Backpacking has seen an upswing in popularity in recent memory as more and more people are inspired to leave their lives and travel around the world. Most of these people quit their 9 to 5, sell their belongings, strap backpacking gear to their backs, and just go out to see the world.
A number of movies have been made about backpacking and travelling such as The Beach, Into the Wild, Wild, and Eat, Pray, Love. Some may argue that these movies started the recent backpacking trend and they may have a point. Backpacking, however, was already a thing back in the 60s with hippies traversing the Hippie Hashish Trail in search for the ultimate high.
Most modern backpackers travel from country to country trying to experience different cultures. Others prefer climbing mountains or navigating through the wilderness to find the perfect spot to set up camp and spend some alone time with Mother Nature. Whatever their reasons are, they need the right backpacking gear to fully enjoy the outdoors.
The Right Bag for Your Backpacking Gear
First on the list of important backpacking gear is the backpack, of course. Some may think that any backpack will do as long as they can carry all your stuff. That is and should not be the case.
There are a number of factors in choosing the right backpack. First, consider what you need the backpack for. Are you planning a short outdoor trek or going on a year-long global adventure? The answer will dictate your choice regarding the other aspect of choosing a backpack.
You can go for a smaller backpack for short trips and bigger, more complicated ones for an extended journey. Ideally, you should go for the most lightweight one since you’ll be lugging your backpacking gear around most of the time. Choose a bag with a sturdy interior frame, especially if you’re carrying a heavy load.
You also want a bag made of sturdy, waterproof, fireproof and theft-proof materials. This may put a dent in your wallet but investing on a high quality backpack will be worth every penny.
There should be proper ventilation so your back doesn’t get too sweaty especially when you’re hiking under the sun. Other things to look for in a backpack are comfort, space, pockets, design and price.
Nutrition and Hydration
You need food and water to sustain yourself during your trek. Pack some MREs, energy bars, nuts, and light foods for a hike up a mountain. Carry more if you’re planning an extended backpacking venture. You’ll also need vitamins to keep your body fit.
Pack some water purification tablets and a personal water filter in case you run out of clean drinking water. A collapsible water bottle will also come in handy.
Shelter and Comfort
Sleeping under the stars is a wonderful experience but you’d still want a tent over your head to protect you from the elements and keep the bugs away. You can also make a temporary shelter using a tarp or Mylar blanket.
Bring a sleeping bag and sleeping pad so you don’t have to sleep on the ground. An inflatable pillow, ear plugs, and eye shade will help you fall asleep faster.
A hammock will do wonders if you just want to take a quick break and get off your feet. It also allows you to stay off the cold ground and away from creepy crawlers.
You can’t travel around the world with only the clothes on your back. Pack extra sets of clothes so you don’t have to go naked when washing your filthy ones. You should also have weather-appropriate clothing, especially if you’re backpacking in a cold environment.
Some items of clothing you should include in your backpacking gear include a jacket, vest, wool socks, poncho, bandana and a pair of gloves for insulation. You should also have rain gear, and quick-drying hiking gear such as pants, shorts, shirt, long-sleeve shirt and socks. Don’t forget your extra underwear.
You need at last two pairs of footwear such as lightweight trail runners or hiking boots and a pair of sandals. The hiking shoes or boots are for your daily travels while the sandals give your feet a break and let them breathe.
You’ll spend most of your backpacking exploits on the road or trail and under the sun. Protect your skin from UV rays with sunscreen. Bring a lip balm, a pair of sunglasses and a hat, as well.
Health and Hygiene
Your health is always important for obvious reasons. Roughing it out in the wild or on the road doesn’t mean you have to be unhealthy and unsanitary. Keep things clean and hygienic with wipes, toilet paper, sanitation towel, sanitary pads, hand sanitizer, biodegradable soap and other toiletries.
Every backpacking gear should include a first aid kit. Make sure you have ample supply of medications if you have an existing condition. Bring some pain relievers, topical ointments for rashes, bug repellent, and others.
Items necessary for preparing and cooking food and boiling water are important parts of your backpacking gear. Bring a portable Stove, cooking set, and eating utensils. Make sure you have a can opener if you’re bringing canned goods.
One of the most basic survival skills is building a fire. You can go the old-fashioned way and rub two sticks together but if you are in a hurry to build fire, it’s good to have waterproof matches, lighters and other fire starters among your backpacking gear.
A campfire not only provides warmth, it also lights up the night. You can also use a headlamp, flashlight, glowsticks and a camping lantern. Bring extra batteries.
Navigating by the stars is a great survival skill to have. But if you don’t know how, you should have maps and a compass among your backpacking gear. You can also install GPS in your phone. An altimeter will be useful if you’re backpacking through mountainous terrain.
Other Backpacking Gear
Pack a repair kit for your stove in case it breaks down. You’ll also need a multi-tool, duct tape, paracord, and a knife for various tasks.
Some backpackers love taking trekking poles with them. They reduce the stress on your knees and legs while also creating a rhythm to your walking, which helps you relax, breathe properly and increase stamina. However, there are some who believe hiking poles do more harm than good, especially if they’re not used properly. If you want to include trekking poles in your backpacking gear, make sure you learn the proper way of using them.
Other items that should be part of your backpacking gear are whistle, signal mirror, bear spray (if you’re hiking through bear country), cathole trowel, garbage bags, and Ziplock bags (to keep and hang leftover foods).
Don’t forget to secure permits and to pack your IDs, cash, credit card, cell phone and extra battery pack in a waterproof pouch. Bring a camera, tripod, extra batteries and memory cards to document your backpacking adventure. Write your thoughts on a small journal. You can also use your pen and paper to jot things down. It’s also important to leave notes detailing your travel so people back home will have an idea where you are or should be. You can also bring a book for some downtime, binoculars to take in the beauty of your surroundings.
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