ultralight backpacking gear reviews

Backpackers hiking the Titcomb Basin Trail, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

The Best Trekking Poles of 2024

By Michael Lanza

One of the most immutable truisms about hiking is this: Backpackers, dayhikers, climbers, mountain runners, and others who start using trekking poles almost never hit the trail without them again. No matter how much weight you’re carrying—from an ultralight daypack to a godawful heavy monster backpack—using poles will lessen your chances of an accidental fall and your leg muscles and joints, feet, back, and body will all feel better, thanks to the reduced strain, fatigue, and impact on them.

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A backpacker hiking to Spider Gap in Washington's Glacier Peak Wilderness.

An Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist

By Michael Lanza

What do you need to pack for a three-season backpacking trip? While the specific items depend in part on factors like the time of year, your companions and backpacking style, the trip’s length and the weather forecast, this story provides a core checklist of essential gear to help you organize and efficiently pack—and avoid overpacking—for virtually any backpacking trip.

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The Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Sun Shirts of 2024

By Michael Lanza

Whether backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, trail running, fishing, paddling, or active outdoors in myriad other ways, sun protection becomes critical not only for preventing skin cancer, but also because the hot sun can wear you down and exacerbate the effects of heat, elevation, and dehydration—especially in the mountains and desert.

While there are a variety of styles of sun shirts, for active pursuits in warm to hot temperatures, nothing really beats a lightweight, breathable hoody for maximum protection and keeping you cool—while adding minimal weight and bulk to your kit. This review spotlights the best sun shirt hoodies.

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The Marmot Hydrogen 30 ultralight sleeping bag.

Review: Marmot Hydrogen 30 Sleeping Bag

Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Marmot Hydrogen 30
$399, 1 lb. 9.4 oz./720g (regular)
Sizes: unisex regular and long ($419)
backcountry.com

For backpackers prioritizing low gear weight who don’t tend to get cold very easily, a sleeping bag rated 30 degrees Fahrenheit can function as their go-to for most three-season trips. And Marmot’s Hydrogen 30 remains one of the perhaps three highest-quality and warmest ultralight mummy bags at this temperature rating, as I affirmed sleeping in it for two nights on southern Utah’s Owl and Fish canyons loop in early May and five nights hiking the Grand Canyon’s Gems Route in mid-April.

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A backpacker descending the trail off Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.

Why and When to Spend More on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

By Michael Lanza

You need a new backpack, backpacking tent, rain jacket, boots, or a sleeping bag. You’ve read reviews. You’ve winnowed your short list to a handful of possible choices—with a significant difference in prices. That’s when you struggle with the question that pushes the frugality button in all of us: Why should I spend more?

This story will explain why some gear is more expensive and give you specific advice on buying five big-ticket items: packs, tents, rain jackets, shoes and boots, and sleeping bags.

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