Backpacking is a unique activity that should be experienced by all camping enthusiasts and nature lovers.
As opposed to regular camping where you transport all your gear and necessary materials in a vehicle to your desired camping spot, backpacking requires you to carry everything you need to sustain you for multiple days on your back.
If you’re in search of a bigger, more exciting adventure where you can test your limits and learn how to be more self-sufficient, a backpacking trip may just be what you’re looking for.
Before you head out for your trip, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need because once you’re out on the trail, you must rely on what you packed without the convenience of civilization.
How is backpacking gear different than regular camping gear?
Backpacking gear is very similar to regular camping gear, with the biggest key difference being gear for backpacking is much more compact and lighter.
If your gear is too bulky or heavy, it will be near impossible to carry everything you need in your pack. When choosing gear for a backpacking trip, opt for as compact and lightweight items as possible.
Footwear and Clothing
Footwear is very important for a backpacking trip. Since you’ll be carrying a heavy pack for many miles, taking care of your feet is extremely important.
Make sure to have several pairs of moisture wicking socks made from merino wool, bamboo, or polyester. For your boots, wear a broken in pair of quality hiking boots that have plenty of ankle support.
Since you’ll be limited on space, you’ll most likely have one outfit of clothing and a few extra pairs of socks and underwear. Lightweight hiking pants that can convert to shorts are great for most seasons, and a simple short or long sleeve t-shirt will work just fine.
Depending on what time of year and what the weather is expected to be for your trip, you may need additional layers and jackets. Whatever clothing you wear, avoid 100% cotton as it does not wick moisture well. Merino wool is the best clothing material along with quality synthetic materials.
Lastly, always pack a lightweight rain jacket if there’s even the slightest chance of rain. Keeping dry is a crucial part of staying safe and comfortable while backpacking.
Your pack is perhaps your most important piece of backpacking gear as it is your lifeline. Everything you need to sustain and keep you comfortable during your trip will be carried in your pack.
When choosing a pack, make sure to buy one from a reputable company that uses quality materials and manufacturing practices.
Additionally, ensure the pack you’re using is the right size for the length of your trip. Also, adjust the packs straps and hip support to fit your body so you can comfortably support the weight of your gear.
A good sleep system can make or break a backpacking trip. Too extravagant of a setup will be too heavy and wear you out, while an incomplete sleep system will limit the quality of your sleep. This will leave you tired and make your trip much more difficult.
The components of a sleep system are a:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
Provided you have all these items, and they are packable and lightweight, you’ll have a comfortable and not so cumbersome sleep system.
Just make sure your sleeping bag is rated for the proper season of your trip, and that your tent is lightweight but still waterproof.
Compression stuff sacks are another important piece of kit that can help you compress things like your pillow and sleeping bag to optimize space.
Food is crucial for a backpacking trip because it’s vital to keeping your energy and spirits up on the trail.
Pack calorie dense foods because you’ll burn many while hiking and you’ll need to recuperate those calories to sustain the journey. Foods that are high in fats such as cured meats and nuts are ideal for backpacking snacks because your body can convert them into energy much quicker.
Lightweight is also key with food for backpacking. Avoid canned goods and instead pack prepackaged freeze-dried meals and energy bars. Packing a fruit or two such as an apple or orange will help add fiber and ruffage to your diet while on the trail.
Essential Tools and Items
There are a myriad of other miscellaneous but essential items you may need to bring on your backpacking trip. Some must have items include:
- Fire starting materials (lighter, striker, fire paste, etc.)
- Water filtration
- Toilet paper/wipes
- Small propane stove
- Small stainless-steel cup for boiling water
- Water bottle and/or bladder
- Maps of the area
- Signal mirror
- First aid kit
There are also many non-essential items that are still very useful on a backpacking trip. You may not have room for all these items, so take some time to consider what you’ll need based on the length and location of your trip.
Some of these items include:
- Handheld GPS
- Small hatchet or bowie knife for splitting firewood
- Foldable saw
- Hand sanitizer
- Small foldable camp seat
- Hat or beanie
- Tarps for various uses
- Insect repellant
- Trekking poles
- Bear bag
- Bear spray
- Pocket knife
Backpacking can also be means of travel for other activities such as fishing, hunting, and outdoor photography. If hiking is not your only task, you’ll have to also factor in what extra gear you’ll need to achieve your specific goals.
If you’ve never been backpacking but you love to camp, you owe it to yourself to give backpacking a try.
Backpacking gives you an irreplaceable feeling of adventure and accomplishment that’s hard to beat. If you have the right gear, you’re sure to have fun and enjoy the outdoors in a whole new way.
This guide on how to pack for a backpacking trip is not an exhaustive list. While there are a few essential items that should be packed for any trip, not all backpacking adventures are the same.
Once you do the proper research about where you’ll be going and have some experience under your belt, you’ll be able to fine tune a system of gear that’s perfect for you!