Hiking and backpacking are wonderful pastimes, but before you hit the trail it is important to be prepared. The key to successful backpacking is to pack light – but not too light. Since you will be carrying everything you pack on your back it is important to take only what you need, but it is just as important to have what you need when you need it. Your pack is your life out on the trail – whether you are embarking on a simple overnight hike or a months long trekking adventure.
Let’s start with the basics – those essential pieces of gear that every backpacker will need no matter how long or how short the hike. Every hiker needs a top quality backpack – one that is light enough to carry comfortably yet durable enough to survive the worst Mother Nature can dish out. After all, you wouldn’t want to be stuck out on the trail miles from civilization with a torn and tattered backpack.
You will also need a pair of top quality hiking boots, along with several pairs of quality hiking socks. Your hiking boots can be your best friend – or your worst enemy – out on the trail, so be sure to try them on carefully and break them in properly.
In addition backpackers who plan to take overnight and longer treks will need to invest in a quality sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tent. These items will provide much needed protection from the elements while out on the trail.
Backpackers will also need to pack those practical items that make life on the trail a little more civilized. Eating and drinking utensils are essential, so be sure to pack a set of camping utensils that are strong enough to last. Also be sure to pack at least two one liter bottles of water- dehydration is a real danger for backpackers. Keep in mind that water is quite heavy to carry, so be sure to pack a good supply of water purification tablets that will enable to you to safely drink water from springs, streams and other bodies of water you find along the way.
In addition to utensils you will need a way to cook the food you bring on your backpacking adventure. Overnight backpackers will need to pack a lightweight camp stove and enough fuel to last the duration of the journey. A couple of books of matches and a lighter are essential backpacking supplies as well.
The right clothing is another important element for the well prepared backpacker. Experienced backpackers know that they will need not only a well broken in and waterproofed pair of hiking boots but a comfortable pair of camp shoes as well. Sandals, moccasins and lightweight tennis shoes are all good choices.
Backpackers should also pack at least three pair of quality socks. Cotton socks are not suitable for serious hiking or backpacking – be sure to use wool or synthetic socks instead. A good set of underwear will make your time in camp more comfortable, so be sure to pack a set of long underwear for those chilly nights. Even the hottest areas can get surprisingly cold at night, so be sure to be prepared.
Another part of being prepared is understanding that the weather can turn rainy without warning. Experienced backpackers will always pack a rain slicker and waterproof pants for those times when nature turns nasty. And a good wool or fleece sweater or light jacket will help keep those cold nights comfortable.
Being prepared is an essential part of the backpacking experience, and that includes taking the right items with you before you hit the trail. By packing smart and packing light you can enjoy your treks more without sacrificing those must have items you will need out there.