Now, I am no expert on the intricacies of backpacking preparedness, but I do enjoy putting together a nice light pack that will get me through a short trip with minimum fuss. I thought it might be helpful to some people who may be new to the outdoors to have a list to reference to sure they aren’t going to end up out in the middle of nowhere without something important. I will include links to some of the things that I use specifically and have found to be great pieces of gear.
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way to the top.
- Hiking boots or shoes – North Face Hedgehog
- Non-cotton socks x 2 – something like this
- Water shoes (depending on the trail) – Solomon Techamphibian
While I have always been partial to high-top hiking boots I am beginning to toy with the idea of using my trail running shoes in place of boots on an upcoming trip. I find that the high-top boots help protect my ankles from an unfortunate injury, but really all you should be looking for is something that is comfortable with good traction. Regardless of whether you are going with boots or shoes stay away from cotton socks, they will hold onto moisture that may be around your feet and will cause you trouble later in the hike. Water shoes can be helpful if you are in for a creek ford and don’t want to risk stepping on something that could leave you with an injury.
- Non-cotton underwear (or go commando, you’re call) – something like this
- Comfortable pants/shorts – truthfully, I haven’t found anything I love yet.
Again, stay away from cotton on your base layers when hiking/running/kayaking/etc. As the saying goes cotton kills, and while that may sound a bit dramatic, the truth is that cotton will aid in cooling your body and that can be a dangerous thing in some situations. Personally I like my undies to be warm and dry, any other way and you can develop issues in unsavory areas. Wear pants or shorts depending on your environment and preference. I get away with shorts a lot but if you are anticipating a lot of undergrowth, pants can save your legs from cuts and scraps and poison ivy.
- Non-cotton shirt (do you see a trend here?) – Under Armour Shirt
- Rain coat
- Beanie Cap
Obviously different conditions call for different layering options. I almost always include a set of long underwear and a fleece top in case the evenings get extremely cold. A raincoat is a must as wet clothes are heavy clothes and a sunny day can turn into a rain storm with almost no warning. A cap and sunglasses to help protect from the sun are extremely useful. Especially if you are blessed with skin as pasty white as mine. And finally, I always bring a beanie cap even during the middle of summer for sleeping. I sleep SO much better when my head is warm and this has become a necessity for me.
And now for the fun stuff.
- Backpack – Kelty Lakota
- Toilet paper
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste (what are we animals)
- Matches and Lighter
- First Aid Kit – something like this
- Large Black Trash Bag
- WATER BOTTLES (filled with water preferably) – Nalgene’s work
- Water Purifier – Katadyn Hiker
Your backpack should be big enough to fit all your stuff in it… Don’t go and buy the largest pack you can find because one day you might want to go on a 2 month excursion. Find something that is just the right size for you and you won’t have any trouble with shifting weight causing back problems. A map and compass are extremely necessary and twice as useful if you know how to use them. You will need matches and a lighter if you plan to start a fire or use a camp stove for cooking. I always pack a first aid kit that includes, some disinfectant, pain relieves, muscle relaxers, bandages and some mole skin. They sell great little pre-made packs with all sorts of goodies you may need at most outdoor stores. A headlamp is a necessity so that you can find your way back to the tent after some star gazing. I always bring a large black trash bag in case of unexpected rain (or expected rain) in order to be able to pull it over my pack preventing it from getting soaked. And finally, ALWAYS, bring enough water bottles. Enough water bottles depends on how many opportunities you will have to purify water throughout the trip. I use a pump purifier rather than iodine or a UV pen, but some people would tell you can’t be too careful with water purification, they would be correct.
- Tent or Bivvy Sack – My tent is abou 12 years old, Eureka Apex 2
- Sleeping Bag – Same with my bag, Cat’s Meow
- Sleeping Pad – I believe this will be my next purchase
Depending on your backpacking style you may want to get a tent or a bivvy sack. Personally I don’t mind the few extra pounds to have some of the extra comfort of a tent with me, but certainly some situations may call for something a little lighter. I personally use a synthetic mummy sleeping bag. I doesn’t stuff down as nicely and they don’t come in as warm of varieties as a down one but they are a bit cheaper and mine was given to me as a birthday present 14 years ago, and I still love it. Finally a sleep pad will keep you warm and dryer throughout the night as well as cushion your back from some poorly placed rocks while you sleep. Inflatable air pads pack down very small and are very light.
- Camp stove – Pocket Rocket
- Pots and Pans or Pot – something like this
- Camp Soap – must have
- Coffee Mug
- Spoon and Fork or Spork
- Pocket Knife
Food! One of the most fun parts about backpacking for me is enjoying a nice dinner after a hard days work. Just because you are in the middle of the woods doesn’t mean your taste buds have to suffer. My camp stove of choice is the Pocket Rocket, it is extremely small and light and easy to use (Thanks Tyler!). The main downside to it is that the fuel canisters are not refillable and sometimes I am not the best at determining how much fuel is left in one. You need at least one pot to put over the stove and eat from. I need my coffee in the morning and don’t find it as appealing in a large camp pot. Obviously you will need utensils and a knife.
As for the food itself, I find that peanut butter and bagels makes for a fantastic lunch that packs well. Summer sausage has proven to be a crowd favorite every time it has made a journey with me. Trail mix should be included and seems almost silly to mention here. The dehydrated food packs you can find at any outdoors store are much better than they look. They have been my food of choice when I haven’t been a bit more creative in the past and I have never been disappointed For coffee, the little “just add water” packets taste great as well. And oatmeal is particularly easy to make on a cold Missouri morning when you haven’t woken up yet. One of the ideas that have been tossed around in my mind, but not yet executed were to marinate some steak tips in a plastic bag and allow it to work it’s magic while I make my way to your campsite (This must happen soon!).
I hope this list is helpful to you. I plan on updating it as I come up with things that I may have missed.