This time last year, JR and I had never been on an overnight backpacking trip. Sure, we had been on overnight paddling trips, but that is entirely different as for the most part you can just throw gear in the canoe without worrying about it too much. Our Evergreen Cottager canoe has the capacity of a whopping 1000lbs (!!!), so the only real issue is hauling gear on portages. Having to carry everything you bring on your back is a very different thing.

backpacking for beginners

With only a few backpacking trips under our belts, we are not claiming to have much (if any) expertise. When moving to Canada three years ago I had no idea we would end up hiking up mountains and setting out on 3/4 day trips into the wilderness with only a backpack for supplies. Honestly, I didn’t really know where to start with gear at first; it was all a bit intimidating. If this sounds like you, maybe this is the kick-start you need. I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips as well!

Backpacking gear Tombstone YukonThis is everything we took on 2 x two-day summer hiking trips in Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon

Backpacking gear 2 Tombstone Yukon with letters finish


A: JR’s Arcteryx Alpha SL Hybrid shell jacket

B: Gemma’s Patagonia Torrentshell jacket

C: JR’s MEC Reactor 3.8 Sleeping Pad

D: Gemma’s MEC Reactor 3.8 Sleeping Pad

E: Coleman fleece sleeping bag (as a shared extra cover)

F: Gemma’s Aquila sleeping bag 0c

G: JR’s MEC Mirage sleeping bag -5c (no longer sold)

H: Gemma’s spare clothes (2nd pair of trousers, thermals, fleece, socks etc)

I: JR’s spare clothes

J: Gemma’s backpack, Kelty Impact 30

K: JR’s Marmot DriClimb Windshirt

L: Gas lighter

M: Bear Resistant food barrel (provided by Tombstone Interpretative Centre) containing three and a half days of food, toiletries, Pinnacle Dualist cooksetSnowPeak GigaPower stove and propane fuel

N: Dry kindling

O: First Aid Kit (also including water purification tablets, emergency survival blankets, repair kit)

P: Off Deep Woods bug spray

Q: Two bear sprays and an airhorn.

R: JR’s Seal Line Boundary Pack 70L Dry Bag

S: Flint lighter, two pocket knives

T: Nalgene 1l water bottle, LifeStraw, 3L hydration pack

U: Hand axe

V: String

W: Toilet paper in ziplock bag

X: Tombstone map in ziplock bag with compass

Y: Black Diamond Icon Headlamp (200 lumens), battery torch, wind-up torch (on plastic bag)

convenient extras

There are a couple of items here that we had purely out of convenience, such as the gas lighter. I’m not sure why we brought an axe, considering Tombstone doesn’t allow fires for anything except emergencies. We also didn’t need three sources of light considering Yukon summer days are around 20 hours long.

going ultralight

We are at the stage where we are around 85% happy and confident with our gear. The next step is to downsize some of our equipment for next season. We really want to travel as light as we can, though still with a few comforts such as a proper tent rather than a tarp tent.

You may have noticed that JR’s backpack is not really the right kind for hiking. We have two 30L backpacks but all of our current overnight backpacking gear does not fit in these so we’ve been making do with one of our canoe trip packs. The most important downsizing we need to do is upgrade our sleeping mats to something around half the size. We will then buy a 40-50L backpack for JR to use.

Eureka Spitfire Tent TombstoneOur tent is the Eureka Spitfire 2

How much gear do you carry on backpacking trips? Are you trying to downsize too?


One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in New Brunswick, Canada. Gemma is happiest with a kayak/canoe paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.


  1. I’m impressed at how small your pile of gear is already! I’m also working on downsizing for the upcoming season – our tent is huge so I will probably start there. I like to replace/acquire a new piece or two of gear every year so it doesn’t feel overwhelming to go out and buy a lot of stuff.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Definitely great advice just buying a couple of items every year! A tent is a great place to start – gets one big (and important) item off the list early. Any ideas for the variety you may go for? Thanks for your comment Jenny

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