Outdoor Recreation Equipment Basics
The highest quality outdoor recreation equipment for backpacking uses advanced space age materials to provide the lightest and smallest possible package for easy hauling.
Sleeping bags are the most important piece of equipment any backpacker can own. They keep the camper warm in the coldest conditions but they are also the largest and bulkiest piece of gear. The lightest and warmest bags use synthetic materials for the casing and the interior as well, though down is still widely popular because of its superior insulation properties and ability to compress to incredibly small sizes. If you are not allergic to down, these are the best bags money can buy but just be sure to not get the material wet. Wet down feathers become heavy and lose their insulating properties making the bag useless. Synthetic filling is often much cheaper and can retain its insulation characteristic in wet weather and is hypoallergenic, but often does not pack as small as a down bag.
A tent is the next most important piece of outdoor recreation equipment used for backpacking. The outer tent fabric, called the rain fly, is almost always a synthetic nylon material that is treated with a waterproof coating to keep the interior of the tent dry in rainy and snowy weather. This covers the tent which is often a combination of synthetic material and mosquito netting for adequate air flow in warmer conditions.
Cold weather tents lack the netting to preserve interior heat and prevent any wind from entering. There are four season tents which are suitable for a variety of conditions from summer nights to winter adventures. A three season tent is suitable for all but the coldest conditions and a wall tent is used for extreme mountaineering. Wall tents integrate the rain-fly into the walls of the tent instead of keeping them as separate pieces. The poles are often made of aircraft aluminum for strength and low weight, though some tents use composite materials such as carbon fiber for the lowest weight and highest strength.
Other important pieces of outdoor recreation equipment used for backpacking include the pack which can be made of anything from canvas to synthetic material and often include an aluminum metal frame for more support of heavy loads. These packs contain a multiplicity of straps and attachments for everything from water bottles to tents, sleeping pads, and other camping accessories. A high quality pack will last for years and hundreds of miles with little or no maintenance.