The gear you take on a backpacking trip can potentially save your life, or, at the very least, will keep you from getting soaked in a rainstorm. While the trend (and technology) continues toward going light, experienced trekkers still hold safety in a higher regard.
"It's a careful balancing act," says Whitney LaRuffa, president of the American Long Distance Hiking Association–West, and the founder of Allgood's K9 Adventures. "First, I check in on the weather forecast, then consider the terrain to figure out the lightest weight I can take without putting myself or others in danger — that typically means enough to be comfortable, but no luxuries."
Excluding food and water, LaRuffa's pack weighs between 8 and 14 pounds, depending on the season. And while he's a sponsored backpacker, that doesn't mean the rest of us should submit to a heavy, inefficient pack. "A lot of people pack their fears," says LaRuffa. "They bring a tent even in the summer with a zero chance of rain because they're afraid a snake will get inside their sleeping bag. Meanwhile, nine times out of ten, I cowboy camp under the stars."
With the help of LaRuffa, we pored over our extensive backpacking gear coverage to come up with the bare minimal list for a four-day backpacking trip. Here are the 25 items you shouldn't leave without.