2. Sleeping bag/pad
5. Rain Jacket
But in all seriousness, I think people tend to overthink backpacking. I try to keep it simple and light (my husband might disagree) because I carry a 7.5 pound camera with me while backpacking. I generally backpack in the mountains, so you won't find me out there without my rainjacket even if there isn't rain in the forecast. It acts as a windbreaker and insulator when it gets cold and/or windy on peaks.
My top 5, hmmm, hard to pare it down. Everyone has their essential gear but here are some items that are items I prefer to have in no particular order:
We aren't "superlight" backpackers as we like our comforts but they aren't super heavy either.
1. my chair. Huge relief for my back after a long day of walking, I'm old.
2. My super comfortable hoka one-one trail runners, with extra padded inserts. What a delight to be walking on clouds!
3. My super lightweight and spacious tent.
4. My great sleeping pad
5. A seasonal appropriate quilt! So nice to be able to sleep and roll over with no entanglements.
All my gear...I think I had a good setup for me last year. It's a mix of old and new. But that is not very interesting. New things I was pleased with in no particular order...
1. Zpacks multi-pack which I attached across the front of my pack and use for all the things I needed or might during the day and also as a small day pack. My back pack is older and has small hip belt pockets plus the multi-pack is much more then they could ever be. It is slightly annoying to have one more thing to deal with when taking off the pack but its utility more than made up for that for me.
2. Darn tough wools socks. Previous I had used REI merino socks and the Darn Toughs are just so much nicer
3. Big Agnes TW UL2 tent used for solo carry and by a couple I lent it to. All thoroughly enjoyed using it. Had some weather but not a lot so this is a limited recommendation. I did use the foot print, modify the fixed guylines with adjustable line locs and mix in a variety of stakes to fill out the stock 8 to 12 and provide more options. This replaced an original Copper Spur UL2.
4. CNOC Vectra and Sawyer Squeeze filter set up for gravity feed and used with SMART water bottles. This replaced a Katadyn Hiker pump and a hydration bladder.
5. Not pleased I need them but... Thin Optics reading glasses in the universal pod that sticks the back of my phone allowing me to actually read it. I also carried a pair of reading glasses packed away but I used the TO's all the time since they were always handy.
Also worth mentioning...
I upgraded my phone to a Google Pixel 3A which I used as my camera and navigation device. (I carried maps and a compass too) It has a excellent camera considering the price of the phone. I needed a new phone and a new camera and this served both needs. I liked that it had a plastic rather than glass back and a headphone jack. The only negative is that it is not waterproof so I had to be extra careful with it at water crossings. We also had a Gamin InReach mini in our party which is a nice tool to have along to keep relatives informed as to progress and summon help if things go pear shaped.
There are "bifocal" safety glasses both clear and dark for outside use. I considered those but having tried them I don't recommend bifocals for hiking because the lower part of your peripheral vision is blurred for the trail and it increases the chance you will trip. The Thin Optics stuck to the back of the phone solution works much better. They make a key chain version too but I find that less convenient.
I do use the clear "bifocal" safety glasses when in the shop since it is works well in that situation where otherwise I need to wear the reading glasses under the safety glasses and constantly switch.
My number one switch I'd swear by is going to a sleeping bag that has a sleeve for the pad, what difference that has made to me for sleeping on the ground. I have Big Agnes, not sure if other brands have caught on to this yet. I would wake up a half dozen times with my old set up, always sliding off the sleeping pad, balled up in the corner of the tent (not much for flat ground a lot of the time where I backpack). With my Big Agnes bag and pad, the pad slides into a sleeve on the bottom of the bag so you never slide off it, also has a pocket for a camp pillow where it'll stay locked under my head. The pad doubles as bottom insulation, so the bag is less bulky. I sleep so much better this way and it was worth every penny. I'm trying hammock camping for the first time this year, will be curious to see if it goes as well as I've been told for even more wilderness sleeping comfort.
2. Good backpack, there's plenty, just make sure to get one that's durable. Mine is Mountainsmith and has lasted problem free just as long as...
3. My old REI Half Dome tent is light, goes up fast, and has lasted 15 years and still going strong. (although starting to get some basementy smells from winter storage, eww)
4. Simple kitchen set up, I have a small MSR single burner stove, one set of nesting pot, pan, two bowls, 2 sporks, 2 insulated cups and a french press. It's all you really need as long as you've got:
5. A multi-tool. Some lists say to drop this item, I use mine constantly. Food prep, wood carving, pulling tent stakes stuck in the ground, maybe straightening a bent zipper; you name it. It'll be the ace in the hole for weird scenarios you never knew you'd need it for.
Start with the three B's =backpack, bed, and boots -pack is fitted properly, and the right size. My biggest is an old Mountainsmith model which is a delight. Bed is a down bag, appropriate for the temps and a closed cell foam pad,maybe two, if we are dealing with snow and cold. Boots are now lighter than they used to be, but I still don a pair of Vasque Sundowners for really stiff trips.
Beyond that - good canister stove = I have used a Pocket Rocket for the last twenty years. Many other comparable models now available. For shelter, it really depends on conditions. I really like a large tarp with cord and stakes, but sometimes a tent is really required. For extreme conditions, there is nothing better than a North Face VE 25.
Actually, years ago (1950s), my favorite piece of backpacking gear was a USFS Master key, good coast to coast, providing superb access to shelter and other amenities. In those days, most backwoods cabins were left unlocked and the understanding was that you would clean up when you left and restock the woodpile. Them days is gone forever.....
This is such a fun question @Marshgarsh! Everyone else already mentioned the big top 5s, so beyond my favorite tent, bag, pad, boots, pack, here are my top 5 that I swear by!
1. Small sewing kit with tenacious tape: I have one of those super tiny (3.5"x1.5"x.5", .45oz) sewing kits inside a little plastic hard case that has a bit of string, a few needs and buttons, and a tiny pair of scissors that I added a bit of tenacious tape (I call it duct tape's better half). It has saved so many pieces of gear that have failed on short and long trips!
2. Luci Pro Lux lantern with mobile charging: I consider this a weight splurge, but I really like having the soft glow of my lantern when I'm cooking after a long day. It's especially great for snow camping winter trips when the sun sets so early. And for longer trips it can serve as my charger for my phone, which I only use as my camera, but still needs it.
3. Sea to Summit pocket hand wash: Another little luxury! This biodegradable soap is in little leaves (think like the old Listerine strips), so it packs down small and doesn't leak in anyway. You get 50 leaves in .5oz, so plenty of uses for minimal weight. And it makes it much easier to follow LNT and get yourself a bit cleaner on the trail!
4. Down booties!!! This is really just for shoulder season and snow camping trips, but I love love LOVE my down booties. I've got an old pair from when REI used to make them and they barely weigh anything, but are so much warmer than a pair of heavy mountaineering socks. And you can wear them on the snow and then right into your sleeping bag. True love is down booties.
5. Titanium chopsticks: another reasonably frivolous thing, but high on my list of favorites. I often times still bring my titanium long spoon, but I just love these for cooking, stirring coffee packets and dehydrated meals, and eating all of my Good to Go Yellow Curry (another favorite, serve it over a pack of ramen and you've got a luxury meal for two).
Thanks for posting this thread! This was a fun one to get me excited for my next trip!