going totally minimalist sleeping in just an Eno hammock, to a more self-actualized backpacker that now balances both extremes. All of the gear included in this roundup has been tested thoroughly and compared with other gear items not included here.

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