What Should I Pack?

It’s the first question we all ask. And until we have finally found our tried and true gear list, we’ll ask it again before every trip. Some gearheads are still asking after years of backpacking! I was recently asked this very question, “What should I pack?” by a new member of The Clearwater Trekkers setting out on her first backpacking trip. I typed out a quick reply on my phone, then thought it might be a helpful starting point for others, too. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s my starting point for a simple weekend trip. (I should mention that a sleeping bag and tent were being provided and she already had a stove, so while they are certainly on my packing list, these are not mentioned in this post.)

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The major thing for me is always footwear. Don’t use a big hike to break in your boots if you can avoid it. Invest in good, sturdy, comfortable boots.

After that, lightweight layers. Shorts to hike in, pants for camp/sleeping in. Zipper pants that convert to shorts are awesome, but sleeping in what you hike in is uncomfortable. Sometimes not doable if you get wet or too dirty.

Layer up shirts the same way. T-shirt to hike in, long sleeve to camp/sleep. Fleece sweater for a change in weather or camp, and a lightweight raincoat or poncho.

Bring swimwear if you’re brave enough to jump in the water!

If it’s a two day trip, bring three sets of socks & underwear.

If you’re cooking dehydrated food for just you, then all you need is one pot. Aluminum heats faster, but can warp over open flame. Steel is stronger, heavier, and takes longer to heat. But it’s much cheaper than titanium. Don’t forget utensils and something to clean your pot with. Oh, and a mug for morning coffee!

There’s a bunch of cool water filters out there now. From straws to bags that you hang from a tree. Take your pick, just look for something that won’t take all night to filter enough water for dinner and drinking. And keep it light.

Hiking poles are a god send. They take a lot of weight off your knees and help with balance and rhythm.

Toiletries: TP, toothbrush, paste, deodorant, sun screen, lip balm, baby wipes, q-tips.

First aid: band aids, mole skin for blisters (or duct tape), needle and thread for blisters, gauze, a couple of butterfly bandages.

Recommended: duct tape, quality knife, hat, sunglasses, camera. Remember to charge your devices! And put your phone in airplane mode once you’re out of signal range.

Hope that helps!

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Whenever I pack I remind myself that I am literally going for a walk. If I can’t use it walking, then I need to really asses if it’s essential enough for the few hours I’m at camp to be hauled along. What about you? What’s on your essentials list that I didn’t mention here? Comment below with your most essential and/or favorite gear.


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