10 Gear Essentials for Beginner Backpackers

Well-designed sleep systems, cookware, apparel, and more, now up to 80% at the REI Co-op Sale

10 Gear Essentials for Beginner Backpackers


Field Mag Studio


REI Co-op

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Backpacking is one of those outdoor activities that has a relatively high barrier of entry (there’s a lot of specialized stuff to buy) but once you get the gear the cost of participation is next to nothing—save for the occasional wilderness permit. It’s an incredible way to disconnect from society for a few days and recharge among nature. Needless to say, given the current moment, that sounds better than ever.

Without experience it’s tough to know where to start when beginning to build a backpacking kit. We’re here to help. The following 10 items are key pieces specifically selected for those new to backpacking (though equally applicable for experienced outdoorists too). Best of all, thanks to the ongoing REI Co-op Sale, each item is at least 20% off for members—plus enjoy free shipping on all orders until REI reopens their physical locations. Happy trails!


REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus Tent - 25% Off

Not used to sleeping in a tent? Hiking with a partner (or dog)? Prone to overpacking? If you answer yes to any of these, then this 2+ person tent is perfect for you. With a trail weight of just under 5 lbs, it’s not the lightest tent available, but the extra room and functionality of two zippered doors and a gear vestibule will make your life infinitely easier. This design is actually livable, unlike most tents made for backpacking.
Price: $229 $171.69 SHOP NOW

REI Co-op Trailbreak 60 Pack - 25% Off

Sixty liters sounds like a lot, but trust me, you’ll easily fill the space during your first couple trips. Once you get some experience under your belt, you’ll learn what you can do without, and quickly shed some weight. This handsome pack is perfect for all scenarios (and novices and OG trailheads alike), is relatively lightweight (3 lbs 14 oz), and features all the functionality one could ask for.
Women’s Option: Yes
Price: $149 $111.69 SHOP NOW


REI Co-op Magma 15 Sleeping Bag - 80% Off

With RDS certified 850 goose down fill and a weight of well under 2 lbs this 3-season bag is an investment that will keep you cozy on adventure after adventure for years to come.
Women’s Option: Yes
Price: $399 $284.19 SHOP NOW

Sea to Summit Ultralight Air Mat Sleeping Pad - 35% Off

Like camping, the best way to ruin a backpacking experience is a poor night sleep. Prevent such a tragedy with a lightweight yet comfortable air pad like this TK ounce option from Australia’s Sea to Summit, a brand well known in thru-hiking circles for making some of the most innovative, trail ready products on the market.
Price: $129.95 $74.99 SHOP NOW


MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove - 20% Off

You won’t likely find a more universally loved product in all of backpacking than the iconic MSR PocketRocket stove. At just 2.6 oz, the ultra lightweight fuel canister stove is 100% idiot proof and can boil a quart of water in just 3.5 minutes. Don’t listen to the Jetboil crowd—this little guy is all you need.
Price: $44.95 $35.96 with code “MEMPERKS2020” SHOP NOW

Snow Peak Titanium Spork - 20% Off

This one is a no brainer. I carry my titanium spork everywhere—it’s perfect for takeout lunch in town and boil-in-a-bag dinners on the trail. Plus the colored edition is harder to lose.
Price: $9.95 $7.96 with code “MEMPERKS2020” SHOP NOW


BioLite HeadLamp 200 - 20% Off

Weighing just 50 grams with 40 hours of runtime on a single charge (USB), this ergonomic headlamp is designed with comfort in mind, making it ideal of hikers, backpackers, and trail runners. It’s not often “innovation” strikes the headlamp space, but this is one design to take a closer look at.
Price: $44.95 $35.96 with code “MEMPERKS2020” SHOP NOW

Hoke One One Sky Kaha Gore-Tex Hiking Boots - 20% Off

Sometimes overbuilt is a good thing. In the case of this Hoka hiker, little is left to be desired. I’ve trusted the Tor Ultra—an OG cousin of the Sky Kaha—for dozens of extended backpacks over the past few summers and love the exaggerated cushion, wide toe box, and Gore-Tex liner for all types of terrain. Trust me, the last place you want to skimp on your kit is with what’s on your feet.
Women’s Option: Yes
Price: $220 $176 with code “MEMPERKS2020” SHOP NOW


Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Gore-Tex Paclite Stretch Jacket - 30% Off

Even in the middle of summer it’s smart to pack a rain jacket. This hi-vis rendition from trusted outfitter Mountain Hardwear is made with waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex Pactlite, making it super packable and capable of keeping the elements out, no matter the conditions. In other words, it’s exactly what you want in your pack.
Women’s Option: Yes
Price: $220 $153.99 SHOP NOW

REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0 - 30% Off

Made of recycled nylon with a DWR finish and 650-fill-power down insulation, this lightweight puffer from the Co-op is a must have in your backpacking kit for trail breaks and chilly mornings around camp. Plus the timeless, packable design is blue sign approved, meaning the manufacturer took deliberate steps to reduce negative impacts on environment, workers, and wearer.
Women’s Option: Yes
Price: $99.95 $69.93 SHOP NOW

Published 03-23-2020