Gear, food, and apparel are essential to every backpacking trip, though the specific items vary depending on the individual and their destination. On a recent backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park, our editor took detailed notes on each item he and his wife chose to bring along.
On August 15, my wife and I set out to backpack 40 miles along the Teton Crest Trail. The trail is one-of-a-kind, paralleling the west side of the Teton mountain range via breathtaking mountain passes and basins. We took four days and three nights to complete the trek, soaking in the views and sleeping in epic locations along the way.
Here’s our comprehensive packing list, categorized by gear, food, and apparel. Hopefully, it will help you when you’re packing for your next backpacking trip. It’s worth noting that my wife and I aren’t ultralight hikers and opted for extra comforts this time around to help us enjoy our trip.
The Gear We Brought on the Teton Crest Trail
Backpacks: Osprey Atmos 65 and Jansport Katahdin 70
I’ve owned my Atmos 65 pack since 2011. It’s comfortable, has plenty of features, and has enough capacity for me to carry most of the bigger gear items. I always keep the pack cover (sold separately) in the outer stretch pocket.
After struggling to fit one of the bear canisters in my wife’s 34-liter Deuter backpack (pictured above), we quickly switched her to our only other pack, Jansport’s Katahdin 70. It’s large and heavy but performed well on our trek.
Water Bladders: Osprey 3-Liter Reservoirs
Osprey recently rebuilt its 3-liter water bladder, and we love the new design. The bladder at the top of the gear picture is the older model with a screw-on cap. The cap is very finicky and, when not screwed on just right, tends to leak water.
The bladder below it is Osprey’s new Hydraulics Reservoir, with a larger top opening that closes with a sliding clamp and a detachable drinking hose that allows for easier removal of the bladder when it’s time to fill up. Our backpacks are both bladder compatible, and we’re fans of the 3-liter reservoir and the hands-free drinking.
Water Bottle: Camelbak Podium Big Chill 21oz Insulated Bottle
We bring a powder Gatorade mix on most backpacking trips to fuel us with electrolytes and give us something besides water to drink. This insulated bottle is reserved for the drink mix and kept handy in our backpack’s side pocket.
Tent: Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2
This ultralight two-person, two-vestibule tent is incredible. It weighs a mere 2 pounds 3 ounces, and the small package slides effortlessly into my pack. Read our full review here for more details.
Sleeping Pad: Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated Double
Easily inflated with the extra Pumphouse Ultra bag, this 3.5-inch-thick double sleeping pad makes for a plush backcountry bed. For a double pad, it’s small and lightweight enough to justify bringing on longer treks. Plus, it pairs well with our double sleeping bag (below).
Sleeping Bag: Big Agnes Sentinel 30 Double
This double sleeping bag weighs less than our two individual sleeping bags combined, so why not go with the cuddle-friendly option? It’s filled with 600-fill DownTek water-repellent down and keeps us warm on near-freezing nights.
We bring along this cheap down blanket when the nighttime temps might dip into the 30s. It stuffs into small crevices in my backpack and adds some extra warmth when cooking dinner or sleeping.
These pillows are clutch! They pack up small and are super lightweight. Once inflated, they’re big enough to roll around on and way more comfortable than a wadded up jacket.
Camp Chairs: Helinox Chair Zero and REI Co-op Trail Chair
Helinox’s Chair Zero weighs 1 pound and fits easily into our backpack’s side water bottle pocket. It assembles quickly and provides a solid backrest after a long day on the trail.
REI’s Trail Chair is a classic camp chair, though a bit bulky and heavy. We roll it up and strap it to the bottom of a pack when hiking. Again, the back support is lovely once at camp.
Rain Tarp: ENO ProFly Rain Tarp
Though our tent has two vestibules, we sometimes bring this separate rain tarp for a more comfortable place to cook, chill at camp, and cover our gear in the event of a rainstorm. Our Teton Crest Trail forecast was indecisive on rain, so we erred on the safe side of having it if we needed it. We didn’t this time, but we’ve used it before. It provides great coverage, and the easy-adjust guy lines make it extremely easy to pull taut.
Bear Canisters: Sabre Frontiersman Bear Safe Container
Bear canisters are required on all backcountry trips in Grand Teton National Park. Though bulky and cumbersome, our container worked like it was supposed to, securing our food and scented items from bears. We each stuffed one canister at the very bottom of our backpacks and accessed them from our bottom zippers when on the trail.
Bear Spray: Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray
Bear spray is also required on all backcountry trips in Grand Teton National Park. Our spray cost $45 and kept us less paranoid while in bear country. It’s like life insurance: You buy it hoping you’ll never need to use it.
The Katadyn Gravity BeFree 3-liter water filter lets gravity do its thing — no pumping required. The 3-liter reservoir filters water at a rate of 2 liters per minute. The best part, though, is its compatibility with new water bladders. The filter’s hose snaps into the housing on our new Osprey 3-liter bladder and fills it up with no chance of spills. Check out our full review on the filter here.
Stove: MSR PocketRocket Stove
I’ve owned this stove for over seven years now, and it’s still kicking. It’s compact and can easily boil a pot of water in a few minutes.
Propane: MSR IsoPro Canister Fuel
MSR makes small, medium, and large fuel canisters. We buy the medium-size ones, as they tend to last for three to five backpacking trips.
Lighters: BIC Classic Lighter
Cheap and effective, we bring two of these just in case one gets damaged or runs out of fuel.
This 1.8-liter pot weighs 11 ounces and is made of hard anodized aluminum. Its handle stays cool and flips up to lock the lid into place when stored. We typically just use it to boil water for backpacking meals, instant oatmeal, or instant coffee.
Sporks: Humangear GoBites Uno Spork
Unfortunately, we forgot to bring our two sporks on this trip. So we had to clean off two of our extra tent stakes and use them as our utensils. Though a little sharp, they did the trick!
Coffee Mug: REI Co-op Recycled Camp Mug (20 fl. oz.)
This mug doesn’t get scalding hot like enamelware mugs tend to. The lid is also a nice plus.
We use this towel for everything: drying off after a swim, wiping down a wet tent, drying dishes, etc. It folds down small and actually soaks up moisture, while some other towels we’ve used just move water around.
Multitool: Leatherman Crater C33SX
Though we mostly use the knife on this multitool, a few of its other tools have come in handy on various trips. We use the flat screwdriver, for example, to open and close our bear canisters.
Trekking Poles: Leki Makalu Carbon Ultralight
My wife generally uses these poles and has found that they help relieve some back and knee pain on long uphills and downhills. They expand and contract to stow away on the outside of her backpack. Unfortunately, they’ve started contracting randomly when hiking, even with the mechanisms locked tight.
Headlamps: Ledlenser SEO 7R and UCO Air
Rechargeable lithium batteries power both headlamps, though the Ledlenser SEO 7R can also accommodate three AAA batteries as a backup. Each has a red light, which we use to preserve our night vision and keep bugs away. The Ledlenser’s beam can be adjusted from narrow to wide to properly light up things in the distance or up close.
Binoculars: Meade 10×25 Binoculars
These binoculars are a hand-me-down. Though not the best, they do come in handy for watching wildlife at a distance.
Portable Charger: myCharge RAZOR PLUS USB Portable Power Bank
We mostly bring along this portable charger to keep my iPhone from dying while on the trail. We use my phone for videos and pictures, and it’s nice to have some backup juice for it (or for our rechargeable headlamps). From our experience, this particular device can charge an iPhone from empty to full about 1.5 times.
Extra Tent Stakes: Wildish Aluminum Tent Stakes
If we’re caught in some rain and need to set up our rain tarp, we have a few extra stakes to secure its guy lines to the ground. On the Teton Crest Trail, we had to use these as our eating utensils since we had accidentally left our sporks behind.
You never know when some extra rope might be needed on a backpacking trip.
Compass: Suunto M-5 SK
It’s always good to have a compass as a backup if we happen to lose our way.
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i
We don’t always bring along our DSLR camera, but we couldn’t resist having it with us on this particularly scenic trail. Its images are super sharp, and we use it to capture vistas in a way our iPhones can’t.
First-Aid Kit: Miscellaneous
We assembled our own first-aid kit, complete with a few alcohol wipes, Band-Aids, gauze wrap, wound cleaning solution, bandage wrapping tape, and Dermabond skin adhesive.
Blister Treatment: Body Glide Foot Anti Blister Balm
This compact foot “stick” is easy to apply to hot spots, intended to lubricate areas that are being rubbed uncomfortably. Though it doesn’t completely prevent blisters, it tends to slow the process a bit.
Toilet Paper: Scott 1000 Septic Safe Toilet Paper
Because we have a composting toilet in our RV, we use biodegradable toilet paper regularly. Usually, we toss a roll or a fistful of sheets into a ziplock baggie for use in the backcountry. Even though it’s biodegradable, we always pack it out.
Body Wipes: Huggies Natural Care Fragrance-Free Wipes
We like having a sanitation option. These we use to clean our hands or feet and for a more satisfying “number two” cleanup.
Trash Bag: Gallon Ziplock Freezer Bags
Standard trash bags kept ripping on us, so we recently converted to much tougher and more compact ziplock gallon freezer bags for trash. The zip closure also helps keep odors down. We bring one for food and miscellaneous trash and one for toilet paper trash.
Chapstick: Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
No one wants chapped or sunburned lips in the backcountry (or anywhere).
Medicine: Ibuprofen and Equate Headache Relief
These are nice to have to prevent migraines, relieve altitude sickness, or combat inflammation/soreness.
S-Biners: Nite Ize S-Biner #4
Another miscellaneous item, these S-Biners have a number of uses. Generally, we use these to attach sandals to our packs.
Sandals: Chaco Z/2 Cloud
It’s nice to let your feet air out after a long day on the trail. Though Chacos are relatively heavy, we brought ours on this trip to let our feet breathe once at camp.
Books: “The Emerald Mile” and Amazon Kindle E-Reader
Sure, books are extra weight. But it’s just so nice to sit down with a great read and enjoy a quiet evening in the backcountry. We try to make camp around 3 or 4 p.m., so we like having the entertainment. “The Emerald Mile” is an excellent adventure book that we highly recommend. And, as we’re living full-time on the road, our Amazon Kindle e-reader has been really nice to have. We can rent e-books from our home library for free and avoid accumulating books on our RV.
The Food We Brought
The Quaker Instant Oatmeal Protein packets are larger and more filling than standard instant oatmeal packets. Simply boil water, pour it straight into the packet, and voila!
Every good backpacking trip starts with coffee. Delicious and caffeinated, Alpine Start Original Blend Instant Coffee is our brew of choice.
Snacks: CLIF Bars, Peanut Butter Crackers, Sunbelt Bakery Oats & Honey Bars, Trail Mix, Gatorade Mix, Fruit
Food is fuel on long treks. We brought a mix of salty and sweet snacks on this particular trip, plus some caffeinated ones. One of CLIF’s newer flavors is Peanut Toffee Buzz, which contains caffeine. The Gatorade Mix kept us from getting tired of plain old water, and the fruit was a healthy pick-me-up.
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Honey Pita Sandwiches, Dill Pickle Chips, Fruit, Snickers
Though the pita bread wasn’t the best choice (it didn’t contain the honey very well), peanut butter and honey sandwiches tend to keep well and are packed with protein. Dill pickle chips are delicious and a great source of salt. For fruit, we often bring tougher ones like clementines and apples. Snickers serve as our backcountry dessert of choice.
Dinner: Omeals and Tea
Omeals are backpacking meals that don’t require a stove. You simply pour any liquid (hot or cold, filtered or unfiltered) into the package. An included “heating element” reacts with the liquid, heating it up and forcing steam out of the top “steam vent.” The heated liquid heats up the precooked food pouch inside, which you remove after five minutes. Just like that, you have a hot meal for one. We’ve brought them along on a number of backpacking trips and always enjoy the easy prep.
If it’s chilly out, after dinner we’ll sometimes make a few cups of tea. We like it because it helps us drink more water and is a great way to relax before bed.
My Trail Apparel
Shorts: Lululemon Surge 7-Inch Shorts
These Lululemon Surge shorts are lightweight, quick drying, and have yet to cause chafing. Plus, because there’s a liner, no underwear is needed.
Socks: Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Crew Socks, Darn Tough Dashes Crew Light Socks, Stance Warm Socks
The Smartwool and Darn Tough socks are both made of merino wool, so they’re antimicrobial and stink-free. The Stance socks are a warmer pair that I wear at night or early in the morning.
We didn’t know whether or not there would be stream or snow crossings on our trail, so I chose to wear my waterproof Merrell MQM Flex Mid boots. They’re plenty breathable, but the narrow foot box gave my pinky toes a few blisters.
Warm Jacket: The North Face Ventrix Hoodie
The Ventrix hoodie is warm, comfortable, and lightweight. It breathes really well, so I can hike in it late into the morning without breaking a sweat.
Sweatpants: Showers Pass Track Pants
These sweatpants are slim fitting and plenty warm for cold temps.
Rain Jacket: Marmot Eclipse Jacket
Though we didn’t need our rain gear on this particular trip, my Marmot Eclipse EVODry rain jacket is extremely waterproof without the crinkly, stuffy feel.
Miscellaneous Apparel: Mountain Hardwear Gloves, Flowfold Beanie, BUFF, Gap Long-Sleeved Shirt, ExOfficio Boxer Briefs, Columbia Running Hat, Wiley X Hudson Sunglasses
The gloves, beanie, and BUFF are great for keeping the extremities warm and the wind at bay. The long-sleeved Gap shirt is simply an extra comfortable layer to don if needed. At night, I usually change out of my hiking shorts and into my ExOfficio boxer briefs for extra comfort and cleanliness when sleeping. Even after repeated uses, they never smell. The Columbia running hat is cool and effective, and the Wiley X Hudson polarized sunglasses keep the squinting to a minimum.
My Wife’s Trail Apparel
Shirts: Black Diamond S/S Block Tee and Under Armour Athletic T-Shirt
Both shirts are breathable, sweat-wicking, and long enough to not ride up my wife’s back when she’s wearing her backpack. She did regret bringing her white UA shirt because it got dirty very fast. So it’s now designated as a backpacking-only shirt.
Sports Bra: Under Armour Seamless Plunge
My wife’s Under Armour sports bra is her all-time favorite. It’s comfortable and supportive without being constricting. Plus, it’s cheap and sold at UA outlet stores.
Shorts & Leggings: Reebok Athletic Shorts and Leggings
The Reebok shorts and leggings are flattering and comfortable with a waistband like yoga pants.
Socks: Smartwool Socks, Cotton Ankle-High Socks From Target
The Smartwool hiking socks help keep odors down so they can be worn multiple days in a row.
These hiking boots are cute, waterproof, and durable. My wife wears them on short hikes, long backcountry outings, and even around town. The only downside is that the heel cup is beginning to stick out and cause blisters.
Warm Jacket: The North Face Ventrix jacket
She uses the Ventrix jacket for the same reasons I listed above. She likes that it has a hood so when her ears get cold hiking she can pull it on or off.
Sweatpants: Under Armour sweatpants
Her UA sweatpants provide a warm layer on top of shorts or leggings and repel wind and water.
Rain Jacket: Marmot Minimalist Waterproof Jacket
My wife has had this jacket since 2011, and it’s stood the test of time. She bought one size up for more rain coverage in the sleeves and body.
Miscellaneous Apparel: BUFF, Burton Long-Sleeved Baselayer, Qikpac Rain Pants
The Burton long-sleeved baselayer is flattering, comfortable, and functional. It’s thin enough to go under any coat without feeling bulky and has thumb holes in the sleeves to keep them from riding up.
As for the rain pants, she uses them so infrequently that she honestly just wanted to find the cheapest pair. We scored when we found this pair in her size at Sierra Trading Post for $19. They serve their purpose, keep her dry, and have buttons to adjust the size around the ankles.
And that’s our packing list for our Teton Crest Trail backpacking adventure. Did we leave anything out? What are some of your favorite backpacking gear, food, or apparel items? What do you do for meals in the backcountry?
Let us know your backpacking tips and tricks, feedback, or questions.