Whether you are planning a backpacking trip out west for Mule Deer and Elk or just chasing the adventures of the Appalachian Trail, having the right equipment can be the difference between a fun successful trip or a really bad experience. You will see listed below a list of what goes into choosing the right equipment for your next adventure. *Certainly you may add or subtract items based on your preference, this is a general guide to get you started.
Packs come in many sizes, shapes, and weights. Many packs will allow you to take it as a day pack or be gone for 3-7 days. Your pack should not weight any more than 6.5 pounds(Empty) and to be honest this is a bit on the heavy side as far as packs go. I will point out that some of the packs on the market with internal frames can weigh in just over six pounds. It’s important to start with a light pack as this will keep your weight down as the accessories start to add up.
Pretty basic needs require a tent(w/footprint), a pad and a sleeping bag. Nothing fancy but quality generally correlates to less weight. A shelter is a very personalized piece of gear and every backpacker/hunter may have a different idea of what will work for them. I like a two-man tent, it allows you space in your tent and a place to get your gear out of the elements. Others may like a bivvy setup for the simple purpose of size and weight savings within their pack. And lastly, other will use a tarp method. I will advise that the tarp method has great weight a space saving abilities, but it will never replace a tent.
Be sure to not overlook a sleeping pad to give you a little extra comfort. After all, good sleep is a requirement when embarking on your adventure. Pads come in a variety of styles, but the most simple way to describe them are self-inflating vs inflatable. There are weight tradeoffs here, so choose what best fits your needs.
This brings us to sleeping bags. Sleeping bags come in a ton of configurations. Be mindful of weight, dimensions, temperature rating and fill type. Obviously you want the lightest, smallest bag possible but you do not want to compromise comfort. So be sure to get a bag with the correct temperature rating for the adventure you plan to embark on. There are really two types of fill that are most common, down and synthetic. Down is very warm for those cold night but you may want to invest in a waterproof shell. Once down gets wet, it’s really hard to get dry. Many companies are treating the down with DWR which is a water repellant, but it’s very important to choose a bag that makes most sense for the trip you will go on. Most will find that one bag is not enough to cover a broad range of temperatures and end up with multiple bags for a variety of situations.
*note: the use of compression sacks is a great way to save space… not weight.
Let’s cut to the chase. I start with a good base layer of Merino Wool Socks, Underwear, Long Bottoms and a short or long sleeve top. If the weather is really hot, I may skip the Merino bottom and just go with the boxers and a pant. The benefit to Merino is it will breathe and allow air to move through the garment during the heat of the day, but keep you warm and comfortable in the early morning or right at dark when the temps are low. It’s very important to make sure you pack a good solid light weight rain jacket and pants along with some type of insulated coat or vest. Early spring or late fall can offer some unexpected cool weather to move in and ruin your comfort level. Make sure to pack a beanie, gloves and mid to heavy weight socks just in case. One should look at the forecast prior to departure to make sure they have all the necessary items for ultimate comfort.
Very much a preference, but footwear is almost as paramount as water! All joking aside, good quality footwear is very important. Light weight, water proof, stable, and broken in are all attributes I look for in a good pair of boots. This means that one should not wear a brand new pair of boots for the first time when starting at the trailhead. Break your boots in and you will have the time of your life.
This is the section that you must customize to your needs. Take a good look through this list and add or subtract based on your excursion, your needs and the amount of time away from base camp. Remember that fire, good clean water, and a first aid kit are always a necessity, everything else is mostly for comfort and ease of backpacking. Here is a short list of add on items that should make their way into every pack.
Sunscreen, chap stick, knife, water purification, flashlight, headlamp, extra batteries, Map/GPS, Garmin inReach for satellite communication, water bottle, insect repellant, paracord, toiletry kit in a zip lock, first aid kit/ trauma kit, whistle, sunglasses, cell phone, battery cell, and binoculars.
Keep in mind that this is just a list of additional items that I find helpful and you may add or subtract based on your objectives.
Pretty Simple, Jet boil, Stove, Fuel ,and a spoon are the basics. Throw some waterproof matched or a BIC Lighter in the kit and call it good. You can boil water for water purification, drinking coffee/tea and preparing your dehydrated meals for dinner each night. This is one thing I would not skimp on. Get you a good quality camp kit and pack extra fuel if you will be gone longer than 3 days.
You will need 3000 calories minimum to ensure you are not calorie deficient. This list gets you to 3000 calories/day but it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few candy bars (snicker’s… they satisfy). Pretty basic food kit includes protein shakes and coffee in the AM with MCT oil for extra calories and fat, mid-morning snack bar to keep your fuel, meal replacement bar for lunch will avoid the need for cooking, snack bars for an afternoon snack, and some high fat nuts and a Mountain House meal for dinner. It’s always a good idea to pack some electrolytes powder to throw in your water to avoid dehydration. I know this isn’t anything glamorous but it will get you the needed caloric intake and it all taste pretty good too.
Water is heavy, get 2L of clean water to start at the trailhead and have a steri-pen and/or water purification tablets if you need to obtain water replenishment. Water is King above all else and you need to prepare for worst case scenario but also be cognizant of weight.
I’m hopeful that you found this list helpful for organizing your backcountry backpack. As stated a number of times, this is just a list, you must add or subtract to it based on your needs and the needs of the type of trip you are planning.
Good Luck, Enjoy the Experience! - Gear Hunter
*specific hunting related equipment not discussed in this article