Backpacking Gear Chris & Mac Use

Grey Otter Outventures - Backpacking

A discussion of the equipment and apparel Chris & Mac use for backpacking and links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear.

Chris & Mac of Grey Otter Outventures

Chris & Mac
We outventure to help you outventure!


Support Grey Otter Outventures!

Please help us continue to bring you great content:

Click Here to Leave a Tip

The gear used for backpacking is an important component to having a pleasurable and safe hike.  As with most things, people have differing opinions as to what is the “best” gear.  Often times, “best” is the result of trade-offs between function, look, and, of course, price.  That said, there are stand-outs in the equipment and apparel world.

When Mac and I select the gear we use, we generally try to find equipment and apparel that is most suited for the activity we are doing, in this case backpacking.  We provide you with this listing here because we believe you can benefit from the gear decisions we have made.

Of course, new gear comes to market all the time, so we change gear as improvements are made by the industry.  The following is a listing of the gear we currently use when backpacking.

Please Note:  Grey Otter Outventures, Inc. is an affiliate of some of the brands mentioned in this section and may receive a small commission from purchases made from these brands at no extra cost to you.

Backpacks: We are big fans of Osprey backpacks.  They are well constructed and can hold up to years of hiking abuse.  For most backpacking trips (up to 5 nights) Chris uses the Osprey Atmos AG 50L Backpack (men) and Mac the uses Osprey Aura AG 50L Backpack (women).  We both love these packs.  They are light weight, while still providing excellent support, and the harness system makes them feel light on the back even when full.  For extended trips, Chris uses the Xenith 75 and Mac uses the Xena 85.  Due to their size and carrying capacity, they do weigh a couple of pounds more than our smaller backpacks, but when we need serious capacity for long trips, they provide ample room and carry quite well.  Lastly, for trips when we need to carry a heavier load but don’t need the space of our Xenith and Xena workhorses, we recently added the Osprey EJA 58 for Mac and the Osprey EXOS 58 for Chris to our pack options.  These packs are a couple of pounds lighter than our Atmos AG 50 and Aura AG 50 packs, but have similar carrying capacity.

Trekking Poles:  We use trekking poles on all our backpacking trips.  They take pressure off knees and backs, which is particularly important on difficult and longer hikes.  They are also great for stream crossings and tough terrain.  Our preferred brand for poles is LEKI.  Currently, Chris uses the LEKI Carbon TA XTG and Mac uses the LEKI Women’s Cressida COR-TEC Pole.
Water Bladder:  We both use Camelbak water bladders.  Osprey backpacks, although designed to carry a water bladder, do not come with one.  We think the best, most stable bladders are those made by Camelbak.  They come in a variety of sizes.  We both carry the three liter size, filling them as necessary based on the day’s planned hike.
Bottle for Hydration Mix:  In addition to water, both Chris and Mac carry a separate bottle with a hydration packet added to replace electrolytes lost through sweat.  Hands down, we believe the best bottles for this are made by Platypus.  For this purpose, we carry the Platypus 0.5 litre size, but they come in a variety of sizes.  They weigh virtually nothing and are amazingly durable.
Tents: Tents bring with them a lot of weight, that is why we always buy ultralight tents.  Additionally, we believe it is easier to find level ground for a tent if we use separate one person tents.  To go as light as possible, while still using a walled, free standing tent, our go to is the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 (one person).  We’ve used these tents for a couple of years now and, with a small packed size and a weight of 2 lbs., 8 oz for the full system, they are hard to beat. 
Tent Footprint (Ground Tarp):  Tent bottoms take a beating, that is why we always use a footprint under our tents.  At a weight of only 4 oz, using the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Series One Person Footprint is a no-brainer to extend the life of our tents.
Sleeping Bags:  A quality sleeping bag for backpacking is pretty darn important.  Also important is weight.  To handle both, we love Western Mountaineering.  They are extremely well constructed, amazingly light weight, warrant temperature rating given, and stuff to an incredibly small size.  For colder climates, we use the Western Mountaineering TerraLite:  Down 25 Degree Bag, while for warmer trips we use the Western Mountaineering Everlite:  Down 45  Degree Bag.  Trust us, these bags do not disappoint. 
Pillows:  We both use the NEMO Equipment Fillo Pillow and we love them.  They have a comfortable fabric top, are inflatable for desired firmness, are incredibly light weight, and stuff into their own attached stuff sack, packing down to less than a soda can in size.
Sleeping Pads:  To us, a good sleeping pad is a must for a good night’s sleep on the trail.  We each have two sleeping pads – one for warm weather and one for cold – because the higher the insulation rating of a pad, the heavier it is to carry.  For warm weather, there is no need to carry the additional weight of a cold weather pad, so we use the NEMO Astro Lite Sleeping Pad.  It is very light, very small to pack, and provides an excellent night’s sleep.  In cold weather, we carry the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season Sleep Pad.  Although noticeably heavier than the NEMO due to its insulation factor (and a bit noisy), the pad strikes a great balance between weight and warmth.
Cook Stove:  For us, backpacking is not about the food.  We love to cook and eat well at home, but preparing meals on the trail comes with a significant weight penalty.  As such, we carry lightweight dehydrated food and a water boiling system.  When conditions are forecast to be less than optimal, we believe the MSR Windburner Personal Stove System is the best for handling wind and precipitation.  It weighs only 15.5 oz and packs into one unit just a little bigger than a soda can.  Otherwise, we bring along our Snow Peak GigaPower Lite Max and Snow Peak Titanium Trek 1400 Cook Set. This system weighs in at a mere 9.8 oz and takes less space because we store our fuel canisters inside the cook set.  For light weight backpacking, we think either of these is a great way to go.
Cooking & Eating:  Because we rehydrate our food with boiling water, we have no need of bulky pots and pans.  To keep things simple and light, for eating we use the GSI Outdoors Collapsible Fair Share Mug.  The large mug is silicone and very heat resistant, has a lid so you can steep your food when rehydrating, a solid folding handle, and collapses to almost flat.  For a drinking mug, we use the Sea to Summit X-Mug Collapsible Mug, which collapses to wafer thin.  Finally, for an eating utensil we use the incredibly light Snow Peak Titanium Spork.  That’s it!  The three together are very light weight and all three pack together in one quart size zip lock bag for carrying!
Food Storage:  Food protection is important not only when dealing with bears, but also rodents.  When hard sided bear protection is required, we like the Bearvault BV 450 Bear Resistant Food Canister.  It is substantially lighter than most hard sided bear containers and fits comfortably in a backpack, while holding enough food and toiletries for up to a five night backpacking trip.  It also makes a reasonable seat for camp.  When hard sided bear protection is not required, we also use the Ursack Allmitey.  This soft-sided bear and rodent protection is approved for most areas requiring bear food protection, saves almost one pound over the Bearvault 450, can be hung form a tree or tied to it, and holds more than enough food and toiletries for up to a five night backpacking trip.
Water Filtration:  For backpacking, a water filtration system is a must.  Our go to is the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filtration System.  It weighs almost nothing and is incredibly simple to use.
Chairs:  Let’s face it, sitting on the ground, a bear vault, or a log is not exactly comfortable.  In many instances, we will take the weight penalty to carry a camp chair.  This is particularly true with the recently released Helinox Chair Zero.  It weighs only 1.1 lbs and packs down to a very small size.  The chair is amazing!  Other chairs we use when we don’t mind extra weight are the Helinox Chair One Mini Camp Chair (2lbs) and the Helinox Sunset Chair (3 lbs, 4 oz).  With these larger chairs you do get more comfort, but the penalty is weight and less room in your pack.  That said, they are fantastic chairs.
Ultralight Down Jackets:  A jacket is a must for most backpacking trips, but they are heavy and bulky.  Because we always seek the lightest solution that meets our backpacking needs, finding the right jacket was important to us:  Enter the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer down jacket.  It weighs only 8.3 oz for a men’s large, has an 800-fill goose down fill, and has served us very well during the four years we have used them.  We can’t say enough good things about this jacket!
Hiking Shoes:  Hiking shoe technology is changing rapidly and we go through a lot of shoes.  Currently, Chris wears the Salomon Men’s Quest 4D 3 GTX and Mac wears the women’s Solomon Women’s Quest 4 GORETEX.  These boots are great right out of the box!  Not only do they have excellent traction on mixed terrain, but their waterproof/breathable membranes keep our feet dry in wet weather.  Additionally, these boots deliver outstanding ankle and heel support that are particularly important on tough terrain and long hikes.  We are both very happy with the performance of our shoes.
Headlamps (Emergency Use):  Headlamps are a must for backpacking.  Chris carries the Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp and Mac carries the Petzl ACTIK Headlamp.  Both are light weight, powerful, and have a variety of beams as well as red light so you won’t disturb your neighbors.
Multi-Tool:  Equipment does occasionally break while on the trail.  Carrying a multi-tool, as well as some tie wraps and a strong tape such as Tenacious Tape, can be instrumental in solving the problem.  For backpacking, we each carry the ultra light Gerber Dime Mini Multi-Tool.  Despite its small size and limited number of tools, it has the basic tools needed to fix most problems.
Ditty Bags:  Ditty bags are a great way to organize gear in your pack.  We carry the Granite Gear Tough Sack 2L and 5L for backpacking.  The 2L size has enough room to store first aid, a multi-tool, a battery back-up, tie-wraps and some tape.  The 5L bag is large enough to carry the extra clothes we need for up to a 5 night backpacking trip.  The bags come in a variety of sizes, are ultralight, and coated for water resistance.
Pack Cover:  We use the Osprey Ultralight Backpack Rain Cover.  They are very lightweight and available in a variety of sizes to fit your backpack.
Day Pack (When Warranted):  We occasionally carry an ultralight day pack when we intend to leave the backpacking site set-up for a second night so we can do side ventures.  At 2.4 oz and a packed size that fits in the palm of your hand, it is impossible to beat the minimalist Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack for this purpose.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER:  The activities discussed in this website are outdoor activities and, as such, have inherent risks to which participants are exposed.  It is not the intent of this website, nor is it possible due to the variability of weather, terrain, equipment, and experience, to detail all of those risks.  The information contained in this site is informational, but not instructive nor exhaustive.  It is the sole responsibility of the user to ensure he/she is in good health, fully prepared, and fully informed as to dangers before undertaking any of the activities discussed in this website and the user does so at his/her own risk.  The user understands that by using this website he/she acknowledges and accepts all risks associated with use of information from this website and participation in any particular activity addressed herein.  Please see “Terms of Use” for additional information.

Want to share this article with your friends?  Click on the share button below:


Want more?

  Get the latest outventure updates by following us on social media . . .

Leave a Reply