By Michael Lanza

The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The Wonderland Trail. The Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park. The Ruby Crest Trail. Yellowstone. The Wind River Range. The North Cascades. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. 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 places that are hard on outdoor gear and apparel so that I can give you brutally 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 picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

Nearly three decades of testing outdoor gear and apparel—including formerly as the lead gear reviewer and Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and even longer running this blog—have refined 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 four or more best packs, tents, boots, and sleeping bags, including suggestions for backpackers on a budget—because everyone has different needs and preferences—to a favorite rain shell, the best air mattresses, the camp kitchen, and water treatment.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Michael Lanza of The Big Outside testing gear on the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.https://www.mansbrand.com/review-sea-to-summit-ether-light-xt-insulated-air-mattress/

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