You've made up your mind that backpack hiking has many elements that you are looking for to gain fitness, experiences with nature and non-stressful zen time for yourself. If you are wondering what to bring in your hiking bag and how much is too much, you are not alone. Let's examine what the essentials really are.
Obviously you aren't going to bring your whole fridge or pantry, but you will need nourishment and hydration throughout your trip. That means food and water. If your hiking pack has a hydration bladder, you will fill it with fresh water from home. If not, you will pack at least 3 water bottles per day of your trip. That can amount to a lot of weight in your outdoor backpack. If there is fresh water available per the map of the area you are hiking, you can refill your bottles, but will want to add purification tablets or drops to eliminate getting sick from what you thought was fresh water, eliminating having to carry so much for the day.
Protein rich food and snacks not requiring refrigeration are advisable. Sample packets of things like mayo, cream cheese and peanut butter are a very handy tool. Bagels, granola bars and beef jerky, along with tuna and chicken packets are great foods that won't weigh you or your hiking day pack down.
Hiking Gear And Tools Every Backpacker Should Carry
You will need a map and a compass for navigation. Your phone can provide certain GPS but never count on that alone in case you lose cell service or the battery dies. Always bring a flashlight or headlamp, even on a day trip in case you spend longer on the trail than anticipated, which is easy to do. Your backpacking pack should always have matches, a lighter and fire starters for any trip. Bring a whistle to call for help with three short bursts. It's vital to have things you hope you'll never need, but will be darned glad you have them if you do need them. Always handy to have is a multi-purpose knife tool for using on things you couldn't even imagine, yet will be worth its weight in gold.
Personal Items And First Aide
It is imperative to have a first aide kit assembled and in your hiking backpack. You can buy a ready-made kit or put your stuff in a ziploc bag. Be sure to include, assorted size adhesive bandages, antibacterial cream, a needle and safety pins, duct tape, ibuprofen or Tylenol, alcohol wipes, sunscreen, SPF-rated lip balm, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, vinyl gloves and toilet paper. Sunglasses are important to protect your eyes.
Layering is the best approach, because some instances you may find yourself colder or hotter than when you first started your backpacking trek. Choose fabrics for shirts and pants that have moisture-wicking properties such as synthetic gym wear. Ultra-fine merino wool is the best choice for socks (bring an extra pair or two.) Cotton doesn't efficiently remove moisture away from your skin, takes a very long time to dry, and is a poor insulator, so it is not the right choice for hiking. Bring 2 pair of underwear, 2 T-shirts (one long sleeve and 1 short) and lightweight pants for a base layer. Roll up convertible pants are great because if your day gets hotter or colder, you can adapt. Heavier pants can be worn over your base layer if needed.
Bring a fleece top and heavy jacket, depending on time of year and climate where you are hiking. Lightweight down jackets or insulated synthetic jackets with an adjustable hood are preferable. You should always pack a lightweight water-repellant wind breaker also. Choose rain pants and coats that are waterproof and breathable. Staying dry is paramount to avoid hypothermia.
Keep those feet, head and hands warm and dry. A good hat, depending on weather climate, should consist of one for warmth and one for sun protection. You'll need gloves for warmth and also sun protection, full or half-fingered. Look for some with 50 or 30 UPF. A cotton bandana has many uses other than your head. It can be used to keep sun off your neck.
Hiking boots that you have already broken in are crucial for avoiding blisters. Since we are basically referring to day backpacking trips in this article, you can choose ankle high or low-cut boots. Always choose quality full-grain leather for durability and to keep your feet comfortable and dry. Make sure you have a good fit for better stability on rougher terrain with a snug fit at the heel and wiggle room for your toes.
It may sound like you are carrying quite the load for a short trip, but these are the essentials, things you are almost guaranteed to need at some point on your hike. Keep what you don't use handy in your hiking bag for the next trek out and just add to it. The important thing is to follow through with your plan to discover backpack hiking and spend time in nature. You will make memories and have stories to tell forever with each new expedition. Happy hiking!