21 of Our Most Useful, Informative, Popular Gear Articles

Over the years, we have amassed quite a collection of gear reviews, roundups, Best-Ofs, tech breakdowns, updates from season to season, and advice articles. We’ve compiled some of our most popular and useful pieces into one large-ish list for your perusal, whether you’re looking to update your gear system, understand what R-value actually means, or finally try making your own Tyvek tent footprint.

Something major we’re missing? Anything you’ve always been curious about? We’re always looking to expand our own knowledge base as well, so feel free to yell at us in the comments.

Maggie Slepian

Managing Editor

Thru-Hiking Gear Lists, Tips, and Tricks


1. How to Pack a Backpack

One of the key elements to backpacking is actually knowing how to pack your bag. Here, we talk to several hikers with distinct styles about what they carry and how they organize their pack list.

How to Pack a Backpack for Thru-HikingSo you’ve got all this gear ready to go… but now what? While out backpacking, everything that you need is carried on your back, in this pack. You’ll pack and unpack multiple times a day and likely try different things…Read More

2. Clothing for an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

No, you don’t need technical hiking pants. Yes, you’ll definitely want a rain jacket. This article breaks down myth vs fact about the clothing and apparel systems for an AT thru-hike, with suggested splurge / save items.

Clothing for an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike: Our Recommended System, Fabrics, and ProductsDressing for a six-month Appalachian Trail thru-hike is deceptively simple, but actually takes a lot of strategizing. You have limited capacity for carrying clothing, yet you need to be prepared for rain, snow, sleet, freezing temperatures, humidity, and intense heat.…Read More

3. Pacific Crest Trail Gear: Getting Back to the Basics

An overview on the Big Three, clothes, and smaller items most people will need for a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. We go into more detail in other PCT-gear related posts, but this is a good one to get you started.

Pacific Crest Trail Gear: Let’s Get Back to the BasicsOn the PCT, the odds are against you succeeding. Estimates say that between 50-60% fall short of their goal of completing the entire trail. There are a lot of aspects that contribute whether you will succeed or fail. Most of…Read More

4. Gear, Budgets, and Trends of AT Thru-Hikers

We collected five years of our Appalachian Trail thru-hiker survey data and looked at how hikers’ gear, food, hiking style, and clothing choices have changed since we started polling thru-hikers at the end of each season.

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Trends: Examining Gear, Budget, and Resources Over the Past 5 YearsIn 2014, we began conducting annual surveys about AT thru-hikers and attempting thru-hikers. Starting these surveys soon after my own thru-hike has been a really meaningful way for me to stay connected to my hiking community, especially since grad school…Read More

5. My Appalachian Trail Vs. Pacific Crest Trail Gear

Jess carried a hefty pack on the entire Appalachian Trail, start to finish. When she headed out on the PCT a few years later, she’d pared down her gear list significantly. Here’s her analysis of what she left behind for her second thru-hike.

My Appalachian Trail vs. Pacific Crest Trail Gear Lists: The Things I Didn’t CarryTwo years ago I wrote a post for this website called Gear Lessons From a Hiker Who Never Learned Her Lesson. In it I talked about the enormity of the pain and suffering that I forced myself to endure carrying…Read More

6. How to Choose the Best Camera Gear for Your Thru-Hike

If a thru-hike is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you want to record it as such, right? More and more hikers are carrying nice camera gear on the trail, and here’s our breakdown of the best out there for top-quality photos while not buckling under the weight.

How to Choose the Best Camera Gear for a Thru-HikeHey all! For those of you who don’t know me, the name is Koty, AKA Trash Panda. Over the past three years I have spent my time as what you might call an adventure enthusiast. Traveling to remote parts of…Read More

7. Thru-Hikers’ Favorite Essential Items

These are the gear items experienced thru-hikers don’t leave home without. From a long spork to a more comfortable sleeping pad, these are the things they swear by.

Thru-Hikers’ Favorite Essential ItemsMost hikers know you need several specific items to make a long-distance backpacking trip successful. A shelter, a pack, sleep system, and layers are all necessary to survive 2,000 miles. And some items just stand out in the crowd. Here…Read More

8. Your Guide to Plus-Size Gear and Clothing

Diversifying the outdoors means a place for all people and all body types. Ashley put together a collection of her favorite gear and clothing items for plus-size hikers, and why each item works for her.

A Guide to Plus-Size Gear and Clothing for BackpackingIf you’re anything like me (and the fact that you’re reading this tells me you are), then you have had a hard time finding proper gear for backpacking and hiking. When will outdoor retailers realize that not everyone has the same…Read More

Saving Money and Weight


9. Tips to Reduce Weight in Your Pack

This CDT hiker saved weight with easy tips and tricks, allowing him to hike longer miles faster and more comfortably. Here’s how he did it.

10 Tips to Reduce the Weight on Your BackI thought I’d write out 10 of my favourite tips for reducing the weight of your pack. In no way am I a hardcore ultra lighter but my pack’s pretty light, I enjoy cutting weight in certain areas to enable…Read More

10. Easy DIY Projects to Save Money

Have some downtime between backpacking trips? Or maybe your entire thru-hike got cancelled. Who knows! Instead of reorganizing your gear closet for the fourth time, try making your own pot cozy or Tyvek tent footprint.

Three Fun (and Easy) DIY Gear Projects to Save You MoneyLet’s talk about MYOG. It’s not just the sound I make when a shelter mouse runs across my sleeping bag in the dead of night. MYOG stands for Make Your Own Gear, and it’s a great way to save cash…Read More

11. Gear to Save on and Gear to Splurge On

What’s worth the money and what can you save on? This thru-hiker gives an honest rundown of the items you can save money on with a less expensive model, and what’s definitely worth the splurge.

Nine Pieces of Thru-Hiking Gear to Splurge on, and Nine to Save OnChoosing gear for a thru-hike or even for weekend backpacking can be daunting. So what gear should you buy on the cheap and where should you splurge for the best? Let this list be your guide to getting the best…Read More

When You Can’t Decide Between Gear Items


12. Quilts Vs Sleeping Bags

Can’t decide between the security and warmth of a mummy bag over the light weight and flexibility of a quilt? Our sleeping bag fan goes head to head with a quilt user to help you decide.

Gear Wars: Quilts Vs. Sleeping BagDo you pass out after a long day of hiking in a zipped-up sleeping bag or an open-sided quilt? Do you want the comfort of an enclosed bag or the freedom to sprawl? Quilts have become an increasingly popular option…Read More

13. Boots Vs Trail Runners

Trail runners are by far the most popular footwear choice for long-distance backpackers, but we definitely have some boot wearers out there. They discuss the pros and cons in this Gear Wars.

Boots Vs. Trail Runners: Two Loyalists Compare and ContrastHiking boots or trail runners? Years ago there wasn’t a choice. Leather hiking boots ruled the trail. But trail runners are now king of the mountains, and they far outnumber boots in outfitters’ displays. Still, footwear is a highly personal…Read More

14. Somewear Global Hotspot Vs Garmin inReach Mini

There’s a new hotspot / GPS unit on the market, and our testers discuss the merits of both after extensive testing.

Gear Wars: Somewear Global Hotspot Vs. Garmin inReach MiniSatellite-enabled location tracking, backcountry GPS units, and off-grid texting have become almost ubiquitous when it comes to long-distance hiking. Whether you’re on an extended trip on a high-traffic trail or venturing off the grid, it’s possible to be in contact…Read More

15. BearVault 450 vs 500

Do you really need the bigger size bear canister? Which one carries more? These are hefty items, so you want to make sure you make the right choice.

Gear Review and Comparison: BearVault 450, 500The BearVault 450 and 500 are easy, reliable ways to store your food away from your sleeping area with confidence that it will be there in the morning. As bears increasingly associate hikers with food, it’s become important to ensure…Read More

Dogs, Day Hiking, and Car Camping


16. The Essential Day Hiking Gear List

2020 is the year of not thru-hiking. If you’re sticking closer to home and exploring the day-hiking trails in your area, we have a comprehensive list of what to carry for short outings, half-day hikes, and full-day adventures.

The Essential Day Hiking Gear ListSince thru-hiking has been temporarily canceled, we’re pivoting toward appreciating the things we can do, like shorter outings close to home, and hopefully more extended trips later this summer. Last week I listed the gear I take day hiking, which…Read More

17. Car Camping Gear for Every Budget

Heading out to sleep in the back of the truck? Here’s a checklist of items to take with you, the best ways to pack and organize, and our suggested items. Plus, unbiased information on what you should save on (camp chairs) and what you should splurge on (the cooler).

Car Camping Gear for Every BudgetWe’ve been hitting the road every week on different car camping trips since early March. At first, this was a way to get out of the house before I put my head through the drywall during quarantine. As each week…Read More

18. My Dog’s Gear List

Taking your furry friend on a thru-hike? Our experienced dog hikers share what they carry for their hiking companions, and what the dogs carry along the trail themselves.

A Different Kind of Gear List (My Dog’s)A question I receive quit a bit and have tried to answer over time via Instagram is, “What’s in Winnie’s pack?” I always answer this question tongue in cheek because what Winnie carries doesn’t necessarily encompass what we carry for…Read More

All About Technology


19. Understanding R-Value

We’ve seen some updated testing and rating standards over the past few years. Our writer chatted with the folks at Therm-a-Rest to get the info on how to choose a sleeping pad, and what the updated standards actually mean.

Understanding R-Value and the Updated Testing StandardsWhen you select a sleep system for a camping trip, what factors do you consider? Probably the degree rating of the bag, the anticipated weather / temperature, and maybe some existing knowledge about whether you sleep hot or cold. But…Read More

20. Everything You Need to Know About Waterproof Fabrics

What’s the difference between ePTFE and a PU membrane? What about water-resistant vs waterproof? Here’s our in-depth discussion about what you need to know about waterproof technology for backpacking.

Everything You Need to Know About Waterproof FabricsWaterproof fabric technology has come a long way since its humble complicated chemical beginnings in Bob Gore’s laboratory. I’ll spare you the details of how intermolecular forces prevent water molecules from penetrating a porous membrane, or how polyurethane can be…Read More

21. High Drop Vs Zero Drop Shoes

Zero-drop shoe models are all the rage, but are they right for you? Our writer goes into the weeds on models of zero-drop shoes, what it actually means, and if you should swap out your traditional trail runners and give this style a try.

High Drop or Zero Drop? How to Choose Shoes that Work for YouAt a time when trail runners have supplanted stiff hiking boots, when zero-drop shoes have become the go-to footwear of long-distance hikers, how do you decide what’s best for your feet on your daily trail runs to a trek of…Read More

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