What to bring backpacking
A good rule is to pack to what you think you will need. Remember, if you don't need it, it's just extra weight you have to carry
Here are some suggestions for gear, food and clothing you might need when you are going backpacking. Obviously, the amount of clothing, food and water is determined by the length of your planned hike. But for a typical 2-3 day hike, the following list is a good guideline per person.
All the equipment that you will need is readily available from discount stores, one of the many online catalogers or local outdoors stores.
- Backpack - Make sure you have a decent one and it fits properly. The size depends upon on how much you plan to bring with you, including extras such as cameras, etc and your body size. Remember that the pack will be much heavier filled than it is in the store, so choose a lightweight frame. Find a backpack with multiple points of support (shoulders, back, waist) rather than one that just hangs off your shoulders. Make sure the pack does not press on your spine or hip bones.
- Sleeping Bag - even if it seems warm outdoors, the temperature can drop considerably in the evening hours, so bring a warm one. There are super-thin, super light bags available now – a great choice to keep the weight down without sacrificing warmth.
- Foam or Inflatable Sleeping Pad (to insulate you from the ground) - they're not very expensive and you can pick one up at most discount stores and outdoor stores
- One pair of lightweight hiking boots. Make sure they fit well, and break them in completely BEFORE you start your trip!
- Extra pair of running shoes/moccasins to wear around camp. These are a great choice if you tend to get blisters and need to get your boots off for a while.
- 2-3 pairs of lightweight/polypropylene/synthetic liner socks (these help prevent blisters as the friction will be between the socks and not your feet.)
- 2-3 pairs of wool hiking socks to keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable. DO NOT BRING COTTON SOCKS as they do not dry quickly and there is nothing worse than having cold, wet feet!
- 2 sets of underwear Choose silk if possible, as it is light, dries quickly and folds compactly.
- One pair long pants, loose fitting, made of a silk or synthetic blend. NO blue jeans or cotton sweat pants, as these are bulky and do not dry quickly.
- One pair lightweight polypropylene long underwear bottoms
- Nylon pants or rain pants and at least a long rain jacket or poncho This is very important even if it hasn't rained in weeks or you're hiking in the desert!
- 2 T-shirts
- Lightweight polypropylene shirt
- Wool sweater or fleece jacket - depending on weather
- Two 1-quart bottles or canteens of water (MUST HAVE!!)
- Water purification supplies - Whether you choose tablets or a ceramic purification unit, make sure you have some way to make water safe for cooking and drinking. A case of girardia is enough to spoil any hiking trip!
- Mess Kit (or whatever you plan to eat and cook with) plus a Brillo or similar scrubbing pad, and a biodegradable liquid soap that can clean both dishes and clothes.
- Flashlight with new alkaline batteries and spare batteries (Alkaline last longer)
- Toilet kit - personal care items in small sizes. Choose biodegradable soaps, shampoos and such to avoid contaminating streams and lakes.
- First aid kit – be sure to include bandages and moleskins for blisters, antibiotic cream, a wrap for sprains, basic medications, anti-itch cream, and a good first aid book.
The choice of what to bring backpacking should be a combination of safety, weight and size. Be sure not to skimp on water, maps and shelter to keep your hiking experience safe and enjoyable.
Pack everything into the best backpack you can afford, with clothing and other soft items against your back, and heavy items near the bottom of the pack. Use a list to guide you for your first few hikes. Once you've gained experienced on the trail, you'll develop your own idea of what to bring backpacking to make your time in the backcountry a wonderful get-away.