If you’re an avid hiker who wants to extend their range or someone who just wants to spend more time outside, then backpacking is the perfect new outdoor sport for you. If you don’t camp often or have never had to carry you camp on your back though, then getting into backpacking can be difficult due to the wide array of gear, etiquette, and practices that can only be learned on the trail.
To help you get started, the ASO Mammoth team has put together a quick list of backpacking essentials for beginners to stock up on before they set out for their first trip. Remember, each trip has unique needs based on the backpackers and surrounding environment, so always proof your plans by speaking with an experienced backpacker like the pros at ASO Mammoth!
The Ten Essentials
REI lists these 10 essentials as a part of any backpacking trip.
- Navigation tools
- Sun Protection
- First Aid Kit
- Extra Food
- Extra Water
- Extra Clothes
While these items will cover your needs if packed in sufficient quantities, this list can be too broad for a beginner to use to decide on what gear to buy. We’ve gone ahead and broken down a few of the items below to help you know what to buy if you’re buying backpacking gear for the first time.
Although a backpack is not listed above, buying a backpacking bag for the first time isn’t like buying a backpack for school, so we’ve listed it here. We’ve gone into detail on this subject before, but if you’re backpacking then the size of the backpack you’ll need is determined by how long you’ll be on your trip. The more days on the trail, the more space you’ll need in your bag. For example, if you’re only hiking for 1-3 days then a bag with 30 to 50 liters of space should provide enough storage for the needed gear. After you know the size you need, the next step is to research what features you want in a bag and then find the correct size so that you can hike in comfort!
Like the other gear here, the appropriate shelter for you depends on the conditions of your trip. For example, some backpackers can lighten their loads by simply carrying a hammock with them. If you’re expecting rain, cold weather, or are carrying shelter for two though, then a hammock will not work for you.
There are three basic components to consider when buying your shelter. The tent, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. The cost and weight of these items may make you want to go for the cheapest options, but a goodnight’s sleep can be the difference between another day on the trail and having to turn around early. Quality adult sleeping bags will typically cost around $175 and above, so consider that cost while planning your trip. Sleeping pads are cheaper but are also just as important when it comes to staying warm and comfortable, so don’t think that you can make it without buying one.
While food and cooking utensils are vital to backpacking, you won’t get very far if you don’t bring adequate water supplies. The amount of water needed for a trip varies by conditions, but the general rule is to drink a half-liter of water for every hour walking. If you’re hiking in extreme heat or are exerting more energy due to high altitude, then you’ll need to prepare by bringing even more water. Water bladders are a great option thanks to their size and ability to easily fit in your backpack.