Backpacking Essentials

Have you ever embarked on a backpacking, camping, business or family trip and quickly realize you forgot something? Something important...maybe essential to your experience? I certainly have. Not only has it happened, but seemingly inevitable that it will occur again. Unfortunately, when the light bulb moment occurs, it's too late. You've gone too far. You are past the point of no return. That elusive something you left behind is missing out on the adventure, or adding to it, for that matter.

Eight miles into the heart of the Trinity Alps, I experienced one of these 'light bulb' moments. The socks, underwear, and gloves that I had meticulously laid out, folded, and prepared for the journey had been left behind. I could only imagine what they were up too. Enjoying the warmth, security, and cleanliness of my home, while I was left swampy sweaty by day and crazy cold by night. Granted clean underwear and dry socks aren't a necessity, but they do provide a much-needed morale boost. Not to mention, keep my travel companions from wanting to barbecue me along with the fresh caught trout.

Preparing for an adventure often times feels like a puzzling math problem. By the time you shove everything you deem “necessary” into your pack, you are left carrying half of your house into the mountains. Trust me, I have learned this the hard way. Raw, rosy-red shoulders have told the tale of overpacking. The great outdoors have a way of simplifying life. The comforts of everyday living don't always translate to campfire chats and breathtaking views. They don't need to. Experiences out in the wilderness offer a different type of comfort; one that is lasting and significant. Leave your favorite body wash, designer cologne, and fluffy pillow at home. Don't worry, they will be there waiting for you when you return, ask my socks and underwear.

The following is by no means an encyclopedic list of gear, but a few essentials I recommend for your next backpacking/camping trip:

  • Socks & Underwear :)

  • Headlamp/Flashlight (Bring extra batteries)

  • Map, Compass & Whistle

  • Sunscreen, Chapstick & Sunglasses

  • Insulation and Layers (Hats, gloves, jacket, pants, base layer)

  • First Aid Kit

  • Waterproof Matches

  • Duct Tape

  • Multi-Tool & Knife

  • Water Bottle/Bladder

  • Water Filter or other treatment system

  • Fishing Pole (optional)

  • Backpack

  • Tent or Bivy

  • Emergency Reflective Blanket/Bivy

  • Sleeping Bag

  • Sleeping Pad (really nice to have)

  • Meals (+ a day)

  • Energy Snack (bars, trail mix, chews)

  • Stove & Fuel

  • Cook-set, Scrubber, Dishes & Utensils

  • Bear Canister (If applicable)

  • 50' Nylon Chord (Hanging food)

  • Pen & Paper (Write down those inspiring thoughts!)

  • Trash bags

  • Bug Spray

  • Biodegradable All-Purpose Soap

  • Toothbrush/toiletry kit

  • Quick Drying Towel

  • Cell Phone

  • Moleskin

  • A post-adventure cold one :)

Note: Always let a friend or family member know when you are heading out into the woods. Give them a copy of your itinerary and a time they can expect you to return!

Written by: Alex Wittmer