Dear backpackers, the time has come to explore our guide to the basic gear for backpacking adventures. We are going to focus mainly on outdoor backpacking, which probably is the kind of backpacking that necessitates more gear than any other one. Indeed, you’ll have to carry with you your accommodation, as well as your kitchen and pretty much everything you need to survive.
This is also because we at Apache Pine love the outdoors: that’s where we spent the majority of our time, backpacking or practicing many other sports and activities. We do believe backpacking is a very sustainable kind of adventure and in general it's a good way to leave no trace - even though you’ll have to put your efforts in order to keep the environment truly clean and untouched: here are some more tips on how to do it.
Normally, urban backpacking or flashpacking require less material, as you will be staying in hotels and eating street food. However, this is a complete backpacking gear list you can adjust according to your needs and the endeavor you are about to face.
Regardless, the keyword for all kinds of backpacking is one: light. Even better if ultralight. Now, this means two things: choose the lightest item you can and minimize what you are taking with you. You will actually be surprised of the amount of stuff you don’t need and can do without, and this might have a very important impact in your life as well, teaching you to cut down on consumes and purchases, living a more sustainable life, besides more sustainable adventures.
So let’s find out together what could be a useful backpacking gear list and what to take with you when backpacking. You’ll learn the art of packing smart.
Backpacking gear checklist
Here you can pick between a tent, a trap, a bivy or a reflective blanket according to the amount of nights you are going to spend outside, where you are going to sleep and what the weather will be like.
If your backpacking adventure is just a weekend long and you are 100% sure sun and good weather are on the way, than a good sleeping bag, or a reflective blanket or any other kind of warm and light sleeping device will be enough. You won’t even need a tent, especially if you are a bushcraft expert.
If your backpacking travel is going to take more than a couple of days, than an ultralight tent is highly recommended. There is plenty of ultralight tents on the market designed for hikers and backpackers especially, so you won’t have a hard time finding one that suits your necessities.
Same goes for backpacking sleeping bags: the market has so many options you’ll surely find the one that suits you best. The lightest, the best. We suggest a 30ºF or lower comfort zone sleeping bag, so you can be sure you’ll be okay in every situation and at all temperatures.
Using a sleeping mat is entirely up to you. Of course, it should either be self-inflating, or non-inflating at all. In general, it must be the lightest you can.
Little note: as much as keeping it ultralight is paramount when backpacking, rest is equally important. You won’t have all the energies you need to face multiple days backpacking in the outdoors if you don’t sleep properly. So never risk to be unprepared when it comes to sleeping gear, both in terms of items and resistance to low temperatures.
The smallest and lightest camping stove will be more than enough, together with one single pot, or a mess tin that you can use to both cook and eat, plus of course a spoon. You bush knife will do all the rest of the job.
Try to take with you as much dry food as you can, so you won’t need to cook or to use water to consume it. Also, keep portions small and super nutritious. This way they will not weight too much, but they will also give you all the energy you need.
Also, remember about water. The best thing to do is to check in advance the water points dislocated along your itinerary, so you can evaluate how much water you’ll need to take with you between one refill and the other. Of course, choose a reusable water bottle rather than a plastic one, so you can cut on the garbage.
In case you don’t have the chance to refill your bottle, then make sure to carry a water filter with you, or any other sort of treatment system, so you’ll still be able to stock up on water when you find it.
Insulating and clothing
We are not going to tell you what to wear in terms of clothing and how many socks to pack in your backpack. Sure thing is: you must carry the very essential. If you are in doubt whether you are going to wear something or not, then don’t bring it. Of course, you “closet” will vary according to the season and the place, however, always remember to have a full change with you, in case of rain or any other unforeseen event.
In general, opt for quick-drying clothes and wear a layered outfit, so you can be ready for all sorts of conditions.
Regardless the season and the place, what really shouldn’t be missing from your backpack is: a waterproof jacket (possibly warm), a bandana, a hat, gloves and a neck warmer. Also, a thermal t-shirt and some thermal pants are highly advisable, unless you are 100% sure it’s going to be very warm all the time.
Make sure your shoes are waterproof and suitable for all sorts of terrain. If you cannot walk comfortably, your backpacking adventure can turn into a real nightmare. Also, a pair of water sandals can be extremely handy and absolutely a must in all sorts of situations.
Navigating and orienting
Of course, don’t forget your maps, a compass, possibly a GPS and, in case you need it, an altimeter. Make sure to have a good guide or description of the itinerary and remember that there’s plenty of apps that can help you with that.
About that, if you are planning to take your smartphone with you, then make sure to have a power bank with you. Some power banks come with a solar panel so you can re-charge them with sunlight and have unlimited power. At that point, make sure to fill your smartphone with all the apps you may need not just for backpacking, but also to document your experience, take pictures or accomplish any other task.
In case you are taking your camera with you, remember to bring some extra, already fully charged batteries and some extra memory cards, especially if you are backpacking for several weeks. Also, an outdoor journal and a pen if you are keen on writing or if you want to keep record of events, dates and the general progress of your backpacking experience.
Besides space, you will have to orient through time as well, so don’t forget to bring a watch. Our wooden watches are perfect for backpacking experiences, as well as daily life, so you’ll have a wooden watch perfect for all occasions, and that will remind you of your times in the outdoors when back home.
First-aid, protection and personal hygiene
A first-aid kit is absolutely essential. It can really and drastically change your experience in case someone gets hurt. In general, remember that your protection is very important. So make sure to take sunscreen and lip balm with you, as well as sunglasses and a sun-shielding hat.
Also, remember to protect from insects, bites and irritations with insect repellents and lotions to avoid or cool down rushes. Also, having some bear spray won’t do you any harm.
You will also need something that will help other people to localize you if something happens and you get lost. A satellite communicator or a radio can be very helpful, as well as downloading apps that will inform your friends and family about you position automatically, so you’ll always keep them updated.
Another thing you should always do is to leave your itinerary to your friends, as well as under a car seat. In case of emergency, people will know where to look.
For what concerns your personal hygiene, toilet paper, biodegradable soap and biodegradable wet wipes are absolutely necessary. Make sure they won’t pollute the environment and avoid throwing them away if you can.
Even if you are venturing outdoors, always bring a credit card or a small amount of money with you. Also, bring your ID and permits with you, as well as all the documentation you might need, especially when you are in a foreign country.
Last but not least, always carry a roll of garbage bags, in order to throw away your stuff and pick the potential waste you might find.