Feb 222013

Author: Allison LeCain

Backpacking pack at REI. Photo by Allison LeCain.

Backpacking pack at REI. Photo by Allison LeCain.

It’s always better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it when it comes to backpacking. Unfortunately you can only fit so much in a backpack. Boy Scouts are always prepared, but if you don’t have a Boy Scout in your life, turn to this guide to supply everything you may need for a spring backpacking adventure.

First things first — get a quality backpacking pack, preferably one with an attachable water-proof cover. These can range from $60 to $300. A backpacking pack is definitely an investment, but when you’re stuck on a mountain in the pouring rain, you’ll be glad to have a pack that could fit everything you need.

Sleeping bags are necessary for overnight backpacking trips. It gets really cold at night, even in the summer. Most sleeping bags are around $75. If you’re looking for true comfort, get a sleeping pad for $40.

For long trips, a water purification and cooking stove will be a must. Starting at $60, these allow you to cook food, so you’ll be eating more than just trailmix. Make sure to buy cooking fuel, as well.

First aid kits are necessary and can be made for cheap from things around the house, starting at $7. You never know what you might get into on a backpacking trip, so it’s important to be prepared for injuries. You’ll be far away from a hospital and may not have cell phone reception, which may require you to play doctor for the weekend.

Water bottle is the most essential item while backpacking. Photo by Allison LeCain

Water bottle is the most essential item while backpacking. Photo by Allison LeCain

Bear-proof food containers are required when backpacking in a national park, such as Rocky Mountain. These are pricy, running for $80, and won’t fit easily in a backpack. To avoid this issue, backpack in a non-national park area. Other options to avoid interactions with bears include tying your food high on a branch, away from your camping area.

One of the most obvious, but also most needed pieces of equipment, is a water bottle or bladder. Staying hydrated is key is remaining healthy and fit for the hike. Other much needed items include a compass, a map, sunscreen, insect repellent and soap.

While The Weather Channel is helpful, it can be hard to predict what type of clothes you may need while backpacking. Bring layers, including one that is waterproof, and roll them instead of folding them. This will save space in your backpack.

Invest in a Swiss Army Knife. These knives come with seven or more different tools and cost about $30. This single tool can open a can, cut meat or fabric, pick out a splinter, and even open a bottle of wine. Genius.

A headlamp will come in handy while backpacking. Photo by Allison LeCain.

A headlamp will come in handy while backpacking. Photo by Allison LeCain.

There’s no electricity in the wilderness, and the best hands-free way to light up the world is a headlamp. A headlamp can be as cheap as $20 and will really come in handy. Using a headlamp is also a lot safer than starting a fire in a forest, although it’s good to bring tinder in case a fire is necessary. Bring extra batteries too, just in case.

Dehydrated foods are best to pack because they don’t take up much weight or space. This includes foods such as granola bars, oatmeal, dried fruits, hard cheese, sausage and pasta. All of these options can be eaten raw or cooked with a portable stove.

**Editors note: prices shown were gathered from REI and may vary in other outdoor stores.

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