The decision to take the wilderness trip of a lifetime comes paired with a timeless practical equation: how to make sure you’ll be safe and comfortable while minimizing the ‘faff’ factor. Essential Backpacking Tips and Items to Pack for your Backpacking Adventure. That backpack, the home-in-a-bag, is a complex organism, deeply personal yet highly practical.
Yet it needn’t be an unwieldy burden, and indeed you will greatly benefit from ensuring that it is as efficiently and comfortably packed as possible. This is not inherent knowledge. This is something that needs to be researched.
Essential Backpacking Tips and Items to Pack
For starters, you need the right backpack. Think 30-50 liters backpacks for a weekend trip, 50-80 liter backpacks if you’re going for four or five days, and if it’s an extended trip you should consider at least 70 liter backpacks – all depending on your own size and strength.
Make sure you try it out a couple of days before your trip, because you may need to rethink the contents – or the bag. To make it as comfortable as possible and to ensure that the weight is distributed in a manner that your back will thank you for, put your sleeping back in first, followed by your provisions and cooking gear.
Your clothes can pad around this at the top and sides, with your maps and snacks in easy reaching distance at the top. Remember to keep anything else that you might need urgently – your papers, medication, phone – in an easy-to access place, too. You don’t want to find yourself completely unpacking and repacking your things in the desert because you can’t find your inhaler.
In amongst that comforting food and bedding, of course, you will need to pack some necessities more specific to the backpacking experience.
First Aid Kit
Backpacking can be dangerous, and ensuring that you, your comrades and nature itself survive the experience intact requires awareness both of predictable dangers, and the unexpected. A first aid kit is a must. No matter how careful you are, your hike is likely to take you far from organized medical aid – so you need to be responsible for your own falls, sprains, burns and bites as well as on standby for your fellow trekkers.
Likewise, you might not yet foresee how you could possibly use a Swiss army knife, despite its apparent utility – but you’ll be grateful for it when you least expect it. And while the army knife may cut, lever or screw things apart, you’ll value a trusty roll of duct tape for sticking everything together from torn clothing and tents to impromptu plastic bag boots.
GPS for Hiking and Backpacking
Now, a word about finding your way. GPS is a godsend. Prep your phone or other device and estimate your battery expectations. Pack a portable charger if you can. But don’t rely purely on GPS as there are a number of things that could go wrong – especially in the poorly mapped wilderness. Instead, take back-up in the form of an old-school map and compass, things that don’t rely on power or connectivity. And never assume that you know the terrain.
Make sure to time your trip, so you know when to turn around and head back, and tell someone else where you’re going before you leave so they’ll know to raise the alarm should you be late. Take a whistle with you so you can signal for help should the need arise.
If you do get lost, stay calm. Make your way to higher ground if possible, which will hopefully offer you a fresh perspective on what’s around you – maybe revealing a familiar landmark that you previously passed, and to which you can retrace your steps.
But if this doesn’t work, and there’s no immediate danger, it’s best to stay put. Wandering further on can just make you even more lost, guide you towards potential dangers, and make the trail harder for rescuers to trace.
Tips if You Get Lost
Make yourself a shelter, be it against the sun or the rain, and build a fire to maintain your energy and as a signal to rescuers. When you do hear a helicopter tracing the area, lay down flat on the floor (outside of the shelter!) so that you are easier to spot. Wear your brightest clothes, and if possible make a flag out of your most colorful item.
All that said, with the right preparation and a responsible attitude, disaster is highly unlikely. Most of your energies should be focused on looking after yourself, and nature around you. Be sure to eat regularly – a carb-packed oatmeal breakfast, a high-calorie lunch, and plenty of snacks in between – and drink plenty of water.
You’ll want to take a water filter or purification tablets to ensure that even when your own supply runs out, you can make a healthy resource of any spring you should find. Remember to wrap up your trash and take it with you, and leave your souvenirs behind – nature belongs where you found it! – and that fine wilderness will remain an enticing challenge for generations to come.
These tips and more have been gathered into a great new infographic, an easy reference check-list for the aspiring backpacker. Be sure to study it closely and run through it ahead of your next big trip, take care out there, and have fun.