We’re focusing in on backpacking gear this week because it’s peak get-the-hell-out-of-the-city season. We dropped a list of our favorite essential pieces of backpacking gear, which is fun if you’re looking to get into the sport or replace some stalwart pieces. But for many of our readers, you already have your essentials. Well, guess what? Inessentials are some of the most fun pieces of gear to shop for and to bring on your trip. We like to joke that the best part of ultralight gear is that it gives you more leeway for extras. For some of us that’s a fly rod and or a rock rack, and for some that’s a bottle of whiskey or a six-pack. Either way, we’ve got you covered on our favorite backpacking accessories of the year.
Veggie Pad Thai
When we’re going on a big trip, we’re always thinking about how to best pack in a good calories/weight/nutrition/flavor ratio. That’s where this dehydrated Pad Thai comes in, keeping all our demands in harmony. Simple to cook and requiring no cleanup, this is our go-to meal in the backcountry.
Compleat Onyx Dining Set
On the trail, the most important meal of the day is the one you’re about to eat. Gerber’s ComplEAT tool has the bases covered with a fork, spoon, spatula, and 4 function multi-tool that nest for transport as well as snap together to convert into functional tongs.
Cusa Tea and Coffee
Medium Roast Instant Cold-Brewed Coffee, 30-Pack
Instant coffee has come a loooong way since the days of Nescafe. These days, you can start your days in the mountains with a delicious cup of joe that weighs maybe ounce in your pack. Cusa has the perfect cold-brewed medium roast that is dehydrated to maintain every drop of flavor. Just modulate the water to control this coffee’s strength and brew it hot or iced.
Sea to Summit
Aeros Inflatable Pillow
We’ll level with you. As hardo as it would be to tell you that we sleep with a boulder under our head and eat pebbles for breakfast, we’re out in the backcountry to have a great time. One of the most important aspects of that is a great night’s sleep. To that end, we carry inflatable pillows for the ultimate backcountry snooze. This one packs about as small as your coffee mug, but to be honest, we sleep so well on it the coffee is just due to habit.
Stash Cooking System
We’d love to be able to cook on a luxe two-burner setup deep in the backcountry, but that’d kind of defeat the purpose of getting way out there. So instead we opt for a sleek and light Jetboil setup that absolutely rips. Averaging about 2.5 minutes to boil, this thing will have your coffee ready before you’ve had time to use the bathroom, and pairing it with dehydrated meals gives you more time to sit and enjoy the sunset.
Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks
We’re of the same opinion for hiking socks that we are for skiing socks. Thinner is better. The less material you have moving around in your hiking boot or trail runner the less likely you’ll be sliding around and getting hot spots. These merino blend socks will keep odor at bay and keep you happy mile after mile.
Merino Sport 150 Tee
Pure merino wool tees are really nice for skiing, but they won’t do the trick backpacking. The blend of poly fibers is key to keeping t-shirts durable for the long run under the weight of a pack on your hips and shoulders. Smartwool’s tee is among our favorites we’ve ever tested due to its proven comfort and durability.
If I’m looking for a durable hiking or climbing pant with thoughtfully placed pockets and features, I’m coming to Arc’teryx every time. The tailored fit and stretchy materials make you forget your pants are even there, like a more comfortable anxiety dream. And with an awesome waist belt design and hip pocket that fits a bar, a phone, or a small point and shoot camera, these pants are all we’ve ever wanted.
Remige Long Sleeve Shirt
Wool isn’t for everyone. If merino isn’t your jam, take a look at this sweet sun shirt that’s perfect for distance backpacking. The UPF protection will protect your skin while the wicking fabric keeps you perfectly cool. Especially if your plans involve bushwhacking, only synthetic will do.
Titanium 450ml Cup
I’ve been carrying one of these bad boys for five years now. The benefits are too many to list, but I’ll try to give you a summary. This cup weighs approximately nothing—at 76 grams it’s lighter than two bandanas. It’s totally indestructible and leaves no residual taste after a quick rinse, which means none of your evening whiskey or two will make it into your morning coffee. If that’s ever happened to you, you’ll know how much of a godsend this is.
The 1993 Polarized
We don’t really need to explain these to you. Want to demand respect? Command authority? Cut through the glare and the bullshit? These are your only choice. If they’re good enough for legendary ski actor Chuck Mumford, they’re good enough for you.
The North Face
Door to Trail Mesh Cap
There’s nothing worse than sweaty locks sticking to your face on a hike under a heavy corduroy brim. Lightweight and breathable, this mesh cap is perfect for the long haul. Stay cool, look cool, be cool.
Merino 250 Wool Beanie
The temperature drops fast on summer nights in the mountains. We’ve regretted not bringing a toasty beanie on countless trips where we figured the heat would last long into the night. Keep cozy around the campfire (or that Nalgene-headlamp trick in case of a fire ban) with this soft wool beanie. Pair it with an inflatable pillow for an unbelievable night’s sleep under the stars.
Go Advanced Water Filter Bottle
Giardia is no freaking joke. Take it from us, one of our editors has had it at least twice. This filtered bottle protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, chlorine, organic chemical matter, dirt, sand, and cloudiness. The micro membrane filter is replaceable and supplants the need for iodine or chlorine treatments.
Listen, stuff happens and gear breaks. When you need to stitch, fix and tinker with your tent or pack, this tool has your back. The hammer, fire starter, and whistle are just some of the features packed into the Signal that makes it an essential piece of backcountry gear.
Dry Lite Quick Dry Towel
Camp towels are a super underrated piece of your backcountry kit. Ever seen a glorious mountain lake or stream that you avoided dipping into because you weren’t confident you could dry out easily? Never again will you regret staying dry (and boring.) Take the dive, you and this towel will be dry in no time.
Men’s Lowdown 2 Sandal
A good camp shoe is an absolute must, and the Chaco is our go-to. With almost no material to soak through, these dry out in an instant, making them ideal for creek crossings, and the open-air feeling is perfect after a long day backpacking in hiking shoes. Soak up the sun and let your toes breathe—the Vibram sole will protect you from any rocks and roots, many hikers we know backpack in these alone!
Peppermint Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
This do-everything-go-everywhere soap isn’t just for your dreaded friend living in the co-op. Dr. Bronners is time tested over decades as the best soap concentrate for the backcountry. Just a drop is enough to clean dishes and pans and it’s a great body wash. But just because it’s biodegradable doesn’t mean it belongs in the stream. Always bury your wastewater.
Lucy Pro Lamp
This inflatable solar-powered lamp is our favorite for tent reading, dance parties, you name it. Just leave it out to charge when you get to camp, blow it up in the evening, and let there be light!
2-Day Camp Meal Kit
Having trouble planning backpacking meals? Patagonia has you covered with this killer meal kit for two. This box includes breakfast, dinner, lunch, and snacks for two indecisive backpackers, experts or novices. Get your grub on.