Backpacking is one of the most intense camping adventures you can have. Armed with just yourself and the pack on your back, you can go trekking through the wilderness and put yourself to the test. Because you don’t have a car or truck to pack a lot of equipment in, you’ll need to be very careful when packing your backpack. Start with these 10 backpacking essentials, then add other items as needed.
Forgetting one of these backpacking essentials could make for a long trip that is uncomfortable and no fun at all. Being prepared is the most important thing when backpacking.
Backpacking Essentials Top 10 List
#10 – Shelter
When you’re backpacking through the woods you can’t predict the weather. Even if you checked the weather channel before you leave and it was supposed to be sunny during your whole trip, you could get hit by a freak rain storm that you didn’t see coming. It’s very important to plan for the worst, that way you’ll be fine no matter what comes your way.
The backpacking essentials here would include your tent and/or other items that are small but useful in an emergency like a reflective blanket, tarp, or bivy.
#9 – First-Aid Kit
Whenever you’re out away from civilization like when you’re backpacking or even camping, it’s essential to have some form of first-aid kit handy. Obviously you don’t want it to be huge or heavy, but it needs to have some of the vital items like antiseptic wipes, bandages, and medical tape. Click here for a good first aid checklist.
#8 – Lights
Depending what time of year you go backpacking, you may find that it gets dark a little earlier than you’re ready to sleep. Or if you time something wrong or get held up you could end up setting up camp in the dark, which is almost impossible without some form of light.
One of the backpacking essentials is either a small headlamp or LED flashlight along with extra batteries to make sure it doesn’t quit on you when you need it most.
#7 – Sun Protection
Depending on how conditioned you are to the sun, a backpacking essential item for you may be sunscreen. You’ll be hiking outside all day, which means a lot of exposure to sun. Getting a bad sun burn will make the rest of your trip uncomfortable and put a damper on the fun you can have.
Some other essential items to bring backpacking are lip balm (your lips can get sunburned too) and sunglasses.
#6 – Repair Kit & Tools
When you’re backpacking you’re likely to have compact things like a stove or air mattress and you don’t want to have problems with these when you need them most. Bring a repair kit for your mattress as well as a multi-tool that has a knife and basic tools like pliers as part of it. Strips of duct tape can also be very handy for repairing rips.
#5 – Fire Starter
Fire comes in very handy when you’re backpacking, depending on what you find to fuel it you can cook almost anything you want without carrying a propane cylinder and camp stove around. To make sure you can start a fire, bring these backpacking essentials:
- Waterproof container
- Emergency Fire Starter
#4 – Proper Clothing
Like mentioned earlier, when you’re backpacking you never quite know what you’ll be up against. Usually nights get very cold in the woods even if they don’t in town. Backpacking essentials as far as clothing goes are a jacket, hat, pants, and gloves. Remember you’re going for lightweight but still insulated.
#3 – Nutrition
Even though you’re packing light, don’t just pack all empty calories. You’ll be expending a lot of energy and your body will need proper nutrition to keep going and stay strong. Always pack an extra day’s worth of food to be sure you don’t run out and are prepared if you get lost. Here’s a list of backpacking food ideas that may help you out.
#2 – Water
Water is one of those backpacking essentials that you must not leave without. Getting dehydrated will make you lethargic and is very dangerous. Since it’s so heavy, it’s unrealistic to carry a 5-days supply of water. Along with water bottles or a hydration pack (like a CamelBak), bring along a treatment or filter system to gather water during the trip.
#1 – Navigation
The most essential item to bring backpacking is navigation. You must know where you are and where you are going at all times. Getting lost out in the wilderness is not enjoyable and can have some bad endings. Even if you know the area you’re hiking bring a map and a compass along – they’re not very heavy and they can save you in a pinch. GPS can be handy, that one’s up to you.
Don’t Leave Home Without The Backpacking Essentials
Remember, missing one of the items above will make your trip less fun, more work, and possibly dangerous. Take the time needed to prepare your trip beforehand and double check to make sure you have all the backpacking essentials. Unless you’re very experienced and go backpacking a lot, leaving on a whim is not recommended.