My Backbone Trail Ultralight (ish) Gear List

In early February, I’ll be setting out on my first thru hike attempt. I’m going to be hiking the Backbone Trail (BBT), a long distance trail in California’s Santa Monica Mountains. Since this trail is only about 70 miles from point to point, I’ll be taking 5 days to complete it.

I like to define my hiking style as “As Ultralight As Possible.” Because I’ve dealt with quite a bit of chronic pain over the past three years, it’s important to me that my gear isn’t the reason my body experiences more wear and tear. I recently upgraded my backpacking setup for this trip specifically, getting rid of my heavier items like my old synthetic sleeping bag, bulky sleeping pad, and heavy tent. This is my official gear list as I do my final prep days before trail.

The Pack

I love my pack, and I’ve had it for years. This is the one big item I didn’t replace recently on my quest for ultralight gear. I’ll be using my REI Trail 65, and while it isn’t the lightest pack, it comfortably holds everything I need, and fits me really well. I love how much it can sinch down if I don’t use all the space, and how much space there is if I do end up needing it.

Clothes I’m Packing

I’m actually going to have a super warm week on trail, with highs being in the low 70s and lows in the upper 40s at night. This means that I’ll likely be carrying most of my layers, keeping them for staying warm once the sun goes down more than anything. I’ll be bringing along my Stio sun hoodie, Outdoor Research rain/wind layer, and Outdoor Research down puffy (which I plan to use as a pillow if I don’t need to wear it). I’ll also have an extra pair of socks, my Buff, a beanie, and my hat, along with camp shoes (probably my Tevas).

I voted against bringing rain pants, since it’s calling for sun all week, and I don’t want to add unnecessary weight to my pack.

A quick transparency note: my sun hoodie and buff were gifted to me by the brand, but I would never recommend gear I didn’t totally love! 

Food, Water, and Cooking

I recently put up a whole post about my food on trail, but I’ll still talk about it briefly. I use a Coleman Peak 4 stove and some camping dishes that I’ve had for YEARS. I’ll be carrying all my food with me as well, and plan on bringing one or two extras along, like my favorite mug for coffee or tea in the mornings.

As for water, I’ll be mostly relying on water sources of already potable water along trail, located at campgrounds that I’ll be staying at such as Musch Camp and Malibu Creek Campground. For my last few days on trail, a family member will be meeting me at junctions where the trail crosses roads to deliver water to me. Just in case, though, I will be bringing my Sawyer Squeeze filter, especially since we actually have water in the hills these days!

My Sleep System

I was an inflatable sleep pad person for such a long time, but I’ve found that I like carrying my foam pad more. It’s nothing fancy, it’s lightweight, and it gets the job done, so my trusty Thermarest will be joining me on the BBT! I also like that if this pad does end up getting wet, it dries faster than my inflatable pad does.

My sleeping bag was one of my biggest upgrades I made recently. On the BBT and all future backpacking trips, I’ll be using my UGQ Ultralight 10 Degree Quilt. This quilt is my new obsession and I’m so grateful I found it used (hello, affordable UL gear). It only weighs about a pound and a half and compresses into a dry bag, which means it doesn’t take up much room either.


My tent was my other big upgrade, and I was super excited to find this one when I was doing my research on the best ultralight tent for a person on a budget. I’ll be using The One from Gossamer Gear as my one person tent for the BBT. It only weighs about a pound and a half, and packs down to be smaller than my quilt. This is a trekking pole tent, so I’ll use my REI Trailbreak aluminum trekking poles to support me on trail, and to support my tent at night.

Safety and Navigation

Almost as important as shelter and food, I keep a lot of factors in mind when it comes to safety. For navigation, I’ll be carrying a full map of the BBT. For safety, which is a huge priority for me as a solo female hiker, I’ll carry my Garmin Inreach Mini, bear spray, headlamp and extra batteries, and my Leatherman multitool. I’m also a Wilderness First Responder, so I carry a pretty extensive first aid kit with me.


Aside from the usual toothbrush and toothpaste, I carry a little stuff sack full of any hygiene products I may need on trail. This includes wet wipes, contact lenses, chapstick, Benadryl cream, Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, hairbrush, and my glasses. For going to the bathroom on trail, I carry a Kula Cloth and a poop shovel, but hopefully, for the BBT, I won’t need to dig a cathole almost ever–I’ll be staying at a few designated campsites which will have access to bathrooms.


I won’t be bringing a ton of technology with me on trail. Other than my Garmin, I’ll have my phone, camera, portable charger, and headphones with me. These things are important, and I will be documenting my trip as much as possible, not only for my own memories, but because I will be using this trip as a means of documenting the effects of over tourism in these mountains. I want to use my hike as a way of advocating for responsible recreation, so making sure at least my phone is charged is important to me.

Sadly, the dog isn’t included in my hiking outfit

Clothes I’m Wearing

I absolutely love my hiking clothes. I wear pretty much the same thing for every hike these days. My outfit consists of my REI Sahara Convertible Pants, a quick dry t shirt, my REI Take Your Time bra, wool hiking socks, and my Merrell Moab Speeds. I stopped wearing hiking boots a few months ago, and switching to lightweight trekking shoes has been a game changer for my chronic knee and back pain. I do also plan on starting my days wearing a mid layer jacket, which will likely be my Melanzana Hoodie.

There are still one or two things I’m trying to decide on in terms of packing, but this is pretty much my entire setup for my Backbone Thru Hike attempt this month. I’m pretty much ready to hit the trail.

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Comments 11

  • Jim : Feb 5th

    Are you confident your tent will stand up to real wind?

  • Steffen : Feb 5th

    I bought The One too, then I found out it is the most complained about tent out there (see the AT thru-hiker survey). I haven’t used it yet, but apparently it doesn’t do well in rain. Since you say that won’t be an issue you might be ok.

  • Drsolarmolar : Feb 5th

    Good article. I would liked to have known which Puffy and rain/wind jacket you’re taking. Things like, “I’m taking a puffy and rain jacket” are nice, but when I’m looking at gear lists I’d like to know which specific model(s). Wish you the best on your journey. I think Stio might see a few more sun hoodies sold because of your article.

  • Coach : Feb 5th

    They say “you pack your fears” and I can see where you could shave that packing list down. And you ought to switch to trail runners.

    • CSMiletzki : Feb 7th

      Everyone loves to throw around stupid terms like pack your fears and ultra light weight. It’s about hiking not dialing in your weight to shave off two pounds. Hit the damn gym and strengthen your body. I find all these articles about the best lightest gear and it just sums up hikers now a days. Pansys who are more worried about spending an arm and a leg to carry under 25 pound.

      • Mdmjd : Feb 8th

        A hiker’s biggest muscle should be their brain maybe exercise a little discretion.

  • Jeff : Feb 7th

    It could absolutely rain even if it’s not in the forecast! I’m curious where you’ll be wilderness camping but we’ll keep that on the DL. I’ve been exploring the BBT via day hikes, scouting it out for a possible thru hike. There are long stretches without water, I’m not sure how to do it without dropoffs or stashing some in advance.
    Good luck!

  • Jeff : Feb 7th

    It could absolutely rain even if it’s not in the forecast! I’m curious where you’ll be wilderness camping but we’ll keep that on the DL. I’ve been exploring the BBT via day hikes, scouting it out for a possible thru hike. There are long stretches without water, I’m not sure how to do it without dropoffs or stashing some in advance. There are no bears to worry about 🙂
    Good luck!

  • Craig Barber : Feb 8th

    As a former outdoor educator and guide, through my 40+ years of experience , I too have switched up my gear many times. Sometimes what I thought would be a great piece of kit did not always turn out as I’d hoped.
    What may be the shit for someone else just might be the shits for you.
    From what I can see, it looks like you have put a great deal of thought into your set up.
    Obviously by the end of your adventure you will weed out what worked and what didn’t.
    If trail runners are not right for you, that’s perfectly okay.
    I know that I prefer a light weight hiking boot over low cut shoes, simply because I have had ankle problems and a boot seems to give me more support and leaves me feeling less fatigued at the end of the day.
    My philosophy is this, when it comes to my sleep system, I would rather carry a little extra weight if it means that I will get a better night’s sleep.
    Just between you and me, sometimes I even carry a chair !
    Actually more than sometimes..

    From your photo , you still look young. Me on the other hand, my days of pretending that sleeping on an insolite is actually comfortable are long over.

    I adhere to the philosophy of “Hiking your own hike ”
    After all, what you make it is what you will take out of it.
    Because at the end of the day ,the one person who gives a shit about what you chose to carry is you.
    That’s all that really matters.

    Have a fantastic adventure!

  • dwest : Feb 14th

    It’s interesting what other hikers pack for gear. I’m fairly set on what I’ve been carrying for decades, but every once in a while I’ll see something another hiker is using, try it for myself, and like it enough to switch & ditch (switch to the new thing, ditch the older one I was previously using).

    Gear evolves.

    Over the years I’ve learned to do more with less. Not necessarily the lightest gear, but less of it so there’s automatically a reduction in weight.

    Anyway, thank you for posting your gear list 😃

  • Gossamer : Mar 14th

    Let us know what’s in your first aid kit!


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