My Favorite Gear for Newbies

Backpacking gear can be daunting, especially for newbies!  When I first started backpacking several years ago it seemed like it was really difficult to discern what gear I wanted to buy and what could wait.  While I had many friends who were backpackers, not all of them were looking to get the same experiences out of a trip that I was.  While some backpackers are able to carry bigger packs and heavier weights, this was definitely not something I could do!  After a few years of trial and error with gear I've narrowed down what works best for me.  As a person who now leads guided backpacking trips for a living, helping people pick out some great essential pieces of gear is something I do on a constant basis.  Here are the five things I've picked as my favorite gear for new backpackers.  

1) Sawyer Mini Water Filter  This water filter is light, small, fast, and easy to use.  You can even use it inline on your Camelbak/Platypus/Osprey hydration pack to make water filtration fail proof!  I love using this filter inline while I'm hiking and I'll set it us as a gravity system for filtration in camp at night.  With filtration being this easy, you have no excuses to not filter water. 

2) JetBoil Flash Stove  While there are lighter stoves on the market, stoves don't get much easier to use than the JetBoil Flash.  This stove has a built in ignitor to make lighting the stove with a lighter/match/flint completely unnecessary.  Add to the fact that the pot has an integrated cosy, tight fighting lid, and a built on cup and you've got a pretty simple system that any newbie will appreciate!  I use this stove when I'm guiding trips due to the speed of the boiling and it's great when you've got hungry hikers to feed. 

3) Black Diamond Storm Headlamp  This headlamp has lots of neat features in a tiny package.  While you can definitely find lighter and cheaper ones out on the market, this one has all the features you've ever needed in a light.  The brightest setting is up to 250 lumens which makes it great for an impromptu night hike.  It also has the all important red light setting on it, which not only helps you keep your night vision but also keeps from waking up the entire shelter when you need to get up in the middle of the night.  My favorite feature of  all is the lock feature - you turn this feature on and your light won't turn on in your pack.  Stopping for lunch and discovering your headlamp has been on all morning is a real bummer - and battery killer!

4) Z Packs Cuben Fiber Stuff Sacks   Cuben fiber is expensive stuff, but great backpacking gear is an investment and take it from me, I wish I would have bought these a LONG time ago.  Cuben fiber is strong and light and practically indestructible stuff.  I currently have their food bag and a medium sized sack for my clothes.  They're great for keeping my stuff waterproofed, especially for those long rainy nights my food is hanging off my bear line.   

5) Thermarest Inflatable Sleeping Pad  I truly believe you'll get a better night's sleep on an inflatable mattress over one of the roll-up or accordion style foam pads.  After a while foam pads will start to break down whereas I've actually given away my old inflatables as hand-me-downs to other backpackers and they're still going strong.  In fact, the company I work for still has old Thermarest pads from the 1990s that we send out with clients today!  While there are many other brands on the market to chose from, I personally use a Thermarest and it's a brand I'd highly recommend to anyone.  

These are just a few of my favorite pieces of gear to recommend to newbie backpackers.  What is something you would add to this list?  What piece of gear was most beneficial to you when you were learning to backpack?

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