OUR BACKPACKING CAMPING GEAR
WHAT WE USE AND WHY
Whether you’re researching the best camping gear for your own adventures, or just curious to know what kit we use, we hope you find this comprehensive rundown of our backpacking camping gear helpful and informative.
We like to be prepared for backpacking or camping adventures wherever we travel. So for the last few years, our lightweight camping gear has been a permanent fixture of our full-time travel setup. This has allowed us to head off on remote multi-day hikes across Asia, Europe, and the Caucasus, and car camp on a budget while exploring Japan, Oman, and Scotland.
Having already covered our hiking gear in a separate guide, it’s time to dive into our complete backpacking camping gear. After using this gear for over five years now, we’ve had plenty of time to figure out everything we love and hate about it, and are ready to share our thoughts with you. We’ve broken things down into three sections – our kit for sleeping, cooking, and using around camp.
A note on our style of backpacking….
While we use a lot of lightweight camping gear, we don’t consider ourselves ‘ultralight’ or ‘minimal’ backpackers. In fact, part of the reason we invested in lightweight, highly packable gear is to compensate for our extensive travel photography kit, the key components of which come with us on most hikes and bump our backpack weight up considerably. We travel full time (in the sense that we don’t have a permanent homebase) and everything we need for months/years on end fits in our two backpacks, plus our camera bag.
When heading off hiking, we usually leave unnecessary stuff at a guesthouse or such like. But quite often we carry enough gear to cover a lengthy amount of time and variety of situations, rather than packing for each specific multi-day hike. This means carrying more weight than we’d like, but it gives us the flexibility to hike one-way trails and stay out in the mountains for longer, rather than returning to our start point after each individual hike.
OUR BACKPACKING CAMPING GEAR
Jump to each section using the links below, or expand the boxes to find an item specific list.
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BACKPACKING CAMPING GEAR // SLEEPING
OUR BACKACKING CAMPING GEAR
We LOVE our Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 tent. It is sturdy, lightweight (around 1.76 kg), and packs down nice and small. It has performed great in all kinds of weather, including torrential rain and high winds. We started off with the 2 person version of this tent in 2017 (the orange and white model in the photos below), but upgraded to the 3 person version in olive green in 2022. We’d been pondering getting the bigger model for a while, and after borrowing our friends’ 3 person Copper Spur to try it out we just couldn’t go back! It felt like a palace compared to the 2 person size, and the latest model also has a few design changes that make it even better. In a nutshell, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL tent (especially the 3 person size!) has been the perfect choice for us, and we highly recommend it for three season backpacking.
The tent is quick and easy to put up and take down, and is also super versatile. It can be pitched as a free-standing tent (although we rarely use it in this way), or securely pegged out. You can pitch just the inner, which we did a few times on dry nights wild camping in Oman (oh those stars!). Alternatively, you can pitch just the fly and footprint, which works great for shade on the beach or as a basic shelter. It’s also possible to pitch the fly first and then attach the inner, or detach the inner from fly when already pitched – very useful for keeping the inner dry when camping in the rain.
The HV stands for ‘high volume’, and the design really does make it feel spacious inside. There is plenty of head room even when sitting up, and enough space to move around when getting dressed or arranging our gear for the night. Storage pockets beside and above our heads are really handy for loose bits and bobs. The latest design also has a large elevated storage pocket at the foot of the inner which we find very useful for storing clothes. Loops designed to hold the open flaps double up as a handy place to hang clothes to air overnight.
It’s possible to pitch just the outer fly and footprint to create a basic shelter
It’s possible to pitch just the outer fly
and footprint to create a basic shelter
Double access doors make it very easy for us both to get in and out without climbing over each other. The porch area on each side gives us room to store our boots, hiking poles, gaiters, and such like, plus a bit of extra space to stretch out in when the inner flaps are unzipped. The latest model has a redesigned porch area, allowing you to pitch out the flaps on each side using your hiking poles, creating an awning to shelter you from sun or drizzle.
With the 2 person version of this tent it was a pretty snug fit for both of us. We would store our backpacks one on top of the other at our feet, and our sleeping mats more or less took up all of the remaining space. The extra room that we have in the 3 person model allows us to store our backpacks side by side at our feet, plus we have considerably more room all around our sleeping mats. This extra space makes the extra 400 grams in weight more than worth it. The Copper Spur HV UL comes in a 1,2,3 or 4 person model and based on our own experience we’d certainly recommend sizing up (ie. opting for a 3 person model for 2 people, a 2 person model for 1 person, etc.). There is a specific bikepacking version, too.
Another thing we love about our ‘Big Aggie’ is the company’s customer service. After three years of use in a whole host of weather conditions, we had a few things like zippers and our tent pole elastic cord needing attention. The team at Big Agnes were quick to repair everything, either under warranty or for a very minimal cost, shipping our tent back to us like new.
EXTRA TENT PEGS (STAKES)
Our tent came with the exact number of tent pegs required, so Del wanted to get extras in case we lost or broke one. We opted for some MSR Groundhog pegs which are stronger and longer than the originals.
We have been hugely impressed with our Thermarest NeoAir XLite sleeping pads. Del has the ‘Regular’ size, and I have the women specific model. They are lightweight at just 340g, and pack down to the size of a Nalgene water bottle. Whether we sleep on our back or side, they are extremely comfortable and keep us warm by lifting us high off the ground. We were a bit concerned about the ‘crisp packet rustling’ sound we’d read about before buying, but it’s really not that noticeable and definitely eases off over time.
In the first three years of use we never suffered a puncture (we always use our mats inside our tent, along with the tent footprint). I did eventually have a problem with my mat deflating overnight though, and after a replacement valve failed to fix the problem, we sent it to Thermarest for repair. Much like with Big Agnes, we were very impressed by their customer service and delighted that they replaced my mat under warranty. Since then, Del has also had his mat replaced under warranty, and I have had my mat replaced at no cost for a second time. Seriously Thermarest, bravo on your customer service.
This means we both have the updated models now, with the redesigned WingLock valve. This prevents air escaping while blowing up the pad and is much more efficient than the previous valve design. It also makes it easier to adjust the amount of air in the mat while in use, twisting the valve to release just a small amount of air at a time. Previously, we had purchased a pump sack separately for blowing up the mats, however this is now included with the mat and we received the updated pump sack along with our replacement mats. The pump sack works really well, saving us breath and energy and preventing us from getting lightheaded.
Down offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio and packs down super small. For these reasons we both opted for Rab down sleeping bags over cheaper synthetic models. Initially, we both bought the Rab Neutrino Endurance 400 (equivalent to the current Neutrino 400 -7C model). It was perfect in cool weather, but I didn’t find this warm enough when camping in cold, snowy conditions in Kyrgyzstan in September. I decided to upgrade to the warmer Mythic 600 -12C in autumn 2019 and haven’t had a cold night since.
Del is still largely happy with his but has definitely felt a bit too cold while camping around 3000 m in frosty conditions. If we plan to spend more time camping in colder conditions in the future, he will probably upgrade to a warmer bag too.
Both of our sleeping bags weigh less than 900g and compress down to a packable size. In order to get them as small as possible, we use Sea to Summit compression sacks instead of the stuff sacks that came with them. Del’s sleeping bag fits in an XS 6 litre sack, and I use a S 10 litre compression sack.
The bag that came with our Rab sleeping bags on the left, the same sleeping bag in our Sea to Summit XS 6L compression sack, and a Nalgene for scale
The bag that came with our Rab down sleeping
bags on the left, the same sleeping bag in our
Sea to Summit XS 6L compression sack in the
middle, and a Nalgene on the right for scale
These stuff sacks are also waterproof, ensuring our precious down bags stay bone dry. When at home, we store our sleeping bags in the cotton storage sack that comes with each bag to ensure the down maintains its loft.
We always sleep inside a silk liner when camping. If it’s warm, this is all we use and it helps keep us cool. If it’s cold, we use it inside our sleeping bag to add extra warmth. Silk is a great material for this purpose as it is lightweight and breathable, as well as being very comfortable. A second benefit of using a silk liner is that it protects our sleeping bag from dirt and sweat. Down sleeping bags are much trickier to clean than the liner itself.
Rolling up clothes and stuffing them in a dry sack works for some, but we value a dedicated pillow for a good night’s sleep. We each use the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight camping pillow and it is incredibly comfortable. It also weighs next to nothing (60g) and packs down tiny. You can inflate and deflate it in seconds, and it’s very easy to machine wash. An all-round great bit of kit!
BACKPACKING CAMPING GEAR // COOKWARE
OUR CAMPING GEAR
POCKET STOVE & GAS
We like to enjoy a hot meal at the end of a long hike, and start each morning with a cup of real coffee. Therefore, a stove and gas are essential on multi-day camping hikes. We still use the same cheap pocket stove we bought many moons ago while living in Korea. It is tiny, lightweight, and screws directly into a threaded gas canister.
Our pocket stove is small, lightweight, and easy to screw in and use with one of these standard threaded gas canisters
Our pocket stove is small, lightweight, and
easy to screw in and use with one of these
standard threaded gas canisters
You can’t fly with a gas canister, but so far we have always been able to hunt out the gas we need locally before setting off on a hike (usually in a major city like Dushanbe or Tbilisi). A multi-fuel stove like the MSR Whisperlite Universal is far more versatile though, and we’ll be making the switch if we ever plan a hike where sourcing regular gas canisters is a problem.
MUG & BOWL
There are measurements marked up the inner side of both mug and bowl, very handy for ensuring Del never gets more wine than me. The solid nylon rim on the mug makes it easy and enjoyable to drink from, like a real cup. The same material is used for the solid base of the bowl, making it easy to handle and also useful as a chopping board. Being silicone, they do tend to take on strong flavours. This is more of an issue with the mug, like the time we had chicken and leek cup-a-soup and got a whiff of it with every sip of coffee for two weeks after…
We originally bought the Sea to Summit AlphaLight Cutlery Set which includes a knife and spork, but we found that we never use the knife and the spork is all we need. It did a fine job, but any time we were eating straight out of a dehydrated meal bag we wished we had a long handled spork to prevent us from getting food all up our hands when we dug deep for every last morsel. So, we’ve now switched to the Sea to Summit Alpha Light Long Spork and dinner is a much less messy affair.
We bought the Sea to Summit X-Set 31 which includes the above mugs and bowls, plus the 2.8 litre X Pot. It is also silicone, with an anodised aluminium base and a lid that doubles as a strainer. The mugs and bowls nest neatly inside the pot, with everything collapsing down into a frisbee sized package.
The Sea to Summit X-Set with the X-Brew alongside and the X-Pot Kettle lid loitering there too
The Sea to Summit X-Set, with the X-Brew
alongside and the X-Pot Kettle loitering in front
We were very happy with the pot for the first couple of years, but eventually cracks appeared in the lid and then it completely broke apart. This obviously made it much less useful, as it takes longer to cook food without a lid, and we could no longer snap shut the whole nested package. There were a couple of other things that bugged us about this pot too, like the fact that there is no proper handle, and that more often than not the capacity was greater than we needed for two people. Years of stuffing it in our backpacks no doubt contributed to the plastic lid breaking, making us rethink how practical this design really is. I did try to contact Sea to Summit twice with regards to their Lifetime Guarantee, but didn’t get any response to my emails, which was a bit disappointing.
So, with that said we gave up on that pot and replaced it with the Sea to Summit 1.9 litre Alpha pot. This is actually lighter than the X-Pot, and although not collapsible, we can store the bowls, mugs, our pocket stove, and our wilderness wash inside, so it isn’t any less easy to pack. It has a handle, and overall we are confident that it will be more durable in the long run.
The Sea to Summit X-Pot Kettle is a great addition to our camp cookware which we carry with us if we are in need of both our above pot and a kettle. We have the 1.3 litre version which is perfect for boiling water for coffee or dehydrated meals, or for stirring up powdered milk for breakfast. It sits steadily on our pocket stove and pours great, with folding handles for ease of carry.
The Sea to Summit X-Pot Kettle is easy to use and a great pourer
The Sea to Summit X-Pot Kettle is
easy to use and a great pourer
Like the rest of the X-Series, the kettle collapses down, with our X-Brew coffee dripper nesting neatly inside. There is also room for one X-Mug, or you could store two X-Mugs without the X-Brew. After more than three years of rugged use, the plastic lid finally developed a crack, but it’s still usable five years on from buying it.
SEALABLE FOOD CONTAINER
Del wasn’t initially sold on the value of our Sea to Summit X Seal & Go food container, but after a summer of hiking in Georgia and eating leftovers for lunch most days, he’s a convert! We have one ‘large’ food container, which looks similar to our collapsible bowl, but has a leak-proof threaded lid for secure food or liquid storage on the go. We mostly use it for storing leftovers from dinner to eat the next day, storing ‘messy’ food from guesthouses or shops to carry on the trail with us, or as a secure way of carrying our ground coffee. It works great as a bowl too though, and is more rigid than the standard X-Bowl given the solid rim around the top.
Having a way to enjoy a mug of REAL coffee at camp in the morning is a must for us. Instant just will not do. For about three years we had the Sea to Summit X-Brew coffee dripper, which is simple to use and makes a tasty brew. You just sit the dripper on top of a mug, spoon some ground coffee in, and pour hot water over. The mesh filter is removable for rinsing in between cups. Eventually this mesh peeled away though, leaving a hole which the ground coffee fell straight through, rendering it useless. We replaced it with the Primula Brew Buddy, an even simpler design which is less fiddly to clean and has been working great for more than a year now.
We have some multi-purpose biodegradable Wilderness Wash from Sea to Summit. This is great for washing our camping cookware, and for doing our laundry.