Have you been invited on a backpacking trip or are planning on taking one solo? How exciting! Spending time in nature alone or with friends can be some of the best moments. The key to having a good time while enjoying nature is making sure that you have all the essential backpacking items in your bag. If you plan ahead, it can make a huge difference! This simple guide will get you started with all the backpacking essentials that you need for an easy and stress-free experience on your trip.
Essential #1: hydration bladder
On any backpacking trip, you will want to make sure to bring enough water with you. This water can be used for drinking and for cooking in the evening. It’s important when you are exerting energy to stay hydrated. I’ve seen many people on trails without any water supply at all. You never know what could go wrong, and it’s important to have a good water supply for your trip.
First, I recommend that you use a camelbak bladder that you feed through your backpack instead of a water bottle. You will drink less water on the trail if you have to stop each time to get your water bottle, open it, and take a sip. Water bottles are sometimes “out of sight, out of mind” while hiking. And before you know it, you are dehydrated! If you have your bladder, the water source is readily available for you to take a sip while hiking on the trail. However, using a bladder over a water bottle is all about convenience! The important thing to consider is that you have a water supply.
For an overnight backpacking trip, I would recommend getting a larger bladder. A larger bladder is perfect because it is more dynamic and can be used for a variety of different trips. It will be great anytime; whether you decide to go for a day hike, a bike ride, or for a backpacking trip. You can always choose to not fill it up to the top! The one I have is 100 ounces, or 3 liters, and works well for an overnight backpacking trip.
Essential #2: Trekking poles
Second to having proper hydration, having trekking poles is the next most important thing I would recommend as a backpacking essential for your next trip. Even if your trail is relatively flat, having (and actually using) trekking poles helps provide some necessary balance while you have extra weight on your back.
For the more technical hikes that I do, I use trekking poles the entire time. Most importantly, trekking poles help take some pressure off when heading down the trail. They can also help give you the extra “oomph” needed when heading uphill. The trekking poles linked are the exact ones that I have. They are women’s specific trekking poles and easily adjustable. The women’s specific poles don’t differ from any men’s poles other than being a little shorter. There are different ‘tips’ that you can get for your poles depending on the type of terrain that you have. It’s best to pack what you think you may need. You don’t want to leave them and wish you had them on the trail!
Essential #3: Compression bags
Compression bags are so versatile and I highly recommend that you use one (or many) on your backpacking trip. These bags can be used to help organize your gear and keep things like your food, clothes, and toiletries separated. With their compression ability, you can make sure that you are packing your items as compactly as possible so that you don’t have extra bulk in your backpack.
I never leave for a backpacking trip without my compression bags and that’s why I consider them a backpacking essential! Here are some tips for how to use them on your next trip:
- Take an extra empty compression bag to use for any gear that may get dirty on the trip.
- Save space and don’t pack a pillow. Use a compression bag instead! Stuff your jacket or a change of clothes in one of your compression bags. Viola! You now have a pillow for the night with no extra bulk.
- Choose multiple colors and sizes. This will help compartmentalize in your mind what you have and make it easy to choose the bag from your backpack that you need. Blue bag – socks. Green bag – food. Check and check! I have multiple large green bags and it makes it difficult to know what’s in each green bag without opening them all.
Essential #4: First aid kit
You never know what you’ll encounter on your backpacking trip, and that’s why a first aid kit is an essential item. Get one that’s compact and lightweight – remember, you’ll be carrying it in your pack!
If you have a first aid kit already, check your inventory. Some items may have expiration dates. If they are past their use-by date, throw them away and make a list to replace them. Make it part of your routine to check your first aid kit before each backpacking trip. This will help you check to see what items you need to replenish before you head out on the trail again.
Essential #5: sufficient food
Don’t overlook the power of having proper nutrition on your backpacking trip. Freeze dried food is one of my favorite go-to meals. It’s easy (no thinking about what to pack), it’s lightweight, there’s minimal cleanup, and all you need is water. There’s a ton of different varieties so if you are on a multi-day trip you can have different meals each time.
You will probably be burning a lot more calories with the extra weight on your pack and will need to eat calorie dense meals to replenish what you’ve burned off. This can help make sure that you have energy for the next day to continue on your journey or to head home.
These items are the top five things that I would recommend as essential backpacking items. However, don’t think that this is all you need! Don’t forget about the backpacking basics. This includes the type of sleeping bag you want, the type of tent that you want, layers you need for the weather, quality hiking shoes, and the type of backpack you want. Many of these are up to personal preference! They may vary on the type of backpacking trip that you are doing and when you are doing it.
Best of luck on your next backpacking trip! Let me know in the comments some of your favorite essential backpacking items.
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