Whether you’re brand new to backpacking or a longtime experienced hiker, one thing remains true: everyone is constantly tweaking their gear setup. It’s just inevitable. We are all searching for upgrades, efficiencies, and improvements. And there is new gear coming out all the time.
This post was sponsored by REI
Just like hiking itself, the path to the perfect gear setup is about the journey, not the final destination.
One area we have a lot of experience in is our backpacking kitchen setup. We are constantly modifying our setup. Some items we have abandoned entirely, some we cycle in and out depending on the trip, and some are permanent must-haves. Nevertheless, our gear list is very fluid.
This is why we would encourage anyone buying backpacking gear to consider purchasing from REI. There are a whole host of great reasons to become an REI member, but the major one is their generous no-hassle 365-day return policy. If a piece of gear is just not working out for you, you can return it. Even after doing a ton of research on a product, sometimes there’s no way of knowing if it’s right for you until you try it. We have used this benefit many many times. And it’s the main reason why we buy nearly all our backpacking gear at REI.
So what exactly is in our current backpacking kitchen setup? We’re so glad you asked…
We store our entire backpacking kitchen (as well as all of our food) in a BearVault BV500 Food Container. These bear-proof food canisters – also known as bear barrels – are required in most of the places we hike. Anything that smells like food goes in the bear barrel at the end of the night and placed 100 feet away from our camp. So any nosey bear looking for a snack will go over there and not to our tent!
There are lots of different types of bear barrels, but we like the BearVault best because it’s made of clear plastic. This allows us to easily spot exactly what we’re looking for.
On our backpacking trips, we usually cook a mix of DIY cook-in-pot meals and boil-in-bag meals. So we needed a cook-system with great simmer control while also being able to bring water to a boil fast. The MSR Winderburner Duo does a great job at both.
While on the surface the Windburner Duo does increase our pack weight, it’s enclosed cook surface makes it far more fuel efficient than the Pocket Rocket 2. So hopefully we will not have to carry as much fuel, and our meals should be ready a lot faster.
For many years we had Snow Peak Titanium Double Walled mugs. They were expensive but worked great – until they accidentally got run through the dishwasher and lost all their insulating properties. It was a tragic event, but not altogether unforeseeable.
Around this time we discovered the GSI Infinity Mug. We had initially dismissed it because it’s just not a sleek looking as the Snow Peaks, but there is a lot to like about it. GSI’s mug is lighter, more durable, and more compact than the Snow Peak mugs. True, they are insulated with a neoprene sleeve, not of a double wall vacuum. But we don’t need to keep our coffee warm for 8 hours when we’re backpacking. 20 minutes is plenty. So we switched over to the GSI Infinity Mugs and have been very happy so far.
These flexible silicone squeeze bottles are the best way to transport oils and sauces into the backcountry. We have used other – cheaper – resealable bottles before and after suffering through a disastrous sesame oil leak on one trip, we ponied up and got these GoToobs.
They have a great double locking feature that ensures when they’re closed, they stay closed – very important to us! They also come in a lot of different sizes, so you can pick the right size for your particular purpose. We also use them to carry shampoo and conditioner while traveling.
Sporks are a perfect example of how combining two perfectly good things (a fork and a spoon) can produce one perfectly crappy thing (a spoon with tines on it!). Best to keep these two utensils separate. Which is why we like the humangear “spork”. It keeps the fork on one side and the spoon on the other. Perfect.
And don’t even get us started on sporks with serrated edges on them. “Knife” isn’t even a part of the name. You’re creating a monster!
Speaking of knives, we carry an Opinel #8 stainless steel knife with us on most of our backpacking trips. Is it as versatile as a multi-tool? No, but we find that generally, the only part of the multi-tool we used was the knife, and at 1.5oz, this Opinel is certainly lighter than a multitool. And while it’s not the absolute lightest knife, we feel much more comfortable cutting off a piece of hard cheese with an Opinel than we would with a folding skeleton blade or some glorified box razor. Invest in good cutlery, your intact fingers will thank you!
Up until recently, we had been using a SteriPen ultraviolet water filtration unit. It works well if you have a wide-mouth water bottle, but it wasn’t quite as versatile as we would like it. So we’re switching over to a gravity fed system. We have some longer hikes planned in our future and we want a serious water filtration system.
Most people already know that if you’re backpacking in the wilderness, you should be using biodegradable soap. But what’s even more important is to know how to use it properly. Biodegradable soap needs bacteria in the soil to help it break down, which is why it should only be used over 200 feet away from a body of water (never in a body of water!)
Alpine Start Instant Coffee: Coffee is a critical part of our backpacking morning routine, which is why we’re so happy the instant coffee scene has improved significantly in the past couple of years. These instant packets from Alpine start are a great way to get your morning coffee fix, without having to pack out a bunch of wet grounds.
Kuju Coffee Pourover: For the last morning of our hike, we sometimes pack Kuju Coffee Pourovers. It’s a single-use portable pour over, with real coffee grounds. The result tastes just as good as a cup of coffee at home and can be a real morale booster.
Cusa Instant Tea: Afternoon teatime doesn’t always fit into the hiking schedule, but when it does we do appreciate being able to have a mug of hot tea without having to pack out the bag.
Nuun Tablets: Remembering to drink enough water is the easy part (and it’s not even that easy). Replacing all those electrolytes can be the real challenge. These dissolvable tablets from Nuun are a great way to replace all those critical electrolytes while making your bland water taste bubbly and fruity. These have been real lifesavers for us on warm weather hikes.
We run a camp cooking food blog and we still use boil-in-bag meals! Not every meal has to be a gourmet culinary creation – especially when you’re out on the trail. We like to pack a mix of DIY meals and just add water meals. Sometimes you just want to eat, with as little mess as possible. And that’s when you pull out one of these.
We’ve tried a number of meals over the years, and these are some of our favorites: