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Hiking Gear Types

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Categorization System

The following is the hiking gear categorization system that is used throughout the rest of this web site, and the one that I use for organizing and thinking about my hiking gear.

The Two Major Categories

Taken & brought back
(fixed weight)

Consummed on hike
(weight varies during hike)

First I divide my pack load into two major types: supplies or consumables, and gear.

Supplies or Consumables – These are water, food, and stove fuel, or the things that get consumed and used up during a hike. There are other things that may get used up during a hiking trip like flashlight batteries or film, but as a contributing weight factor they do not diminish so I don’t count them in with my supplies. Instead they are included in with the gear.

Gear – This includes all of the equipment such as clothes, sleeping bag, tent or tarp, the pack, and so on that do not get used up during the course of a trip. This includes everything that goes into making up what is referred to elsewhere as total base weight, or everything that is either carried or worn that is not a supply or consumable.

Next I divide my gear into eight different categories – what I call the big and little four gear types.

The Big Four Gear Types
(Hiking Software)

Big Four
Gear Types


The big four gear types are those gear categories that are not only big in terms of size and bulk but also in terms of weight. I sometimes refer to the big four collectively as my hiking software because they contain mostly items made of soft materials like fabric and insulating materials.

The big four gear types are: Pack, Shelter, Sleeping, Clothes

Pack – This includes not only the backpack but also any camera bags, fanny packs, water bottle holders hung on pack straps, rain covers, pack liners, and all major stuff sucks except the one for food.

Shelter – Includes tent, tarp, bivouac sack, ground cloth, rigging line, line tightners, and tent pegs.

Sleeping – The sleeping system category includes sleeping bags or quilts, sleeping bag liners, and foam pads.

Clothes – This gear group includes all clothes from pants and shirts to hats, gloves, and shoes.

The Little Four Gear Types
(Hiking Hardware)

Little Four
Gear Types


The little four gear types are those gear groups that consist of smaller, more compact pieces of gear, and they are the gear groups that I try to make sure stay small in terms of weight as well. I sometimes refer to them as my hiking hardware because much of the gear in these categories is made of metal and other hard substances.

The little four gear types are: Kitchen, Office, Hygiene, Emergency/Repair

Kitchen – Includes anything to do with the storage, preparation, and consumption of food and water. Or another way to look at it is this gear group includes of the gear required to manage and use supplies.

Office – The type of gear included here is everything related to information. It includes maps, pens, pencils, notebooks, compasses, altimeters, radios, binoculars, and so on.

Hygiene – This category is for all gear that is associated with staying healthy but not directly concerned with consuming supplies or food and water. It includes such things as first aid kits, toilet paper, soap, and so on.

E/R – This category contains the gear that you hope you will never have to use, but you carry in case of emergency to repair other gear or cope with emergency circumstances. It should be the smallest of all the gear categories, and in some cases can be virtually non-existant. This group of items typically only consists of maybe a couple of needles, some thread, spare buttons, a few rubber bands, some extra line, and a few feet of duct tape. You might also choose to include some emergency medical items in this category.

For some ideas on how to use this system of gear categorization, click here.

Related information:

Hiking Gear Types – Using the System

Backpacking Pack Weight

Hiking Gear Load Terms

Hiking Gear Lists

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