Motion Episodes

Backpacking Gear Guide 101

Tags: Motion
Complete Episode: Backpacking Gear Guide 101
Motion's Greg Aiello shows you how to select backpacking gear which can be intimidating to those new to the sport. He also shares some tips on what systems and gear he personally likes.
Depending on the length of your journey, the region and its distance, there will be many different ways you'll want to pack up your gear. But once you have things mapped out and a plan is in order, you'll come to your first decision - how to choose a backpack.


You have a lot of choices ranging from as low as $75 to over $500. The pack Greg recommends most for first time backpackers is the Osprey Aether 60. But whatever pack you choose, load it up and get a feel for it in the store before you make the investment. Take the time to make sure it's comfortable and the right fit for you.


As far as food, everyone will have their own personal tastes, but Greg says he can get by with ramen, protein bars, oatmeal, string cheese and crackers.


The first thing Greg does is condense the larger items into zip lock bags, which double as trash bags at camp. To avoid the bags exploding like a bag of chips at altitude, don't forget to squeeze all the air out before you seal them up.


Greg loads it all up in a bear can, which, in bear country, will keep you and your food safe from roaming ramen thieves.


With sleeping bags, you have a choice between synthetic filled and bags filled with down feathers. A down bag is a little pricier, but lighter and compressible, while synthetic costs less, but weighs more.


Greg stores his bag in a waterproof compression sack, along with his down jacket, which he drops in the bottom of my pack, making a nice foundation to store the remaining items.


Any heavy item should go against your back in the mid to upper region to make carrying them the easiest.


Next, he loads in his first aid kit, toiletries and those other mid-weight items, with the bear can right on top for easy accessibility. You really want to scrutinize everything that goes into your pack. If you don't absolutely need it, leave it at home. Because, after hours on the trail, that extra weight can really be a burden on the entire backpacking experience.


The small items that you need quick access to should be stored in the pack's convenient side pockets and waist belt.


In the backpack's lid, Greg places his bathroom kit for easy access, a headlamp and a pack cover in case you get caught in the rain and need quick shelter. Smaller items that you need to grab quick are perfect for the lid.


The very last thing Greg does is strap on some foam sleeping pads and a reflective space blanket to act as the floor to my tent. The blanket can also provide added protection if necessary.


Before Greg tests out his equpiment, he talks about one extremely important piece of gear: what goes on your feet.


Greg used to hike in bulky leather boots, but no more. Now, he sticks to lighter approach shoes. His favorite are Five Ten's approach shoes, which cost about $120. Find what shoes are comfortable for you and stick to it. Lots of practice before you hit the trail will let you know if your shoes are working for you.


This is the time to make sure you have your sunglasses and apply your sunscreen and bug spray. If you forget any of these, your trip can become very uncomfortable, very quickly. With that fully loaded backpack, use both hands and your knee as leverage to sling the pack up and over your shoulder.


Before you leave, make sure that your car is properly cleaned up. Any candy wrappers or food could create trouble with bears while you are gone.


There is a bit of a learning curve to trekking poles, but if you spend some time practicing with them beforehand, they can really help you on the trail, crossing water and save your knees on downhill hiking. Greg also uses them for his main shelter support, to hang bear food, and as a potential crutch if someone gets hurt. In addition, they save energy by allowing you to brace yourself quickly and easily if you begin to trip.


A good map and compass, along with a bit of know-how, enables you to navigate rough terrain, and find your way back if you ever get lost. It's not an exaggeration to say these could save your life.


When you go on any trip, you want to know where those reliable water sources are so you don't have to carry any more water than you need. A cermaic filter works with a simple pump action that turns any water source into clean, refreshing hydration.


It helps to find the cleanest source you can. There's no sense trying to filter mud when there's a creek close by. Your map and compass can help with that.


There are many options for water filtration -- from chlorine tablets, to gravity filters, uv light purifiers and even the life straw. Knowing where reliable water sources are before you set out is one of the most important aspects to backpacking. It's close to impossible to pack the amount of water you need to stay safely hydrated from the trailhead. Filtering your water along the way and once you arrive at camp is how you do it.


After you fill your water bag or bottle, take a long drink and then refill it again before you take it with you. It's important to stay as hydrated as you can.


When Greg's out hiking, he likes to wear a sun hoodie. Although it looks warm because it's long-sleeved, it's actually made of a very breathable mesh that protects you from the sun.


But once you're out in nature, sooner or later one thing is for sure: nature will call.


To start, you want to choose a location. Go at least 200 feet away from any potential water source to avoid contamination.


Your toilet kit should include toilet paper, a small paper bag, hand sanitizer, and a trowel for digging yourself a nice sized hole. Make the hole at least as deep as the blade of your trowel.


Once you've done the deed, put your used toilet paper inside the paper bag. Put that inside one of your trusty ziplocks to throw away at the end of your trip. Fill the hole back in and cover it up.


Next, Greg shares how to set up camp. When choosing a site, pick a durable surface like dirt or rock.The first thing to do is spread out your space blanket or a tarp. This is where you'll set up your tent, but it also gives you a spot to change clothes and unpack without getting too dirty.


At this point, Greg takes everything out of his pack. The first thing he does is change his dirty, sweaty socks into my thicker mountaineering socks and put on a fresh beanie so his head stays warm as the temperature begins to drop.


He puts his hiking pants over the base layer bottoms and adds a middle layer top which will keep him comfortable until it gets cold enough for the down jacket. The key is to have a lot of light-weight layering options, so you're ready for whatever weather comes your way. That means also bringing along a rain jacket and a waterproof shell for your pants.


Once changed, dry, nice and comfortable, it's time to set up camp.


Greg pitches a tent with the bare essentials, which may not be the easy way to go on your first outing. He uses a tent that can double as a rain poncho or shelter.


Lastly, he breaks out his inflatable sleeping pad and decompresses his sleeping bag.


There are a growing number of options out there in all shapes and sizes. Hammocks are becoming more popular, and there are free-standing tents that can be set up almost anywhere.


Backpacking doesn't have to be a grueling odyssey into the wild. Short, 2 or 3 day trips are what most people like to do and have the time for. After you've set up camp, you may get hungry. Cooking in the woods can be a challenge, but Greg shares his tips for making a great meal.


When you are making a campfire, build yourself a small ring of river rocks and create a little lean-to of branches that will allow air to circulate. Greg brings along some fire starter pucks and waterproof matches, which makes lighting a fire as easy as it gets.


Once your fire gets going, it's time to cook.


There are dozens of different camp stoves out there -- ranging from as low as $40 to over $200. The one Greg uses is a small MSR pocket rocket, which he swears by.


While the noodles cook, it's a good time to wash up. Out here, you really want to keep your hands clean. Bring along some hand sanitizer and all-natural soap, so it's easy to wash your hands and your food utensils. One thing to remember about soap: never wash up at the water source. Use a container to move the water somewhere else and wash up away from the creek.


Before the sun goes down, it's a good time to find your headlamp so you don't get caught in the dark without it and do a final check of our gear before we call it a night.


Before you go to bed, make sure you have a little bit of water near you. Greg hangs his headlamp over his sleeping bag so he can turn it on in the middle of the night if he needs it. There are a lot of pillow options available to lay your head, but Greg likes to save weight by creating a makeshift pillow with clothes stuffed in his compression sack.


We've covered a lot of ground today. We chose a pack and a sleeping bag for your backpacking trip. We went over the kinds of food to bring, how to pack it, and how to cook it. We talked about the importance of your shoes, different types of clothing and supplies. We learned about water filtration systems, and even how to poop in the woods. Finally, we set up our tent and -- after all that -- got a good night's sleep.


More tips on choosing the right backpack:<


More tips on finding the right sleeping bag:


Information on down vs. synthetic bags:


Imformation on the importance of proper hiking boots:


More on sleeping pads:


Understanding R value as pertains to sleeping pads for backpacking:


Backpacker Magazine gear guide:


More information on Leave No Trace:


Greg's favorites Gear:




Sleeping bags:






Sleeping pad:


Food storage:




Sun Hoody:


Eye wear:
Segment 1
Choosing the Right Backpack and How to Properly Load a Backpack
Choosing the Right Backpack and How to Properly Load a Backpack
Choosing the right pack is one of the first things you'll need to do if you're new to backpacking. With so many options out there many people don't know where to begin. Greg shares some of his thoughts on different packs and then shows you how to properly load your gear before hitting the trail.
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Segment 2
How to Test Out Backpacking Equipment
How to Test Out Backpacking Equipment
After the pack is properly loaded Greg shows you how to get out and test your gear to scrutinize what works and what doesn't. To do this, it's often best to choose an easy and less remote hike until you know that everything is to your satisfaction.
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Segment 3
When Nature Calls During Backpacking
When Nature Calls During Backpacking
Answering that call of nature isn't something that most people really want to talk about. However, when you're in the backcountry it is very important that you know the proper way to do just that. Greg shows you what you'll need and how to choose a good location for minimum impact.
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Segment 4
How to Cook a Simple, Delicious Meal while Backpacking
How to Cook a Simple, Delicious Meal while Backpacking
Greg shares more of his knowledge on camp craft and cooks up a very simple but delicious meal.
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Segment 5
How to Lay Out Your Gear For Packing
How to Lay Out Your Gear For Packing
Greg explains how to layout all the gear you intend to take with you on your backpacking adventure to get ready to pack.
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Segment 6
Preparing Food for Backpacking
Preparing Food for Backpacking
Greg shares his favorite meal to eat while backpacking - ramen - and how he makes it extra delicious. Plus, he shows how to pack meals so they won't take up too much space.
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Segment 7
How to Use A Foam Sleeping Pad
How to Use A Foam Sleeping Pad
Although Greg packs an inflatable sleeping pad, he still takes a foam pad to use on his backpacking trips.
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Segment 8
Best Footwear for Wet Hikes
Best Footwear for Wet Hikes
If you're taking a hike through a wet area like a rainforest or a beach, Greg shares the best footwear to keep your feet as dry as possible.
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Segment 9
How to Protect Your Eyes While Backpacking
How to Protect Your Eyes While Backpacking
Sunglasses are an essential piece of backpacking gear, but Greg shares what to do if you lose your sunglasses on a hike.
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Segment 10
How to Stretch Before Backpacking
How to Stretch Before Backpacking
Greg demonstrates how to get your body ready for the trail by stretching and warming up.
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Segment 11
How to Use Trekking Poles to Cross a Stream or a Creek
How to Use Trekking Poles to Cross a Stream or a Creek
Greg explains how to use trekking poles while backpacking. They're a very useful piece of gear to have when trying to cross water safely.
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Segment 12
How to Find Clean Water to Drink While Backpacking
How to Find Clean Water to Drink While Backpacking
If you can't find a source of water you're confident in drinking, Greg recommends a piece of gear that allows you to drink right from any water source - a life straw.
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Segment 13
Essential Equipment for Cooking
Essential Equipment for Cooking
Greg shows two pieces of gear that are incredibly useful for eating in the woods - a titanium pot and isobutane fuel can.
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