I have compiled a list with essential items which are on my backpacking gear list when going for an overnight hiking trip. This list is my personal list so you can add other items to the list as well if you feel that there is a need of having them on your own outdoor adventure.
Considerations for a gear list
- Duration of the trip (Day trip / overnight / self-supported expedition)
- Mode of transportation/activity (On foot / biking / canoeing or kayaking)
- Group size and composition (Solo / small group of friends / large group of strangers)
- Environment (Temperature / humidity / altitude)
- Available resources (Low budget / professional sponsorship)
- Low-tech vs. high-tech
- Weight vs. comfort
- Available space
Tent or Bivy
A tent or a bivy is essential to protect you against rain, wind and mosquitoes. If there is a shelter available on your destination then you can also just take a mosquito net with you and safe some weight. However, you never know if the shelter is used by other hikers so it’s better to take a tent with you.
Personally, I always take my Hilleberg Anjan 3 with me. This is my standard tent and perfect for hikes with 2 people (even so it says 3) because the extra space comes quite handy if you have to sit in the tent for a longer period or if you just need more space to roll around in the tent, store some gear or if you just want to play cards.
Of course, the 2 person tent saves you some weight but after having had the 2 person Hilleberg Anjan for a while I won’t miss the space and comfort which I get with the Hilleberg Anjan 3 if I go hiking with a friend.
The last 2 years I have used the Exped Synmat UL 7 which has worked quite well for me especially in the summer months. However, since I live in Scandinavia I realized that the Exped might reach it’s limitations already in mid- or late autumn. Once the temperatures drop to 0C in the night you feel the cold on your back. That’s why I recently purchased the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm MAX which is also suitable for winter camping. The MAX version is squared size and I also bought the large version since the
regualar version is just 183 cm and I am 180 cm. From my experience I always ended up with my legs on the cold tent floor if the sleeping pad is not squared sized or too short. With an ‘oversized’ sleeping pad I don’t have this problem.
Again, it adds a few grams to the regular version but then I am outdoors to enjoy my time and not to wake up in the night just to realize that I have cold feed. Ultralight hikers might have a different opinion though.
Another advantage with the large pad is that you don’t need an additional pillow. Just take some of your clothes and use them as a pillow.
If you are looking for a summer pad then you should have a look at the new Therm-a-Rest EvoLite. A list of the latest sleeping pads can be found here.
Sleeping Bag or Quilt
A quilt comes quite handy during the summer months or if you want to save weight. However, if you move a lot while sleeping you should consider a sleeping bag as there is always a chance that cold air might come in from the side of the quilt during the night.
Currently, I am using the Cumulus Panyam 450 sleeping bag. Another high end sleeping bag manufacturer is the German company Yeti. It’s a bit more expensive than the Cumulus (a Polish company). For example the Yeti VIB 250 Sleeping bag which is suitable till -9C. I would always take a sleeping bag which has more tolerance to colder temperatures.
If it is too warm you can always open the sleeping bag. Alternatively, you can also layer e.g. a down jacket / pants with a sleeping bag suitable for warmer temperatures. When choosing a sleeping bag consider taking a sleeping bag which has high down cuin.
There is also down available which is more resistant against water and moisture. As you may know, down is losing it’s insulation once it get’s wet. For example, the Marmot Sawtooth or the Fjallraven Abisko are filled with such down and they are not as that expensive as the once offered e.g. by Yeti.
Medical Aid Kit
A medical kit is a must have in your backpack e.g. the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight & Watertight could be an interesting product especially if you are also into water sports like kayaking or packrafting. Also a Thermal Blanket should be in your backpack. You can also use it on your sleeping pad if you feel that cold is coming up.
Moreover, it’s a good idea to have a mobile phone or – in case there is no phone signal – a Spot Gen3 or even better a DeLorme InReach device with you to send SOS signals if you get into trouble.
Water bottle and Water purifyer
I use a Nalgene water bottle on my trips. It’s BPA free. Previously, I have just used a normal plastic bottle from the grocery store but not sure if they are BPA free.
Further, to get my water clean I am using a Katadyn Hiker Microfilter. It’s a little bit of pumping but works great so far.
Waterproof Pants and Jacket
You should always try to stay dry while on the trail. Wet clothes and cold wind is a good combination to become sick. In the summer you might just need fast drying clothes but during autumn and spring when temperatures are low having waterproof pants and a waterproof jacket is quite essential.
Just make sure that they breath well or that they are zippers so you can open them if you sweat a lot. It also makes sense to take a wind jacket with you.
Wind jackets are breath much better than rain jackets. I always have a rain jacket and a wind jacket with me.
Currently, I am wearing the Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody as my wind jacket and the Montane Minimus pants and Arc’teryx Tecto FL jacket as my waterproof layer.
Further, I have also compiled 3 lists of the latest windproof jackets, waterproof jackets and waterproof pants.
Spare socks and underwear
Usually, I take 2 pairs of merino socks with me. One pair I wear while I am hiking and the other pair when I am in the sleeping bag. The Icebreaker Men’s Hike Mid Crew Socks seems to be quite good socks. Previously, I had Smartwool socks but it seems that those Icebreaker socks are more durable.
Down Jacket or Fleece
I always take a fleece and a down jacket with me. I wear a fleece when I am hiking and the down jacket when I rest or in the evenings in the camp. Currently, I am using the Montbell U.L. Down Parka.
Compass and Map
Also you should consider to take a compass (a global compass can be used on the southern and on the northern parts of the globe) and a paper map with you in case your electronic devices do not work for some reason. My compass even has a small thermometer on it.
Long Merino Underwear, gloves and cap
I always take merino pants and a merino long sleeve shirt with me. Usually, I wear it in my sleeping bag or if the temperature drops unexpectedly low. Also I take a light cap or gloves with me especially during spring and autumn hikes.
If you are planning to cross borders a valid ID and if necessary a visa for the country you are planning to visit should be in your backpack.
A travel insurance which covers you if something happens. Make sure that your insurance also covers hiking activities.
Light hiking boots e.g. the Salomon XA Pro Mid GTX Hiking Boots.
Hiking pants and shirts
Preferably they should be fast drying. A synthetic/cotton fabric will dry fast and is still comfortable on the skin. The Fjallraven Abisko trouser are my favorite pants. They are light, stretchy and perfect for hill walking.
That’s it. Of course, depending on the time of the year your backpack will be more heavy. For example you could take a lighter sleeping pad or sleeping bag during the summer. Also there is no need to buy a 4 season tent if you don’t go camping during the winter.
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