Until I met my husband I had never been hiking before, let alone backpacking. Nowadays, however, it’s one of the main hobbies we spend money on. I love getting away from everything that is stressing me in life and staying out in nature (If I’m going to really be satisfied, though, it’s got to have a lake).
With the massive amount of specialized hiking and backpacking products available it can get kind of overwhelming figuring out what it is you actually need. If you love the idea of a stress-free vacation making your way to some beautiful scenery then check out this list of backpacking must-haves.
Getting a good backpack is very important for your comfort on a backpacking trip. Personally I went for a higher-end one that has amazing back support, and this has made my backpacking experience so much better. Figure out how much gear you plan to carry and figure out what size pack to get from there.
2. Navigation (map and compass or GPS)
This is important to help you find the areas you are looking for on a trail and for just in case purposes. If you are going to bring a map and compass then make sure you know how to use them properly.
3. Sun protection (sunscreen, hat, etc.)
You do not want to be caught out on a hike with nothing to protect you from the beating sun. I have been there. Also, don’t forget your lips. I didn’t have any SPF on my lips for the entire 25-mile backpacking trip that my husband and I did, and afterward they hurt.
4. Insulation (clothing + sleeping bag and pad)
Make sure to wear weather appropriate clothing and to pack an extra layer such as a jacket. This is an area where many people overdo it on the packing, so just be conscientious of how much you really need or you will be carrying a lot of extra weight. Also, don’t forget a good sleeping bag and a sleeping pad to keep you warm at night (consider a pillow as well).
5. Good footwear (hiking boots)
What type of footwear you use is a bit of a personal preference, but I prefer hiking boots. If you want you can use running shoes, like a lot of ultra-light backpackers do, but I like hiking boots because of the extra protection from the elements. I find that they make climbing over rocks and through puddles much easier.
Also, don’t forget a good pair of socks. My absolute favorites are the Darn Tough hiker micro crew cushion socks. They feel really good on my feet and come with a lifetime guarantee so I know they’ll last a long time. (Not to mention they’re antimicrobial so no smell!)
6. Flashlight (handheld or headlamp)
If you are camping out then you are going to need a way to see at night. There are multiple lighting options (you could even use your phone so long as you know it won’t run out of battery) so choose whatever works the best for you.
7. First-aid supplies
You will need some basic first aid supplies while backpacking just in case something happens. Try to at least include some bandaids, anti-itch cream (and if there will be lots of insects then insect repellent as well), gauze pads, antiseptic, and medical adhesive tape.
This could be a lighter, flint, or matches.
Make sure to plan enough food so that you will have three meals every day as you likely won’t want to be skipping meals. Dehydrated food packets are great because they’re rather light, taste good, and are easy to make (just heat up water on a little camp stove and pour it in). Other great foods to bring are apples, dried fruit, protein/granola bars, and oatmeal packets.
10. Water (bottle + filtration system)
You will need water while on a backpacking trip so definitely plan for that. Since backpacking involves multiple days you will need to bring some kind of filtration system so that you are not carrying tons of extra weight by trying to pack all of your water. Also, try not to bring a super heavy water bottle since this can add lots of weight (opt for something like a light disposable water bottle).
11. Shelter (tent)
You’re probably not going to want to sleep out in the open so bring a tent, and make sure you also have enough tent spikes.
Basically figure out what you can’t live without and bring that. Here are some of the toiletries that I bring when we go backpacking: toilet paper, facial cleaning items, contact solution, contact case, glasses, hair tie, bobby pins, comb, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, tissues, panty liners, and wet wipes.
Backpacking is a great way to unplug and enjoy time away from the business of normal life. For as great as it is, though, it can be very unpleasant if you haven’t adequately prepared for your trip. Make sure you have these 12 items, and you should be pretty well set.
What items do you always take with you when you go backpacking or hiking?
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