What You Need to Pack on Your Next Overnight Hiking Trip
There is not much that can match your excitement leading up to a hiking or camping trip. Work is over and it’s time to really start living. Understanding what to pack on your next hiking adventure will ensure a successful trip.
Being outside is a completely different lifestyle. It is important to remember how self-sufficient you need to be. Don’t let your weekend be ruined because you forgot to pack the right equipment.
I created a quick guide to help you pack. It includes items you will need. More importantly, I will help you to prepare the right mindset. Once you start thinking like a hiker, packing will become easy.
Different hikes will feature different conditions and it is important to match what you bring to the realities you will be facing. Rain, snow, heat, and wind, the weather will always play a dictatorial role in what to pack. Not just the weather, the season plays an important role, as does wildlife potential.
This article will lay out packing lists for all your hiking needs, day hikes, overnights, winter hiking, and the best foods to bring camping. Each category will break down the proper gear needed and any weather dependent items that you could need.
Day Hike Packing
The day hike is the most common hike and the simplest to pack for. Just because the timeline is short, it doesn’t mean you can take a lackadaisical approach to what’s in your backpack. Make sure to bring all the gear, food, and water that will be required. Not bringing the proper gear can leave you suffering throughout the day.
- Small backpack. No need for a huge multi day pack, just a bag that is large enough to fit all your necessities.
- 2 liters of water. Always carry 2 liters of water for every person hiking. This should be ample for most conditions. If you are going to be in a hotter place, like a desert, you might want to bring more.
- Always pack a lunch on your day hikes. Being hungry in a remote area will make the food in your bag taste delicious. Depending on how long your hike is, packing more food could prove to be a smart idea.
- Hiking leaves you exposed to the sun for an entire day. Not only should you block up before beginning the hike but you should bring some with you. This will allow you to reapply during breaks.
- Phone/GPS. Always bring your smartphone or GPS. Download the map of the area you will be hiking in. If your phone has a GPS chip, this will allow you to access the map even if service is non-existent.
- Small knife. It is always a good idea to bring a small knife. Use it to spread peanut butter or cut some rope.
- First Aid Kit. Pack bandages, antibiotic cream, and some light medicines for the trail. You never know what could happen.
- Toilet paper. It is a good idea to carry a roll. Exercise tends to make the intestines work more than usual.
- Bug Spray. Carry some bug spray if you are entering the woods or areas where insects are plentiful.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Pick a pair of comfortable shoes to hike in. No need for large boots, a pair of sneakers will be just fine.
- Dress in layers. Pack shorts, long pants, a t-shirt, and either a sweater or a coat- whatever the weather dictates. Where you are hiking, the temperature could change dramatically. Wearing layers will keep you prepared for any conditions possible.
Further research for your day hike
Always check the weather forecast before the hike. If there is rain in the forecast, pack some raingear. If there is a heatwave, bring extra water.
The climate will have the most effect on your trip, prepare for it.
Also, plan out the hike and understand the total kilometers you will be hiking. If it is short, maybe you can pack less food and clothes. It might be a good idea to carry enough food and water for the entire day. As always, bring a map and be prepared for anything.
Overnight Hike Packing
A multi-day hike where you sleep outside will require more gear than your day hike. The largest and heaviest part of your pack will be the sleeping system you bring along.
Your sleeping system is a tent, hammock, or tarp, plus a sleeping pad and sleeping bag. There are plenty of iterations to use.
Packing for overnight camping trips can become extremely addicting. Feel free to indulge in the countless possibilities of gear and gadgets that are now in the marketplace.
If you are feeling particularly scientific, weigh every item going into your pack. The heavier your bag is, the harder it will be to hike. By keeping track of the heaviest items and those you don’t end up using, you can begin to customize your pack. Every camping trip will be another opportunity to find a better way to pack.
Are there bears where you are hiking? Packing a holster of bear spray could be in your best interest. Some areas also require bear canisters for all backcountry excursions. Use websites and local knowledge to discover how bear prepared you need to be.
- Large enough backpack. Depending on how many days you will be gone, your pack will probably be larger than your day hiking bag. Make sure it is both large enough for all your gear and comfortable enough to wear for kilometers at a time.
- 2 liters of water. You should have containers large enough to hold 2 liters of water. Yes, they should be full when you start. Be sure you have reusable bottles that can be refilled. Once I drink half, I tend to refill at the next water crossing.
- Water filter. Always carry a water filter or some other method of producing potable water on the hike. You will use a lot of water, especially on an overnight. It is imperative you have a way of producing more.
- Be sure to pack enough food for at least 3 meals a day while hiking. Include any snacks that may help your energy levels. If you are cooking a hearty dinner, pack all the necessary ingredients.
- Sleeping system. This is your tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. It will take up the most space in your bag, make sure you can fit everything. If you become a serious hiker, upgrading your sleeping system to one that weighs less is a great first investment.
- Stove, fuel, and cooking pot. Unless you plan on cooking over a fire for every meal, having a stove and its corresponding fuel is a good idea. A small burner and a single pot are sufficient to cook most every meal.
- Just like day hiking, you will be exposed to the sun for hours at a time, it is a good idea to always pack some.
- Bug Spray. Even if you think there will be no bugs while hiking, it is more than likely your campsite will be an insect magnet. Carrying bug spray will prevent both ticks and mosquitos.
- Mosquito head net. No overnight trip should forego the mosquito head net. I like to use mine while hiking, wearing it over the top of my head like a hair net. It keeps biting flies off my scalp and frees up my hands from having to swat constantly.
- On overnight trips, having a good knife is important. It can be used to prepare food, cut rope, and even for self-defense.
- 40 meters of paracord. Paracord is one of the most versatile tools in the backcountry. It can be used to repair tents, hang bear bags, and even keep backpacks together. This material is a staple in my pack and I highly recommend always carrying some.
- Rain gear. Because you will be on a multi-day hike, always carry rain gear. You never know when the weather forecast could change. The longer you are outside, the greater the chance you have of being caught in the rain.
- First aid kit. A well packed first aid kit is smart to have on any hiking trip. Have enough supplies to take care of indigestion issues, large wounds, and sprains.
- Carry a lighter to start fires, they even work in the rain!
Further research for your overnight hike
Understand how long the trail and the overall hike will be. Properly map out your camping spots and plan the number of kilometers that will be hiked each day. Understanding the distances will determine how much food to pack.
Make sure any and all permits required are in your pack. Receiving a ticket in the wilderness can ruin a trip.
Packing for a Winter Hike
Winter hiking, usually over the snow, is a much different experience than all other hikes. Most likely, you will have snowshoes or cross-country skis on your feet. The snow is beautiful and acts as both an obstacle and a solution.
Packing for a winter hike is very similar to any other hike. The main difference is how much heavier the gear is. Your tent will be insulated making it heavier. Even your sleeping bag will be larger and heavier. Packing a winter coat and extra pairs of socks will increase the overall weight. But, because of the snow, you can place all your gear into a sled and drag it behind you.
Winter hiking is not for the faint of heart but the solitude it offers is incomparable. The Winter night sky offers the best star gazing opportunities of the year. The cold temperatures equate to fewer water molecules and pollution particulates in the atmosphere.
The following list should be read in conjunction with overnight hiking. The articles listed are winter specific only.
- 3 pairs of winter wool socks. Carrying at least 3 pairs of socks insures you against cold, wet feet. If you fall into a stream or snow melt pervades your boot, nothing screams frostbite faster than wet toes.
- Winter hat and gloves. Covering your extremities is extremely important. Wind chill and low temperatures will make it harder for blood to flow.
- Dress in layers. Even more important during the winter. Pack enough clothes for all temperatures. During the day, especially while snowshoeing or skiing, your core temperature will heat up. Peeling off your heaviest layers will keep you cool. Try to avoid any sweat during the winter. When the temperature does drop again, the sweat can freeze onto your skin, potentially causing hypothermia.
- Winter ready sleeping system. Make sure your tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad are well equipped for the low temperatures.
- Wool base layers. Only wear wool while winter hiking. Avoid cotton, when the material is wet, it lowers your body temperature dramatically. Wool is the greatest textile for the winter, working even when wet.
- Hand warmers. Little packs of dirt that when exposed to the air, spark a chemical reaction and emit warmth for hours. When your toes are freezing and your fingers just can’t seem to work, throw some of these at the problem. They will alleviate all your blood flow problems.
- Candy bars. Although candy bars make an excellent snack on any hiking trip, the number of calories you will be burning in the winter mandates you consume enough calories. Not only will walking or skiing burn through your reserves. The simple act of staying warm will kick your metabolism into overdrive. Candy bars deliver the much-needed sugar/calorie boost that will get you home.
Food Packing Tips
As long as you bring the right gear, the largest and heaviest variable in your pack will be food. Not only will you need enough of it, but it has to be compact and light enough to carry.
When it comes to food, nothing is more delicious, or as heavy in your pack. Carrying enough calories for the trip requires careful planning. Food is bulky and unlike your sleeping bag, stuffing it into your pack can make it inedible. Different than most items, less food will not make for a more enjoyable trip.
While packing, a good idea is to use dehydrated food. Water is the heaviest part and removing it will allow for easy packing. It also prevents mold from growing.
Dried products like nuts and jerky are popular foods, calorie-rich and relatively lightweight. Items that don’t pack well include bread and bananas. Bulkier food items are prone to be crushed, they also take up too much space.
You will be happy to know that small chocolate candies are a must when packing food, high in calories and easy to pack. Backpacking is a great excuse to eat chocolate.
List of Food to Bring Hiking
The following list is made up of suggestions for the proper food to pack. Feel free to fully customize your culinary experience.
Field tested products to take on an overnight hike:
- Instant oatmeal makes a great breakfast, pour it into a water bottle and shake. No cleanup and instant oatmeal offers enough calories for the entire morning.
- Add some milo to your morning oatmeal for a sugar/protein rush that will make you happy for a cold breakfast.
- Trail mix. Either buy it or make it yourself. Trail mix consists of peanuts, raisins, pretzels, and chocolate candies. Add and subtract what you want. I always add dried cranberries to my trail mix.
- Loaves of bread will be crushed if you try and pack them and tortillas make the perfect substitute. You can even make sandwiches with them.
- Peanut butter and jelly. For those who live in countries where PB&J’s are not popular, I feel sorry for you. Spread a large spoonful of peanut butter and a smaller spoonful of jelly onto a tortilla and you have yourself a lunch or snack fit for a king.
- Many would be surprised to learn that a block of cheddar cheese will hold up remarkably well on a backpacking trip. If it’s for only a couple days, pack the cheese in a ziploc bag. It goes great in any dinner and when coupled with tortillas, makes excellent cheese tortillas.
- Parboiled rice. Also known as dehydrated rice, this amazing invention allows you to cook the rice in as little as ten minutes. No need to wait for the water to boil. Throw it in while the water is warming up to save on fuel and time.
- A complete protein and with a relatively short cook time. Lentils and rice are a classic meal for any camping trip.
The importance of packing
There will be no Walmarts or Amazon deliveries on your hiking trip. Everything you could ever use needs to be inside your pack. If you are embarking on a day hike, an overnight hike, or even a winter hike, it is important to bring what you need.
Also, just as important is the food that comes with you. You still have to eat. If planned for correctly, your diet in the wilderness can be just as delicious as what you eat on a regular basis. For your next trip, don’t hesitate to plan ahead and pack correctly.