Planning a back country camping trip this summer? There has literally never been a better time! Backpacking is a great way to escape the city, unplug, and soak up some uninterrupted time in nature. Packing for one of these trips, however, takes thought, practice, and tetris-like stacking skills. Don`t worry though, we`ve got your back! Keep reading for 15 must have items that will make your life infinitely easier while back country camping.
A High Quality Back Pack
This sounds like a no brainer, but it can make or break your back country camping trip in a hurry. Choose a backpack that is between 55-75 L depending on your size and the amount of days you plan to hike for. When carrying a backpack in the 40-50 lb. range, its very important that the pack has an aluminum frame and adjustment straps to help distribute the load evenly. My personal favorite is the Osprey Ariel 65 L Backpack because it`s extremely comfortable, lightweight, and practical!
Comfortable Hiking Boots
When it comes to boots, you`re going to want something comfortable, water resistant, and with good ankle/arch support. My personal favorites are my Salomons and David loves his Schnee’s Timberlines. Make sure to break them in before heading out on a multi-day adventure! Wearing them on short walks with the dog or even around the house will help break them in.
TIP: If you do end up with blisters, Leukotape is a godsend!!
This is a bandwagon that I avoided for years with no real justification. But I`m here to tell you that hiking poles are not just for the 50+ crew, folks. There are numerous uses for poles throughout any hike but the biggest game changer for me was taking some of the load off of my shoulders. Lightweight is key here, so you`re going to want to choose either aluminum or carbon fiber.
A Lightweight Tent
A tent that is specifically designed for backpacking is a critical piece of equipment because of weight. Your tent should weigh less than 2.5 lbs per person (you can split it up between packs) for the lightest pack possible. If you’re lugging in a tent that is double or triple that weight, your back is going to be screaming at you. We have been using the North Face Talus 3 for about 5 years now and love it for price, weight, and ease of set up/take down!
TIP: Choose a tent size 1 person larger than your group. For example, David and I have a 3 person tent and we find that it sleeps the two of us and all our gear comfortably.
The Right Air Mattress
Finding an air mattress that works will be a bit different for everyone, but we`ve come a long way from the old thin foam sleeping pads. Since we now have a plethora of durable and lightweight options, the best thing to do is to go into your local back country shop and try a few out. In my humble opinion: the thicker, the better! I`ve been using the Nemo Astro Insulated 3.5 inch air mattress for a few years now and think it`s a great all around option.
TIP: Don`t blow your air mattress up all the way. This sounds a bit counter intuitive, but its actually much more comfortable when your hips and shoulders can sink in a little bit.
The Best Pillow You Can Find
For years now, we have been making do on small, flat, and seriously uncomfortable “backpacking pillows”. We never felt overly rested and we always ended up balling up clothes underneath our heads to try and get more cushion. Then, we found the Fillo.
The Fillo has a blow up air compartment topped with memory foam that will revolutionize your back country camping forever. The best part? It still compresses down into a tiny sack and it`s super light!
A Warm Sleeping Bag
This is by far one of the most important items on your back country camping packing list. A good sleeping bag will make the difference between a comfortable nights sleep and a miserable one. When choosing one, there are multiple factors to consider. First off is the shape. Do you want a mummy bag (tapered against your body) or one with more room to move around? Do you want a hood or no hood? What temperature rating would you like (are you summer or winter camping?)
Our two cents: get a lower temperature rating than you originally think and get one with a hood! David has a 0 degree sleeping bag and he gets chilly in the mountains even throughout the summer. My -7 degree sleeping bag has a nice big hood and has always kept me roasty toasty! David tries to steal it every chance he gets😉
An Efficient Water Filtration System
Some sort of water filtration system is necessary for keeping yourself hydrated and your pack light. If you have an efficient filtration system, you can carry only the amount of water necessary to get you to the next stream, river, or lake.
You can also consume water freely without worrying about rationing over the entire span of your trip. There are numerous options from the LifeStraw to Aquatabs, but our personal favorite is the Hydroblu Versa Flow. Its affordable, compact, and extremely lightweight.
Having a headlamp is super important for obvious reasons! You will use it for everything from finishing up your hike in the dark to reading in the tent and you`ll be thankful you have it for those 2 AM bathroom trips! There are several inexpensive options but if we could only recommend one brand, PETZL would be the one!
A Hydration Bladder
To be honest with you, I wasn`t a die hard believer until earlier this year. I use to just carry a few water bottles, drink out of the LifeStraw, and wonder what all the fuss was about. Well, I bought one for our trip to Hawaii and my perspective shifted in a hurry.
You see, if you constantly have to stop to take out your water bottle, take a sip, and put it back in your pack, you will end up drinking less water. Plain and simple. If you can just grab the hose and take a sip as often and as liberally as you`d like, you will drink more water. Guaranteed. Hydration is always a key factor, but it becomes extremely important when you are doing multi day hikes and hikes at higher elevations. A 2-3 L Hydration Bladder is the perfect size for overnight adventures, and you can always choose to under fill it for shorter day hikes!
A Well Packed First Aid Kit
A well packed first aid kit is essential for any back country camping trip you take. You can buy one at most outdoor stores; but I find them to be lacking in some areas and including other things you just don`t need. If you have your own bag (waterproof is best) then you can make your kit from scratch which is my preferred method. Check out the post linked below for a list of everything you`ll need for a great DIY first aid kit.
If you`re on the fence about if a Jetboil is really worth the money, I want you to trust me on this… it is GAME CHANGING! By having a Jetboil, we have completely eliminated the need for back country pots, pans, and stoves from our packing list. To give you a bit of an idea, that decreases the space needed for food cooking apparatuses by over two thirds. We simply bring food that we can cook with hot water (oatmeal, coffee & tea, backpacker meals, etc) and our Jetboil Flash System and we are always set for food.
Since you don`t need pots and pans with your Jetboil; a plate/bowl, a spork, and a mug are the only pieces of dinnerware that you will need to bring. Anything lightweight and plastic will do the trick here!
A hammock may not be for everyone, but I spend the majority of my time in ours when I`m not hiking, eating, or sleeping. Okay, I admit it, half the time I even eat in the hammock. It`s just so cozy! Our Lightweight Backpacking Hammock is super easy to set up and really compact. David and I will often come back to camp and spend the evening relaxing in the hammock with a drink and some music. Sound like something you could get on board with?
I honestly don`t go anywhere without these bad boys! Electrolytes are so useful in keeping yourself hydrated after a long day of hiking, especially in the heat. They can make a huge difference in your energy level and are especially important on strenuous or milti-day hikes. Our favorites are the Fruit Punch and the Pink Lemonade Nuun Tablets!