Got a backpacking trip on your summer bucket list, but not sure what to pack? The primary rule of backpacking is comfort. Remember, your designer hiking boots aren't going to seem so impressive if they give you blisters. But keeping it comfortable doesn't have to mean giving up your sense of style. Read on for our top picks in backpacking gear.
It isn't a backpacking trip until you hoist your pack onto your shoulders and nearly fall over backwards. Take some of the oh no! out of this moment with a women's-specific pack that is designed to work with—not against—your body.
Start with a comfortable backpack that fits your shape, such as Sierra Designs Women's Jubilee 65 Backpack (MSRP $259.95, SierraDesigns.com)
This pack is uber-comfortable and made to fit your curves. It also features load-bearing straps and is ideal for staying organized on the trail. Plus, the Fulcrum Suspension system, which mimics the construction of the human body, allows airflow between you and the pack, and the stash pocket on the waist is perfect for lip balm, hand sanitizer, and a PowerBar.
When trying on packs, imagine how each pack will feel when filled with 20 to 40 pounds of gear. Cushioned straps that sit comfortably on your hips and shoulders are key.
Fill up your pack with the essentials, starting with a lightweight tent (unless you plan to sleep under the stars).
The spacious Marmot Pulsar 2P Ultralight Tent (MSRP $349, Marmot.com) is designed for backpackers and weighs just 3.9 pounds and includes a bare bones setup option that keeps you and a friend breezy and cool on warm summer nights.
If you’ve ever spent a sleepless night wiggling around in a mummy-style sleeping bag seemingly designed for a person shaped like a ski pole, you’ll understand why it’s worth splurging on an extra cozy sleeping bag created with your lady lumps in mind. The North Face Cat's Meow (MSRP $189 to $199, NorthFace.com) women's sleeping bag features extra width in the hips and a generous fill to keep you warm, even on cold nights. And at just 2 pounds, 13 ounces, your back will thank you, too.
If you can’t live without a sleeping pad, try the lightweight, uber-comfy Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s (MSRP $159.95, CascadeDesigns/therm-a-rest), which packs down to a super-compact 4- by 9-inch bundle without sacrificing quality of sleep. Since women often sleep colder at night, this pad is designed with the female body in mind—air pocket insulation and a reflective layer help maintain your internal body temperature.
Don't forget to splurge on a super-compact pillow, such as the REI Backpacker Pillow (MSRP $22.50, REI.com). This miniature pillow barely weighs anything, and after a long day on the trail, you'll have the best sleep of your life.
Unless you plan on eating nothing but trail mix and prunes, you'll need to bring a backpacking stove. Check out the JetBoil Java Kit (MSRP $109.95, JetBoil.com), a self-igniting personal cooking system and coffee press that gives you 2 cups of boiling water in under 2 minutes. With an easy ignite button, the Jetboil takes the “Yikes!” out of operating a backpacking stove. (You know, that fun moment when you nearly burn your eyebrows off trying to light the damn thing?) Plus, nothing beats the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee while taking in a sunrise over a pristine mountain lake.
Stay classy with these lightweight bamboo eating utensils from To-Go Ware (MSRP $12.95, To-GoWare.com). Bamboo is a sustainable material that resists stains and odor, and the utensils’ case was made by Conserve, a Delhi, India-based nonprofit that employs people to gather used plastic bags and repurpose them into new products.
Let your light shine with the Black Diamond Moxie Headlamp (MSRP $19.47, BlackDiamondEquipment.com). The Moxie is water-resistant and includes three settings plus a dimming option. The best part? It remembers the setting it was on the last time you turned your headlamp off. It’s not easy to look cute in a headlamp, but at least in the Moxie you can pretend you’re wearing a flower headband.
Stay hydrated with the MSR HyperFlow (MSRP $99.95, CascadeDesigns.com/msr), and bring a water filter to avoid any weird water-borne bacteria. No filter? Try adding iodine to your water to kill most of the bacteria. The slightly funny taste is worth staying healthy. Just remember, if you are planning to filter water along the trail, be sure there is a water source available wherever you are planning to go. In the dry summer months, water sources sometimes run dry.
Luxury item: Bandit red wine
Bandit makes delicious, award-winning wine that comes in an eco-friendly Tetra Pak carton, meaning you can sip Merlot around the campfire and not have to carry a heavy glass bottle on the way out. Cheers! (MSRP $7.99, BanditWines.com)
If you’re a first timer, considering borrowing gear from friends or renting from a sporting goods store before investing in the equipment yourself. Once you know what you like, splurge away.
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Teaser photo from Flickr Creative Commons / West Vancouver Archives, Hollyburn Heritage Society Collection.