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gettin' gear | the big three

This is the second post in my new series called "Gettin' Gear". This series is designed to assist you in your gear search as a new backpacker. I hope to answer questions about my own gear and about how you ought to go about choosing your gear.

Other posts that you may enjoy

This post breaks down the differences between bear cans and bear bags!

The big Three

The "big three" are the overnight camping essentials that you shouldn't leave without if you want to make it through the night comfortably. The "big three" includes your backpack. Your backpack could be a frameless, an internal frame, or an external frame. The size of your pack will vary based on how long you are out, whether it be one night, a weekend, or a week. Your tent, sleeping bag, a sleeping pad will also vary based on the climate that you are hiking in (winter, spring, summer, or fall).


Tips for buying the big three

This is a compilation of tips that I wish I had known when I was buying backpacking gear. Here are my tell-all tips including terms to know when you are looking into gear!


How to choose | BAckpacks

Terms to know:

1) Daypack: a daypack is a smaller bag that is used for day hiking trips. To get a picture of what this might look like, think of school bags. These bags range from 15 liters to about 30 liters.

2) Hiking Backpacking: a hiking backpack is a larger bag that is used for multi-day trips or overnight trips in general. A multi-day hiking backpack will range from 35 liters for the ultralight and up to 80 liters.

3) Liters: the capacity of a backpack is measured in liters.

4) Internal frame: an internal frame backpack has a built-in structure. These are the most common type of backpack for backpackers, especially beginners.

5) Frameless: this is a backpack with no frame or structure. Typically these are what ultralight backpackers use and the gear in your backpack serves as the structure.

6) Baseweight: total weight of your entire gear kit, excluding consumables which are food, water, and fuel. This is important to pay attention to make sure that you are not carrying a backpack that is too heavy.

7) Ultralight: ultralight is a category of backpacking that makes a point to pack only the essentials when backpacking. These hikers tend to have a low base weight of 7 to 11 pounds.

Pay Attention to:

1) Backpack capacity, which is the maximum weight and volume that can be carried. Weight will be indicated in pounds, but volume will be indicated in liters.

2) Your personal measurements! Pay attention to this because I made sure I did. I have a shorter torso, so having a pack that was adjustable was a priority for me.

My tips:

1) Know what size you need!

  • Backpacks come in many sizes, such as daypacks and hiking backpacks. Daypacks range from 10 liters to approximately 40 liters and anything greater than that would be considered a multi-day backpack!

  • The size will be determined by how much you want to carry and how many days you intend to be out on the trail.

    • For reference, I use a 60L backpack for my trips. I can fit everything for a multi-day trip.

2) Know what frame size you will need!

  • I have a very small torso, so even my s/m sized frame it a bit too big. Everyone's torso is different. Pay attention to this because this can make or break for the fit of your pack.

3) Make a list of your deal-breakers!

  • Do you want a pack with a waterproof fabric? How about external pockets? BIg hip-belt pockets? A sleeping bag compartment? Roll top? Front loading?

4) Brand loyalty may influence you.

  • If you have a brand that you trust, go with that brand. I have a Gregory daypack and I ended up buying a Gregory backpacking pack. This does not mean that I didn't consider brands.

5) Read reviews!

  • Say you don't have a brand that you are loyal to, I would suggest starting with reading reviews of popular packs.

This should get you started on your backpacking search.

My affordable BAckpack Recommendations

Price: $117.73

Weight: 2lbs 12oz

Liters: 44 L

Price: $132.73

Weight: 3lbs 9oz

Liters: 60 L

Check out my thoughts on this pack here.

Price: $149.00

Weight: 3lbs 11oz

Liters: 60 L

Price: $38.95

Weight: 2lbs 4.5oz

Liters: 40 L

Ozark Trail 55 L Crystal Cavern Technical Backpack

Price: $59.97

Weight: not sure

Liters: 55 L

articles to browse

Videos to watch

How to choose the right backpack | Backcountry Exposure


HOw to choose | Tents

Terms to know:

1) Bivvy: a bivouac shelter is any of a variety of improvised campsite, or shelter that is usually of a temporary nature, used especially by soldiers, or persons engaged in backpacking, scouting, or mountain climbing.

2) Free-Standing: the tent bodies can hold their shape on their own without needing to be staked out.

3) Rain-Fly: A fly refers to the outer layer of a tent or to a piece of material that is strung up using rope as a minimalist, stand-alone shelter. In basic terms, a fly is a tent without walls.

4) Capacity: this is the number of sleepers that the tent will fit.

5) Season: the season is indicative of the type of weather that the tent is built to endure.

6) Weight: how much the tent weighs.

My tips:

1) Know what capacity you need!

  • How many people are camping with you? How many nights are you going to be on the trail? Do you want to store your backpack in your tent at night?

2) Consider the weather you will be camping in.

  • A good tent can impact your sleep and sleep can impact your experience on the trail. So, before you buy, you should know what type of weather you will be camping in. Will it be wet? Will it snow? Will it be very "buggy"?

3) Make a list of your deal-breakers!

  • Windproof? Waterproof?

4) Pay attention to how much space the tent will take up in your pack!

My affordable tent Recommendations

REI Co-op Groundbreaker 2 TenT

Price: $79.95

Weight: 4lbs 13oz

2 person

Three season

REI Co-op Superlight Bivy

Price: $149.00

Weight: 1lb 6oz

1 person

Three season

REI Co-op All season Bivy

Price: $229.00

Weight: 1lb 12oz

1 person

Four season

REI Co-op Backpacking Bundle

Price: $274.00

Includes 3 seasons, 2 person tent, 30-degree sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad

REI Co-op passage 1

Price: $132.00

Weight: 4lb 10oz

1 person

three season

Price: $29.95

Weight: 4lb 5oz

1 person

three season

articles to browse

Videos to watch


HOw to choose | Sleeping bags

Terms to know:

1) Down fill: Fill power is a number that indicates the relative quality of down. The number comes from a lab test that measures how many cubic inches of loft one ounce of that down fill produces. Higher fill power numbers indicate greater loft and insulating efficiency.

2) Synthetic down: this means that the sleeping bag is filled with faux down. The pros and cons are listed below!

3) Goose down: this means that the sleeping bag is stuffed with actual goose feathers. The pros and cons are listed below!

4) "ISO" or "EN": Lab-tested temperature ratings are useful for making an apples-to-apples comparison between sleeping bags from different brands.

5) Comfort rating: indicates the temperature at which a cold sleeper might feel comfortable. This is the temperature rating brands use on women’s bags. Real-world comfort probably won’t match lab-tested temperature ratings because of all the variables that a lab can’t simulate.

6) Lower Limit Rating: indicates the temperature at which a warm sleeper might still feel comfortable. This is the temperature rating brands use on men’s bags.

My tips:

1) Consider the weather you will be camping in.

  • The weather that you are camping in 100% determines the type of sleeping bag you are looking for. Sleeping bags are rated and sold according to two factors: (1) degree rating and (2) authentic down or synthetic down.

2) How tall are you?

  • Your height is something to consider when you are looking at buying a sleeping bag. The worst thing would be to buy a bag that is too small.

3) How much $$ do you have?

  • Authentic down is nice but expensive. However, there are many other trade-offs of buying down, such as if the down were to get wet, it will be useless.

  • Personally, I chose to buy synthetic down for those reasons, I want to be warm and safe at all costs. I also do not have loads of money to pour into gear, so this was the most feasible choice for me to make.

4) What activity will you be doing?

  • When it comes to car camping, you can simply pick the warmest, roomiest sleeping bag you like because you won’t be shouldering it. For a rundown on all the things to consider, read How to Choose Sleeping Bags for Camping.

  • For backpacking, however, you’ll want the warmest, roomiest sleeping bag that fits inside your pack and doesn’t weigh you down. The Kelty Cosmic 20 and REI Co-op Trailbreak 20 are the best for it. They’re lighter and a bit more compact than the others here.

5) Should you choose synthetic down or goose down?

  • Synthetic down is valuable because it retains heat when it gets wet. Goose down can be deadly when/if it gets wet! Goose down is also farrrrr more expensive than synthetic, however, they also last much longer than their synthetic friends.

6) Are you a male or a female?

  • Women tend to sleep 15 degrees colder than men do. Also, think about how you tend to sleep at home - are you a hot sleeper or a cold sleeper!

Price: $141.93

Weight: 2lb 9oz

Temp rating: 26 degrees (F)

goose down

Price: $129.00

Weight: 3lb 14oz

Temp rating: 20 degrees (F)


Price: $139.00

Weight: 1lb 14oz

Temp rating: 25 degrees (F)


Price: $119.00

Weight: 5lb 1oz (HEAVY)

Temp rating: 5 degrees (F)


Price: $164.73

Weight: 4lb 5.5oz

Temp rating: degrees (F)


Price: $184.73

Weight: 3lb 12.8oz

Temp rating: 2 degrees (F)

Goose down

Price: $109

Weight: 4lb 13oz

Temp rating: 20 degrees (F)


Price: $96.93

Weight: 2lb 7oz

Temp rating: 30 degrees (F)


Price: $99.95

Weight: 3lb 3oz

Temp rating: 30 degrees (F)


Price: $110

Weight: 3lb 6.1oz

Temp rating: 30 degrees (F)


articles to browse

Videos to watch


HOw to choose | Sleeping pad

The purpose of a sleeping pad is to keep you off the ground. The ground can suck your body heat from you, so you want to have distance between you and the ground. The sleeping pad serves as an insulating barrier.

Terms to know:

1) R-Value: A pad’s ability to resist heat loss to the ground is measured as R-value—higher R-values are warmer.

2) Closed-Cell: this typically means that the sleeping pad is foam

My tips:

1) Know the difference between sleeping pads: closed-cell foam pad, inflatable, and self-inflating.

  • Each category offers different things.

  • Closed-cell sleeping pads are lightweight and affordable, but can only get so small. This sleeping pad will not pop, which can be the risk with inflatable sleeping pads.

  • Inflatable sleeping pads need to be inflated. They are lightweight and compact but can be more expensive than closed-cell alternatives.

2) How much $$ do you have?

  • Closed-cell foam sleeping pads are the most affordable and durable option for new backpackers. But, for those who value comfortability on the trail, an inflatable sleeping pad may be the best move (if you can afford one).

3) What terrain are you going to be camping in?

  • Think about the type of ground you may be camping on. If you are going to be camping in rocky terrain, you may want to consider a closed-cell foam pad.

Price: $9.94

Weight: 11.2oz

Price: $49.95

Weight: 14.5oz

Price: $29.95

Weight: 14oz