The Great Wall and Beyond: Essential Gear for Exploring China

Be prepared and pack light as you venture into the Far East.

Curated by Michael Gabbert

When traveling internationally, I've found that the key to solid gear and packing centers around versatility and weight. Adventures throughout the Far East echo these keys even further. When hiking, camping, and exploring a variety of landscapes, ensuring you have everything you need in something as small as a backpack can be a difficult task. Over the past three years I’ve been lucky enough to camp on the Great Wall, hang out with and observe Cormorant Fishermen on the Li River, and hike the Rice Terraces of Longji across the vast Chinese landscape. While I’m not as hardcore as Mr. Kyle Obermann, this is my go-to gear when backpacking in China. 

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket - Men's

A shell of any sort is recommended. I’m admittedly obsessed with OR gear in general, but this simple rain jacket shell is my favorite.

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Sea to Summit

Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Whether it be the long flight over, traveling within the country, or sleeping on the rocky ground of the Great Wall, a little comfort in the form of a travel pillow is a downright necessity. The Aeros Pillow packs extremely small, but is still hella comfy.

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Big Agnes

Big Agnes Copper Spur Platinum HV UL Tent: 2-Person 3-Season

Super light (2 lbs. 12 oz) but manages to still be 'roomy' for 2 people. If you're hauling a tent internationally, this is a damn good choice.

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Therm-a-Rest

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Light, compact, and everything you would need for a comfortable camping mattress.

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Peak Design CapturePRO

When hiking an unfamiliar area, you never know what you’re going to run across. This clip is unbelievably useful, overall inconspicuous, and allows your camera to be at the ready whenever you need it.

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Vasque

Vasque Breeze 2.0 Hiking Boot - Men's

To pack small, my goal is to only bring 1 pair of shoes. These Vasque hiking shoes are comfortable enough to wear on the plane but rugged enough for the various terrain you’ll encounter across China. Being waterproof also gives me peace of mind that I won’t regret bringing just one pair if the weather is less than ideal.

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Prana

Prana Stretch Zion Pant - Men's

If I’m bringing one pair of pants, these are the ones. Great for hiking but versatile and comfortable enough for travel, exploring cities, or taking a chill day.

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The Outbound Collective

The Outbound T-Shirt

It truly amazes me how many people have inquired about the shirt during my travels. It’s serves as a great icebreaker. I’ve met some amazing people and shared some great stories with this shirt being a catalyst to these conversations. The cotton/polyester blend is ridiculously comfortable as well.

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Osprey Packs

Osprey Packs Atmos AG 65 Backpack - 3783-4150in

Man, I love Osprey. This bag is a breeze to carry. Plus its big enough to fit all of the gear I need, but small enough to keep my packing in check.

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Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Jacket - Men's

A majority of my travels occur in the spring and fall. This jacket packs small and provides a ton of warmth. Whether I was staying up to watch the stars over the Great Wall of China or the sunrise over the rice terraces of Longji, this jacket served as a life saver.

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Lowepro

Photo Sport 200 AW

My attempt is to always pack all of my gear, clothing, etc. into one bag. The LowePro bag has a built in camera and computer compartments, which help me separate accordingly. The sizes helps me keep my packing in check.

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SmartWool

Men's NTS Mid 250 Zip T

The key to packing is multi-purpose. I look for a baselayer which can be worn on its own if needed, can dry quickly and pack small. This Smartwool layer checks all three boxes for me.

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Goal Zero

Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit

The Goal Zero is a perfect hiking companion to ensure I won’t run out of battery on my crucial electronics such as a GoPro or camera while hiking. Plus, its easy to attach to the outside of my bag to soak up that sweet, sweet sun.

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Grayl

Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle

Drinking water is key. Drinking clean water is critical. Traveling throughout China there can be a lack of clean water. The Grayl gives me peace of mind while being an overall solid water bottle in general.

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REI

Igneo Sleeping Bag

A simple and relatively affordable backpacking bag. While it’s not ideal for when temps drop below 40, it’s a fantastic 3 season bag which weighs less than 2 lbs.

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MeFOTO

Aluminum Daytrip Travel Tripod Kit

Each trip I take want to resist the temptation to bring a tripod. They tend to take up far much space for the amount of time I actually use them. This MeFoto tripod is perfect as its compact (the size of a Nalgene bottle) and serves my needs. It only extends to 36” tall, but I’m more than willing to sacrifice height for the added space savings.

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Sigma Photo

10-20mm Wide Angle Camera Lens

A camera is a no-brainer. But the other no brainer for me is a wide angle lens. With the sweeping, panoramic views and unique, surreal landscapes abound in the Far East, the wider the better. I really dig this Sigma lens from a price to quality ratio.

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Amazon.com

Kindle Paperwhite

Small, compact, and an essential piece of gear if you should encounter any delays or any down time in general.

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Amazon.com

AmazonBasics Ultralight Packable Day Pack

If you’re in one location, it’s nice to have a day pack for excursions to avoid lugging your larger pack around. This day pack is no frills, but is cheap while getting the job done.

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