If you’re planning your first backpacking trip, you may be thinking about where you want to go and the sights you want to see. But don’t forget to make your packing checklist before you leave!
When you have a lot to carry with you, it’s easy to forget something, even for the most experienced hikers.
Make a list of everything you’ll need including these 6 must-haves to ensure your outdoor adventure is safe and memorable, and don't forget to select a pack that is sized and suited for your journey:
1. Weather Gear
Some backpackers like to sleep in tents and some prefer to lay out under the stars. Regardless, it’s always wise to have a tent and stakes in your pack in case the weather takes an unexpected turn. Make sure you have a durable sleeping bag and sleeping pad that will keep you warm at night and dry from rain, morning dew, and other moisture as well.
In addition to shelter-related weather gear, you’ll want to pack a raincoat, boots, gloves, and other cold-weather clothing if there’s rain in the forecast or if you’re camping in the colder seasons.
2. Food and Heat Sources
Dry and pre-packaged goods are always a safe, lightweight option when you’re backpacking, and with a few extra supplies, you can cook a hot meal right at your campsite. You’ll want to have firestarters with you in case you want to cook over a campfire. However, if you want to save some time and preserve your firestarters to keep warm after dark, consider throwing an ultralight camping stove in your pack along with your cooking utensils.
Be sure you have access to water throughout your trip as well, for cooking and staying hydrated. Since you’re backpacking, you may not be able to carry a bunch of bottled water, so travel light and bring a canteen and water filter if you’re packing for more than an overnight trip.
When you’re out in the wilderness, it can get dark quickly after a long day’s hike. If you’re going for the authentic backpacking experience, a campfire may be the only source of light you use. You’ll want to have everything you need to start a fire after sunset, such as firestarters and matches (in a waterproof container).
You never know when you’ll need a pocket knife or a corkscrew on a backpacking journey. You may need to cut small branches for kindling a fire, cut some rope to pitch your tent or open packages for food. A multi-tool is absolutely essential for your first camping trip, no matter how small it may seem.
Multi-tools also give you access to small scissors, pliers and other handy gadgets that often make your trip a lot easier.
5. Navigation Tools
No one wants to be lost in the woods with limited daylight, water supply, and cell phone signal. For this reason, every hiker should bring a map and a compass with at the minimum.
If you want to be sure not to stray off your path, you can also invest in a GPS system. Some of these devices can even signal others with your exact location, in case you need a rescue team. While technology is getting better every day, it’s still important to have a map and compass as a backup, especially if it’s your first time hitting the trails.
6. First Aid Kit
Finally, pack a small first aid kit to bring with you as you venture into the great outdoors. Knowing you’re prepared for any situation can provide peace of mind as you make your way out for your first backpacking adventure. It’s not likely that you’ll be prepared for anything life-threatening, but taking a small kit of bandages, gauze, and antiseptic can manage minor scrapes and bruises you may get along the way.