Gearhead Diaries: My Backpacking Essentials

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I am a photographer and writer passionate about the outdoors, meaningful travel, and living deliberately. I hope to use my platform online to show the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, and to encourage genuine connection to the outdoors, culture, people and wildlife.

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These are a few of my favorite things: The stuff I gush about that vastly improves my life outside.


This thing has been everywhere with me! It’s comfortable and durable. In my opinion, a 75L pack is perfect for most activities. It’s got room for all your backpacking gear (especially important if you’re not an Ultra-Lightweight Superhuman), and it’s good for a long time on the road as well. I honestly find it a little big for travel, but cinching it down has never bugged me and I always have room for souvenirs.
Very nice, how much: $309.95 (you can find older models on sale too. yay!)
Extra Tips: These backpacks come in different torso sizes, and size is vital! A pack that is too small or too big will not be comfy cozy, and you will have a bad time. REI or any reputable outdoor store will be able to fit your backpack just right.


I’m on my second pair of these. They’re waterproof, breathable, and lightweight. These are my go-to backpacking boot year round. I have used them both in summer and winter weather and they have held up well and kept my feet dry.
How much: $170


I upgraded to this tent last year and I love it. At 3lb 9 oz, it’s lightweight, easy to assemble, durable and has convenient pockets everywhere I want them. This is my first purchase from Big Agnes, and I’m impressed.
That sounds expensive: You’re right. $299.95

glamour shot


I never thought I’d use one of these! As a certified dirtbag, I always thought I’d just line my pack with a garbage bag. But one time I used a pack cover, and now I am hooked. IT’S SO EASY! Mine is a Large Sea-to-Summit Ultra Sil Packcover, which fits packs 75-90L.
How much: $44.95 for dry stuff and convenience

Pack covers are awesome and my mind is blown


This stuff is the gear fixing tape from heaven. You can find it on pretty much every fabric I own. It’s super durable, idiot proof, and comes in many colors.
And it’s super cheap: $4.95 for a 3 x 20in roll.


I love wool sports bras AND underwear because they don’t retain odor, they still insulate when wet and they breathe really well. Super duper. Wool underwear is definitely more expensive than synthetic, but it’s worth it! I’ve heard great things about Smartwool’s bras/underwear as well, but I haven’t tried them myself. In terms of support, this bra doesn’t have a ton of it if you’re big busted. If support is what you need, there are definitely more supportive wool bras, and even underwire wool bras available!
How much: $50 each


Sooo cozy. Warm and lightweight for a synthetic bag. This is no longer the lightest synthetic bag on the market– in fact, it’s a few years old (cue “Never gonna give you up”). It looks like Mountain Hardwear has moved on to different models like the Lamina 0. If you are thinking about buying a sleeping bag, down vs. synthetic are your two main categories. Down is much lighter and very warm, but will get gross and smelly (and not keep you warm) if it gets wet. I recommend a synthetic bag if you’re looking for a solid year-round option.
How much: $295
Tip: Even though this bag is rated to 0º, I would only use it down to around 15º. Knowing if you are a hot or cold sleeper will help you pick out the right sleeping bag!


Aka the best thermos ever. If I could marry this thing, I would. Between the hours of approximately 7 and 10am, you can find this glued to my hand. It keeps coffee hot forever, which keeps me caffeinated, which keeps me stoked.
Please buy one: $25.99

Also highly recommended for porch sitting.


I used to use self-inflating sleeping pads, but no more. The Z Rest can’t pop, which is awesome. I use it everywhere- both outside and in my tent. It can also be used as a splint or other handy medical prop in an emergency.
How much: $34.95 + no holes


Chaco who? I prefer Tevas, and I’m not sorry about it. I wear the Zirra– they are super lightweight, comfortable, and worthy of the socks and sandals combination. I’m also loving how Teva is bringing back their Originals line, and will definitely be picking up a pair for this summer.
Buy em for: $70


Other stuff I can’t live without when backpacking: lots of socks, a Swiss Army Knife, a Kindle, and my journals.

These are my go-to items that you can always find in my pack, but I love gear and I’m always up to try out new stuff! Is there something amazing not listed here? Let me know!

What are your backpacking essentials?

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  1. Chloe says:

    Thank you soooooo much! Love this TOP essentials. Will most likely follow your lead and get the bras, the socks, the sandals and maybe the tent too!

    • Erin says:

      Super happy this was helpful, Chloe!! Let me know how you end up liking the stuff! I just added a little more info about the bras too 🙂

  2. Chloe says:

    I bought a Kelty Salida after all. For my needs as a car camper and future backpacker, it was a good bang for my buck. Will let you know how that goes. Still shopping for wool bras and socks. I know they are worth the price but i’m hoping to get deals somewhere. Any suggestions? As for Tevas, the Zirra Lite aren’t available for Canada shipping but will find a way to get a good hiking sandal. Again, so glad I found your blog and love to read you! You inspire me 🙂

    • Erin says:

      Hey Chloe! Nice! Kelty makes solid stuff. For good prices on gear I’d check REI outlet, steep & cheap, and the clymb. You can usually get great discounts there, I hope they ship to Canada! Thanks again for the love!! 🙂

  3. Kayley says:

    I am so happy I found this article!! The backpack you recommended is not nearly so expensive now and it definitely gives me a good jumping-off point for looking!

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I'm Erin, Your New Tour Guide

If you’re interested in travel, love spending time outdoors, or want to learn more about photography, you’re in the right place. I’m an adventure trip leader turned travel photographer, passionate about learning & sharing the real stories from the places I visit.



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