girl camping in her hubba hubba nx2 tent on 5040 peak Vancouver Island

Our Beginner Gear Guide for Backcountry Camping

One of the best things we’ve ever done is get into backcountry camping. Setting up your tent after a long hike, getting to relax, and enjoying the view for hours is priceless on a bucket-list trail and something I wish we did sooner. If you’re someone who’s looking to get into backcountry camping or hiking or if you’re looking for our gear reviews this blog is for you!

I could go on and on about why backcountry camping is the best, but I want you to know that we are TOTALLY new to this. We were beginners this summer 2022 and we invested in our gear for the first time this year. This means that I’ve done all of the up-to-date research, read all of the most recent reviews, and learned everything that you need to know before heading out into the backcountry for a night.

girl camping on tent pad with hubba hubba nx2 tent on golden ears summit

I’m here to share my new-found passion and hobby with you, especially if you’re like both Jake and I and didn’t grow up in the outdoors. We didn’t have prior experience or anybody to look up to in our family. Nobody had any hand-me-downs for us and we had to teach ourselves what’s needed for a successful night outdoors! This backcountry gear guide will take you through the backpacking gear that we invested in, why we love it, and why you’ll need it on your trips!

The 10 Essentials

This list was created with the 10 Essentials in mind. The 10 Essentials is a list established in the 1930s by a Seattle outdoor adventures group called The Mountaineers. Our up-to-date list includes specific items that are adopted for Canadian weather but can be useful everywhere in the world. Packing the 10 Essentials on your backcountry adventures is necessary and you’ll need to check this list every time you’re leaving for a hike to making sure you have everything before you go. You may not use everything on this list, but there is a lot of value that comes with being prepared.

Ultimate Backcountry Camping Gear Guide

Backpack (for overnight trips)

Osprey Women’s Renn 50L (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US), Osprey Men’s Rook 50L (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

Our overnight backpacks were one of the first purchases we made when gearing up for a summer of backcountry camping. We knew that a good quality backpack that fits you well and is comfortable would be essential to having a good first year of backpacking, so we decided to go with a brand we already loved. Since we were beginners and nowhere near ready for multi-day backpacking excursions (2-5 days) and we were only going to be starting with 1-night trips, we opted for a pack with less load capacity and less features.

The two of us have matching Osprey backpacks and they’re called the Osprey Rook 50L & the Osprey Renn 50L. They’re absolutely perfect for us and exactly what we were looking for! They were budget friendly due to less weight capacity (think 50L versus 65L) and missing some features & durability that seasoned backpackers would enjoy such as zippered pockets or mesh stash pockets. However, it is lighter weight and suits our needs as beginners! Note: we have a light blue & black version that is now outdated.

Tent for 2 People

MSR Hubba Hubba NX2 Tent (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

Since this was our first year of backpacking and we were buying new equipment for the first time, we knew we wanted to have the best gear. It was important for us to spend the extra money on a ultra lightweight tent that would lessen our pack weight as beginners. It also needed to have enough room for myself, Jake and the dog! The last consideration we had was as adventure photographers, we wanted a tent that also looked good in photos.

This criteria of ours brought us to the MSR Hubba Hubba NX2! It’s a 3-season tent for two people with some of the best ratings we could find. It was definitely a splurge in our backcountry camping gear but well worth it. People love this tent for backpacking and we’re super happy with our purchase. It’s incredibly easy for us to set up in minutes and it’s super cozy for the 2 (or 3) of us!

Sleeping Pad

Therm-A-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

Having a good sleeping pad means so much to the quality of the sleep you’ll get while camping! I’ve seen some pretty incredible sleeping pads for backpacking and while the inflatable pads look comfy, we opted to save some money here and go for a self-inflating sleeping pad that has a great warmth rating at an awesome price.

Our sleeping pads are Therm-A-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pads and they do the job just fine for us! We’ve had some of the best sleeps while camping and that’s definitely because we prefer a more firm cushion. It provides insulation from the cold ground and lifts us up off of the rocks and the dirt. Super compact in our backpacks too and a great purchase.

Sleeping Bag

Marmot Angel Fire (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US), Marmot Never Winter (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

I think our sleeping bags are our FAVOURITE item in our backpacks and we definitely splurged on these. I knew that having a good sleeping bag that would last us up to 10+ years was going to be super important. We needed something compact, lightweight and down-filled. As beginners, we knew we would mostly be camping in summer weather in BC and possibly into Fall/Spring, but definitely not Winter. Jake sleeps very warm so he wanted a sleeping bag that wouldn’t make him too hot in the night.

For all of these reasons, we went for Marmot sleeping bags. Mine is called the Marmot Angel Fire sleeping bag and it’s rated for -4C, and Jake’s is called the Marmot Never Winter sleeping bag which is rated for -1C. They are SO ridiculously cozy, I love the hooded head space, the pockets, and how instantly warm I get in my sleeping bag. Sometimes they’re still warm for summer camping but we just unzip a little bit. I couldn’t recommend these more, absolutely perfect for our use.

Unfortunately, ours are a year outdated as we bought an older version that are teal blue & green coloured when they were on sale before being discontinued.

Camp Stove

Jet Boil Flash Stove 2.0 (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

Our camp stove might be Jake’s favourite camping item. We have a JetBoil Flash 2.0 and we use it all the time while camping. It’s easy to use, super lightweight, and super quick to heat up. An absolute must in the backcountry to be able to heat up your dehydrated meal or make a coffee. Jake often brings this with us on long day hikes so that we can refuel with a coffee or instant ramen noodles.

Water Bottles/Reservoirs

Nalgene 1L (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US), CamelBak Water Reservoir (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

These two purchases have been game changers for us! We do bring a water filter on our adventures, but between the 2 of us (plus the dog) we go through a lot of water on our adventures. I prefer to just pack as much water as possible, endure the extra weight and feel safe knowing I have enough water to last me all day. On backpacking trips, we BOTH fill our 1L Nalgene Water bottles along with our 2L CamelBak Water Reservoirs.

The water reservoirs are so awesome because you can easily access a sip of water without having to stop hiking, reach back into your bag and pull out a water bottle. This means we each carry 3L of water! We typically use the extra water in our Nalgene for cooking and coffees, and sharing with the dog.

Water Filters

Grayl Ultrapress Water Purifier (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

Something we always make sure to pack on our adventures and backcountry camping trips is our water filter. This is such an important addition to our pack because we know we can always filter water if we run out. We typically do our research before a backcountry trip and make sure that we know if or when we’re going to find a water source on the trail, and we always take the opportunity to fill up our water when we see one!

We chose this water filter over other lighter weight options because of its high quality capabilities and for travel purposes. It’s super easy to use and works like a French press. I wish we would have had this water filter when we were travelling overseas, as we would’ve saved a lot of money filtering our own water instead of buying bottled water on trips. This is going to last us years!

Headlamp & Extra Batteries

Petal Actik 350 Lumens Headlamp (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

We use our headlamps all the time on backcountry trips for seeing in the dark in our tent at night, or if we have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and for when we wake up to hike before the sunrise. They come with us on every hike and every backpacking adventure, and we use these instead of bringing an additional lantern. Extra batteries are a must!

Camp Shoes

Birkenstock Arizona EVA (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

This one might be a bit of a luxury item, and I always bring mine while Jake often forgets his and wishes he had them. They’re my Birkenstock camp sandals! The feeling of being able to take off your boots at camp and change into comfy, lightweight sandals is so great. I also wear them as water shoes, since mine don’t have the water sensitive cork or leather. I just clip them onto the outside of my backpack!

Camp Mug

12 OZ Enamel Cup (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

Coffee is so important on our backpacking trips! Not only is it so rewarding to wake up, crawl out of your tent and enjoy a nice, hot coffee with the view, but it can be necessary to get us hyped for the hike back down! Even if you don’t drink coffee, it’s so nice to enjoy a hot tea or hot chocolate. We have these super lightweight camping mugs, made of tin. They don’t keep your coffee warm for very long, but it’s better to us to be able to drink up quickly. We clip these onto the outside of our backpacks.

Utensils

Sea to Summit Long Spork (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

We bring one utensil each and it’s one of the best recommendations we’ve found online. It looks like a spork (a spoon and a fork) and has a super long handle. It’s perfect for digging into rehydrated meal bags and getting to the bottom of them. They’re also surprisingly lightweight and durable.

Food

Mountain House Pad Thai (Amazon) Nuun Electrolytes (Amazon) Clif Bars (Amazon) Honey Stingers (Amazon)

Our backpacking meals change almost every time, but we do have a few staples. We love dehydrated meals, and our favourites so far have been any brand of Pad Thai! We didn’t exactly experiment much this season and stuck with multiple Pad Thai’s to find the best one, but we once tried a 3-cheese Mac and it didn’t make us feel good. Another couple of staples is our Nuun Sports Electrolytes, Clif Bars, and Honey Stingers.

Power Bank/Portable Charger

Solar Battery Power Bank (Buy on Amazon)

This was a must for us and always good to have in case of emergencies. We use our phones for GPS and as a camera and I quickly run out of battery on our backpacking trips because I’m filming everything! The one we use is solar charged just in case I forget to charge it beforehand.

First Aid Kit

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Backpacker (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

An essential on every single hike and backcountry camp. We bought this super lightweight first-aid kit because it’s compact and has everything we need. In addition, I also bring extra bandaids, moleskins and leukotape for blisters.

Bear Protection

Bear Vault BV450 (Buy on Amazon)

As a couple who are new to backpacking, we wanted the easy solution to bear protection and lucky for us the easiest solution is the best! We chose to invest in a Bear Vault for our backcountry needs. This is a newer option instead of hanging your food using an Ursack or another kind of bag to a tree or off a cliff. The point of the Bear Vault is that bears don’t know how to get into it.

You still have to stash it somewhere that’s far away from your tent and campgrounds, but try to make sure it’s against something and won’t be knocked over a ledge. The bears can sniff at it and toy with it all they want, eventually they will give up and leave it alone. The more often they learn they can’t get into bear vaults, the better.

Bears HAVE learned to get into hanging bags and will climb trees to get at food sources. Some parks in the USA make it a requirement to have one of these, so we invested in the 450 size.

Bug Spray & Sunscreen

Great Outdoors Insect Repellent (Buy on Amazon), Coppertone Sport Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 (Buy on Amazon)

I’m recommending a very basic sunscreen that is either SPF 30 or SPF 50 to protect yourself from the sun while hiking and camping. I’m also recommending a bug spray that works 95% of the time for me. We use 30% DEET in our bug spray and I also carry a bug cream version. It’s worth it to not get attacked by bugs.

Hiking Poles

Black Diamond Women’s Trail Trekking Poles (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

My next recommendation is one of my favourites. I picked up hiking poles this year very early on because we were hiking in the snow often. There were some steep hikes that made me uncomfortable so I got myself a pair of women’s hiking poles to help with my balance in the snow. What I didn’t realize is how awesome they really are in all seasons.

They keep my arms moving, help me hike faster and take the weight off of my knees when going down. I love hiking with poles and I bring them on every backcountry trip.

Hiking Boots

Women’s Thunder II Waterproof Hiking Boots (Buy in Canada only)

Hiking boots are so important! I’ve seen plenty of people on the trails without proper footwear and it hurts my heart. The amount of confidence I have in my step when I’m wearing my good hiking boots is great, they provide awesome ankle support and mine are waterproof. I’ve just upgraded my boots (the same pair) after 3 years of use and I love them. Unfortunately they can only be purchased in Canada! Jake’s are currently outdated and I will update this when he gets a new pair that he loves.

Fleeces

Women’s Benton Springs Full-Zip (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US), Men’s Sweater Weather Fleece (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

I always pack a cozy fleece sweater on our backpacking trips and I always end up wearing it. Even when I think it won’t be cold, there’s nothing better than cozying up in a fleece sweater at your campsite. I wear Columbia Benton Springs in both the grey half-zip and pullover and Jake wears Columbia Sweater Weather fleece.

Insulated Jacket

I bought a brand new puffer jacket this year! With the amount of hiking that we do at night or in the dark, during the cold Fall/Winter months, and at high elevations where it gets chilly, I knew it was time to invest in a good quality puffer. I went with one of the best on the market, the Arcteryx Women’s Cerium. It’s an absolute lifesaver on hikes and backcountry camps where I would normally be cold and miserable, and now I’m cozy in my jacket that feels like a sleeping bag.

Mine’s a dark blue colour and it might be discontinued now so check online on Arcteryx website on their “outlet” and “regear” websites or FB Marketplace. Seriously I love this jacket and Jake will be getting one soon too.

Rain Jacket

Columbia Women’s Arcadia Shell Jacket (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US), Helly Hansen Men’s Seven J Shell Jacket (Buy in Canada) or (Buy in US)

Bringing a rain jacket in addition to your insulated jacket is important because most puffer jackets aren’t waterproof. They won’t keep you warm when they get wet and it will deteriorate the jacket. Even though we typically plan to hike or camp on days where there isn’t rain predicted, the mountains are unpredictable and we could always get caught in a storm. We stuff our rain jackets at the bottom of our backpacks for emergencies.

Hiking Socks

Women’s Double Layer Hiking Socks (Canada only), Merino Wool Hiking Socks

I wanted to include a quick hiking sock recommendation! I have 2 pairs that I’ve bought multiples of. I have Merino Wool socks for hiking because they keep you warm and they also don’t absorb sweat. This also means they don’t get as smelly as other hiking socks. I really like these on colder hikes or in the winter. In the summer, I absolutely loved wearing double lined hiking socks. They were thin, but the double layers were awesome for avoided blisters.

Hat & Toque

I always bring both a hat and a toque! Typically, the hat gets worn during the day to protect my face and eyes from the sun. At night or in the early mornings I’ll bring out the toque to stay warm.

Hygiene Bag

I wanted to include a bit of a section on our hygiene bag. I bring a large plastic bag and pack a ton of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine wipes, face cleansing wipes, lip balm, eye drops, and hair ties. This gets stored in the bear vault overnight because they’re scented items. It’s super nice to have these items and feel fresh when backcountry camping.

Trowel

Backpackers Trowel (Buy on Amazon)

We haven’t had to use this one yet, but this is for digging a hole when you need to use the bathroom and there’s no outhouse. It’s cheap, lightweight and I thought would be important to include for you guys. Add it to your pack just in case!

Final Thoughts & Reminder to Leave No Trace

I hope reading through this blog gives you a starting point for your own backcountry gear set-up! These are recommendations that I’ve tried this summer, why they work well for us and know that they are backed up by thousands of other users. I wanted to end with a reminder to Leave No Trace when backpacking or hiking! Also know that purchasing all this gear at once will cost you a lot and look for sale items as much as possible. I hope our gear guide helps you pack your own backcountry camping bag and enjoy the trails!

Comments (1)

  • Sandy

    June 3, 2023 at 11:30 am

    Loved this blog on your camping gear! So informative and I like how you personalize it with your own stories and opinions. Happy trails!

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