Backpacking Basics: What Items You Really Need

The weather is getting milder and the leaves are already on the trees and that can only mean one thing; getting outdoors!

But before you head out on a day hike or a three-day backpacking trip don’t forget the necessary items you need. Below is a list of items that you should have with you no matter if you only plan a day hike or a weekend warrior backpacking trip. And remember the most important item is your brain. Knowledge and common sense can do wonders when used right.

1. Water – Your body need water to function, either bring water with you or bring some kind of water treatment (filter system, tablets, boiling, etc). If you bring a water treatment system, be sure there is water accessible to you along the trail. Water that you bring with you can be carried in all sorts of containers, just be sure that the container can be sealed to avoid spilling. We like to use 1 liter soda pop bottles with a wrap of duct tape to reinforce the sides or you can also use the Nalgene lexan polycarbonate or polyethylene wide-mouth bottles.

2. Food – Your body also needs this to function, so why not bring a little extra. Bring at least an extra meal and preferably one that doesn’t need cooking, in case you have trouble with your stove.

3. Clothing – Bring extra clothing, and if possible keep in a tightly wrapped plastic bag to keep it dry. Quick drying clothing usually is best (try to stay away from heavy cotton products like jeans) and don’t forget to layer your clothing.

4. Map – You should always carry a detailed Topographic map of the area you will be hiking in. It can’t be stressed enough that one must be able to read and understand how to use this map. Also remember that even with the advent of GPS those devices still rely on battery’s and once wet or very cold they will not work. A map will never fail you.

5. Compass – The companion to a good map is a compass and the knowledge of how to use it. Good compasses are durable and very light weight and should accompany you in the woods on every trip. It is recommended that every hiker take a map & compass class or gain knowledge through a local Orienteering Club.

6. First Aid Kit – A first aid kit should also be carried every time to go into the backcountry. Again knowledge of how to use the kit is recommended, there ought to be a booklet with the kit but when an accident happens you may not have time to read.

7. Matches and Fire StarterWaterproof matches and fire starter should be carried and kept away from other flammable sources. You can use Strike Anywhere matches and remember an extra strike plate, and keep your matches in a waterproof container along with the strike plate.

8. Flashlight – A Flashlight or Head lamp with extra batteries. Most good flashlights come with an extra bulb, but check this and bring one along if it is not supplied with the light. A couple extra batteries tucked away in your pack wouldn’t hurt. Small Fenix LED flashlights seem to work best, they are durable, lightweight and provide plenty of light.

9. Knife – A good sharp pocket knife with a few extra’s (don’t go overboard with features you will never use) makes a good all-in-one tool, Leatherman or Gerber type knives are probably the most popular.

10. Whistle – Small plastic whistle, without a small ball inside, in an accessible part of your pack. Try to stay away from the metal whistle’s because in cold weather they can freeze and those little balls can get lost. Use when someone is lost or injured.

11. Sunglasses – 100% UV protection is a must in sunglasses and all good sunglasses should provide this. Make sure they are lightweight and comfortable, and attach a good retaining string so they are always accessible.

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