How To Pack when Backpacking

I learned SO much from going on our backpacking trip and thought I would pass along all of the tips I have for all you gals that plan on going on a backpacking trip and some Do's and Don'ts that I learned along the way!

First things first-The Trip Essentials:

1. Backpack: There are lots of different options when it comes to finding the right one, but it is so crucial that you don't just buy the most expensive brand. It is all about how the pack fits you. I ended up going with a Kelty pack which was actually the cheapest brand but it fit me the best! I encourage you to have a sales person assist you in getting fitted because they often know exactly how to fit you for a pack and have lots of great tips! Cabela's and REI are great places to look!

2. Tent: It is important that you have a lightweight tent because trust me, you don't want to pack something super heavy! Lol We had a two person tent and it was the perfect amount of room for both me and my husband plus our little pup. Make sure it comes with a rain fly just in case! It also helps keep the tent a bit more insulated at night.

3. Food: If you are planning on spending a number of days on a trip, you are not going to want to pack in food that is heavy and bulky, but you also want food that is going to give you enough protein to sustain the amount of calories you will be burning while hiking. Cue freeze dried food. I know, I am probably getting a bunch of "ewws!" but if you get a good brand the food is actually surprisingly good! Mountain House is my favorite brand. They have good quality food that doesn't taste like cardboard haha! You should also plan on packing trail mix, dried fruit, protein bars, fruit snacks, applesauce to go, and veggies that can go a few days without being refrigerated such as carrots and celery.

4. Water: This is a tricky one. Water is very heavy to pack in but if you don't end up having water near by, you are going to want to have enough on hand until you scope out a water source near to you. You can either boil the water, or get a life straw that is designed to filter the water before you drink it. 

5. Cooking Supplies: Along with food comes the need to cook! We brought a tiny pocket stove that attached to a small propane bottle that we set our fold up pot on to boil our water. You won't want anything bigger than this because it will get heavy! You will also want plastic silverware and plastic plates/ bowls/cups. Mountain house bags are designed to eat right out of, so even though we brought these things, I would have left them at home aside from my mug because they just added extra bulk.

6. Sleeping Bag: The type you bring is up to you! I would say stick to one that will keep you warm and is lightweight and you should be good to go.

7. Sleeping pads: These are optional but if you don't like sleeping on rocks or branches (me!) then I would recommend a small compact pad that blows up quickly and is lightweight.

Clothing and Footwear

1. 2 pairs of leggings: I prefer to hike in these because they are comfortable and lightweight, plus they are easy to roll up tightly and pack.

2. 1 pair of jeans: I didn't pack a pair and I SHOULD have. I probably wouldn't have gotten so many bug bites and when the temperature got a bit more chilly at night, it would have helped me stay warmer

3. 1-2 pairs of shorts: I ended up wearing one pair during the day and using the other for swimming in the lake! I didn't really want to bring a swimsuit so the shorts worked perfectly.

4. 2-3 pairs of shirts: This will vary based on how many days you go, but I brought five shirts and could have gotten away with three. I ended up wearing one shirt twice for two different hikes and the bugs were so bad I didn't even touch the tank that I brought, although if it had been less buggy I probably would have pulled it out.

5. Socks and undies: This depends on how many days you are going! Clean underwear was a must for me haha! but I brought a pair of socks for every day plus two pairs of wool socks for the evening and I could have gotten away with just one pair of wool socks. If it is raining, I would say you should bring an extra pair of socks just in case your feet get wet.

6. Shoes: I brought my tennis shoes and a pair of sandals and that was perfect. I wore my tennies for hiking and my sandals around the camp and at the lake. I would recommend sticking to just two if you can because shoes are bulky and can potentially add unnecessary weight.

7. Outwear: I should have cut WAY down on this. I brought three sweatshirts and a rain coat. I should have just stuck with one sweatshirt (lets be real, we all have one that we will pick every time) and one rain jacket. The other two were unnecessary and just added bulk to my pack.

8. Hat and sunnies


My tip on keeping this section small was having it all fit in a small travel sized bag so that I didn't over pack.

1. Toothbrush and toothpaste: Just a tiny travel size, leave the sonicair at home!

2. Face wipes/Makeup remover wipes: A fresh clean face makes a world of difference for me in feeling clean so I highly recommend them. Neutrogena has a travel sized pack at Target that I picked up and it worked great!

3. Baby Wipes: They don't take the place of a shower, but they atleast take off the top layer of dirt and make you feel somewhat cleaner. I would do this before I went to bed at night so that I didn't take the days dirt into my sleeping bag with me lol!

4. Hairbrush: I bought a small Goody hairbrush that folded up nice and small AND had a mirror so it was perfect!

5. Bug Spray and After Bite: If you are going in the summer, you 100% need these! We had some but not nearly prepared with enough to keep the bugs away and that was a total bummer. Thankfully we had enough After Bite to go around. I would recommend Off! Deep Woods Dry Spray. It doesn't leave you feeling sticky and coated, keeps the bugs at bay, and I couldn't even tell I was wearing it!

6. Sunscreen

7. Dry Shampoo and/or Biodegradable soap: If you don't have access to water, dry shampoo is going to be your friend. I highly recommend Dove's dry shampoo. It smells AMAZING and worked incredibly well! If you DO have access to water, make sure you are bringing soap that is not going to harm that environment. Dr. Bronner's is one of my faves and you only need a very small bottle because a little bit goes a long way.

I hope that this list at least gets you started as you pack and if you have any questions that about things I didn't touch on, feel free to leave me a comment and I will answer as best that I can!