Everything You Need for Your First Backpacking Trip

Backpacking for the first time can feel daunting. What tent should you get? How many pairs of socks should you bring? Which water filter is the best for the job?

We have quite a bit of backpacking experience, and thought we should tell you what we’ve learned the hard way. We know that gearing up to go backpacking can be expensive, so we scoured REI.com for top-quality products with more reasonable prices to come up with everything you need (and nothing you don’t) for a night on the trail. In addition to buying new equipment, consider shopping our used-gear site for deals on gently used products that are ready for their next journey. And relax: You’ve got this!

Kelty Salida 2 Tent

Kelty Salida 2 Tent

Price: $149.95
Weight: 4 lbs. 9 oz.
Sleeping Capacity: 2 people

Lighter than most at this price, this compact freestanding tent comes complete with color-coded clips and fly attachment so setup is a breeze. Choosing the right backpacking tent involves the following key decision points: number of people, number of seasons, weight and livability. For two people, three seasons, under five pounds and with plenty of room, this tent gets the job done well. You’ll probably want a footprint to protect your tent from sharp sticks and rocks. Instead of buying one, consider making your own out of a piece of Tyvek®.

Marmot Trestles 30 Sleeping Bag – Women’s & Men’s

Marmot Trestles 30 Sleeping Bag

Price: $99
Women’s EN Comfort Rating: 29.1° F
Men’s EN Comfort Rating: 36.1°
Women’s Regular Weight: 3 lbs. 7.7 oz.
Men’s Regular Weight: 3 lbs. 1 oz.
Insulation Type: Synthetic

Reliable and all-purpose, this synthetic bag insulates all night long even in cool, damp conditions. Temperature rating, shape, weight and insulation type all factor into the right sleeping bag choice. We pick this bag as a perfect starter bag for summer and warmer spring and fall adventures. Learn more about how to choose your perfect bag.

Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad – Regular

Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad

Price: $54.95
Regular Weight: 1 lbs. 6 oz.
R-Value: 3.4
Sleeping Pad Type: Self-inflating

Ideal for first-time backpackers, this pad keeps the weight down while adding plenty of comfort. To choose a sleeping pad you have to consider the type (air, self-inflating and closed-cell foam), use and features. Learn more about how to choose from Expert Advice.

REI Co-op Backpacking Bundle

REI Co-op Backpacking Bundle

Price: $275
Weight: 9 lbs. 6 oz. (for whole set)

Overwhelmed by the options? You’ll save more than $60 when you buy our three customer favorites together. You’ll get the REI Co-op Passage 2 Tent (2 doors, 2-person), REI Co-op Stratus Insulated Air Sleeping Pad (regular size, air pad) and REI Co-op Trail Pod 30 Sleeping Bag (long size, synthetic). Plus you’ll save time, since it’s a grab and go.

REI Co-op Flash 45 Pack – Women’s & Men’s

REI Co-op Flash 45 Pack

Price: $149
Women’s Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz.
Men’s Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.

A weekend of wilderness is closer than ever with this comfortable pack. The breathable back panel, contoured hipbelt and plenty of gear storage make this an excellent first pack for one- and two-night getaways. The perfect pack will offer the right combination of capacity, features and fit—and this one checks all the boxes. Learn how to fit your pack properly.

Vasque St. Elias GTX Hiking Boots – Women’s & Men’s

Basque St. Elias GTX Hiking Boots

Price: $199.95

Finding the right boots is of utmost importance for your first trip—as is breaking them in before you hit the trail. These are the lightest backpacking boots from Vasque, yet they still hold up to tough trails from Denali National Park to the Appalachian Trail. Not sure these are your top pick? Find out exactly how to choose the perfect pair from our Expert Advice tips.

Adventure Medical Kits UltraLight / Watertight .5 First-Aid Kit

Adventure Medical Kits UltraLight / Watertight .5 First-Aid Kit

Price: $18.95
Weight: 3.68 oz.

Although you can head into the wilderness without a first aid kit, we don’t think you should. This kit is made for one person for up to two days, and is packed in a watertight pouch so everything stays clean and dry. Curious about the Ten Essentials—those things you need whenever you hit the trail? Click here to learn more.

Black Diamond Astro Headlamp

Black Diamond Astro Headlamp

Price: $19.95
Weight: 3 oz.

A good headlamp is necessary if you’re spending the night out—whether it’s for a bathroom run or to hike a little after dark. And you definitely don’t want to forget extra batteries, just in case.

GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove

GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove

Price: $20.95
Weight: 5.9 oz.

At 20 bucks, you can’t get a better stove. This little buddy is designed for fast, reliable cooking with a burner head that diffuses heat evenly. Don’t forget to grab a gas canister for your stove. A small one will work well for a night or two out.

Snow Peak Kettle No. 1 – 0.89 Liters

Snow Peak Kettle No. 1

Price: $19.95
Weight: 9 oz.

Complete your cook kit with a kettle that does everything. We use this for our coffee, couscous and even cold lemonade. It perfectly pairs with your stove. Grab a spoon from your kitchen, and you have everything you need to chow down.

Backpacker’s Pantry Louisiana Red Beans and Rice – 2 Servings

Backpacker's Pantry Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

Price: $5
Weight: 6 oz.

Now that you have your stove and kettle, you need your food. Snag a dehydrated meal from our wide selection (although we suggest this tasty and filling red beans and rice meal), plus snacks and oatmeal for the morning.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Price: $24.95
Weight: 2 oz.

It’s incredible how small filters have gotten. This filter weighs practically nothing and fits in the palm of your hand. And with it, you can drink straight from a stream. Grab two one-liter water bottles from your recycling bin for your clean water drinking vessels, and you’re good to go. Learn more about water treatment here.

Brunton TruArc 3 Compass

Brunton TruArc 3 Compass

Price: $13.00
Weight. 1.1 oz.

You should never wander into the woods without a compass. You’ll also need a map and pencil. And maybe a Navigation class.

Gear Aid Fix Anything Camp Kit

Gear Aid Fix Anything Camp Kit

Price: $19.95
Weight: 2.3 oz.

Last, but not least, you need to ensure that you can fix whatever breaks out there. Burns, tears, rips and leaks are all fixable with this handy, light kit.

While this is all the gear you’ll need for a night out, there are a few things you’ll want to raid your closet for—save yourself some dough and use what you have:

  1.       Travel sunscreen
  2.       Sunglasses
  3.       Matches
  4.       Rain jacket
  5.       Insulation (down, wool or fleece warm layer)
  6.       Non-cotton hiking and sleeping clothes
  7.       3 non-cotton pairs of socks (wear one, wash/dry one, keep one safe)

Happy trails!