Andrew Skurka surely has one of the world’s best jobs: He’s essentially a professional backpacker. Or adventurer, maybe. When he’s not writing books on backpacking essentials, he leads guided trips, teaching newcomers and hardy veterans alike the intricacies of backcountry travel and off trail navigation. Skurka is well-known for bagging some truly incredible solo expeditions, like the nearly 7,000-mile-long Great Western Loop. National Geographic even named him their Explorer of the Year in 2007 for his adventuring exploits.

So who better to show you what to bring on a backpacking mission? Nobody, that’s who. Skurka is about as expert as it gets when it comes to fast, light, thoughtful packing for a backcountry trip. I asked him for a virtual peek into his bag for a typical late summer alpine trip in the Mountain West. Wanna pack like a pro? Wanna know what brands the world’s best backpacker trusts? Here you go.

Note: Skurka sent me seven separate lists, all spreadsheets, some of which were many pages long. Because of that, I’ve included only the “Critical” and “Suggested” entries in his gear list, though he also included “optional” and “unnecessary” as well. Also should be noted that he works closely with Sierra Designs, so their gear shows up a bunch.


Backpack — Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60L
Stuffsacks — Granite Gear Tough Sacks
Tent — Sierra Designs High Route Tent (can use just the fly to save weight)
Guylines — 30 feet of 2mm cord
Stakes — 8 V-stakes
Sleeping Quilt — Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt
Sleeping Pad — Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
Stove — Zelph Starlyte
Fuel — denatured alcohol in used plastic drink bottle
Pot — Evernew Titanium UL 900 ml
Spoon — GSI Outdoors Pouch Spoon
Trekking Poles — Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
Water bottles — Platypus Softbottle
Water treatment — Aquamira drops
GPS – Smartphone with Gaia app
Satellite Messenger — SPOT Gen3
Firestarter — Bic lighter
Bug repellent — Sawyer Picaridin
Sunscreen — Sawyer Stay-put SPF 50
Toothpaste/soap — Dr. Bronner’s
Toilet paper
Watch – Suunto Ambit Peak GPS
Headlamp — Black Diamond Spot
Knife — Victorinox Classic
Sunglasses — Julbo Dirt
Long-sleeve shirt — Sierra Designs Pack Polo
Insulated jacket — Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash
Fleece top — Patagonia R1 Pullover
Pants — Railriders Eco-Mesh Pant
Rain shell — Outdoor Research Helium II
Gaiters — Simblissity Levagaiter
Insulated headwear — Buff wool Buff
Shoes — Salewa Ultra Train
Socks — DeFeet Wooleator
First Aid Kit

And here’s a bonus video of Skurka demonstrating the best, most efficient way to stuff a backpack:

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