Staying for one night? Stargazing on your walk back down the hiking trail? If you’re going backpacking, you can’t be caught without these essential items in your kit.
For everything from utility use to emergency signaling, this short list of essentials will keep you out of harm’s way, and fully established in your peace of mind at all times. Let’s get you prepped for that trip.
Even if it’s a minor cut from a mishandled utility knife, and especially if it’s something more severe, a first-aid kit is that one thing you appreciate most when it needs to be called upon. However, you don’t have to pay the absurd online prices that you see everywhere.
The most effective way to have a proper first-aid kit is to buy a container, and build it yourself. You should have: a first-aid manual or working knowledge of first-aid application, a list of phone numbers for next of kin, sterile gauze pads, some sort of medical adhesive tape, bandages, antiseptic wipes/ointment, and a splint.
The quantity of how many bandages is completely up to you, but a dozen-or-so should be good enough.
You need a light source, which we’ll get into in a moment, but you also need something that can signal a search party if you’re stuck or injured. Tactical flashlights with an SOS strobe feature work wonders, if you have enough lumens.
You have to think of the possibility of battling against a spotlight coming down from a helicopter, so make sure it’s powerful. Other than that, you could bring a fire starter and create a proper signal fire.
Additional items you could bring along are a mirror to reflect light back, a whistle to engage search parties, colored flashlight lights, or an emergency flare with a bright color, like orange or green.
This sounds like a broad topic, but it’s a small kit that will fit simply inside of your backpack. It should include items like a quality camping knife, wire saw, whistle and a tactical pen.
You can also find these with clip-on lanyard style compasses, as well as handbooks and miniature LED lights, which can be useful if you get separated from party members during a nighttime hike. If it’s going to aid you in reuniting with your party members or keep you alive in unfamiliar territory, then you’re going to go for it.
You could go for an all-in-one survival kit online that will include most of or all of these items, but building your own gives you control over each individual component, and we strongly recommend that.
Camping Stove and Fuel
Backpacking, as you know, is extremely taxing on your body. It’s a full-body workout that demands so much of you and your abilities, and while you’re feeling the pain and gain, you will eventually come crashing down.
Dried beef jerky just doesn’t cut it; your body craves more than that, so pop open the camping stove, and cook up a hot meal. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but it gives you that burst of energy you need during a backpacking trip.
Just be careful: if you’re bringing a small gas stove, have no more than one 16 oz canister of butane/propane with you. If you’re using an alcohol stove, ensure everything is stored properly to avoid spills.
Three Days of Dried Food
It may sound hypocritical, but we’re not saying you shouldn’t have some jerky or trail mix on you, but rather that shouldn’t be the only thing you eat. If you get caught upstream without a paddle, having some dried food can be your saving grace in a survival-based situation.
You’re not going to make it far without some form of nutrition to replenish everything you’re spending, so to speak, and dried food also takes up a very small amount of space in your backpack.
High-Powered Light Source
This is both required for visibility and self-defense. One of the most effective ways to escape any form of predator is disengagement. You don’t need to stand your ground and swing around a knife; disengage, regroup and get out of there.
You can achieve that with a high-powered light source, whether that’s a focused lantern or a tactical flashlight. You typically want 700 concentrated lumens in a small output to stun an adversary or predator so that you can turn tail and run in the opposite direction.
Furthermore, high lumens help you with advanced visibility on dark and winding trails, so there’s no surprises waiting for you in the dark.
Water Filtration Device
You can only go three days (five if you’re a heap on the floor and unconscious) without water before the final curtain is in sight. On average, the human body need 64 ounces, or one half-gallon of water every single day, just to function.
Imagine how much more you need while you’re putting in those long hours on a hiking trail or covering tens of miles of distance on foot each day. It’s impractical to bring three or more gallons of water with you, but a water filtration device can be there when you need it.
You can get a LifeStraw personal filtration system, but that is only good for drinking at the moment you utilize a water source. If you get a gravity system and an empty gallon jug, you can filter batches of water to bring with you along the way.
Paracord Survival Bracelet
The main component to your bracelet is, well, the paracord itself. People underestimate how good this is for survival, but you can use it to make a lean-to, make traps for wild animals, make a sling, or even shreds of it to mark trails so you know where you’ve been.
It’s like having ultra strong rope that’s amazingly lightweight. We recommend having at least ten feet of paracord with you while you’re backpacking, to account for a variety of things not going as planned.
Backpacking is often synonymous with inexpensive international travelling. If you want to visit a foreign country and backpack through it, then you absolutely can, but you need to account for local wildlife, terrain and issues that you’re not used to from being back stateside.
Most tourist shops or airport book stores will have information that you can grab for free, or some inexpensive miniature handbooks/pamphlets with important info.
If there are any poisonous insects or wildlife you should be on the lookout for, see what you can do to prepare for potential encounters.
If you’re backpacking for international travel, do yourself a favor and get a sealable bag that can store dirty laundry.
This is both useful to ensure you don’t reek when you go into public areas, but to also store dirty or wet clothes without compromising food and/or first-aid essentials in your backpack.
Plus, nobody wants to smell dirty laundry all the time. This keeps the scent out of your nostrils, and trapped in the bag. Just be warned: when you open it to do laundry, it’s going to be pungent.
Quality Essential Gear That Never Quits
We’ve been using some of the highest rated and essential gear for years, and we want to ensure you’re as prepared as possible when you’re out on the trail or the campsite.
Check out our buying guides on survival bracelets, water filters and how-to articles on how to prepare yourself for absolutely everything you’re going to encounter out there.
Backpackers run a higher risk of injury or getting lost due to constant movement, so stay sharp, and fully kitted.