Trekkers at heart, or backpackers depending on the traveler circles, we have over the years developed a tight list for our weekend (or weeklong) trips to the mountain.

Here is our list for Spring to Fall seasons, as Winter trek requires additional gear.

Some of these gears are on the high side – it took me a while to realize these were worth it – most of the time anyway. I learned to our expenses that “you get what you pay for” and going cheap is a recipe for problems when you are high up on the mountain, cold and wet. Not that cheap is necessarily going to be bad but most of the expensive items tend to have a long lifespan and prices become less over the years. I did a lot of research before I spent money on the Arc’teryx shell but I used it now in winter snowboarding and snowshoeing, as well as under rainy backpacking and windy trips, and I have yet to fell cold. Even used it over several layers in the evening Arctic! Just an example of why we indulged on some expensive items. Other are cheaper items like our tent mat. We also like the REI brand a lot, usually the best compromise between top features and affordable costs. Again, these are our opinions and there is such a wide range of products out there, our list might differ from others.

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  • Tent: After checking different tents, we purchased the REI Half Dome 2 Tent. At around 4 lbs, this 3-season 2-person tent has kept us dry and warm, even under the stormy October weather in Yosemite. Roomy enough for 2 people, we are able to store a few clothes inside when it’s too cold outside. The side flies allow us to keep the backpacks and shoes dry as well.
  • Stove: Since our friends introduced us to Jetboil, there was no turning back. We still have our MSR Dragonfly Backpacking Stove but this all-gas-stove is better used for winter camping when the Jetboil freezes, or for international travel when we don’t know whether we will find Jetboil-compatible gas canisters.
  • Cooking camp:
  • Filter: MSR Hyperflow Water Filter, though we are looking into other lighter options. We are considering the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Water Purifier or the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. I need to do more research to see whether they are better than our current MSR.
  • Mattress: We both use Therm-a-Rest ProLite Sleeping Pads, that packed quite well for the given thickness and comfort.
  • Seat mats: We recycled our first sleeping pad, a very thin Foam Pad,  by cutting it into 2 pieces. We use them as our insulated seats when we eat and as our side floor liners for our backpack and shoes by the tent entrances. That gives us a clean pad to stand over while entering and exiting the tent.
  • Water Hydration Reservoir: I use a larger one as I drink a lot and like the Camelbak Antidote Reservoir 70L. oz. I could use the bigger size but I prefer side pockets bottles like the Nalgene Wide Mouth which use while traveling by plane or bus. Bruno uses this Platypus 2L Reservoir, which has a opened bottom that keeps the bottle standing.
  • Lights: 2 Petzl Tikka XP headlamps

Our Tent


  • Backpack: I love my Gregory Deva 60 Backpack! I used to have a smaller size bag but with more external pockets, which was great for stuffing but not streamlined for trekking.
  • Sleeping bag: I am happy with my REI Kilo Plus -5 F which is no longer sold by REI but similar to this Marmot Lithium Sleeping Bag. Light, warm and compact, it’s a great backpack bag. I do wish it was wider as I like to sleep in fetal position or leg on the side and I can’t do that in the sleeping bag. But that’s a trade-off for a warm and light backpack.
  • Sleeping bag liner: I am a fan of Cocoon Coolmax Mummy Liner. It’s soft and easy to wash. It definitely adds more warmth during fall or winter nights. It is also a great middle layer for spring and summer nights when I don’t zip the sleeping bag because it’s too warm. Plus, it’s a nice pocket liner to have for staying in hostels.
  • Shoes:
    • For the trail, I wear the Montrail Torre II GTX Hiking Boots that I used extensively. It fits well my slightly larger than regular feet width without crushing my toes together. I wear custom made insole as my arches tend to give in after a long day hauling the backpack, but I like the Superfeet Green Premium Insoles High volume too.
    • At camp, I like the Teva Terra Fi Lite Sandals. I wear them with socks when the evenings are cold. And these are pretty versatile for water activities.
  • Clothes: All are easy to watch and dry quickly, a must when backpacking to avoid staying wet after the long day or after a rain downpour.
    • For socks, I only swear by SmartWool and wear a combination of liners first to prevent blisters, and thicker hiking socks over them. Coolmax is another type I like a lot, especially for summer socks
    • 2 ExOfficio briefs
    • 1 sports bra
    • 2 REI Sahara Short Sleeves T-Shirts – with spandex for a bit of a stretching material
    • 2 REI Lightweight Long Sleeves T-Shirts, one with neck zipper for the day, and one without for the night (and potential next day backup)
    • 1 ExOfficio Camina Trek’r Long Sleeves Shirt – I wear this shirt when it’s hot and sunny. The long sleeves prevent sunburn and I keep it unbuttoned to let the breeze keep me cool. I tend to prefer Polyester over nylon for outdoor activities, but it’s more a personal taste of the texture rather than a technical choice.
    • 1 REI Northway Convertible Pants. The zipper lays under the knees, transforming this pants in Capri length for hotter days and is an acceptable option in some conservative countries
    • 1 REI Quarter-Zip Fleece Pullover with neck zipper
    • 1 soft skin similar to Mountain Hardware Chockstone Soft Shell Jacket
    • 1 Marmot Jena Down Jacket, packable and light
    • 1 Arc’teryx Theta AR Jacket – Women’s waterproof jacket. Maybe a bit of an overkill but I also use it for snowboarding and winter backcountry activities so it needed to be tough and reliable. So far so good
    • 1 swimsuit & backpacker REI Multitowel Lite Large Towel & wash glove
    • 1 Turtle Fur Neck Warmer
    • Pair of thin Marmot Connect Active Gloves
    • 1 Turtle Fur Polartec 200 Tort Hat
    • 1 Outdoor Research Swift Cap: after several trials, I am happy to have found this cap as this is the only one that fits my small (but good looking and smart) head.
    • 1 scarf, like the prAna Scarf. I use it as a light neck protection when it is too warm for the fleece neck warmer, and over my head when it is really hot for additional sun protection. I even wet it in water for extra dampness when it’s scorching hot. This is one of the rare cotton items I take during backpacking, but it serves the purpose of keeping cool so its property of staying wet is exactly what I am looking for.
    • For the night, which can be worn during the day if extra warm layers are needed
      • 1 T-Shirt for the night, like the day T-Shirt. It allows me to have a clean T-Shirt for the night, and I can rotate if going on a multi-day trek
      • 1 thin Balaclava to wear during the night, to prevent losing heat
      • 1 long thin lycra yoga Capri pant like this Brooks Infini Capri Pants
      • 1 fleece pant like this REI Fleece Pant
    • Bandana / Handkerchief to prevent using Kleenex
  • Accessories: sleeping mask (our tent is rather bright), earplugs
  • Hiking Poles: I just switched my regular poles to the REI Carbon Composite Power Lock Trekking Poles, super light and quite small, which makes them perfect for transportation.

Our Cooking Set



  • iPhone 6
  • Kindle Paperwhite: the backlit screen can be adjusted to the light level and is a great for the bright outdoors or night tent reading
  • pocket camera
  • GoPro HERO4 SILVER great for all our activities, from snowboarding to diving
  • JOBY GorillaPod Original (Black/Charcoal) which comes handy to tie up the GoPro to our hiking poles, or stabilize during the camera for longer exposure and night shots
  • Delorme InReach Satellite Communicator to keep track of our tracks and inform friends and family when we are on the road. We used it a bit in the Sierra but have it to fully try it abroad and on more out-of-the-beaten paths.


  • Emergency kit: whistle, emergency blanket x 2, candle, waterproof matches, rope, lighter, compass, safety pins, Sharpy pen, pocket mirror, toe and hand warmers
  • Camp bathroom: deodorant, toothpaste, and toothbrush, eye drops to remove dust or smooth dry
  • eyes from the sun, lip balm, hand cream, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, TP and GSI Sanitation Trowel.
  • First aid kit, also Mosquito repellent
  • Documents: IDs, $20 cash, Insurance card, US National Park card if relevant, topo map, trail description (also on iPhone)
  • Bear country: Long rope and waterproof light dry bag to hang food, or a bear canister BearVault BV500 if required. Bear canisters can be rented in some National Parks and National Forests but because of the pickup time and drop out, we found it was easier to own ours as it allows for a more flexible itinerary. We do rent a second one when we go for a longer trip and need a 2nd canister. Usually, we need to pick up fire permit so we arrange for the canister at the same time.