It's time to start getting pumped up about backpacking season again! For many of us that means dusting off our trail gear to see what upgrades we can make. To help make your job easier this year, I've created a list of can't-miss gear upgrades. Here are seven must-own backpacking tools to boost your comfort while keeping your pack nice and light.
#1 - Sawyer Mini
Bottom line: If you don’t own a Sawyer Mini yet, you should pick one up. The Mini has revolutionized the water purification scene since your last backpacking trip. It weighs just 2 ounces, can be used in a variety of convenient ways, and filters up to 100,000 gallons. The Mini is better than your pump, it’s better than your pills, it’s better than your pen, and it costs significantly less than all of them. It’s an all around slam dunk.
Bringing a trusty headlamp is an absolute must on every backcountry trip. While your headlamp might not seem heavy on it’s own, all those extra ounces do add up, and they make the hiking harder. That’s why the Petzle E+Lite is so ideal. The E+Lite weighs three times less than most headlamps on the market (.9 oz), and it still has all the functionality you need – low beam, high beam, flashing white, red, and flashing red. It also locks, so it won’t accidentally turn on in your pack. It has less lumens (26 lm) than some high-powered headlamps, but unless you're an avid night-hiker, this little bad boy is all you'll ever need.
#3 - JetBoil MiniMo
The new Jetboil MiniMo stove/ pot combo has all the advantages of previous models – convenient, compact, quick, and sturdy - but the MiniMo has one distinct advantage: simmer control. That means you'll have full heat control to cook more complex backcountry meals. It also means that you won’t have to worry about dinner boiling over the sides of your pot, which is a serious advantage. The MiniMo is slightly heavier than some UL stove options (14.6 oz total), but it’s new shape, fuel regulator, and simmer control make it an absolute no-brainer.
If you’re still sleeping on a foam pad, it’s time for a snooze upgrade. Backpacking is tough enough without restless nights, so treat your body right and invest in a comfy, lightweight air pad. My personal fave is the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite. It’s a plush 2.5 in thick, provides toasty insulation (R-Value: 3.2), and the full-length version only weighs 12 oz. It’s not a budget buy, but your body will thank you every time you rest your weary bones. The NeoAir is widely considered to be the best air pad ever created, and I fully agree.
Alternative Pad Choice
If the Neo Air is too spendy for you, Sea to Summit’s UltraLight Mat is just about as light and plush. The main downside is that it has significantly less insulation (R-Value: 0.7), which will have a big impact on chilly nights.
#5 - Sawyer Permethrin
Bugs bite. Few things can ruin a backpacking trip faster than a swarm of hungry mosquitoes. But not to fret! You don’t have to let the bugs bug you anymore. Use Permethrin to pre-treat your clothing before heading into the woods and you’ll turn your smelly duds into a badass mosquito force field. Use long-sleeved clothing and a minimal amount of 30% DEET repellant on your exposed skin for 100% protection. That simple combo will keep your trips bug, bite, and itch free.
When it comes to first aid kits, there are generally two types of backpackers – the type that only packs a few band-aids and the type that packs like an EMT. Strike the right balance this year and pick up a comprehensive, lightweight first aid kit. The Ultralight & Watertight .5 covers all the essentials while keeping weight to an absolute minimum. Modify your kit to meet your needs and make sure to replenish it after every trip.
You know who’s a backcountry baller? That guy kicking back in a hammock by a sparkling lake with a pint of whiskey and some chocolate-covered toffee. That's dude's an evil genius. Well you can be that evil genius too. And at only 7 oz, the Grand Trunk Nano 7 is a luxury item that won’t bust your back either. The Nano 7 can support up to 300 lbs and packs down to the size of a grapefruit. If you’re looking for the quickest way to make everyone else in camp jealous, just pick up the Nano 7 for your next trip.
Want More Gear Recommendations? Check out my Gear Section for top picks on everything from tents to trekking poles.
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Disclosure: The trust of my audience is of the utmost importance to me. That’s why I only recommend equipment I love from companies I trust. I have not been paid to review any of the products listed above. A couple of items were provided to me for free to review, but I purchased most of this equipment myself. Also, I am under no obligation to give positive reviews to any of the products listed above. This gear just rocks. This page contains affiliate links. Check out my terms page for more info.