This list was initially put together in 2011. Based on some plans I have, and inquiries, perhaps it was time to update the list for solo, three-season, backpacking. This list is not 100% absolute as I will swap in and out gear as needs and preferences decide. Sometimes I want to bang out miles. Sometimes I want to enjoy a hot cup of coffee at a site overlooking a lake.
Which trip is better? That’s silly. I like both! 😉
I also apologize for the wonky formatting, as the article has gone through different versions of my website. And I am too lazy to rewrite this information completely.
As I’ve said many, many, many times before, there is no “best gear,” just gear that fits your own needs, goals, safety, and comfort levels.
While on all my trips, I tend to go as light as possible, I do take different gear based on the type of trip I am taking.
More time in camp? Solo? A more technical trip? With buddies? Guiding? And so on. Using the same particular set of tools for every job would be silly.
For example, If I am taking significant other on a trip who prefers a more casual pace in the past, I would take the Lunar Duo, a canister stove, perform some more involved camp cooking, and will take a thicker pad.
Different trips do require various tools. At least for me.
I’d hate to take my minimalist solo pack on an overnight winter backpacking trip but don’t see the reason to take something that can haul a rope or ski gear out for a casual summer overnighter in the Indian Peaks either. 🙂
Having said all that, my baseline for backpacking is three-season solo trips. Backpacking is my first love, and I feel solo trips are the most intense for me and something I truly need in my life. Three-season (or even early shoulder season) means I can keep it simple.
So, the following is my list of gear for three-season solo backpacking. Aimed towards Intermountain West conditions in late-spring/early-summer to mid-late fall. I tend to go off-trail, scramble, or even bushwhack, so the equipment reflects those needs. I also tend not to replace gear unless I absolutely have to due to wear and tear.
As an observation, my base pack weight has been pretty consistent since 2006 (if I do take a heavier camera. Call it a wash with the lighter gear in 2017 vs. 2006).
The summary? With my mirrorless camera included, my base pack weight is under 10 lbs for three-season backpacking in typical Intermountain West conditions when solo. I’ll swap or add in different gear depending on expected goals, conditions, trip type, or season. The base pack weight can be as little as 8 pounds or as much as 15 lbs depending.
Paul Mags’ Solo Three-Season Equipment List – Oct 2019
|Pack and accessories:||ULA CDT (modified)||19. 00 oz||A sturdy, still-light pack that works well for off-trail pursuits and into deep shoulder season.|
|Trash Bag for a pack liner||.625 oz|
|Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis DCF||12 oz||Quick and straightforward to set up. A birthday present for me.|
|6 MSR min-groundhogs||2.00 oz||Better for off-the-beaten-path areas versus thin ti stakes.|
|Z-Lite clone (cut down)||7 oz|
|Katabatic Flex 22 for shoulder season and winter (with supplements)
Montbell DOWN SLEEPING WRAP #2 LONG
| 23.5 oz
| I like them both for different reasons.
The Montbell quilt packs down more and I like the longer blanket-like quilt for when I take lighter three-season gear; the Katabatic quilt is loftier and works well with my cold weather down gear
|Kitchen||Lexan Spoon||.375 oz|
|Toothbrush and Floss||.250 oz|
|Ziplock Bag||.125 oz|
|SilNylon Food bag||1.000 oz|
|Hydration||2 – 1.5 liter water bottles.||3.5 oz|| What I used when I walked across Utah, and what I migrated back to over the past year. Simple, doesn’t leak, carries better than bladders. I’ll use the Nalgene Canteen for shorter carries, group trips, and winter.
For back East or similar area with a lot water, I’ll take the Powerade bottle below and a 1 liter Platy.
|1 qt Powerade bottles||1.00||I like the wider mouth for getting water vs. the Smart water-type bottles.|
|Iodine tabs||1.000 oz||I rarely treat water. When I do, I use chemicals.|
|Clothing in Pack|
|Montbell Superior Down with Hood||10.00 oz||Light, compressible, and surprisingly warm for its weight.|
|Point 6 Socks or similar||1.50 oz|
|Discount Dance Supply Ripstop Pants||3.5 oz||Surprisingly effective wind pants!|
|Generic 100 wt fleece||9.00 oz||My favorite piece of clothing for all four seasons.|
|Montbell Versalite||6.50 oz||New for Spring 2018. If I am going bushwhacking, I’ll take a Montbell Trekker shell that is similar in weight and function to a Marmot Precip.|
|TSLA 1/4 zip Hyperdri Shirt||6. 00 oz
| The TSLA top layer provides enough warmth for most three-season uses.
My legs put out a lot of heat, so the very light MilSurpls Polartec layers work for my three-season use.
|Fleece Socks||1.50 oz||Part of my snivel gear!|
|Fleece Beanie||1. oz||A four-season mainstay|
|Military Surplus Wool Glove Liners||1.5 oz||Another four-season mainstay.|
|Forclaz (Decathlon) Rain Mitts||1.50 oz||Not just for rain, adds some extra warmth during cooler or windy conditions.|
|First Aid Kit|
|Vitamin I||1.00 oz|
|4 4×4 Gauze Pads||.375 oz|
|5 Band-aids||< .125 oz|
|Ziplock||< .125 oz|
|(Duct tape, bandannas, etc. work as first aid items as well)|
|Nitecore NU25||1.0 oz||I prefer USB headlamps now. This model is what the cool kids use, and I finally bought one. Bright, light, and red-mode settings. Add a different band to get the 1oz weight.|
|Deuce of Spades Trowel/TP/Ziploc/Sanitizer||2.00||I now use a trowel. Trail maintainers, thank you. 😉|
|Camera and accessories:|
|Canon G3X with batteries||26.00 oz||My largest weight and cost penalty by far! But I enjoy taking photos. And this camera makes for an excellent quiver of one.|
|Z-Packs Multipack||2.00 oz||Easy, compact, and versatile way to carry my camera and let it be accessible|
|Total weight of camera and accessories: 28.00 oz|
|TOTAL BASE PACK WEIGHT:||151 oz / 9 lbs 4 oz 9 lbs 6 oz depending||If I cheated and dropped the camera, I’d be under eight pounds. 😉 But since I attach the camera, I count it as part of the weight.|
|Equipment “On Self”||PolyCotton Shirt||6.125 oz||I prefer poly-cotton blend shirts as I think they breathe better versus “real” hiking shirts|
|UBTech Travel Pants||10.00 oz||I prefer pants for the routes I now typically backpack. These were Costco specials for less than $20. I liked them so much; I have three pairs.|
|Point 6 Socks or similar||1.50 oz|
|Boonie Style Hat||3.625 oz|
|P-51 Can Opener aka “John Wayne,” Swiss Army Classic, Photon Light combo||1 oz||Good for EDC. Makes a quick and dirty toolkit off and on the trail.|
|Komperdell Trekking Poles (similar to linked item)||17 oz||I am too harsh on carbon poles (trust me!) esp off-trail; other poles are too heavy. These are Goldilocks Poles for me and just right. I prefer adjustable poles. Baskets removed, but prefer using straps.|
|Salamon X Ultra 3||26.00 oz||More robust trail shoe for off-trail or scrambling.|
|Compass||1.125 oz||Basic compass does the trick|
|Nemesis Safety Glasses||1.00 oz||Safety glasses are my preferred sunglasses: Light, inexpensive, durable, flexible.|
|Samsung Galaxy S6||5.00||Again, keeping myself honest. I don’t like to keep it in the car. And now keep guides, notes, and some maps on it.|
|Timex Indiglo Watch||1.125 oz|
- All weights gauged originally with a scale accurate to 1/8 (.125) oz.
- I carry a ziplock with my ID, cash, Debit and Credit cards in my wallet
- I always have some sort of print map or maps.
- Once I wear out the quilt, pack, and shelter, I’ll probably go lighter. As long new gear performs the same, of course. I am not going to buy new gear for the sake of buying new gear. 🙂
- For many solo hikes, I typically go stoveless. More than the weights savings, it is the KISS principle I love. The weight savings is probably negligible as I do have to buy more (not all) non-dried food, but resupply and eating now has a minimal futz factor. I successfully went stoveless on the GDT as one example. Long days in grizzly country meant I enjoyed eating around 7 PM and them hiking to 9 or even 10 PM.
- During shoulder season, with a partner, trip goals, time of the year, etc. I may take different stoves, packs, or shelter.
- If I am hiking on-trail only at the height of summer, I will hike in shorts. This type of hiking happens less often than in previous years.
- Depending on the trip, all my solo gear can weigh up to 15 lbs or as little as 8 lbs (if I don’t take the good camera and just use my phone)
- Which is why there are different tools for different jobs! 😀
I am a pretty new backpacker and am doing sections 20, 21, and 22 of the CT in late July-early August. It would be great if I could ask you a few questions? 1. What average temps can we expect at night? and day? (trying to figure out which bag to take and how many layers) 2. I hate long sleeve shirts and long pants….are they a must or can I get by with only shorts and maybe a long sleeve wicking shirt and a short sleeve for the warmer days? 3. Have you heard whether or not car vandalism… Read more »
Hi Jeff! 1. A 20F bag is good for 3-season Colorado backpacking. It gets cool at night and 40F bag might not cut it. 2) I wear long sleeves for sun protection. If you don’t use clothing, you’ll need sun screen. Personally. I don’t like wearing sun screen for long term use. Too sticky feeling esp with the sweat and dirt. Plus it is extra weight I have to carry! YMMV 3) IT is an isolated trail head and should be safe from vandalism. Most thieves are lazy. 🙂 4) T-storms happen almost every afternoon at that time of the… Read more »
I am not a long sleeved person and am horrible at remembering sun screen, so I bought these for hiking and riding and they are amazing.
I know some people who use those or similar as well. They seem to like them.
Hey would just like to thank you for posting this checklist.. it has helped me to decide what i need to take with me on my travels. 🙂 I’d have to say that my biggest weight penalty is also a camera, wouldn’t go anywhere without it. I love taking action shots of the great outdoors. 🙂
Beth, hard to give up the camera when so much gorgeous scenery is around us! 🙂
Hey Paul, just read your article in the CT guidebook and now this list. It’s given me a lot to think about for paring down weight. Thanks!
One thing for you to consider: if you want a camera somewhere in between a DSLR and a point-and-shoot, consider a micro four-thirds (MFT) camera system. These cameras have matured quite a bit and you can get a kit that rivals or surpasses DSLR quality for at or under 1 lb.
Cool! Thx for the tip. Another toy for me to look at. 🙂
Thanks for posting this helpful list! My husband and I are planning to hike the CT this coming summer. Quick question regarding the ripstop pants. Are they water proof? How did they work out for you?
They are water resistant as opposed to water proof. I pump out a lot of heat, so these pants and thermal bottoms work well for three-season conditions. At least for me. If you get colder easier, you may want to wear “real” rain pants.
Hope that helps!
Hi Paul. What are the items of food that you take when you go stove less?
Some ideas and thoughts here that you may find of interest: https://pmags.com/going-stoveless-cold-food-for-thought
Surely you carry a knife. Or did I miss that on the page?
Yep. Listed as ” P-51 Can Opener aka “John Wayne,” Swiss Army Classic, Photon Light combo 1 oz Good for EDC. Makes a quick and dirty tool kit off and on the trail.” https://pmags.com/light-versatile-and-cheap-the-p38-and-p51-can-openers