Travel Tips

Camping Gear Guide

Camping Gear 101

Camping, specifically backpacking, can seem overwhelming to an individual who is just starting out. There is a ton of gear on the market and that much information can be too much to handle. We often get asked what items we have and what would we recommend. So here is a guide to what we have!

Let’s start with the most essential item first. The tent.

Camping Gear Guide

North Face tent

Camp Tent

Our tent has braved Southern Africa and most of Michigan

Camping Gear Guide

Gear loft

We have a North Face Rock 2 tent. This specific model is no longer available, but North Face does have similar updated tents. This is a two person tent that fits us snug. There are two mesh doors on either side that allows access from both sides There are 4 pockets inside and a gear loft (pictured above). Though we did not know what we initially would use the loft for, it is perfect for lighting the entire tent! A rain fly comes with the tent which creates two decent size vestibules on either side that are large enough to tuck our bags under. Along with the tent, we have a tent footprint. This saves the bottom of the tent against tears and dampness.

Next: Sleeping bags

Camping Gear Guide

Double sleeping bag

Our most used sleeping bag is our North Face two person bag. This eliminates the need to carry two bags when traveling and it is a bonus that we can cuddle 🙂 This sleeping bag unzips from both sides all the way down leaving only a 6 inch connection at the bottom. This helps with heat control if the temperature grade is too much along with body heat.

Camping Gear Guide

Our mummy sleeping bags

We also have individual mummy style bags from North Face as well. We needed these on the Inca Trail because of the cold temperatures at elevation and their compact size. Both fit into our backpacking bags with ease.

Camping Gear Guide

Backpacking sleeping bag

This is Maxwell’s backpacking specific sleeping bag. It is an ultralight but does not have as high of a temperature rating.

Camping Gear Guide

The double sleeping bag is the perfect size for us!

For comparison, here is the ultralight bag next to our double sleeping bag.

Next: Sleeping pads

Camping Gear Guide

Sleeping pads

Not every place that you pitch a tent will be soft. We love sleep so it was important to us to be comfortable in the tent. Though the double sleeping bag does provide some cushion, we wanted something extra. These are Nemo Astro Airlite pads and they are a game changer. Essentially they are ultralite and backpacking sized air mattresses. We sleep great on them and they make us confident that no matter what terrain we set up camp, we will be able to sleep. To aid in inflating them, we got a micro sized Neo air pump from Therm-a-Rest. It is comical how small this pump is, but don’t let its size fool you- it gets the job done!

Next: Pillows

Camping Gear Guide

Backpacking pillows

We ended up going with Nemo Fillo self stuff sack pillow. Though it is small even when inflated, it stuffs into a portable size perfect for our needs. It is compatible with our air pump, but because of its size, it is not necessary to use. Similar to the sleeping pads, these pillows make our camping experience much more pleasant.

Next: Packs

Camping Gear Guide


Leeann went with the Terra 40L from North Face. This is a size medium despite being 5’5″ and thin, so make sure you go and get fitted! This was a great pack with a lot of essential features. Highlights include a separate bottom zip for sleeping bags, a hydration bladder mount and straw hole, soft but structured back that allows for breathability, and the size (not too big, not too compact)

Maxwell went with the Osprey Exos 46 pack, which is considered an Ultralight backpack. It saves on weight by utilizing lighter materials and a suspension style frame. Although the lighter weight is definitely nice at times, the hip belt is not as substantial or comfortable as Leeann’s Terra 40, and it also lacks a separate sleeping bag compartment. The compression system employed by Osprey is great, however, as it uses a zig-zag pattern that really squeezes in what you pack.

Next: Pack covers

Camping Gear Guide

Backpack covers

These are waterproof pack covers also from Osprey. You never know what kind of weather you will run into on a trip so it is best to play it safe! We haul cameras and computers around with us so its important to us to make sure our packs are waterproof. We keep these in our bags packed like the picture above until the weather calls for them!

Next: Water pouch 

Camping Gear Guide

Water Pouch

We went with the Platypus bladder. It was the right size for our packs and was the most cost effective. We have never had an issue with a leak and it is easy to open!

Next: Water filter

Camping Gear Guide

Water filter

This is a Sawyer water filter. It is shown here in line with the water pouch for our pack but it did come with a straw. This allows you to put potentially contaminated water in your pouch but still know it is clean by the time it reaches your mouth. There is a screw bottom and straw that comes with it is effective at using with a water bottle!

Next: Lighting

Camping Gear Guide

Headlamps and flashlights

Though headlamps look dorky when you initially wear them- they are useful. We both have Black Diamond Spot lamps and they are great! The battery lasts a long time, there are various settings on brightness levels, and the strap is adjustable/comfortable. We also have small Eddie Bauer torches that become a flashlight if the torch is pushed in (purple above) or the torch opens up (blue above). In addition to walking around campsites with them, these are the torches picture in our tent gear loft above. They light up the tent and we have yet to run out of battery!

Next: Dopp Kit

Camping Gear Guide

Dopp Kit

This is our traveling toiletry bag (dopp kit) by The North Face. Though this version is no longer available, they have some other great options. We keep all of our travel size items in here so when we pack we can grab this and go! The strap hooks on to itself which allows for this to hang rather than needing to be laid out on a counter- keeps it nice and clean!

Camping Gear Guide

Camping bag- regular duffle

We are still missing some things that we want, but this list can get us through some good camping trips! Also understand that most of these items were purchased at a severely discounted rate. Most of this gear costs a pretty penny which is why we put this list in order of necessity.

We hope this camping gear guide helps with your future camping purchases! Read  our post on  camping meal preparation and our outdoor accessories!


-Leeann & Max



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