Our 2016 Backpacker’s Holiday Gift Guide: $200 and Up
Make no mistake, backpacking is expensive. We’ve published plenty of money-saving posts (before and during your hike), but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and shell out the big bucks for the gear that’s going to last. Which brings us to our third and final holiday gift guide. These are the presents you chip in on with the rest of your friends or family, or (let’s be real) the ones you smash the piggy bank buy for yourself. Happy holidays, me. Anyway, here’s what our experienced, picky backpackers told us were their favorite items for the $200+ category.
Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL Pack – Women’s
The Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 pack was my first official gear purchase after deciding to hike the Appalachian Trail. At the time, I was hiking largely with borrowed or used gear, which necessitated some more pack space. Yet as I’ve replaced my other gear and upgraded to lighter and smaller versions, I stand by my Deuter. The suspension is unbeatable, the padding a godsend, and I utilize every nook, cranny, and zippered pouch. Having hiked in areas that require a bear canister, I’m relieved at the extra space found in my trusty Deuter. Pro-tip: the dedicated sleeping bag pocket will fit a BearVault BV500 like a glove. Nothing makes me happier than having food readily accessible.
– Kate Waite, AT 2013, LT 2014, JMT 2015, ADK 46-R 2016
MSRP: $210-$370 depending on options
You can customize this quilt to your needs by adjusting the amount of fill, choosing the colors, and determining the most suitable temperature rating. I have a 0-degree quilt and am continuously impressed with the insulation. It takes some time for EE to manufacture them, but it’s worth the wait. The Englightened Equipment Revelation Quilt is ridiculously light, compressible, and features DownTek’s hydrophobic down treatment which maintains its loft in wet and humid environments.
– Mary Beth Skylis, AT 2015, Annapurna Circuit 2016
MSRP: $210-255 depending on options
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa is wonderful lightweight pack, extremely comfortable. It has side pockets that fit anything from water bottles to a tent, as well as large mesh front pocket that works great for drying out items while on the move. The hip belt pockets have enough structure to them that you can place a phone or camera in them and feel like they are being protected. I used a trash bag liner to protect my gear from the elements and never had any issues with wet gear. As for weight, I carried about 26-28 pounds on average, but carried as heavy as 34 pounds comfortably. I will be using Gossamer Gear for my 2017 PCT thru-hike!
– Isabelle Eastham, AT 2016
The Osprey Atmos AG 50 is most comfortable pack I’ve ever worn. It’s not the lightest on the market, but its many pockets make it very modular and easy to organize, the suspension feels like a dream, and the trampoline back panel provides superior ventilation. Plus, Osprey’s warranty is incredible. On the AT, I busted a zipper (my fault) and they were very quick to send me a new pack so I could complete the trail in comfort as quickly as possible.
– Connor Adams, AT 2014
The Hennessy Hammock Hyperlight Asym Zip is incredibly lightweight, but still durable, spacious, and comfortable. I didn’t have any issues with the hooks or webbing, which are the parts of a hammock most likely to fail. Transitioning from a tent to a hammock might seem intimidating, but this all-in-one system is a perfect set for beginners.
–Kyle O’Grady, LT 2016
MSRP: $289-309 depending on options
The Marmot Women’s Teton Down Sleeping Bag is a great piece for winter camping and backpacking. It’s a little on the heavier side, but I run cold and am convinced I wouldn’t have survived the Whites without it. It’s made specifically for women’s bodies, with extra down and padding in the booty and feet region. I really loved the “mummy” design, as well as the cinching and pockets by the head. It kept me very warm and cozy, even in freezing temps.
– Maranda Stone, AT 2016
After 5,000 miles and almost a cumulative year of backpacking with my husband, I can honestly say that size does matter. The SMD Lunar Duo is huge for a two-person tent and, because of its single wall design and trekking pole set-up, stays competitive in the ultralight weight department. At only 2.5 pounds, this tent is affordable, incredibly easy to set up, and good for your relationship.
– Maggie Wallace, AT 2013, PCT 2016
We discovered LightHeart Gear at Trail Days after a man camping near us gave us a personal testimonial of how much he loved his tent! (Almost to the point of obsession.) LightHeart Gear is made in the USA and the owner of the company answered the phone when we called. At first, the tent floor was very slippery- almost like a slip-n-slide. We would end up at the bottom of the tent, no matter how flat the campsite. However, this strange slippery property wore off after a few weeks and the tent quickly felt like home. The tent uses trekking poles to set up, which helps keep the weight down to 2 lb 4 oz. It is not self-supported so it requires a spot where you can stake the corners.
– Claudia and Andrew Carberry, AT 2015
The Nemo Equipment Hornet 1p is my third lightweight backpacking tent I have owned, and it is also my favorite. Not only is it surprisingly lightweight, but it is stand-alone and easy to set up. My favorite feature is the side-entrance, making night-time potty breaks (and general getting in and out of the tent) much easier to facilitate.
– Katie Brown, AT Sections, 2012-15, CDT 2016
I used and loved the 2400 version of this pack for the Wonderland Trail this year, but for a longer trek with more distance between water sources / resupplies or if I needed a bear canister, I’d definitely opt for the 3400 Windrider. HMG’s packs are made of 100% waterproof Dyneema, meaning you need not fuss with a pack liner. The pack is light (32 – 33.5 oz.), durable, comfortable, and offers enough features (large mesh pockets, ice axe strap, 1/4” foam back panel pad, etc.) to make this a great pick for thru-hikers.
– Zach Davis, AT 2011, CT 2015-16, WT 2016
Three eighty is a lot to drop on an insulated jacket, so if you’re building your gear list with a limited budget, look elsewhere. If you happen to be thick in the wallet or a Santa Claus crony, then this jacket is for you. Montbell has a reputation for fairly priced, quality products, and the Plasma Alpine Parka is no exception. Utilizing 1000 fill-power (!) goose down, this piece packs a lot of heat- 3.4 ounces fill- for a little weight- 8.4 ounces. A great addition to your shoulder season UL gear list.
– Zach Davis
Disclosure: some of the aforementioned products were donated including those from Montbell, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Gossamer Gear, and Hennessy Hammock. All reviews always reflect our 100% honest opinion.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.