UPDATED for 2016!
Whether I’m on an overnight backpacking trip or a multi-day trip, most of what I take stays the same. Here’s what I’ve found that works well for me.
When I start packing, I like to separate things out into categories which allows me to be more thorough. I think, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc and consider what I need for each one. Below is the list I cover in the video.
I like to carry a 60-65 liter simple backpack. I’m not a fan of backpacks with a million pockets. I can be way more efficient with an open top load backpack which means it’s more compact and I actually end up finding things easier.
I’ve been using a Black Diamond Lighthouse tent which is a 3lb sweet tent. It’s getting old and I’m looking to replace it, but I’m not interested in getting anything much heavier than that. Currently using the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum. Super lightweight tent. I miss my old Black Diamond Lighthouse for its high ceiling, but this thing is a three season tent that comes in at under 2 lbs!
Sleeping Pad – I’ve tried a few different ones and I’ve settled on one I just have to blow up which isn’t a big deal. My Big Agnes gives me a much better night’s sleep and is lighter than the self inflators and gets way more compact.
Sleeping Bag – I like my nice 15 degree down Marmot Helium. Get a good down sleeping bag. No need for an extra pillow. I take my stuff sack and fill it with my down jacket.
Handkerchief – This simple cotton handkerchief is light, dries fast and makes for a cheap washcloth and towel and serves for some emergencies well (and a quick filter for water with a bunch of bigger particles)
Toothbrush, Toothpaste and Floss – Yes, just take a toothbrush, a travel sized toothpaste and floss.
Toilet Paper – Find a roll that’s halfway done, take out the cardboard core and put in a ziplock bag. There’s not any in 95% of the pit toilets and you may not be near one.
Hand Sanitizer – Don’t let your bathroom etiquette get you or your fellow campers sick.
Lighter – Used to start the stove and to burn TP if I’m not around a pit toilet before I bury my business.
Freeze Dried Dinners – I’m a huge fan of the freeze dried dinners. You don’t have to have a separate bowl and pot, no need for washing and no need to figure out how to get rid of the leftover stuff that was stuck to the bottom. (a little trick if you want to make your own is to put the dried materials in a gallon or quart ziplock freezer bag… just make sure you don’t heat your water up to liquid magma and you should be fine)
Lexan Spoon or Spork – This isn’t fine dining and you don’t need a spoon, fork, butter knife. Lexan spoons are light and durable. You just need one.
Food Bag – You NEED a separate food bag! Have a stuff sack or similar bag that can handle some weather and wear and tear and can be hung from a food pole. When the Park tells you to hang your bag, this is the bag to hang not your ENTIRE BACKPACK!! The poles weren’t made to hold your 30-40 lb mistake.
25′ Rope and Caribiner – Get better rope than the Walmart “camping rope”. It won’t snag on the poles. Also, use a caribiner. It will help give the rope weight when you throw it, is super useful on the trail and conveniently clicks into your food bag.
Special Food Items
- Starbucks Via or Tea Bags – Best coffee for the backcountry. If you like sugar with your coffee, get the iced coffee version so you don’t have a separate bag of sugar that can break.
- Probar – Wide variety of bars that are over 300 calories. Nice tastes that all don’t taste like peanut butter.
- Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem – Super easy calories to drink while I’m walking.
- Hammer Nutrition Bar – Similar to Lara bars for quick easy energy without the density of lead.
- Hammer Nutrition Recoverite – My favorite drink when I finish hiking for the day. It’s delicious and gives my body what it needs to recover.
Nalgene – I hike with this empty because it’s so incredible in camp. I use it to filter water and measuring for food preparation and for hot coffee in the morning.
Sports Bottle – I use this for my Perpetuem mix on the trail and Recoverite in camp.
Hydration Bladder – My favorite hydration bladder is the Platypus Big Zip SL. Easy to clean, no flavor, detachable hose and no frills. I’m considering trading this in for a Jetflow system if I it is reliable enough.
Cooking Pot – Finally sprung for the MSR Titanium ultralight pot and I love it! You can also use a stainless steel one as well.
Stove – I love my MSR PocketRocket stove. Super light, simple and reliable.
IsoPro Fuel Bottle – This is the fuel for the pocket rocket. Unless your temperatures are in really cold weather, this is a sweet combination.
Water Filter – Or some kind of purification device. I currently use the Katadyn Hiker, but may switch to a SteriPen
I have clothes that I hike in and clothes that I spend my time in camp in. There are some overlap between the pieces, but I think your experience is more pleasant with a couple of extra pieces.
Zip-off Pants – While not the sexiest pants or shorts you’ve ever worn, these are functional and light
Two pair socks – I have two pairs of socks to hike in. I don’t do the liner socks and such. I have two pairs of ankle height Smartwool socks that I rotate through. If one gets super gross or completely wet, it’s nice to be able to hike in another one.
Hiking T-shirt – I’ve hiked in my Patagonia Capilene T-shirt for years. It’s simple, straightforward and lasts forever.
Merino Wool Underwear – I’m a big fan of the merino wool underwear. My favorite ones so far have been from Icebreaker, but another pair from Minus 33 seems to be doing the trick as well.
Hiking Shoes – I’m a huge proponent of trail runners for footwear and I love my Salomon XT Wings. I don’t hike in boots except for winter or if I have to wear crampons for an extended period of time. I don’t get blisters and my feet love me more. Salomon makes great trail runners. The most important thing, however, is to make sure it fits your foot well.
Rain Jacket – Always carry a rain jacket when hiking in the mountains. You never know what the weather is going to do and the mountains can sometimes create their own weather.
Rain Pants – While you don’t have to have rain pants, if you end up having a few days of rain, you’ll be extremely happy you brought these along.
Fleece Pullover – I have the classic R1 pullover from Patagonia and have had it for about 10 years and I love it still!
Lightweight Down Jacket – Also known as a down sweater, I LOVE my Nitros Down Jacket from Mountain Hardwear. I know there are other great ones too. This thing is lightweight, warm, compresses small and, when put in a stuff sack, makes for a nice pillow.
Fleece Pants – I have a pair of Black Diamond fleece pants… well they fit like tights. They are a little bit less than an expedition weight pant and I wear them under my zip off pants around camp and can sleep in them if I get too cold.
Camp Underwear – Same as the trail underwear, but only for camping after I’ve washed down with my handkerchief as a spongebath or have just taken a dunk in an icy lake.
Camp Socks – Usually comfy wool socks only for camp use.
Camp T-Shirt – Same as hiking T-shirt, but only for camp use or for the last day walking out.
Camp Shoes – Crocs may be ugly, but they’re perfect for backpacking. These shoes are lightweight and comfy for camp and make for great creek crossing shoes. They dry fast and protect your toes.
Emergency and Misc
Fleece Hat – I alway carry my fleece hat because I’m not sure when the weather will change on me… even in August
Warm Gloves – Same as the hat. It can get cold in the mountains fast.
Buff – I’m new to using a Buff and I like it. I can be a scarf, a light hat and many other things.
Headlamp – Get a good headlamp that you can hike in if you need to. You don’t want to break anything trying to find the bathroom at night.
GPS – I have a Garmin GPS with topo maps loaded on it. It makes finding your way easier.
Spot device – I have the Spot satellite device to communicate out to the world and I’m hoping I never need to use the emergency “call for help” feature
Stuff sack for miscellaneous – I have a stuff sack that carries my stove setup, rope and caribiners, and all of the other little things floating around in my pack so they don’t drop to the bottom and get lost.
Little kit – I have a kit that contains a knife, extra duct tape, mosquito spray, emergency fire starter, bandages, neosporin, gauze pads, tums, ibuprofen, some other pain killers, and a whistle.
Bear Spray – In bear country, you need Counter Assault bear spray, but is also effective at aggressive moose as well.
Many of these items make it into my daypack as well where it makes sense. For shorter trips, I’ll also carry in some more perishable items. When it comes to food in general, most people take in too much. Make sure you lay out each day and really think about how much you can consume. Nobody eats 2 lbs of trail mix a day. 😉
Hope this is helpful. Please comment below on other thoughts of what you bring on the trail that I missed!