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The Basics: 4 Pieces of Gear You Need to Backpack This Spring

Get outside this spring!

By: Matt Van Swol + Save to a List

Spring and Fall are my favorite times of year to go backpacking. It’s not too hot during the day, but I still get to use my sleeping bag to stay warm during the chilly nights. That being said, here are four things you need to backpack this Spring:

1. The Tent

I’ve used probably two-dozen different tents and hammocks since I’ve been a landscape photographer, but the two I continue to come back to are my trusty Big Agnes Mtn Glo tent and my Lawson Hammock. The Lawson Hammock probably saved my life in a blizzard in Iceland, so I highly recommend it. The Big Agnes Mtn Glo tent won multiple awards for its ingenious design of its lighting system, definitely worth considering if you want a two-person tent.

2. The Backpack

Everybody has their own opinions on what brand they like best for backpacking and you should absolutely go to a store like REI and try some on before buying one, but over the years I’ve come to love my Kelty Coyote 80. It’s a monster of a backpack, but you can’t beat the storage space for the price and weight. It’s an overall excellent pack that has served me well.

3. The Sleeping Bag/Pad

I’ve read reviews on literally hundreds of sleeping bags and pads and I ended up purchasing two sleeping bags and one sleeping pad. For the summer I use the Yodo Compact Warm Weather bag. It’s extremely light, dirt cheap, and keeps you cool when camping in the hot summer months. For winter camping, I use my North Face Inferno bag. I swear by this thing, and along with the hammock, it really did keep me from freezing to death in Iceland. If you really want to stay warm in the coldest of conditions, buy this bag. I’ve run across no other bags like it, it’s truly a one of a kind. The sleeping pad I picked was the ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Airpad. Everyone likes different things in a bed or sleeping pad, and I encourage you to go try out a couple before you buy one, but this one has worked SO well for me. It’s not that heavy to carry, its comfortable, comes in a range of sizes, and is easily inflatable.

4. The Food/Stove

I’ve eaten a lot of awful camp foods, far, far too many to be honest. The only real requirements I have for a camp food is that it be lightweight, easily packable, and taste halfway decent. Mountain House camp food is easily the best camp food I’ve ever had. It comes in dehydrated bags that you can simply pour hot water into and eat right out of the bag. Their rice and chicken was so good, my dad didn’t believe it came out of the bag and swore I pre-packed it. For breakfast, I always bring a pack of oatmeal and instant coffee. To heat up the water, I usually have used a jetboil (they make one with a French press too), but lately I’ve been using a new system called BioLite. The BioLite uses twigs and a thermo-electric powered fan to create a massive amount of heat. It only took about a minute or two longer to boil water than the propane-powered JetBoil…it’s worth taking a look at! 

These are just the basics. You'll need a few other key items, of course, including the Ten Essentials.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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