The Best Backpacking Gear of 2018
By Michael Lanza
Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. The Tetons. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park. The Wind River Range. The North Cascades. The Tour du Mont Blanc. New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The Canadian Rockies. Paria Canyon. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear you see reviewed at The Big Outside. I treat gear roughly in mountains and canyons that are notoriously hard on outdoor gear and apparel so that I can give you honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you make the best gear choices for your adventures.
And that’s exactly how I came up with these select picks for today’s best backpacking gear.
Nearly three decades of testing outdoor gear and apparel—including many years as the lead gear reviewer and Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine (see my About page for more about me and this blog)—have honed my ability to identify gear that’s truly outstanding, at the cutting edge technologically, and a good value.
In this article, I share my top picks for a basic backpacking gear kit, from the three to four best packs, tents, boots, and sleeping bags—because everyone has different needs—to air mattresses, camp kitchen, water treatment, and clothing layers.
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Each item on this list links to my complete review of it, where you can get more details and find links to online retailers for purchasing it; in a few cases, those links are to a multi-product review, like my favorite backpacking accessories. Purchasing through those links helps support my work on The Big Outside (without increasing your cost at all—in fact, you’ll usually find the best prices at those links).
I’d love to read what you think of my gear picks, or your experiences with any of this gear or other stuff; share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this story. And please consider sharing this story with other backpackers you think might find it useful.
Best Overall: Osprey Atmos AG 65 and Aura AG 65
Best Ultralight: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider
Best Weight-to-Performance Ratio: The North Face Banchee 65
Best For Heavy Loads: Gregory Baltoro 75 and Deva 70
Buy smart with my pro tips on buying a backpack, backpacking tent, hiking shoes or boots, and a sleeping bag.
Your trips will go better with the right gear. See my picks for “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs”
and “The 5 Best Backpacking Tents.”
Shoes and Boots
What do you really need for backpacking? See my “Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist.”
Best Insulation: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
Best Ultralight: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air
Best Value and Comfort: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra
Best Inflatable Pillow: Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Ultra Light
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Best Ultralight Stove: MSR PocketRocket 2
Best Ultralight Pot: MSR Big Titan Kettle
Best Cook Set: Sea to Summit X-Pot Set 31
Best Solo Stove: Jetboil MiniMo
Best Family/Group Stove: Jetboil Joule
Best Bear Canister: Bear Vault BV500
I can help you plan the best backpacking, hiking, or family adventure of your life. Find out more here.
Don’t just curse the darkness. Light it with one of “The 5 Best Headlamps.”
Clothing Layering System
Best Rain Jacket: Outdoor Research Realm Jacket
Best Down Jacket: Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody
Best Synthetic Jacket: Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody or The North Face ThermoBall Jacket
Base Layer Top: The North Face Warm Long-Sleeve Zip Neck
Pants: Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible Pants (review coming soon)
Tell me what you think.
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