Gear to Bring on Your Next Big Backcountry Hike

September 11, 2019


Whether you’re a backpacking novice or seasoned hiker, backcountry hiking is the classic outdoor adventure. If you’ve planned your itinerary, then you need to know the typical weather of the area that you are hiking in. Not sure where you want to go? Check out the Hiking Project to find excellent backpacking options and detailed route descriptions.

Most importantly, you need to know what to take on your hiking journey. Here is a list of essential items for your backpacking adventure. Many of these things you’ll find useful even for shorter hikes.



Not surprisingly, this is one of the most essential pieces of equipment for your trip because it’s going to carry everything you need to sustain life. Backpacks range from models with all the critical features designed to be comfortable and carry sizable loads to ultra-lightweight packs. Most overnight backpacks carry between 15 to 60 pounds. Deciding how much storage you need depends on the bulk of your gear, how much you plan on taking, and how long your trip will be.

A good general range to pick for most people is one that will hold around 15 to 40 pounds. Look for features such as  durability, comfort, organization, and breathable material. There are other bag types that you can bring, such as duffel bags, but backpacks are the most useful for short or long backcountry hikes. They’re also much easier to carry than duffel bags.



There are several sturdy outdoor items that you’ll want to add to your backpacking list. Your tent is also a vital component of your hike. It protects you from the elements and offers a comfortable haven for sleeping. Typical three-season, two-person tents weigh between two to five pounds. There are minimalist shelters out there that weigh less than that. Make sure you also have a ground tarp and tent poles or stakes.

Key elements to look for include:

  • Vestibules
  • Interior space
  • Doors
  • Durability




Sleeping Bag

A warm, comfortable sleeping bag is crucial to a successful backpacking journey. After hiking all day, you want a good night’s sleep. It's important to purchase a high-quality sleeping bag. Sleeping bags come in a variety of styles, such as streamlined or spacious, lightweight to plush, and they are constructed with synthetic or down materials. Your budget is also an important factor to consider.

If you want additional comfort, then a sleeping pad is an excellent addition to your gear list. Sleeping pads keep you insulated from the cold, hard ground. Quality sleeping pads are both lightweight and built well. There are many well-constructed products at an excellent price available that can withstand multiple long trips.



Another essential piece of equipment is a backpacking stove. Whether you’re cooking dehydrated meals or elaborate dinners, you need a way to heat up your food. Now, you may be thinking “How do I carry a stove while camping?” Many are compact and easy to haul around. There are even some that are lighter than two ounces.

Important considerations include the stove design and fuel type. Some stoves are all-in-one systems, while others are screw-on stoves that require a cooking vessel. As far as fuel, there are multi-fuel stoves available, as well as propane/isobutane canisters. Also, remember a lighter or matches to start your stove.



Obviously, food is critical to survival on the trail, and there are many options available. Backpacking food is different from camping food in that it must be calorie-dense, quick-cooking, lightweight, and shelf-stable. You can buy specialty items, but some great options are available at your neighborhood grocery store.

Some excellent places to buy food for your trip are Amazon, REI,, Backcountry, Target, and Trader Joe’s. Dried fruits and nuts, powdered eggs, granola, energy bars, Carnation Instant Breakfast, single-serve instant coffee, pouches of tuna, salmon, and chicken, as well as cheese and jerkies are great backpacking foods. Today’s freeze-dried meals are excellent for supper and provide a variety of choices like beef stroganoff, lasagna and meat sauce, Thai-Curry, chicken piccata with tagliatelle pasta, ramen noodles, and more.

You’ll also need a water filter or purifier and a water reservoir or bottle to store water for drinking and cooking with. It's important to purify water before you drink it out on the trail because you don’t know what contaminants or pathogens are in it.


Necessary Clothing

There are many articles of clothing that you’ll want to bring on your backcountry hike. Hiking shoes or boots should be at the top of your backcountry hiking list whether you are only planning a day trip or a long adventure. The best hiking boots are lightweight, comfortable shoes, and they’re becoming more popular than stiff high-top boots, but it depends on your preference. A good pair of hiking socks are necessary too. Choose socks that are odor-resistant, temperature-regulating, and moisture-wicking.

Shirts designed for backcountry hiking provide many options to choose from, such as less expensive synthetics or lightweight high-quality wool shirts. You should probably bring long- and short-sleeved shirts depending on the weather. The sleeves will offer protection from the vegetation that you’ll likely traverse through.

Hiking pants protect your legs from briars and thorns. Make sure that they are well-constructed and made of breathable material. They should be durable and stretchy. Pants with zip-off legs offer flexibility for fluctuation temperatures. Pants with extra pockets are also quite handy.

Depending on the weather in which you are hiking, you’ll want some type of synthetic or down coat, as well as a raincoat. The down or synthetic jacket is an essential insulation piece at the end of the day, and some people sleep in them. A waterproof shell is critical to protect you from the elements and keep you dry. You risk hypothermia even when it’s not freezing outside if you’re wet. Some jackets have full-on hard shells for long expeditions in harsh conditions, while others are just rain jackets that shelter you from the wind and rain.




Other Necessary Items

There are many other items to add to your list, and the choices you make come down to personal preference. A battery-operated flashlight is an excellent tool for getting around and looking for hazards after dark.

Cooking utensils such as bowls, plates, a pot grabber, coffee cups, and containers or bags to store food are useful. Here are some other helpful items you should think about adding to your list:

  • Mosquito netting
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Prescriptions
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Utensils
  • Small shovel
  • Duct tape
  • Rope
  • Camp towel
  • Insect repellent
  • Field guide
  • Guidebook
  • GPS

This list of necessary equipment for your backpacking adventure is not all-inclusive. It does hit on many essential items for survival and comfort while you’re on the trail. Add items to your list as you see fit, such as a ceramic sharpener, to maintain any and all blades. You’ll never know when you need to sharpen a knife to make dinner in the great outdoors or for a spur of the moment hunting adventure. And always remember to have fun on your journey!


- M. Hedman




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