Outdoor Essentials: What to Pack When Backpacking


Whether you are ready to brave the great outdoors, or preparing for months of travelling abroad, I can tell you there’s nothing in the world that compares to a true backpacking experience. However, It can be pretty overwhelming when thinking of the things you want to take with you on your next backpacking adventure, but you should always bear in mind that what you need to take can spell the difference between a nice trip and a search and rescue party. In order to set yourself up for the safest, most enjoyable backpacking trip of your life, be sure to only pack the essentials.

I’ve found that taking the minimal amount of belongings is the ideal way to travel. Not only in terms of necessity, but the amount of weight you have to carry. I’m compiled a list of the basics you may need.

Finding Your Way

Accurate navigation is one of the most crucial components of backpacking, as getting lost in the wilderness is most likely the last thing on your outdoor itinerary. To prevent this, make sure you bring the following:

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Watch

Even if you plan to bring your smartphone, you should assume that in most places, especially in the more remote regions of the world, you may not get any cell phone service. You never know if you won’t receive reception, or if your phone dies. So be prepared for the worst.

Depending on how well you know the area that you are visiting, you’ll want to have a map in your hands at all times, keeping track of every turn you make. It doesn’t have to be a giant map, just something to refer to. Should you lose track, your handy dandy compass can help you retrace your steps, all the while your watch will keep you on schedule and help you plan your day accordingly.

Protecting Yourself

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Regardless of where you’re going, whether it be deep into dense forests, high up into a mountain range, or across a scorching desert, you are bound to face any number of outdoor dangers when backpacking. To avoid succumbing to extreme heat, you should pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Protective hat
  • Chapstick

The sun can be extremely harmful to the human body after prolonged exposure, and can do some serious damage to the skin. Protecting yourself with sunscreen and chapstick can prevent severe sunburn, and the hat and sunglasses will allow you to see clearly without being blinded by the light.

One thing people often forget is appropriately preparing for hazardous weather conditions. Even if you’re going to a warm climate, you must keep in mind how the weather can shift, particularly at night. I always try to bring the following items:

  • Jacket
  • Protective vest
  • Waterproof shoes/boots
  • Waterproof pants
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves

Not only will all of this protect you from the cold and wet clothes which can lead to hypothermia, but from the various plants and animals that pose as potential threats in the wild. You’ll enjoy your adventure much more if you are well prepared.

Campsite Essentials

Once you’ve reached a point in your journey where you’re able to settle down and set up camp, there are a number of things you should have ready for optimal safety and comfort. Be sure to bring multiple sources of light including a flashlight or headlamp, and materials to build a fire. You’ll want to have:

  • Matches or lighter
  • First-aid kit
  • Food (amount depending on the duration of your trip)
  • Water (a canteen and several bottles)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Swiss army knife

The first-aid kit is a must. If you are to sustain an injury of any type, neglecting it for your entire backpacking trip can be extremely dangerous and lead to infection. Bring enough food and water to last your entire venture, and be sure to keep the food bagged to avoid attracting animals. The Swiss army knife is an essential for repair of any items, and whittling sticks for various purposes. For shelter, a tent and sleeping bag of any quality is typically enough, but if the conditions you are in are more extreme the most, consider investing in a more high quality product.