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How To Plan Your First Backpacking Trip: Gear to Bring

Welcome to the second installment of “How To Plan Your First Backpacking Trip”. If you missed the first, How To Plan Your First Backpacking Trip: Finding a Trail Using AllTrails.com, head on over and learn how to find your perfect trail.

Now it’s time to gear up! As a beginner, it can be completely intimidating (and expensive) to get what you need for your first trip. Don’t aim for perfection here! The goal is to see if you like the activity first before sinking hundreds of dollars into gear.

Where to Find Used and Cheap Gear

There is an entire world of used gear waiting for the picking if you’re willing to put some time into looking.

  • Buy Nothing Groups: Are you a part of your local Buy Nothing group? While there is an app, it’s worth it to have facebook just to be a part of one of these groups, especially if you’re thrifty-minded. You can jump on there and wait for gear, or put up an “ASK” looking for gear forgotten in the back of garages.
  • Outdoor Prolink (for current and past ambassadors): This site has plenty of gear at discounts for the pro’s (that’s you!). Just make sure to order ahead of time, shipping can take awhile.
  • REI (or other retailer) Used Gear: REI and others (Patagonia etc.) offers a wide selection of gently used outdoor gear. You can find everything from tents and sleeping bags to hiking boots and backpacks at discounted prices. You can also attend their garage sales for steeper discounts.
  • Ask a friend: Do you have a friend whose been backpacking for years? They may have extras already! Ask to borrow something for a trip, an return it clean with some backed goods.
  • Local Gear Swaps and Consignment Shops: Many outdoor communities host gear swaps or have consignment shops where individuals can buy and sell used outdoor gear locally. Check with outdoor clubs, gear rental shops, or outdoor retailers in your area to find out if they host any events or have a consignment section.
  • Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist: Online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are excellent resources for finding used outdoor gear at discounted prices. You can often find local sellers offering gear such as tents, backpacks, and camping stoves for sale in your area.

What To Bring

Below is a checklist of essential gear to consider for your first backpacking trip, along with some recommended options to get you started. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!


Your backpack is your lifeline on the trail, so choose one that fits comfortably and can accommodate all your gear. Look for options like the Osprey Atmos AG 65 or the REI Co-op Flash 55 for a balance of comfort and functionality. You can go to REI and try multiple different packs on to see which one is right for you. Don’t order one blindly offline, see what works for your body type first.


A lightweight and durable tent will provide you with shelter during your overnight stays. Consider options like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 or the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 for reliable protection from the elements. Set up your tent ahead of time to make sure you have all the pieces and know what goes where. You can even spend a night in it in your backyard!

Sleeping Bag

A warm and cozy sleeping bag is essential for a good night’s sleep in the wilderness. Look for options like the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 or the REI Co-op Trailbreak 20 for a balance of warmth and affordability. You can go with a a “women specific” or just find one you think is comfortable and test it out from there.

Sleeping Pad

A sleeping pad provides insulation and cushioning to ensure a comfortable night’s rest. Consider options like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite or the NEMO Tensor Insulated for lightweight and packable comfort. Do not skip the sleeping pad. The air between you and the ground creates a barrier to keep you warm and reflect warmth back to you — very important!

Cooking System

A lightweight cooking system allows you to prepare hot meals and beverages on the trail. Consider options like the Jetboil Flash or the MSR PocketRocket 2 for efficient and convenient cooking. You can use these two systems to make dehydrated meals. Or you can get fancy and try cooking full backcountry meals with a bigger cooking set. Our suggestion – start small.

Water Filtration System

Clean drinking water is essential for staying hydrated on the trail. Consider options like the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter or the Katadyn BeFree Water Filter for reliable water filtration. These two options allow you to filter right from a stream, which can be very refreshing while on the trail!


Pack clothing suitable for the weather conditions you’ll encounter on the trail. Consider options like the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket or the REI Co-op Sahara Convertible Pants for versatile and functional outdoor apparel. Layers are very important! Check forcasts and make sure you have enough to stay warm at night.


A comfortable and supportive pair of hiking boots or trail shoes is essential for tlong days on the trail while carrying weight. Consider options like the LOWA Renegade GTX Mid Ws or the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator for durable and reliable footwear. Always take these on shorter hikes first. You don’t want to learn where your boots give you blisters 20 miles into the backcountry.


A reliable navigation system ensures you stay on course and reach your destination safely. A GPS is a great option, or you can download maps to your phone. Be sure to bring back up chargers, and a back up map — you don’t want to be stuck out there.

First Aid Kit

A compact and comprehensive first aid kit is essential for treating minor injuries and emergencies on the trail. Consider options like the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .5 or the REI Co-op Backpacker Multiday First-Aid Kit for peace of mind on your outdoor adventures. This is a must!

Get Out There

If you’re ready to go, great! Head on out! Otherwise, stay tned for our next installment, “How To Plan Your First Backpacking Trip: Packing your Backpack”. Looking forward to getting more humans out on the trail and into the woods.

Roxy Dawson
Industry & Operations Specialist at The Cairn Project | Read More Posts

Roxy Dawson was born and raised on the east coast but found her true stride rolling around the west in a van. She is part community manager, part journalist, part editor and now splits her time between her van and Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her husband, adventure pup, and son. She is most alive when her community is close, the environment is thriving, and nature is truly accessed by all that wish to enjoy it.

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