This is what carries all the other stuff. It's important
to have a good backpack. I use a Jansport Yosemite external frame I bought from a
friend for $75 ($200 new) and I carry about 50 lbs. Carla uses a Kelty internal
frame we bought at Costco for $50 and she carries about 30 lbs. External frames focus the
weight more on the hips and less on the back and therefore can carry more weight with less
effort but they are top heavy and not as stable going up and down hills. 1998
Update: We are now contemplating going strictly external frame -- you can carry more
weight with less pain, they're better for the kids, easier to pack, etc.
A good bag is absolutely essential. It needs to be warm
(even when wet) and light. We have some Caribou bags (-20 degees) I bought 13 years
ago for $100 each. They're a little heavier than modern bags but are still in great
shape, are very warm, and zip together for extra comfort. 1998
Update: Just bought some new bags (+15 degrees) because they are much
lighter & still warm enough for most of our trips.
Sleeping on the ground is for youngsters. There's
nothing like sleeping on a cold rock all night to make your back hurt for a week.
Pads come in many styles & prices. We've got a couple of used Thermarests
($50 new) & we bought some closed-cell foam pads for the kids. 1998 Update: Bought
some brand new, full-length, non-slip Thermarests (app. $60 each) for Christmas presents
to ourselves -- what luxury!!
A place to go to get away from the wind, rain, & bugs.
Home away from home. We have a nice 2-person , 3-season REI Half-Dome I got on
sale for $100. Not so great in the pounding rain but very light & easy to set
up. Bought a great 3-person, 4-season Sierra Designs tent on clearance for $200
(regularly $350) that we're going to use when the kids go with us or the weather is nasty.
Tarp or Tent Footprint
A lightweight plastic or waterproof nylon tarp protects the tent bottom from rocks, sticks
& moisture. Doubles as a lean-to, wind or sun block, etc. ($5-25)
Essential for cooking meals & boiling water. We have a Gaz which
operates on a butane/propane canister. The stove is tiny & folds up very small.
The canister is a little heavy but very convenient to use (adjustable flame) &
does double duty by fueling a small lantern.
We carry 1) a Nalgene wide-mouth w/insulated holster ($15) which is great for
reconstituting dried food, packing ice cubes, etc., 2) a 1 liter Platypus ($6) which is
light & rolls up small, and 3) a Jansport bicycle bottle with spout. The kids
carry old Gatorade bottles. 1999 Update: Bought a
Platypus with a "Duckbill" tube ($14). The bottle fits in a pack pocket
& the tube hooks to the shoulder strap for hands-free drinking along the trail.
Water is heavy so we carry a quart each on the trail.
Once we get to where we're going we fill up all the bottles & the platypus.
There's lots of expensive water filters but we've found our cheap Timberline ($25)
works just fine.
Purification tablets - VERY
In case the filter breaks down. Beware of Giardia -- always filter, purify or boil any
water in the wild.
Regular, strike-anywhere for normal use.
Waterproof for rainy days. A small butane lighter is handy.
Lightweight nylon cord to stake tents & tarps, hang
food in a bear bag, clothesline, etc. ($3)
Swiss Army knife with sharp blades, awl, corkscrew, bottle
& can openers, screwdrivers, toothpick & tweezers. Most useful tool there
Small, powerful flashlight with handy holster.
($10) Don't forget extra batteries. 1998 Update:
Got one of those headband things that hold the flashlight hands-free. Great for
cooking, reading, etc. after dark. ($4)
Aluminum or plastic waterproof container small enough to fit in a pocket containing a
number of helpful items to get through tough times.
1st Aid Kit
Zippered pouch containing numerous helpful items in case of emergency, injury or illness.
Personal Care Kit
Zippered pouch containing numerous helpful items to keep yourself clean and comfortable.
Just enough to stay warm or cool and protect yourself from the elements.
Just enough to cook a warm meal after a long day of physical exertion.
Reading book, glasses, camera/film, Thermorest chair, camp towel, wash cloth, binoculars,
cards, map, lantern, walking stick, etc.