One of the most challenging aspects of backpacking is choosing what items to bring. When you first look at it, it seems as though everything is essential and should be included in your backpacking packing list. However, because of weight restrictions (you’ll want to travel light, after all), you simply can’t stuff everything into your backpack. So how do you choose which items to put in your bag and which ones to leave at home? The answer would be to have a backpacking checklist such as the one below.
- Backpacking Tent. Backpacking tents are smaller, more compact, and lighter than your regular camping tent. These are important features since you don’t want to be carrying a huge and bulky tent while hiking for hours. That said, don’t settle for the first smallest and lightest tent you see. Check the interior space and make sure it’s comfortable enough for you despite the small size. Also, make sure you invest in a good quality lightweight tent for backpacking because the last thing you need while on a backpacking trip is a cold and flimsy tent. Also, don’t forget to bring a tent repair kit.
- Tent Footprint or Tarp. Simply put, a tent footprint or groundsheet is a piece of waterproof tarp cut to the exact size of the bottom of your tent. Aside from protecting the underside of your tent, it also adds another layer of insulation to trap the warmer air and prevent heat loss.
- Sleeping Bag or Backpacking Quilts. To ensure that you get a comfortable and restful sleep after a long day of hiking, make sure you invest in a quality backpacking sleeping bag. These sleeping bags are lighter, can be folded down and compressed neatly, and can be attached to your backpack to make them easier to carry. There are also backpacking quilts available, and many backpackers prefer them over sleeping bags.
- Sleeping Pad. Sleeping pads are mainly used to protect sleeping bags from unseen rocks or sticks which may puncture them. However, they also create an additional barrier between you and the cold ground and at the same time enhance your comfort levels by providing a cushiony and soft sleeping surface.
- Extra Hiking Socks. Many people focus on getting the best hiking boots and breaking them in before their big adventure, so much so that they forget about another backpacking footwear essential – hiking socks. It doesn’t matter how good your hiking boots or shoes are if you don’t have a good pair of socks to go with them. Hiking socks work to keep your feet warm and comfortable, add support for your feet, and help protect them against blisters. If you’re in the market for hiking socks, choose a pair that is made from comfortable materials, has moisture-wicking capabilities, and odor reduction or anti-bacterial properties.
- Extra Hiking Pants. Hiking pants come in a wide array of styles to choose from. There are hiking pants with zip-off legs that can easily be converted into shorts. Some come with an assortment of pockets and padded knees. Whichever style you choose, just make sure that it’s comfortable and breathable. It should also be made from durable fabric and have reinforced stitching. Some backpackers and hikers also like their pants to have a little stretch as this provides them with more freedom of movement.
- Extra Hiking Shirts. Just like hiking pants, hiking shirts also come in a wide variety of styles and designs. In most cases though, you can do with your gym shirts (not compression shirts) since what you really want from a hiking shirt is comfort and breathability. Most gym shirts are made from stretchable nylon and polyester, and what makes these good for hiking and backpacking is their moisture-wicking capabilities. Perhaps the only choice you need to make is whether to choose a short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirt, both of which have their own pros and cons. Many experienced backpackers though would recommend long-sleeved shirts since these provide you with additional protection from insect bites and cold weather.
- Hardshell Jackets. A hardshell jacket is a must for every backpacker. These jackets are designed to protect the wearer against cold winds and light rains, which makes them an essential piece of clothing if you’re backpacking in cold and wet places or during the rainy season. Although they may seem big and bulky at first glance, there are lightweight hardshell jackets that are effective and breathable at the same time. Some even have zippers under the armpits which you can open to allow for better air circulation when you start to feel hot.
- Sun Hat. A sun hat serves as one of your first lines of defense against the powerful rays of the sun. Sun hats come in a variety of styles and can be made from a variety of materials. In any case, choose a wide-brimmed hat that protects both your face and the back of your neck. You can also opt for features like a polyester sweatband to wick away sweat, mesh, and vents that allow air to circulate easily, water-resistant fabric, and others.
- Base Layers. Choosing a great base layer is essential since it can spell the difference between a dry and comfortable trip and a miserable misadventure. There are several things you need to consider when choosing base layers. For one, it should have moisture-wicking properties. Remember, these clothes will be sitting next to your skin, and excess moisture in the fabric will only make you feel much colder. Second, look for brands that offer flatlock seam construction as these designs help to eliminate chaffing.
- Many backpackers also wear sunglasses during their expeditions. This helps protects the eyes from the glaring sun and does a nice job of keeping dust and other minute particles from entering them. More often than not, any pair of sports sunglasses will do, but if you have money to spare then you may want to invest in a pair of polarized sunglasses that do a better job of reducing glare.
Cooking and Eating Utensils
- Backpacking Stove. Backpacking stoves are the smaller and more compact single burner version of your ordinary camping stove. Some camping stoves are even collapsible which not only makes them easier to use and store but also helps to save space in your backpack. These stoves are compatible with most types of fuel canisters like butane or propane, though you may still want to check just to make sure that your stove and fuel source are indeed compatible.
- Fuel Canister. If you’re heading for a two-day-and-one-night backpacking trip, one regular fuel canister should be more than enough (provided you cook only during designated meal times). If you’re going for a multi-day trip, you may want to bring extra fuel canisters with you.
- Cooking Pot. Backpacking cooking pots and pans come in a wide variety of sizes and materials. In any case, choose a pot or pan that can double as a plate so you don’t have to worry about bringing one. In fact, eating out of the pot is rather customary among many backpackers. It should be deep enough for you to cook soup in, but not too deep that you have trouble scooping your food out of it. There are also pots and pans whose lids can be used as a plate if that’s more to your liking. Also, choose a pot or pan that has a plastic or wooden handle so you don’t burn your fingers when holding them.
- If you don’t mind bringing a separate spoon and fork, then go ahead and pack a pair. But if you do, then you may want to consider bringing a Spork instead. However, you might want to bring a bigger-than-usual version since small Sporks aren’t very good at scooping up soup and other watery meals.
- Insulated Water Bottle. You can bring a small tin cup for your morning coffee or bedtime tea. But for many backpackers, an insulated water bottle is often the better choice since it can be used to store cold water as well to keep them hydrated while hiking. Most insulated water bottles are quite heavy (due to the material they’re made from), but there are lightweight versions available for the gram-counting backpacker.
- Filtered Water Bottles. Some backpackers don’t like the taste of boiled water or water purifying tablets. If you’re one of them, then you’ll want to bring a filtered water bottle instead. These bottles have carbon membranes that filter the water and remove bacteria or organisms (and anything else that may leave a bad taste or smell in the water), thus allowing you to take the water from rivers, lakes, and streams and make them safe to drink. However, you need to make sure that you buy only quality filtered water bottles from reliable manufacturers, otherwise, their effectiveness (and consequently your safety) will be compromised. Also, don’t forget to bring extra filters if you’re going for an extended backpacking trip.
Food and Water
- Easy to Cook Meals. Most seasoned backpackers choose lightweight and calorie-dense foods that are easy to prepare. After a long and exhausting day of hiking, you don’t want to spend any more time preparing elaborate meals and clean up several dirty dishes when you’re done eating. This is why easy to cook meals (like the ‘just-add-hot-water’ type) like prepackaged freeze-dried or dehydrated meals are good choices. This way, you get to eat home-cooked meals (or something close to it) even if you’re away from home. Also, avoid packing more than what is necessary. Bringing an extra pack for two for emergency hunger pangs is okay, but limit the amount of food you bring to cut down your backpack’s weight.
- Energy Bars and Snacks. When hiking throughout the day, your body will be burning more calories on the trail. This is why you’ll want to bring along plenty of energy bars and snacks to keep your body energized and replenish your glycogen levels. There are many types of energy bars and snacks that are capable of providing you with sustained energy throughout your hikes, and as for how many should you bring, just remember that you can never have too many energy bars on any given trip.
- Water Purifiers. The choices for backcountry water treatment are numerous: there are gravity filters, pumps, UV and chemical options, and emergency straws. Also, some filtered water while others offer full-on purification, which is best in high-use areas where an animal or human waste is a concern. For solo backpackers and day hikers, a minimalist pump or simple chemical drops or purifying tablets may do the trick.
- Matches and Fire Starters. Not all backpacking and camping stoves come with an igniter. Thus, you’ll need matches or fire starters to get them to work. These are also quite handy if you’re building a campfire.
Personal Care Items
- A foldable toothbrush is ideal for backpackers because it is compact and can easily fit into any of your backpack’s many small pockets.
- Learn how to ‘broadcast’ your tooth-brushing wastewater by spraying it into the bushes. Also, you can dig a hole and spit your wastewater there.
- There is no such thing as a completely environment-friendly soap, even the so-called biodegradable or organic ones. All soaps contain harmful ingredients and chemicals that can contaminate the water and hurt the fish living in it and the wildlife drinking it. This is why you should use soap sparingly while backpacking, and try to move at least 200 yards away from the water source before using soap.
- A regular towel won’t do well for backpackers since they’re bulky and slow to dry. Instead, bring microfiber towels or ones made from polyester. They are a lot lighter, more compressible, and also dry faster.
- Face and Body Wipes. If you’re backpacking on a trail where water is scarce, you may not have the opportunity to bathe. This is where the face and body wipes come in. These wipes are very effective in removing dirt and grime from your face and all over your body, and some are even infused with organic ingredients to help soothe your skin.
Other Items to Bring
- First Aid Kit. First aid kits are one of those backpacking essentials that you should never leave home without, even if it’s just a short overnight adventure. Some first aid kits come in large, durable, and waterproof boxes but they are often too big and take up too much space in a backpack. There are smaller hiking first aid kits available which contain the most basic medical equipment and medications; it’s not complete but it should be more than enough to treat common and minor injuries.
- Paper maps and guidebooks are necessary especially if you’re not familiar with the area you’re exploring. They can also be helpful when you suddenly find yourself lost in the trail. You can also use navigation apps on your phone, just make sure to check the connectivity requirements beforehand.
- A headlamp is a vital piece of camping equipment for obvious reasons. When choosing a headlamp, look for something compact yet is capable of providing plenty of light.
- Extra Batteries. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries as well, especially if you’re planning a multi-day backpacking trip.
- Garbage Bags. Always clean up your campsite by picking up all your garbage before you leave and carry them out with you. You can dispose of them once you get to a dedicated trash site or when you’re back in town. And if you’re a true nature lover who follows the “Leave No Trace” principles of backpacking and camping, then pick up any trash left behind by irresponsible backpackers and hikers.
- Some backpacking and camping trails will require that you have a permit. These are usually checked by the authorities before they let you into the trail, so make sure that you bring them with you.
- Phone and Solar Charger. Even when you’re backpacking in the wilderness, you still need your phone with you for several reasons like contacting emergency hotlines, navigating the trails, and of course for taking photos. If you’re going on a multi-day backpacking trip, be sure to bring a compact solar charger as well to keep your devices going all day long.
- Knife and Multi-tool. An appropriate multi-tool can make quick work of many minor problems that you may encounter while backpacking. Most (if not all multi-tools) also comes with a small knife. If you don’t think you can rely on that, you can also bring a foldable knife or a small fixed blade knife.
- Duct Tape. Duct tapes are probably one of the best inventions of all time and can be used to fix almost anything which needs fixing. You can also this to repair rips and tears on tent fabrics and sleeping bags, as well as to repair broken tent poles. However, it will leave a sticky adhesive on the repaired item which can be very, very difficult to remove.
- Paracord Bracelet. Survival paracord bracelets are simply one of the best survival tools available. They come with more than ten feet of strong and heavy-duty cords which you can use for trying just about anything. Some bracelets even come with features and tools like a compass, a fire starter, an emergency whistle, and even a small knife.
Globo Surf Overview
The items mentioned above should be enough to cover the essentials but remember that any backpacking trip will have its own particular challenges. That is why you’ll want to research your backpacking destination first and learn about the landscape and weather conditions there so you can adjust your backpacking checklist accordingly.