Editor April 18, 2009 4

Assessing Your Backpacking Gear

I often get questions about what kind of gear is needed versus what is expendable. The expendable gear for example might be “comforts”, i.e magazines, cosmetics, extra utensils. Here is a list of gear that I absolutely feel is essential. Whether your hiking alone or with a group. The essentials stay the same. The nice thing about hiking as a group, you can share some of the load and gear. You don’t all have to carry a stove for example, just plenty of fuel.

Personal Equipment:

  • Clothing
  • Shirts, pants, boots, hats, and so on. This is seasonal clothing.

  • Travel Equipment
  • What is needed for travel – just your feet or a canoe, kayak, bike, snowshoes, etc.

  • Storage Equipment
  • What are you going to carry your equipment in? Backpack? Waterproof bag (for portaging canoe or kayak?)

  • Sleeping Equipment
  • Sleeping bag, foam pad, or thermarest

  • Miscellaneous Equipment
  • Water bottles, toiletries, medication.

  • Shelter
  • Tent, tarp, hammock. This also can be shared if you are hiking with a partner.

  • Cooking Equipment
  • Stoves, pots, pans. Stoves can be shared, but bring extra fuel.

  • Water Purification
  • Tablets, or a filter can be carried for a group. Just make sure you change your filter after heavy use.

  • First Aid
  • This is an essential piece of gear. Not to be ignored. However, when in a group, count the number of people and bring first aid to meet all needs. Sometimes it’s better for each person to carry their own first aid kit.

    ARCADIA, CA - APRIL 16:  Nalgene brand water b...
    Image by Getty Images via Daylife

    When deciding what equipment to bring, review your planned route and answer some questions:

    How long is the trip?
    How many people are going?
    Are people providing their own equipment?
    What season is it?
    Weather, weather, weather. Average temps for that area. Minimum temps, maximum temps. Is this area pron to thunderstorms, lightning, snow, (could it snow in June)?
    Is there an altitude situation?
    What are the trip activities?
    How remote will this trip actually be?
    Water, water, water. How will I get it, resupply it, drink it, bottle it. Water everything. Will there even be water? Will I need to melt snow to get it?
    Equipment failure. If something breaks, can I keep going?

    The 12 Essentials

    1. Map
    2. Compass (and some knowledge how to use it)
    3. Head Lamp
    4. Extra Food
    5. Extra Clothing. Dry socks, underwear.
    6. Pocketknife
    7. Matches (waterproof)
    8. Firestarter (I include cotton balls for kindling)
    9. First Aid Kit
    10.Water Bottle or Nalgene Bottle, Platy (at least 2 liters)
    12. Water Purification

    Other essentials that might be included are:

    13. Watch (with compass, barometer, altimeter)
    14. Ground insulation (sleeping pad)
    15. Duct Tape (I wrap some around my hiking poles)

    No matter where you are going, and whether you are out for the day or a month. Whether you are by yourself or with a group, the list above is essential. There are countless tales of hikers who have gotten into trouble, even on short day hikes, because they neglected these essentials.

    See you on the Trail.

    You can also read; Essential Tips for Reducing Weight
    Avoid Mistakes in the Backcountry