Backpacking 101: Pack Light and Hit the Trails

When going backpacking, people often focus on their clothing only and forget about the rest of the essentials. There’s nothing wrong about focusing on your clothes – after all, they need to be suitable for this particular adventure. 
But even if you have put your utmost care into choosing the right clothes, they won’t do you any good if you don’t have the rest of the essentials with you. Being stocked up on the right supplies can make all the difference between an enjoyable backpacking trip and a total disaster.

What Do You Need for a Backpacking Trip?

For the most part, it depends on where you’re backpacking and for how long. A weekend trip in the woods will require different supplies than a month-long trek through the mountains. But there are several universal items that you should always bring with you, no matter where your backpacking adventure takes you.

Bivvy Bag
Source: alpkit.com

Bivvy Bag

A bivvy bag is a bag constructed of waterproof materials both on the top and on the bottom for maximum protection. Today’s modern bivvy bags are cosier, more compact, and lighter than any tent, protecting you from the elements and keeping you warm. Manufacturers of bivvies used to just concentrate on the waterproof aspect, but nowadays, they use lightweight, breathable materials to prevent condensation within the bag. 


The simplicity of a bivvy bag is another benefit. Compared to, say, setting up a tent, it barely takes a minute. Saving time when getting ready for bed is essential when you’re cold. They’ll function throughout the year and create the perfect sleeping environment.


There are a few models you can choose from, but the basic one looks like a simple bag where you can crawl and have a good night’s sleep. It sometimes has a zipper that goes over your head, in case the weather is colder than you thought, or if you don’t want to wake up at the first ray of sunshine. 


There’s an updated version which is called the hooped bivvy. This bag has a pole and more material around the head. With this version, you’ll have more space and won’t feel claustrophobic. It gives you space to read a book in peace, scroll through your phone or have an online conversation without anyone disturbing you.


If you want something really light, you can go with the metal foil type. This bag gives you insulation and warmth but it can be easily damaged and torn. You can keep a metal foil-style bag just in case of an emergency, if your bag gets damaged or if another person comes for just one night. 

The bottom layer of a bivvy bag is always waterproof. It’s made from nylon and coated with urethane. The top layer provides breathability. It’s made of ripstop nylon, which is a lighter version of this material and it’s covered with breathable laminate. 

When you’re going backpacking, you’re looking for some sense of freedom and connection with nature. Compared to tents, bivvy bags give you this experience with an incredible view every time you wake up in the morning.

Food  camping
Source: cleverhiker.com

Food 

Meal planning is important when you’re going backpacking, even if it’s just a weekend one. Carrying everything in your backpack can be difficult, and adding unnecessary food items will only make your trip harder. Always take into consideration how many days you’ll be out, what’s the size of the group that’s going and how will your day look like. 

By answering these questions you’ll have a clear picture of how much food you’ll need. Bring something you like to eat and don’t experiment with foods because you may end up being hungry. Bring a variety of foods, spicy, savoury, sweet, salty, and different textures and always include fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nuts and seeds are light and convenient, making an excellent snack filled with nutrients. Dried fruit will last longer and it’s a great source of antioxidants and carbs. You should avoid fresh meat, but replace it with jerky, lightweight dried meat that is easily stored and has a healthy dose of protein. 

Dehydrated meal packs with breakfast, lunch and dinner are popular among backpackers. They have meat, vegetables, grains and fruits that get cooked simply in boiling water. Protein bars are another choice that will boost your protein intake. You don’t have to carry an entire outdoor camping kitchen to get a good meal. You just need to carefully pick the products you’ll need.

Water Bottles

Water is an essential ingredient that keeps us alive and having enough of it while backpacking is crucial. You can wear a hydration bladder stored inside your backpack and connected with a straw so you can drink while walking. The other option is to carry water in bottles. 

Most backpacks have side pockets for this purpose. Bottles are easy to drink from and refill from a reliable source, but carrying them can cause weight disbalance. There are ways you can treat water and turn it into a drinkable one:

  • Pump or Squeeze Filters – small, lightweight, immediately drinkable water;
  • Gravity Filters – filter 3-4l at once, slow to work and setup;
  • UV Pens – battery operated, 90-second stir;
  • Boiling Water – simple, effective, not fast.

If you know how to read a map, you’ll be able to find a drinkable water source without filtering the water. Flowing water is best because it doesn’t keep bacteria and parasites in one place. Check for bugs, algae, haziness and strange colour before drinking. And check where is it coming from. The higher you are in the mountains, the better.

Hard and Soft Sided Water Bottles
Source: switchbacktravel.com

First Aid Kit

First aid kits are lifesavers in some situations. Walking around woods and small trails has its dangers. There are kits of different sizes, so you should know how many people will be there to pack accordingly. The most common items that a first aid kit should have are:

  • Bandages;
  • Gauzes;
  • Anesthetic spray;
  • Gloves;
  • Antibiotic cream;
  • Mask;
  • Safety pins;
  • Triangular bandage;
  • Scissors;
  • Tweezers.

Always take the kit with you and when you stop make sure that everyone knows where it is. It should be easily accessible. Check if every member of the group knows how to use it, if not give them a couple of emergency tips. If you use any of the items, replace and restock when you get home so you’ll be ready for the next backpacking adventure.

It’s not a good idea to be without a light source when you’re in the wild. That’s why having a flashlight, or a lantern is a must. If you take a flashlight, it should have at least 100 lumens power intensity, 160-200 lumens would be optimal. 

The same goes for the headlamp as well. The only difference is that the headlamp leaves your hands free. Choose a lighting source made from durable materials, something waterproof that can handle a splash of water. Make sure it’s easy to operate and has batteries that last long.

Experienced backpackers recommend buying a light source with rechargeable batteries. This will save you money in the long run. With some flashlights or headlamps, there are additional features that can help you. Some of them have magnets so you don’t have to hold them, clips to hang them in your pocket, infrared light and SOS light in case of emergencies.

Trip light
Source: intl-outdoor.com

A Handy Multitool

This is a useful, multipurpose and versatile item to have by your side at any time, especially when you’re backpacking. Things like scissors, pliers, screwdrivers, can openers, blades, tweezers, corkscrews and much more will come in handy when you need to prepare food, light the fire or fix something. 

These multitools are usually made from 3 materials. Stainless steel is heavy, strung and rust resistant. Titanium is lightweight, rust resistant, and very strong but it can be on the expensive side. And aluminium is less durable than the rest of them but it’s lightweight and rust resistant.