Ask any backpacker, and he'll vow that what he loves most about camping is unspoiled nature, panoramas untouched by the human hand, the glory of the stretching vista. That may be true, but the secret passion of many backpackers is gear: the backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, flies, gators, water purifiers, and stoves that literally make up ones kit. So when you head out on your Great American Trek, don't forego a well-packed bag. Here is our favorite (and necessary) camping gear.
For an activity like backpacking -- as opposed to, say, car camping -- a backpack is supremely important. You'll want your backpack to be expansive yet comfortable and to hang lightly on your back.Black Diamond's Infinity 50 ($199.95) does all those things. With an ergoACTIV suspension system and breathable mesh straps, you can carry all you need in this handsome pack without feeling like an ox.
I remember the days when assembling a tent, often done in the dying light, was fraught with anxiety, broken tent poles, and confusion.The Seedhouse 3 ($269.95) practically erects itself. The three-season tent -- that's spring, summer, and fall -- has just two lightweight aluminum poles which snap together in seconds to support the super lightweight three-person tent. The whole spacious package is up in three minutes. And the whole thing only weighs five and a half pounds.
Paradoxically, camping gear isn't known for being Earth-friendly. HappilyBig Agnes's Tumble Mountain mummy sleeping bag ($289.95) is made from all-recycled material and it still manages to be just about the warmest, lightest, most elegant bag on the market. The full mummy bag -- which increases coziness while decreasing size -- comes with an insert for an inflatable insulated sleeping pad (not included, $74.95) which means you'll avoid the very annoying experience of waking up warm, but with sticks and stones gouging your back. Also, the unique "flow construction" eliminates "down shifting," the annoying tendency of sleeping bags fill to gravitate to the bottom of the bag.
Despite the clich?, campfires are taboo in the Leave No Trace school of camping. They disfigure at best and destroy at worst. But that doesn't mean you have to go completely dark.Apollo ($49.95) is a soup-can size lantern that, no surprise, unfolds to look something like a lunar module but throws 56 lumens of LED light. It weighs under eight ounces and burns for 60 hours. Even better, when you're done, just fold it up and pack it up, leaving the your campsite pristine.