Top Ten Most Needed Supplies for Backpacking

With summertime comes outdoor activities. One of the most fun things a person can do outside is go backpacking. It can be for a few hours or for a few days, but regardless of the length, don't let the preconceptions of bugs, sweat, and tears deter you from trying this activity out.

Depending on the climate you choose to hike through, you can experience anything from snow to sand, and from blistering heat to arctic chills. The majority of people with find a happiness in between the extremes. Soft meadows with calm lakes, surrounded by birds chirping and a warming sun poking through the trees...

The beauty of backpacking is that you have total freedom to move about and settle down where you want. The responsible hiker will stick to established trails and campsites, but in some wilderness areas you get to decide your own direction of travel and location to set up camp. That's where this list comes in.

Every climate is unique and therefore a universal list of needed supplies is unreasonable. However, there are a few things that will be necessary or beneficial in all situations and climes. Research the area you're going to be backpacking through for specifics.
The Top Ten
1 Good Hiking Shoes/Boots

There has been a debate over hiking shoes or boots for decades. It really comes down to your fitness level, the terrain you'll be traveling through, and your individual preference. I prefer shoes because they are lighter in weight and therefore less tiring. I also am fit enough that I do not need the extra ankle support on rough terrain.

Look for a pair that fits you while wearing the socks you plan to hike in. You'll also want to break them in by wearing them for 20 miles or so before your hike to ensure they don't need to be exchanged for a slightly different size.

2 The Right Backpack

If you're going for a 5-day hike alone, you'll need a much more robust backpack than if you are going with a friend for a few hours. Get the smallest backpack you can fit everything in and make sure it's sized to fit your torso correctly.

I prefer to get a backpack where everything fits inside and doesn't have a lot of extra straps and pockets on the outside to get snagged on trees and undergrowth.

3 Hydration

Whether you use a water bladder (CamelBak or other brand) or a canteen, water will be your best friend on the trail. If you're going for multiple days and are anywhere other than the driest of deserts, you won't be able to carry all your water with you right from the start.

I recommend carrying your water container with as little water as possible (or empty) and refilling it from springs or clean water sources when you need a drink. Learn how to purify water (or carry a purifier with you) so you won't have to carry all the water weight with you.

4 Insulation

You will never know what the weather holds from one day to the next. Summer storms can creep up unexpectedly, and terrain changes can raise or drop temperatures by tens of degrees. Having a sun hat, rain jacket, convertible pants, or thermal blanket can make the difference between finishing your hike safely and not making it back at all.

I recommend looking at the forecast and packing for 20 degrees warmer and colder. Bring extra layers to pack on, as well as lightweight outer layers for rain or snow.

5 First-Aid Supplies

You don't have to be a field medic to carry some basic lifesaving supplies. There are dozens of manufacturers of first-aid kits out there, and all you need to do is decide on the one that fits your knowledge and needs. Make sure you have both trauma supplies, such as bandages and tape, as well as medications like Tylenol and antiseptic pads.

In case you get hurt, or somebody else gets hurt, they will need the first-aid kit, or else there will be consequences.

There are so many things that could go wrong while backpacking.

6 Lighting

Gone are the days of candles and campfires being your only source of light in the backcountry. Even flashlights are cumbersome and inefficient when compared to the myriad of headlamps on the market these days.

Find a good-quality headlamp that doesn't take more than two batteries and has all the weatherproofing you think you'll need.

7 Nutrition

From snack bars to dehydrated meals, food can be more than comfort after a day on the trail. If you get stuck in the wild, it can save your life. Make sure you have enough variety in your meals to cover your caloric, nutritional, and taste needs.

8 Navigation Tools

Not every hike involves a trail. Even if it does, researching distances, waypoints, and landmarks can let you know how far you've gone and what's in store ahead. You can carry GPS devices, maps and compasses, mobile phones (if you get a signal. Otherwise, leave it in the car), or just well-researched information in your head. Know where you need to be and when you should be there.

9 Fire Starting Supplies

Not all areas allow campfires, but when it becomes an emergency to cook food or provide warmth, you should know how to start a fire out of what's available. Bringing a lighter or matches might not always be enough if they get wet or it's windy. There are a dozen or more ways to start a fire, and each one requires a slightly different skill set and toolkit.

10 Personal Protection

Chances are, the people you'll meet in the backcountry are going to be responsible and kind, but you never know what you'll run into. Having a good, fixed-blade knife can be both a mental security measure as well as a versatile piece of equipment to help with anything around camp.

In Alaska (grizzly bears) or California (humans), this should be a large-caliber firearm.

The Contenders
11 Cell Phone
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