Maria’s Updated Gear Guide

I’ve already written one gear guide, but it’s a bit outdated compared to what I currently use, so I decided it’s time for an update! These days I’m a lot more focused on ultralite gear, so my set-up is quite different. I’ll try and share a few options for each key part of my camping set-up, depending on your preference!



My opinion hasn’t changed that much from my last post – I still think Gregory has some of the best value backpacks on the market. They’re lightweight and cheaper than brands like Osprey, while still being super comfortable and well designed. I don’t think you can go wrong with a Gregory pack, especially if you’re a beginner. However, if you’re looking for something ultralite, I swear by Gossamer Gear, which I think are super light without compromising on comfort or utility. A lot of ultralite packs aren’t super comfortable because they either don’t have any internal frame, or only a very small one. Gossamer Gear has a small metal frame providing some structure, but more importantly, they have a removeable sit-light pad that provides more structure to the bag and can also be used as a sit-upon. I hiked 180km with the pack on the Sunshine Coast Trail and it was so comfortable.

Can you use an ultralite pack even if you’re a beginner? You sure can! But make sure you assess your other gear first. Ultralite packs can’t carry as heavy loads as traditional packs. So assess how much your other gear weighs before committing to one. Beginners tend to have heavier packs because it’s expensive to buy a lot of gear at once and you typically have to compromise on quality to afford everything you need or borrow it, plus beginners tend to take a lot of comfort items while they’re learning. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, but consider how heavy your gear realistically is before getting an ultralite pack. In addition, most outdoor stores don’t stock many ultralite options, so they often have to be ordered from the US. There are a lot of benefits to trying your backpack on first to make sure it’s comfortable, especially for beginners, which is why I like to also recommend Gregory packs. If you’re a beginner and starting from scratch, I would probably start with a 60L pack. If you have smaller gear, I personally prefer a 50L pack or smaller (I use the Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50).

If you’re shopping for a day pack, always look for a pack that has waist straps as this will make hiking so much more comfortable. Consider what you’ll be using the pack for, if it’s mostly for summer, a smaller pack may suit you better (though I don’t like anything smaller than 20L because I always take my essentials); but if you plan to use it in the winter, you may want a larger pack to house your cold weather gear, or consider a pack with snowshoe straps or space for avalanche gear.

Note: keep in mind that while the Gossamer Gear backpacks appear similarly priced to Gregory, these are listed in USD and you will have to pay both shipping (~CAD$50) and duties (~CAD$60).

Best Value / Best for Beginners: Gregory Jade 53/63 (women’s); Gregory Amber 55/65 (women’s); Gregory Stout 60 (men’s)

Best Ultralite: Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 (unisex); Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (unisex)

Best Summer Daypack: Gregory Maya 20 (women’s); Gregory Juno 24 (women’s); Gregory Miko 20 (men’s); Gregory Citro 24 (men’s)

Best Winter Daypack: Deuter Freerider 28 (women’s); Deuter Freerider 30 (men’s); Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 (unisex)

Sleeping Bag


In my opinion, if there’s one item you’re going to splurge on, make it your sleeping bag. There’s no compromise for a comfortable night’s sleep and a really warm and lightweight bag will cost you money. Personally I prefer down bags for warmth, but pay close attention to the comfort and survival ratings when choosing your bag. My experience is that cheap bags typically have a larger gap between the comfort and survival rating. The closer the ratings are to one another, the more I generally trust the rating. Women’s bags typically run a bit warmer and fit better (less empty space for cold air to settle), so consider a women’s bag if you’re female.

It’s hard to recommend sleeping bags because everyone is different and where you live will really govern how warm it needs to be. Living in Canada, I would never buy a bag rated less than -5 degrees celsius. When picking a bag, it’s really a balance of weight to warmth to cost. Consider how much money you’re willing to spend and how much weight you’re willing to carry. If you’re a beginner, I recommend a standard mummy zip bag, but if you’ve been backpacking awhile, do yourself a favour and consider buying a quilt.

A quilt compromises on weight by acting more like a blanket that’s strapped to your sleeping pad. They generally have an enclosed footbox, but no back. The bottom of your sleeping bag doesn’t give you very much warmth – the warmth underneath you comes from your sleeping pad, which insulates you from the ground – so by cutting out the back of the bag, you can save on weight and still be able to stay warm. However, this only works with a quality sleeping pad, so don’t compromise one for the other. I bought my first quilt last year that’s rated to -6 degrees celsius and I am obsessed with it! My quilt is from UGQ Outdoors – I love this option because every quilt is custom; and my sleeping bag is from MEC, which I think make quality bags with a decent price tag.

If you’re looking for a winter sleeping bag, there are limited options on the market and they will cost you a lot of money. I have a -30 degree bag for snow camping that I paid a lot of money for, but it’s not my favourite because it’s a unisex bag and it’s too big for me. It does keep me warm, but it’s a bit of work for me to get warm in such a large bag. I have lots of thoughts on winter bags if you ever want to DM me, but I don’t want to recommend a bag I haven’t tested.

3- Season Sleeping Bag: MEC Delphinus -9 (women’s); MEC Draco -9 (men’s)

Quilt: UGQ Bandit -6/-12

Sleeping Pad

It’s so easy to overlook your sleeping pad, but it’s such an important part of your sleep system. You could have the warmest bag in the world, but if you go to sleep on a crappy sleeping pad, you will still be cold. Personally I think Thermarest has the best sleeping pads on the market. They are expensive, but they are so warm and comfortable (some people think they are crinkly and noisy, but it’s never been a problem for me). For backcountry, I swear by the Neoair line because they are both the lightest and smallest on the market. I use the Xlite for 3-season camping (rated R4.5) and I use the Xtherm for snow camping (rated R7). I’ve recommended a few cheaper sleeping pads if you’re on a budget; I don’t find them as comfortable, but there’s nothing wrong with them, just make sure the R-value is 3.5 or higher, especially if you’re in Canada.

If you’re snow camping on a budget, just put a foamy under your 3-season pad for extra insulation. Otherwise, commit to the Xtherm, trust me, it’s the best.

Best 3-season: Thermarest Neoair Xlite (R4.5)

Best 4-season: Thermarest Neoair Xtherm (R7)

Budget 3-season: MEC Reactor (R3.8)



If you’re trying to lighten your pack, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with your tent. A standard 2p tent can weigh 5-6lbs, which you can easily lighten by going with an ultralight or non-freestanding version. If you’re a beginner, I recommend sticking with a freestanding tent, they’re much easier to set up and generally more comfortable. But if you’re a little more experienced and don’t mind dealing with condensation and a more nuanced set-up, you can lighten your pack a lot with a non-freestanding tent (usually doesn’t come with poles and is erected using your trekking poles and tension from the pegs).

For freestanding tents, a lot of people swear by the MSR Hubba Hubba, but I’ve never tried it. Personally, I like Marmot for an easy-to-use lightweight tent. For non-freestanding tents, which are popular among thru-hikers, an important thing to understand is that most of them are single walled, meaning they don’t have a separate fly. They work great in California, but if you live in Canada and hike in the alpine, it means the inside of your tent will generally be filled with a lot of condensation every morning. I use a single walled non-freestanding tent from Gossamer Gear, but I’ve had some growing pains with it because I don’t like dealing with the condensation. The people who prefer them generally learn to deal with it, or else they don’t hike in the Canadian alpine and therefore don’t have to. Fortunately, there is a double walled non-freestanding tent on the market and unsurprisingly, it’s made in Canada! It’s a bit heavier than a single walled, but Carolyn has one and she loves it. So I will begrudgingly link my Gossamer Gear tent, which I love for it’s size and how easy it is to set up, but be prepared to deal with condensation.

Standard 2p Tent: Marmot Tungsten

Lightweight 2p Tent: Marmot Tungsten Ultralight

Non-freestanding (single wall) 2p Tent: Gossamer Gear The Two

Non-freestanding (double wall) 2p Tent: Durston X-Mid



I don’t have as many opinions on stoves and pot sets as I do for the “big 4” described above. But I have learned a few things over the years.

For stoves, I like to use an isobutane stove. The stoves are very straight forward to use and fuel is relatively lightweight and easy to find. You can get away with an isobutane stove for most of the year, but if you’re going to be snow camping, consider getting a white gas stove instead (any of the white gas stoves from MSR). Isobutane can freeze in cold temperatures and a white gas stove is the most reliable option. Another alternative is an alcohol stove, but I don’t personally recommend these. I have 2 isobutane stove recommendations because I think one is better for solo trips (when you have a small pot) and the other is better for when you’re cooking on a full size pot.

Isobutane stove (solo trips): BRS mini

Isobutane stove (2+ people): Primus stove

White gas stove: MSR Whisperlite, Dragonfly, or XGK

For pot sets, I don’t have strong opinions. I have a small pot that I use for solo trips that I absolutely adore and is well priced. I don’t personally see the point in spending a lot of money on a pot set, they’re generally going to get beat up over time, so don’t break the bank on it. The most important thing for me is a well-fitting pot lid. Some people really like the sets that come with dishes, but I just like something that easily fits my stove inside it. For multi pot sets, I prefer to have a lid for each pot rather than a shared lid (but I’ve yet to find a set that comes with 2 lids and no dishes).

Solo pot: GSI Halulite Minimalist

Other Gear

Sit-upon: I’ve been using the MEC Seat Cushion for years and I love it!

Pillow: I used to use my sit-upon as a pillow too, but I recently switched to the MEC Pillow and it’s a lot comfier

MugGSI Infinity Mug 

Microspikes: I think every hiker needs a good paid of microspikes, I use Kahtoola Microspikes 

Communication Device: A satellite device could save your life, I used one in 2021 when my friend had a serious medical emergency and highly recommend the Garmin InReach Mini 


You don’t need a bunch of expensive clothing for hiking. I try to avoid cotton, but you can find pretty much everything you need at Costco, you just need to time your purchases for some of their featured items. They sell nice merino shirts from cloudveil once a year in the Fall and they sell lightweight puffy jackets every winter. They also stock merino wool socks in the winter and have base layer merino year round from paradox (though be aware, this brand is only about 15% merino, but still made with poly and appropriate for the backcountry). Other items I’ve found throughout the years include a lightweight pair of puffy slippers for winter camping and hiking shorts from Eddie Bauer.

The only thing I don’t really trust from Costco is a quality rain jacket, so I decided to spend a bit more money on this item. If you’re looking for a more environmentally sustainable company than Costco, I personally like Patagonia.


4 Simple Backcountry Dinners

This is the last post in my backcountry meal series. I’ve talked about hot dinners to make with a dehydrator, but I recognize not everyone has the time or money for dehydrating. Fortunately, there are lots of options for hot, lightweight meals that you can get directly from your local grocery store. You can also try freeze-dried meals from any outdoor store, but these run up to $15 a serving. My first dehydrator was only $75 (and is still available for ~$100) and worked great for 4 years, so I’ve never been able to justify the cost of freeze-dried meals. But we’re not here to talk about dehydrating today, so here’s some of my favourite cheap and easy meals:


1. Ramen

Ramen is a classic for a reason. There are so many options on the market – personally I stick with the classic 99cent noodles packets, but there are lots of other yummy just-add-water options available at Superstore and Costco, just browse the International aisle and pick your favourite. For protein, I’ll add an egg, pepperoni sticks, dehydrated soy (available at most outdoor stores) or Korean BBQ pork (from Costco).

2. Sidekicks

You could build an entire backpacking menu around Knorr Sidekicks. They’re ~$1.50 a packet from any supermarket and I find them to be the perfect size for backpacking. There are so many pasta and rice options that I alternate back and forth between. The trick is that a lot of them call for milk. You can easily substitute water and not worry about it, but if you still want to capture the creamy taste of a fettucine alfredo, then buy a bag of powdered milk and just bring as much as you need for the meal. That way you still only need to add water, but it’ll be much tastier! Same as above, add egg (or powdered egg), pepperoni, soy, or jerky for protein, plus I will often pick up some dehydrated veggies from Bulk Barn to add to the mix.

3. Thanksgiving in a bowl

This is another recipe that I got from Fresh of the Grid that mostly involves grocery store staples. Instant mashed potatoes, stovetop stuffing, and gravy sauce powder can all be easily purchased, the only challenge is the freeze dried chicken. I’ve never been able to find it anywhere in Canada, so I’d recommend substituting soy or jerky for your protein. Alternatively, you could bring a small can of chicken or spam if you don’t mind carrying it!

4. Soup and Salad

This one will vary depending where you’re from, but if you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market, odds are there’s been someone there selling soup and salad mixes. I’ve seen a ton of different brands and they’re so popular in Vancouver I regularly see them at grocery stores or specialty stores as well. The ideas is that all the dry ingredients and spices are all consolidated and you just need to cook them and maybe add a few other ingredients. Some of them are easier than others and just require water and maybe a few other dry ingredients like craisins or nuts. So just check the back before purchasing to see how adaptable to the backcountry it is. This are naturally more expensive than options 1-3, but at least they go back to the local economy (and are still cheaper than freeze dried). The only thing is they are often meant to serve up to 4 people and require some soaking for the beans, so just plan ahead when you get to camp and immediately start soaking the mix so that it has time to soften before you cook. Here are a few of the companies I’m aware of: SimplyDelish, Mitchell’s Soup Company, Soup Girl.


5 Dehydrated Backcountry Dinners

Continuing the trend from my cold soak post, I want to share some of my favourite hot meals for dinner! I’ve decided to do a 2-part post, focusing first on hot meals I make with my dehydrator, and second on simple meals that you can easily pull together with grocery store ingredients (no dehydration required). I’d say that the at-home dehydrated meals are tastier, but require a lot more effort, so sometimes it’s nice to just run to the store and be good to go. Here’s a few of my favourites:


1. Curry and Rice

Curry and rice is really a staple backpacking food for me. It can be kind of tricky to get right though because a lot of curries are oily or have chicken in them, neither of which dehydrate well. Since Emily is vegan and Carolyn avoids dairy, I found that a vegetarian coconut curry is a great compromise on all fronts. There are lots of recipes for vegetable curries that use coconut milk for the base and chickpeas for protein. I like to use butternut squash, yam, and carrot in mine because the squash boils down into a thick sauce and it dehydrates really well. My recipe is an adaptation of these two recipes from Trail Recipes and Fresh off the Grid. Once I’m finished making the curry, I dehydrate it for 8 hours and then add rice when I cook it at camp.

Another option is to just buy a curry from your local Indian restaurant and pop it in the dehydrator, but like I said, it can be hard to avoid oils this way. I was successful once by mixing a vegetable curry with the rice (to absorb some of the oil) and then putting the whole thing in the dehydrator. But I still had to let it sit on paper towel for a day to absorb the residual oil and I stored it in the freezer until my trip.

2. Macaroni and Chili

In my opinion, this is as easy as it gets when it comes to dehydrating. You can make your own chili from scratch and then pop it in the dehydrator for 8 hours, but 90% of the time I just run by the grocery store and pick up my favourite canned chili and pop it straight in the dehydrator. Most chili is made with ground beef or beans, so it dehydrates really well. Once at camp, I rehydrate and heat with dry macaroni noodles until the whole thing is cooked.

3. Stew/Soup of your choice

What’s your favourite soup to eat at home? Mine are minestrone and peanut stew, so whenever I make one, I always set aside a serving or two to run through the dehydrator. I’m all about turning my day to day meals into backpacking meals rather than looking for new recipes. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can check out my next post about easy grocery store meals, otherwise my recommendation is to focus on dehydrating meals as a whole rather than piecemeal. I think a lot of people focus on dehydrating each component separately and then putting it all together, but I’ve found that to be a lot more work. If you don’t have go-to soup recipe, try picking up your favourite canned soup from the store and see how it dehydrates.

4. Pasta of your choice

I’m sorry if you came to this post looking for actual recipes, but I’m not a chef and there are tons of resources out there already, so this is meant to be more about meal ideas than concrete recipes (although it probably tells you a lot about the slapdash way that I usually cook). I’m always adapting recipes to make them vegan or vegetarian, so I see them more as a guideline anyways. But if you don’t know where to start, check out Fresh off the Grid, which is one of my favourite resources for backcountry cooking. Like with the soup, pick your favourite pasta recipe and pop it in the dehydrator. For me, it’s a penne bolognese that has a tomato and soymeat base, with lots of veggies added to it. But there are other options out there, like pasta primavera, penne alfredo, or even a peanut butter based pasta like I shared in my cold soak post. The key is to use smaller pasta noodles that dehydrate easier, although I’ve never actually tried dehydrating a spaghetti and I’m sure it is possible.

5. Mexican or Fried Rice

This is another recipe that I shared in my cold soak post, but which works great for a hot supper. For Mexican Rice, I fry up onion and pepper with salsa and taco seasoning and then add tomato, corn, carrot, black beans and sometimes spinach. For my fried rice, I rely more on vegetable stock and traditional spices for the flavour. I usually add lentils for protein and I might throw some powdered egg into the final dry mix. But if you have another favourite rice dish, give it a try in the dehydrator! Dehydrating is all about experimenting!