The Bare Necessities

Don't leave home without it!


Think every outdoor adventure starts at the trailhead? Wrong. Try the garage floor, where you spread out the soon-to-be contents of your pack and start checking, trimming, and stuffing your way to a perfectly weighted (if you’re lucky) load.

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Visit our partner site’s directory of useful packing lists to give you an invaluable jumpstart on all the essential gear you’ll need for everything from car camping to bike touring. CLICK HERE

Of course, even getting to that point will require you follow the money-saving tips above (as well as splurge on just one gear-o-phile indulgence like a halogen headlamp or custom-molded pack). But then it’s you, your judgment, and a little sprinkle of that thing we call trail fever. To keep your confidence levels high, we offer up our directory of useful online resources together with an essential backpacking checklist: THE BASICS:

  • tent: from a storm fortress to featherweight summer shelter, choose based on seasonal needs (rain, wind, sun, snow?) and number of campers in your party. Alternatives to the humble tent include the humbler tarp or Robinson Crusoe fave, the hammock. [read tent reviews here]
  • sleeping bag and pad: sleeping-bag ratings range from sub-zero to a balmy 50 degrees. Know what conditions you’re likely to face and estimate ten degrees less. Next: Down or synthetic, mummy-style or regular? It’s a world of choices, but remember the point is simply a good night’s sleep. A well-rested camper is a happy camper. To that end, a sleeping pad will be your very best friend, and the weight penalty is minimal. [read sleeping-bag and pad reviews here]
  • backpack: the usual spark for any discussion on backpacks: external- or internal-frame? But this is largely a matter of preference, and anyway the market has largely settled the debate with the biggest strides being made with internal-frame models. Of more immediate importance will be pack size (both internal volume and height as compared to your torso length). Then it’s a matter of packing setup, external pockets, and carrying comfort. [read backpack reviews here]