When I head out on a backpacking trip, I always make sure to bring along a few key items to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure. As someone who loves spending time in the great outdoors, I’ve learned through trial and error what works best for me. Whether I’m embarking on a multi-day trek or a quick overnight trip, there are a few essential items that always make it into my backpack.
One of the most important things I bring with me when backpacking is a reliable water filtration system. Staying hydrated is crucial when spending time outdoors, but carrying enough water for an entire trip can be cumbersome and impractical. Instead, I rely on a filtration system to purify water from streams, rivers, and lakes along the way. This not only saves weight in my pack but also ensures that I have access to clean drinking water no matter where I am on the trail.
1 – Waterproof And Water Resistant Are Two Different Things
Beware of the labels of not just the backpacks but the crap you plan to fill it with. Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humor when it comes to backpackers. She particularly likes to rain all over those who are the least experienced the bunch.
This means that regular cardboard matches are going to be useless unless you had kept them in a waterproof, airtight container. Your clothing choices should also be related to the possibility of encountering the worst possible weather imaginable during a 2-mile hike. You don’t have to haul in your complete wardrobe, but rain gear and some extra layers can make the difference in a downpour.
2 – Backpacks Are Designed For Specific Reasons
If your Hello Kitty backpack is your idea of a piece of outdoor sporting equipment, then you really need to pay attention to this. A backpack – the real ones – is basically your survival tool on your back. It should contain all the things you’ll need to live and exist comfortably in the woods outside of cell range and far enough from civilization that it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere.
The tool of choice of the average survivalist is a backpack and not one you can sling over one shoulder, either. If you can carry your own weight on your back, you have a chance at becoming a real backpacker.
3 – The Essentials You Carry With You Are Just Essentials
So you’ve parked the camper or RV near your favorite lake. You’ve got the campfire crackling, and you are about to pull out your backpack for the 200-yard hike to the concession stand at the far end of the lake. In it, you have reading material, toys, and your laptop in case there’s an open wifi signal from the private resort next door.
Okay, this is not backpacking. This is camping with a bag full of stuff. A true backpacker will have only what they need jammed into each and every crevice in much the same manner that a parachute is loaded. Take the wrong things, and you may find your overnight stay very uncomfortable.
Infographic of gear list:
4 – It Is Important To Have The Correct Backpack For The Adventure
Alright, let’s assume you are a serious backpacker.
When shopping for the backpack you’ll need to hike in the wilderness you’ll need one big enough to carry such things as clothing, food, cooking, cleaning, camping supplies, possibly a tent, emergency equipment, important documents to make identifying your remains a lot easier, a ham radio, wads of cash in case the ATMs all go down, digging tools, tunneling tools, a phone book, toilet paper, paper towels, waterproof matches, Tupperware containers of frozen meals, canned goods, a few heavy rocks and a pair of scissors.
You can’t be unprepared in the woods. Here is a backpacking guide for beginners from Outdoor Generations.
5 – Be Careful Where You Choose To Buy That Important Backpack
There are a lot of different factors to consider when shopping for a backpack. Outdoor supply stores are the most obvious choice. Naturally, one of these types of businesses should specialize in this type of product. So it makes sense to pick the brain of the guy behind the counter. You could probably save a few bucks shopping online but remember, some online review sites are well, fake.
Then there’s the option of buying a backpack at a big box store. The advantage of doing this is that you’ll also find all the other things you need to fill that backpack in the aisles nearby. The downside is that the quality of the product may not be quite as high as at the outdoor supply store. Price does not always reflect quality so be careful when shopping.
6 – Learn More About Backpacking Before Your First Trip
The reason why you want to avoid having your first backpacking adventure end when the search and rescue crew shows up to save you should be very obvious. You shouldn’t try this without a little bit of practical experience under your belt. In other words, do some research. The inter-web has piles of content – some of it made up – on the joys and fears that can accompany backpacking.
There’s also the library where most of the reliable information sits. You can learn a lot just by reading up on the subject. Maybe this isn’t the right sport for you, or maybe it is the perfect match for your wandering spirit. You won’t know until you study up on it first.
7 – Calling Off A Trip In Not Considered A Fail
The smartest backpackers are those who recognize the risks and do whatever possible to work within the limitations that present themselves in these circumstances. In other words, if you doubt that trip you’ve planned with the Grade 4 children as a field trip to explore flora and fauna, maybe go with your gut.
Even if the weather forecast is for clear skies and you still feel a tad uneasy about this school event – even though all parents have signed permission slips – you don’t want to end up the headline story in tonight’s TV news. The same goes for that romantic hike to the peak of the local mountain with your girl. If you have any second thoughts, go with them. The peak will still be there.
8 – Protein Bars Were Invented For Backpacking
Even if you happen to be going on a short little stroll around the lake, it is never a bad idea to pack around some stuff in that bag over your back. Depending on your interests, you can take a camera, sketch pad or a good book to while away the hours as you soak up the scenery around you. One thing you should always have with you is something to eat.
Protein bars are a good choice for several reasons. Not only are they portable and easy to load and carry, but they also contain a good boost of energy should you find that your stroll has taken a little more out of you than you expected it would. Also, protein bars are a good thing to throw at wildlife to scare them off. A backpack that contains your weight in them is ideal for throwing at bears to take them off your scent.
9 – Backpacking, Hiking, and Walking Are All Pretty Much The Same Thing
Aside from the fact that the specific gear will be slightly different for each, a hiker can be a backpacker just like a backpacker can be a walker out on a hike. However, as similar as these terms are, if you are calling yourself a backpacker, then you better be reasonably good at backpacking.
One bonus of excelling at this is that you could become the person the search and rescue crew calls on to help track missing persons rather than being one of those missing persons. This means that if you take this hobby seriously, it could become a profitable sideline. Keep in mind it will require a whole lot more work than just blogging about backpacking online.
The Truth Is, Backpacking Is A Lot Of Fun
For the serious and even the casual backpacker, you have chosen an exciting hobby. Not only will it give you exposure to nature, but it will also help you to maintain a level of physical fitness. It’s also a fun activity to enjoy with family and friends. You can choose to take day trips or venture deeper into the woods and organize overnight backpacking trips. The stories and experiences that can come from this enjoyable sport will be shared for a lifetime. You just need to have the right gear and respect for the elements.
As mentioned above, studying up on backpacking and getting to know locals who have experience are great ways to prepare yourself for some amazing adventures.
But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, either. Backpacking is like any other outdoor activity. There are risks involved and being prepared for the worst can help you to navigate such things as bad weather, attacks by insects and possible visits from other types of wildlife.
That isn’t intended to scare you off, either. When you are prepared for just about anything, a backpacking adventure that goes without a hitch becomes one that will be remembered the most for being so much fun. But don’t take our word for it.
When I go backpacking, I like to bring a few optional extras to make my trip more enjoyable. Here are some of my favorites:
- Playing cards: A deck of cards is a lightweight and compact way to pass the time on a rainy day or in the evening.
- Book or e-reader: If you’re a bookworm like me, bringing a good book or an e-reader loaded with a few titles is a great way to unwind at the end of the day.
- Journal and pen: Reflecting on your experiences and documenting your trip can be a rewarding way to remember your journey.
- Inflatable pillow: A small, inflatable pillow can make a big difference in your comfort level while sleeping in a tent.
- Camp chair: If you’re planning to spend a lot of time at camp, a lightweight and portable camp chair can be a great way to relax and enjoy the scenery.
- Portable speaker: If you enjoy listening to music or podcasts, a portable speaker can be a fun way to share your favorite tunes with your fellow backpackers.
Of course, these items are all optional, and you should only bring what you feel comfortable carrying. But for me, having a few extra comforts can make a big difference in my overall enjoyment of the trip.