I’ve tried A LOT of backpacking gear over the years. Some of it I love, some of it I don’t love, some of it I use on almost all the backpacking trips I go on and some of it has gone to my backpacking gear graveyard to never be used again.

A lot of the backpacking gear I use today on my trips has changed quite a bit since my very first backpacking trip over 8 years ago.

So what backpacking gear have I kicked to the curb and what backpacking gear still goes with me out on trail?

I’m going to share with you 10 things I don’t bring backpacking anymore and show you what I use instead. I’ll talk about everything from my Pack System to my Shelter System, Sleep System, Water Filtration System, Cooking System, Poop Kit and even the electronics and toiletries I bring (and don’t bring) with me out on trail.

My Pack System

When I first started backpacking, I always carried a pack cover to put over my pack whenever I’d hike in the rain. The problem with pack covers is that they’re kind of cumbersome and don’t cover your whole pack, which can often lead to wet gear inside.

A cheap (and lighter) solution I’ve found to using a pack cover is to instead take a trash compactor bag and use it to line the inside of my pack. Then pack all of my gear inside the trash compactor bag, close it up and then close my pack.

Yes, the outside of my pack can still get wet from the rain, but all of the gear inside my pack stays nice and dry.

Just recently, I started using a lightweight umbrella like the Gossamer Gear Lightrek hiking umbrella with a handsfree clamp. This clamp attaches to my pack strap so that I can keep my hands free to use my trekking poles while my umbrella is open.

I know using an umbrella for hiking might sound a little strange, but I love it! Not only is it light (I mean this thing only weighs 6 ounces), but it helps keep the outside of my pack dry in a downpour and it can create much needed shade whenever I’m hiking in hot, exposed, desert environments on those really warm and sunny days.

These days, I say no to using a pack cover in the rain and say yes to using a trash compactor bag and a lightweight hiking umbrella instead.

Shelter System

Up until recently, I’ve always used a freestanding tent. What makes the structure of a freestanding tent are the collapsible tent poles. Freestanding tents are usually easy to set up and you can basically set them up anywhere and on anything. And since freestanding tents have multiple components like tent poles, a tent fly, the body of the tent, stakes and I always liked to use a footprint with my tent, the weight of a freestanding tent can add up pretty fast.

The freestanding tent I used for years was the Big Agnes Copper Spur 1-person. While this tent was pretty easy to set up anywhere I camped, it did weigh up to 2 lbs, 10 ounces and I kept having problems with the tent poles snapping on me while out on trail last year.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to finally try an ultralight trekking pole tent. I’ll be honest. The reason why I waited so long to try a trekking pole tent was because I was nervous about how to set it up and worried that my options would be limited in where I could set it up.

I’ve been using Gossamer Gear’s The One ultralight trekking pole tent and I love it. I first brought this tent out with me on my recent backpacking trip through the Superstition Mountains in Arizona back in February and on my recent backpacking trip along the Tran Catalina Trail in Southern California and it was great.

The main structure of this tent are my trekking poles, which I always have with me for all of my backpacking trips. This tent is super easy to set up, pretty spacious inside and only weighs 22 ounces, which is a little more than a pound lighter than my old freestanding tent. Plus, since my trekking pole tent doesn’t require tent poles for setup, there’s less components to pack, which creates more space inside my pack, making it easier to pack all of my other gear.

So these days, I say no to a freestanding tent and yes to using an ultralight trekking pole tent like Gossamer Gear’s The One Tent.

Sleep System

Since I first started backpacking over 8 years ago, my whole entire Sleep System has changed. I used to use an ultralight inflatable sleeping pad along with a sleeping bag, but I ended up having some really cold nights out on trail. I found out the hard way that I’m a cold sleeper, which means I need a warm Sleep System in order to sleep comfortably outside.

Starting with the sleeping bag. At first, I used a mummy sleeping bag, but as someone who is a side sleeper and turns a lot in my sleep, I found the mummy sleeping bag to be way to constricting for me. I kept hearing other backpackers talk about using quilts, so I took the leap and ordered an Enlightened Equipment Custom Enigma 10-degree quilt.

Here are the specs of my quilt:

  • Down Type is 950
  • Temperature rating is 10 degrees F
  • Regular length because I’m 5’7”
  • Wide since I’m a side sleeper and turn in my sleep
  • Added a draft collar so I can cinch close the quilt near my head on the really cold nights to help keep all the heat in
  • Inside and outside fabric is purple (purple is my favorite color)
  • Only weighs 23.85 ounces, which is a whole pound lighter than my original sleeping bag AND it’s WAY warmer!

Another part of my Sleep System that I changed was my inflatable sleeping pad. Originally, I was using a lightweight inflatable sleeping pad with a 4.2 R-value that only weighed 12 ounces. The problem with this sleeping pad was that it wasn’t warm enough for me. Using a sleeping pad with a low R-value or less insulation means that the heat your body creates will more likely get sucked away by the cold ground you’re sleeping on. I also kept having a problem with this sleeping pad deflating on me multiple times, even when switching out the pad for a new one at REI. Not great.

So I upgraded my inflatable sleeping pad to the ThermaRest NeoAir Xtherm NXT, which only weighs 4 more ounces than my original sleeping pad, BUT the R-value on this thing is 7.3. MUCH more insulation than the original sleeping pad I was using.

Now, with my Enlightened Equipment quilt along with my NeoAir Xtherm NXT inflatable sleeping pad and using a Sleeping Bag Liner, I sleep warm and comfortably on all of the nights I spent out in the backcountry.

Getting a good night’s sleep is a high priority for me whenever I’m out on trail because if I can’t get a good night’s sleep, I can’t hike and if I can’t hike, well then why am I out on trail in the first place?

Also, something else I just recently switched out from my Sleep System is HOW I inflate my sleeping pad. I used to manually inflate my sleeping pad with my breath. There were a couple of issues with doing that. First, with using your own breath to manually inflate your sleeping pad, you’re introducing moisture and bacteria to the inside of your pad, which can cause molding. Second, the moisture from your breath can freeze inside the mattress on really cold nights. Plus, it’s really exhausting to have to manually inflate a sleeping pad at the end of a long day of backpacking. I’d often find myself getting lightheaded when blowing up my pad.

Then I started using the Pump Sack that came with my sleeping pad. Not only did it take up extra weight and space inside my pack, but it could often be kind of cumbersome to use.

Just recently, I started using the FlexTail Zero Pump and I kind of love it. First of all, it’s small and light. I can fit this easily inside the bag with my sleeping pad. FlexTail claims that this only weighs 1.2 ounces, but with the rechargeable battery inside, the whole device weighs 2 ounces, which is still super light. It comes with multiple adapters that can fit over a variety of different nozzle sizes. There’s a charging port on the battery, which makes recharging super easy. And the best part? It inflates and deflates my sleeping pad in about 40 seconds. WAY better than having to manually blow up my sleeping pad at the end of the day when I’m tired.

If you’re interested in checking out the FlexTail Zero Pump for your next backpacking trip, CLICK HERE and use promo code “HungryHiker15” to get 15% off your order.

Water Filtration System

I used to use a 3-liter Water Hydration Reservoir to carry all of my drinking water. Using a reservoir made it really easy for me to drink water while hiking, but it was pretty heavy. Whenever it was full of water, it would fit into my pack awkwardly and more often than not, this thing would leak inside my pack causing the gear inside to get wet. Not great.

My biggest problem with using a Water Hydration Reservoir is that I could never see exactly how much water I had. It was a constant guessing game that I lost many times and trust me, running out of water, especially on a hot day when you’re five miles from the next water source is not fun. True Story!

A couple of years ago, I decided to ditch the Water Hydration Reservoir and start using Smart water bottles along with a collapsible bottle to carry my drinking water out on trail.

This is how my current Water Filtration System works. First, I fill my 2-liter CNOC Vecto bag with dirty water. Then I use a Sawyer Squeeze water filter to filter water into a 1-liter SMART water bottle.

When I’m out hiking, I like to keep at least two liters of water on me at all times – 1 liter in a SMART water bottle, which is kept in one of the exterior side pockets of my pack and then another liter of water in a collapsible CNOC water bottle, which I keep here on the shoulder strap of my pack in this water bottle strap. This way, I ALWAYS have easy access to drinking water when I’m hiking, and I ALWAYS have a visual of how much drinking water I have left. Then I know I always have a backup liter of clean water back in my pack to hold me over until I reach the next water source.

I’ve found this upgrade in my Water Filtration System to be not only much lighter than using a Water Hydration Reservoir, but my drinking water is still always easily accessible, I don’t have to worry about water leaking on my gear inside my pack and I’m less likely to run out of water because I can easily see how much water I have left at all times without having to take my pack off.

Cooking System

One small change I made early on with my Cooking System is the eating utensil I use. When I first started backpacking, I used a collapsible spoon because it was light and took up very little space. The problem I was finding with using a collapsible spoon it that it would collapse on me while trying to scrape my food out of the bags I used to reheat my food in. This meant always getting food all over my dirty fingers and it was much harder to reach the bottom of the food bag. Super annoying.

An easy solution to this problem was to ditch the collapsible spoon and upgrade to a long-handled spoon like this Sea to Summit Alpha Light Long Handled Spoon. No more food covered dirty fingers!

Now some people might prefer using a spork over a spoon and its totally personal preference. I personally like using a spoon for eating my backpacking food, but the most important thing is that it has a long handle.

Trail Hygiene

There is a right and wrong way to poop and pee out in the woods. First, if you’re pooping, you’ll want to dig a cathole 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source, trail and campsite. Once you’re done, make sure you completely cover and disguise your cathole.

When you’re peeing, you don’t need to dig a cathole, but you should pick a private place to pee that is at least 200 feet from any water source, trail and campsite.

One of the 7 Leave No Trace Principles is to Dispose of Waste Properly. This means, whatever you Pack In, you must Pack Out. This includes toilet paper, wet wipes and hygiene products. In some areas it can take up to three years for toilet paper to decompose and some of these items like wet wipes and hygiene products NEVER decompose. Plus, sometimes it doesn’t matter how deep you dig your cathole, animals can be prone to digging up your cathole and getting access to your dirty toilet paper.

Be a good steward to the land and pack out all of these items inside your trash and dispose of them properly once you get off trail.

One thing I don’t bring backpacking anymore is toilet paper. Instead, when I go Number One, I use a Kula Cloth, which is a reusable, antimicrobial, quick drying pee cloth and is a “Leave No Trace” toilet paper option for peeing. They weigh next to nothing, can snap to your backpack for easy access, have a double snap for privacy and cleanliness when out on trail and they come in a wide variety of fun colors and graphics.

When I need to go Number Two, I use Portawipes, which are compressed towelettes that expand and are ready for use just by adding a tablespoon of water. What I love about using Portawipes out on trail is that they’re super light and are much more packable than carrying toilet paper. They come in a refillable waterproof carrying case that fits right inside my poop kit. They’re hypoallergenic, preservative free, fragrance free and odor free, which make them great for sensitive skin types. They’re also way more durable than toilet paper, which means less to use out on trail and less to pack out. Just like with toilet paper, used Portawipes should be packed out inside of your trash instead of buried.


And for Toiletries, this of course is personal preference, but these days for any backpacking trip I go on, I only pack with me sunscreen, a travel toothbrush, toothpaste and a travel hairbrush with a mirror. I don’t pack deodorant because one, it takes up space in my pack and two, when I’m backpacking, I’m going to get dirty no matter what and no amount of deodorant is going to prevent that. So I save the weight and leave the deodorant at home.

Same thing with biodegradable soap. I don’t use soap out on trail. The problem with using soap, even if it’s biodegradable is that it’s not safe to use directly in water sources. It affects the chemistry of the water source, which can have a negative impact on fish and other living organisms in the water.

Instead, I carry hand sanitizer inside my poop kit and always use this far away from any water source. And at the end of the day while I’m at camp, I’ll use some of the leftover boiling water from cooking my backpacking meal to expand a Portawipe and use it wipe down my face, hands and body to remove all of the dirt and sweat from the day.

If you haven’t tried a warm Portawipe bath at camp yet, give this a try on your next backpacking trip. Next to eating a warm meal at camp, giving myself a warm Portawipe bath at camp is one of my most favorite parts of the day when I’m out on trail.


Two things I no longer bring backpacking anymore are my PLB or Personal Locator Beacon and a battery-operated headlamp.

Starting with my PLB.  A Personal Locator Beacon is a portable, battery powered radio transmitter that can be used to locate a hiker in distress and in need of an immediate rescue. Once activated, a PLB will send your exact location to nearby emergency services where they can then send help as soon as possible.

The problem with a PLB is that if you’re out of cell or WiFi service, you don’t have a way to communicate with emergency services about the nature of your emergency. Your GPS coordinates to your current location are sent out, but then you have to wait and hope that emergency services will send help and come find you out on trail.

Now instead of using a PLB, I bring with me on all of my backpacking trips a Garmin inReach Mini 2, which is a satellite messenger with two-way messaging. This piece of gear not only gives me peace of mind but also gives my friends and family at home peace of mind whenever I’m out on trail by myself.

I can reach out to friends and family while I’m out on trail without cell or WiFi service to let them know if I’m running behind so that they don’t worry and call Search and Rescue on me. I can also reach out to friends and family if I’m feeling lonely while I’m out on trail and need to talk to someone.

If you’re on a group trip and multiple people in your group have a satellite messenger, you have the ability to communicate with one another if you get separated. No more second-guessing which way they went or having to leave messages on trail using sticks and rocks.

And if I ever had to press the SOS button in an emergency, with a Garmin inReach Mini 2, I have the option for two-way messaging with first responders so I can let them know the state of my emergency and they can send me the help I need to my exact location.

The final thing I don’t bring backpacking with me anymore is a battery-operated headlamp. Instead, I now use a rechargeable headlamp like the Nitecore NU25.

I like not having to carry extra batteries, it’s easy to recharge and its super lightweight, weighing in at only an ounce. It’s pretty bright, not only providing 360 lumen, but also has white and red light options. I’ve found some headlamps don’t have a red light options, which can be really annoying. Red light is way more friendly to use when you’re at camp. It’s less intrusive and can help improve your vision at night.

If you’re in the process of getting ready for an overnight backpacking trip and need help with figuring out what to pack, check out The Hungry Hiker Backpacking Gear Packing List. You can use this checklist to help you get organized and figure out what gear to pack you’re your next trip. CLICK HERE to download your FREE packing list.

Also, if you’re curious about all of the backpacking gear I’m currently using and bringing with me for all of my backpacking trips, CLICK HERE to check out my 2024 Overnight Backpacking Gear List.

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