Your hiking backpack is an essential piece of equipment and knowing what you should be keeping in it is essential for your safety and sustainability. What you should carry depends on the type of hike you’ll be doing. Therefore, you need to know the essentials for both shorter and longer hikes.
10 day-hiking backpack essentials are:
- Portable charger and spare battery
- Emergency blanket
- Cell phone
- Insect repellent
- Weather appropriate clothing
- First-aid kit
10 multi-day hiking backpack essentials are:
- Change of clothing
- Sleeping bag
- Stove and fuel
- Water treatment supplies
- First-aid kit
- Cell phone and charger
There are some distinct differences in the backpacking items you should be bringing depending on the type of hike you will be going on. Below, we will go into more detail about these items and why each one is essential for each type of hike.
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The items that you put in a hiking backpack should consist of everything you need and anything you could potentially need in the case of unforeseen circumstances. When deciding what to pack you should consider the type of hike, your personal needs, and the size of your backpack.
One of the most important things you can do is understand your planned hike. You should consider the length, the type of terrain, the forecasted weather, and what activities you have planned during the hike. Think of any factor that could call for a specific item or tool you’ll need to carry along.
These factors can all change the items you may need in your backpack. A hike on a short, flat trail during summer requires different essentials than a long trail in winter conditions. So, planning is essential, and having different lists already created of what you need in various circumstances makes preparation much easier.
You want your hike to be a safe and enjoyable experience, this is directly impacted by your personal hiking needs. Understanding your own demands will help you carry specific items that cater to those needs and make for a better hike.
As an example, someone suffering from asthma would clearly need to include their inhaler in their essentials list. Someone who gets cold easily would require options for warmer clothing, whereas it wouldn’t be necessary for others even on the same hike. All personal needs are different and will call for different essentials.
As everyone’s personal needs will call for different items, personal necessities will not be included in the lists provided here. Those items will be determined by you after learning your own hiking demands.
There’s one major contributing factor that cannot be overlooked, and that is the size of your backpack. A backpack suitable for a day hike will be different from a backpack for a multi-day hike, which is usually significantly larger in size.
You need to know how much your backpack can hold and how it can be organized before you create your checklist. However, we recommend ensuring ample space for the 10 essential items we list below. Once you have checked that your backpack can hold these with ease, then you can look at the space left for a few additional items.
Be careful, as the weight of your backpack can creep up on you. Adding too many items can quickly lead to a bulky, heavy backpack. Focus on the essential items listed below, then see how comfortable you feel carrying your pack around.
There are a couple of basic areas to focus on when deciding what to put in your hiking backpack. First and foremost is sustenance. You absolutely need to have some food and something for hydration. Next is safety. Injuries, minor and major, can happen anytime. Include emergency kit items and medicine for this. Keeping these items in your pack will help you be prepared.
This is perhaps the most obvious item, but we all need to carry food with us, even on a day hike. Even if you are only planning on completing a trail that covers a mile or two, it’s still important to have something with you to provide your body with energy.
Of course, the food you carry depends on the length of the hike. For example, a trail covering 10 miles requires more energy than a 1-mile hike. For short hikes, consider energy bars or other small, light things that can supply an energy boost. For longer hikes, have a series of snacks you can access with ease, along with something larger to eat mid-hike.
Fluid is even more important than food, and not only on hot days. However, the amount of fluid you need to carry depends on the weather and the length of your hike. There is a general rule about the quantity of water you should be drinking. For most people, you should drink around 1 liter of water every two hours. If it is hot, you should be drinking 1.5 L to 2 L every two hours.
It is recommended to carry a portable charger and spare battery so that you still have access to your electronic devices in the event of an emergency. Sometimes, hikes can last much longer than intended to, and having extra charge would be necessary for safety and communication.
Many people like to use hiking as a way to get a tan, however this can be unsafe and could result in problems later. You should always carry sunscreen to protect yourself from UV exposure. It is important to apply frequently, even when the sun is not shining.
Hiking exposes you to the sun for several hours. Sunburn is not only painful, but dangerous too. Continuous skin damage resulting from sunburn can cause serious problems for you overtime. Avoid these dangers by applying your sunscreen regularly.
You never know when an accident may occur, leaving you stranded in nature, exposed to the elements for an indeterminate period. Having an emergency blanket on hand will keep you warm and could potentially save your life in several emergency circumstances. They fold down to an exceptionally small size and weigh little to nothing for convenient storage.
No hiker should be on the trail without a torch. This piece of safety equipment is easy to store and is a vital tool for use in emergency situations. In some emergencies you are left outdoors as the sun sets. A torch not only helps others find your location, but can also help you navigate your way through the dark.
Your cell phone is an essential item to carry with you, even if you do not expect to have a signal the entire time. Carrying it with you allows you to have a way to communicate or use navigation apps when you can. Most cell phones also have tracking. This could be vital for emergency situations should you be injured or lost.
Insect repellent makes a huge difference in how comfortable you feel on your hike. Many do not realize how important it is until after letting the pesky insects get to them. Hiking exposes you to many types of insects that cause bites and various irritations. However, packing and using insect repellent regularly will prevent those insect problems.
When it comes to the clothing you should carry in your backpack, it depends on the weather. This could include waterproof clothing, additional layers, gloves, or a hat. Planning beforehand will help determine the necessary clothing items to bring.
Always check the weather forecast before your hike. Packing appropriate clothing is easy as long as you take the time to prepare. When you are uncertain about what may be required, always err on the side of caution. It is better to be overprepared than underprepared.
Packing a first-aid kit does not mean you have to pack several different items. In fact, there are small first-aid kits designed especially for hiking. They often contain bandages and ointments to cover blisters, cuts, bruises, and other minor injuries. Knowing that you have these items in the event of an emergency provides ease of mind.
As you are hiking for more than one day, you will require at least one change of clothing. That includes underwear, socks, and the potential for new base layers. How much and what type of clothing you need depends on the length of your hike.
You still need to consider the weather when packing additional clothing. Cover all bases when it comes to the potential weather conditions you could encounter. For multi-day hikes it should be considered necessary to bring waterproof clothing.
As you plan to spend at least one night out there, you will undoubtedly require a torch. You should also make sure you have spare batteries for it. Having a dead torch when hiking overnight is not a pleasant experience. Torches provide light as well as a sense of security.
The torch will quickly become one of your key safety items on a multi-day hike. It allows you to find items in your backpack and in the environment when its dark. A torch allows you to move about freely wherever you are camping, without problems. If possible, consider purchasing a head torch for convenience.
You will need to pack food, and possibly lots of it. You need to pack food that provides you with energy. The only way to avoid carrying a lot of food at the same time is if you plan your hike and know of places where you can replenish food items.
Preferably, pack food that won’t weigh much and isn’t too bulky, as space is limited. Also, throw in a few treats for yourself. They help your state of mind when your feet hurt or you feel exhausted. Treating yourself after a long hike can make a huge difference in your mood at the end of the day.
As stated before, fluids are important. You need to be prepared to carry more fluids as you have a longer hike duration. Consider carrying both water and energy drinks. Most overnight campers will have access to heat. Therefore, you could pack tea or something hot to drink for cool nights.
For multi-day hiking, you obviously need somewhere to sleep. Unless you pre-plan to stay in a guest house or hostel, you should pack a tent. You will have to consider what type of tent is most suitable for your hike.
Some tents are only suitable for certain conditions. This is especially important when planning a multi-day hike in colder weather conditions. Pay attention to how easy the tent is to construct and pack away. Your tent will likely be one of the biggest items you carry, make sure it isn’t too heavy. Choose a tent that fits your needs but doesn’t over-do it.
Your sleeping bag is important for a good night’s rest. Sleeping bags are also designed for certain conditions, being suitable for different seasons and temperatures. Look for this manufacturing information when purchasing or selecting a sleeping bag for hiking.
You want your sleeping bag to be lightweight and easy to roll up for packing. Modern sleeping bags conveniently fold up into a small space. Newer materials used also keep you warm and dry without weighing too much.
If camping out, you will need a camping stove and some fuel. This allows you to cook warm, nutritious meals for providing more energy. A heat source like this can also give you the chance to boil water, sterilizing it for other uses like drinking or cleaning.
You shouldn’t be carrying anything too large. A single burner with a small bottle of gas to power it will provide you with enough energy to warm up a meal or boil water. This item will also provide you with a surprising amount of comfort. Having a real meal at the end of a long day in nature can make a major difference in your hiking experience.
If the idea of carrying a lot of fluid with you is not appealing, there are other options. If you know that there is a water supply on your trail, you can carry water treatment supplies to cut down the amount of fluid you have to bring.
These supplies purify water and make it safe for drinking and cleaning. They are easy to use and highly effective. Water that comes from natural sources can make you incredibly ill, therefore having a way to safely convert it to drinking water is important. With these supplies, you only need to fill your water bottle and use the water treatment to ensure you have plenty of fluid to stay hydrated.
A first-aid kit becomes even more important when on a multi-day hike, as the potential for accidents is increased due to the duration of the hike. There is no need to carry a large kit, as long as you have the few necessary items. While we hope you never have to use it, you do not want to take the risk of being without first-aid.
Walking for extended periods can lead to blisters and cuts. It happens to even the most experienced hikers wearing the perfect boots. You need to clean wounds and dress them to prevent infection. You may even need to apply a form of suture to a cut. Carrying a first-aid kit is the easiest way to be prepared for these circumstances.
Lastly, you want to have your cell phone and charger, preferably with a fully charged spare battery. With luck, you can get a signal along your trail. However, even without a signal your phone can be used in emergencies for others to track you. Your phone should be considered a safety feature that you should never be without.
Choosing the items to carry in your backpack is a decision that all hikers should take time and care making. Knowing you have everything you could potentially need makes a huge difference in completing your hike safely and confidently. While considering these recommendations, you should be prepared to adjust your own list of essentials to cater your own needs and preferences.