Home 9 Gear Essentials 9 What’s in My Pack? A Detailed Look into a Hiking Expert’s Gear

What’s in My Pack? A Detailed Look into a Hiking Expert’s Gear

Jun 10, 2023 | Gear Essentials, Gear Recommendations

As a seasoned backpacker, my hiking gear has been a constant work in progress. It varies depending on the duration of the trip and the prevailing weather conditions. I’ve fine-tuned my choices over time, always chasing that elusive equilibrium between weight, price, comfort, and necessity. While I wouldn’t describe myself as an ultralight hiker, I do strive to keep my pack as light as possible. Here’s a glimpse into what a typical 3-5 day gear list looks like for me. The only variable for the duration here is the food.

The Big 3 + Sleep

My gear starts with the “Big 3”: a backpack, shelter, and sleeping system. I carry everything in my trusty Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight 60. This pack is a versatile workhorse, designed for multi-day backpacking and thru-hiking. With a weight of 31.5 oz and a volume of 60L, it’s light without compromising space. It should be noted though, that it is nearly impossible to tie anything to the outside of it, you really have to get creative. It would have been nice if they just had added some gear loops, I’m sure it would have only been a few grams and it would have made for a much more versatile pack.

The Tent that I take with me on backpacking trips
The Tent that I take with me on backpacking trips

For my shelter, I use the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2, a lightweight tent that fits neatly into my pack, and for securing it, I rely on the reliable MSR Groundhog stakes. I know I could have gone with the Tiger Wall 1, but I like to be able to have the extra space, plus I take a kid with me every so often, so it’s one of those things that’s worth a few extra ounces to me in order to save multiple hundreds of dollars. I don’t mind the weight for the extra space.

For my sleeping arrangements, I’ve opted for the Nemo Tensor Insulated sleeping pad. It may be a tad heavier, but the wider size and added comfort justify the extra weight. As for a pillow, I go for a Thermarest stuffable pillow case filled with my down jacket – a perfect example of how I love items serving multiple purposes. I find the down mixture in the jacket works as a much better pillow than anything inflatable.

I keep warm under a Hammock Gear Burrow Custom blanket. It’s lightweight and warm. I opted for the straps which go under my sleeping pad so it stays on overnight. Lastly, I use an insanely lightweight SOL Mylar blanket as a footprint. It’s incredibly rugged and lighter than a sheet of Tyvek, and at only $5 if it gets ruined, you can get one for your next trip. It protects the bottom of my tent, and I keep it on the outside pocket in case of emergency.

Cooking & Food

Toaks cup, steaming in the morning

When it comes to cooking, I stick with the tried-and-true MSR PocketRocket stove. It’s a basic model, which helps me save on weight, and I accompany it with the smallest Isopro fuel canister possible. To light it, I just keep a bic lighter in my pocket at all times, which of course doubles in an emergency if I needed to build a fire. I boil water in a Toaks 750ML pot and have a DIY foil windscreen to shield it. I like this approach as this is also my coffee mug in the morning. Yet again, multi purpose. I also have a homemade insulated bag for rehydrating my food and keeping it warm, and a Lixada spoon for eating. The bag is made from the insulation from our Imperfect Produce orders and some duct tape, and I’ve found it works just as well as people that are using much more expensive options. Plus, at half an ounce, you won’t feel it, but the nice warm meals are great.

my DIY insulated cooking bag
my DIY insulated cooking bag with a great view

The best part about that, is that I can leave the bags to my freeze dried meals at home. So for example, I typically have a Mountain House meal every night, and I save on the space that those bulky bags take up and just put it in a ziplock freezer bag, quart sized. So the weight of the bag makes up for itself very easily.

All my food supplies are stored in an Equinox ultralight bear bag, with a 25-foot Notch string to hang it high out of bear’s reach. The cord that comes with the bag is bulky and heavy. Opt for a lighter weight option.

Water Prep and Storage

I swear by my Sawyer Squeeze and its accompanying 1l bag for water filtration. Depending on the trails’ water availability, I carry two or three Smart Water bottles. The Sawyer Squeeze fits right onto them, and they’re lightweight, durable, and almost free! I also carry a capri sun pouch with the top cut off. It works perfectly in cases where water is in short supply.


For safety, I use a Spot X GPS communicator. While it’s not the lightest on the market, it offers great value for its weight, and I’m willing to carry the extra 1.5 ounces to save money. Plus, it affords me the ability to go out on these trips, because my spouse hates not being able to keep in touch in case of an emergency on either end. I also carry an OKZU 10k MaH battery pack. It’s powerful enough to charge my iPhone and Garmin watch multiple times per trip, and I’ve never ended up with less than half of my battery remaining. Just keep your phone on airplane mode, you’re out there to enjoy nature, not check the scores to the big game.

To inflate my mattress, I use a Tiny Pump X, which also doubles as a dome light for my tent. Again, this is one of those comfort things. It saves me the breath of blowing up my air mattress, which after a really long day is an absolute lifesaver. Plus, then it’s my dome light. Multi-purpose, baby!

For illumination after sunset, I rely on my Nitecore NU25 headlamp, a lightweight companion with a long-lasting battery. Let’s face it, you’re not staying up until midnight if you’re doing a multi-day trip. You want to get to bed early so you can wake up with the sun and go.

First Aid and Repair

My entire First Aid Kit
My entire First Aid Kit

Over the years, I’ve pieced together a minimalist ‘Frankenstein’ first aid kit. It carries the absolute essentials, along with an Ace bandage and a knee brace – just in case.

For repairs, I carry a compact Gerber Dime multitool and a DIY repair kit made up of tape, repair patches, and zip ties inside of a ziplock bag.


When it comes to toiletries, I prioritize minimalism and eco-friendliness. My trowel of choice is the Deuce of Spades, a lightweight and efficient tool for practicing Leave No Trace principles. I carry biodegradable toilet paper and Dr. Noah Toothpaste tablets. For brushing, I use a cheap foldable toothbrush that I got for like a dollar.


Sometimes, for longer trips, I pack a Helinox Chair Zero. It’s a lightweight, compact chair that offers a touch of luxury in the wilderness. I understand that carrying an extra pound adds a lot of wear and tear on my legs, but have you ever gotten to camp and had nowhere to sit, or even worse, biting ants? My first outing the entire campsite was infested with them, and I sat in my chair comfortably. I also carry an REI face towel, mostly for use as a hot pad, but also in the occasion that I do rinse of my face or hands.


While I’m always seeking to lighten my load, I wouldn’t classify myself as an ultralight hiker. I lean towards multi-purpose items that save me from carrying multiple tools. My base weight hovers around 15 pounds – not quite ultralight, but light enough for me.

In colder weather, the weight will go up for added clothing, but this is a fairly well-rounded 3-season setup. Remember, everyone’s setup will differ based on their preferences and requirements. For more detailed information on my gear weights, you can check out the link to my lighterpack.

Backpacking is a journey of constant learning and adapting. It’s not just about reaching the destination, but also enjoying the trek, and the right gear can make all the difference. So, venture out, explore, and happy trails!

Hi there, I’m Shawn!

I’m lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, where there are no shortage of some of the best trails on earth. Are you looking for the best info on hiking and backpacking, tips and tricks, meals, and more? You’ve come to the right place! .