Sleeping bags
colorful bags with camping equipment
The major bulk inside your pack while backpacking usually comes from three essential items: tent, sleeping bag, and clothes. When it comes to tents, your decision should be simple: Aim for the smallest and lightest you can afford and spend more quality time huddled under a rain tarp during foul weather. For my latest backpacking trip I used Eureka's Spitfire Solo tent, weighing in at only 2 lbs 12 oz. It's all I really needed for the trip. I was backpacking Frontenac Provincial Park in southeastern Ontario's Land-O-Lakes region, and as long as I had a good tarp packed with it, I simply used the tent for a place to sleep. To me that's all a tent really is—a place to sleep. It was the tarp that would be my main hang out if it rained.

For sleeping bags, go for the down filled rather than synthetic when comparison shopping. The down bag is unmatched when it comes to warmth, weight and its ability to be compressed to the size of a miniature football. Just make sure it’s packed in a watertight stuff sack. To reduce the weight of my pack even more while hiking Frontenac I packed along my summer bag, which would work fine as long as the weather didn't turn cold, which definitely happens in late spring or early summer. So I stepped it up a notch and brought along SOL's Escape Bivvy; it's new this year from Tender Corporation/Adventure Medical Kits and was a perfect product to pack if the weather turned for the worse. It's a waterproof, breathable emergency blanket that reflects body heat, and when added with my summer sleeping bag, it was more than enough to keep me cozy.

Knowing the amount and type of clothes to pack is a little more complex. Your choice of garments is totally dependent on the time of season: You can’t help but bring an extra fleece, long-johns and wool tongue during spring and fall outings. In this case, remember to choose clothing with the highest possible performance-to-weight ratio. In warm summer conditions, however, you only need to pack one extra set of cloths. That’s all you’ll really need. Just hope for a hot, sunny day halfway through your trip so you can do laundry. My choice to keep warm is Merino wool like Woolpower. This stuff is amazing at keeping you warm, and oddly enough, keeping your stink down as well. (Merino wool somehow magically repels body odour?)

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