A backpacking trek may sound super exciting to adventurous few. Be it a one day trip or a week-long adventure up the mountains, one needs to carefully plan their backpack inclusions. One key factor to be kept in mind is that one needs to be well equipped with things required for the whole journey as well as for emergency situations such as some unforeseen delay or a mishap on the way. The other factor is that you will never enjoy the trek if you have to carry loads of heavy gear on your back. So how should one look out for the perfect backpacking gear?
Essential + Ultralight = Best Gear
For a start, determine the kind of trek that you wish to make. Is it a long trek up the snow capped mountains or in the dense forests? Is it a short trip to some historical site in your county? Whichever the location, determine which gear is most essential for that particular trip. Some of the most essential ultralight backpacking gear should include all or some of the things mentioned in the list given below.
One of the most essential necessities of overnight or long backpacking journeys, tents serve as a protection against harsh climatic conditions and direct attack from insects or beasts. Go in for a tent that is all season in nature and that which has a capacity to house about 4 persons. A tent as big as this should weigh approximately 2 to 8 pounds depending upon the make and the brand that you may opt for. An expedition tent is usually priced around $200 to $1000. Look out for some key features such as ease in set up and packing up, minimum storage space, ventilation, sturdiness against storms and weight.
Just a tent for a night stopover during your trek is not sufficient. What you need is a good quality, inflatable sleeping bag. One of the lightest and most popular sleeping bag brand is NeoAir. Expect the prices to range from $20 to $40 depending upon the size of sleeping bag that you opt for. They are easily inflatable and best solutions for constraints of space and weight.
Never fail to carry the local map of the place that you are trekking through. If the place has sufficient network coverage, then using the GPRS facility on your cell phones is a brilliant option. Else, we suggest that you refer to the 7.5 minute USGS or 15 minute green trail maps for the best guidance. Before you actually set out on your backpacking expedition, care to learn the method of using these maps.
One needs to possess lightweight flash lights or headlights for making nocturnal backpacking journeys. At times you may be delayed on account of weather conditions and therefore the flash light and/or headlight should be weather proof. Use flashlights that have rubber linings, hidden spaces to store extra batteries and bulbs made out of halogen or krypton. Some of the best lightweight flash light brands include Mini Maglite AA, Photon Micro Light, Black Diamond ION, etc.
Remember, there is a difference in magnetic north featured by compass and true north featured by maps. Therefore, look out for compass with direction adjustment features, a liquid filled center, a good base plate and a fold-out mirror. Some of the best light weight brands of compasses include Silva Ranger (3 oz), Suunto A10 (1 oz), Suunto MC-2G Navigator (2.5 oz).
When climbing steep mountains, it is essential to judge the steepness of the mountains beforehand. This helps to place your location accurately on the map and avoid the danger of encountering avalanches.
You are quite likely to lose sense of time while you wander along unknown places during your backpacking trip. I suggest you to leave your costly and precious watches at home. Instead, you may opt for a special ultralight watches that are water resistant in nature.
Essential clothing for the backpacking trip will vary as per the location of the trek and the duration of the trek. When backpacking through dense forests, you need to pack clothing such as insect resistant jackets, hiking boots, hats, caps, scarves and raincoats. For treks in colder regions, care to carry good quality thermal wear sets that include disposable undergarments, insulated pants and t-shirts as well as thick socks and gloves. At other times, avoid carrying clothes made out of cotton as they tend to add to the overall weight of your backpack. Carry bright colored clothing in dark red, blue or yellow that may help your backpacking mates identify you from a distance if you get lost. Avoid wearing green clothing when backpacking in dense forests.
You may use lightweight trekking poles that help to ease your climb and walk. These poles can be easily detached, folded and packed away in one corner of your backpack. These poles can also be used as a safety precaution to shoo away wild beasts that cross your path during the trek.
Backpacking can be physically stressful and hunger inducing. You may feel hungry at regular intervals. It is therefore suggested that you carry plentiful supply of lightweight and dry meals for snacks and some dehydrated ready to eat meals. Ideally, count portions based on the number of meals you are likely to eat. Make sure to carry extra food for unforeseen delays in your journey. Also carry paper napkins and disposable dishes, bowls and spoons. My personal suggestions about foods to be included in your backpacking trip include:
- Coffee/ tea sachets
- Sugar and salt sachets
- Powdered milk
- Instant oatmeal
- Instant noodles and soups
- Dried fruits
- Chocolate and granola bars
- Cookies and crackers
- Cheese cubes
- Frozen and dried dinners
- Bagels and muffins
- Onion and garlic powders
- Dried fish and meat
- Chewing gum
Ideally, use light weight trail stoves that make white gas. You may have to carry extra supply of butane or propane fuel if you wish to stay out longer and make use of the stove for melting snow for water supply.
First Aid Kit
Your first aid kit should include a large stock of bandages, band-aids, sterilized cotton wool, cold and cough medicine, paracetamol, pain killers, etc. We also suggest that you carry a good reference book on mountaineering or backpacking first aid procedures.
You may or may not realize it, but your backpacking trip can have lasting effects on your eyes due to steady exposure to harmful solar UV radiations and lights reflecting from snow. There have been cases on snow blindness due to negligence of eye care. Some of the best light brands available in the market include Bolle’s UV resistant sunglasses (approximately $45), Nikon’s glacier glasses (approximately $100).
Usage of waterproof and wind proof matches should be restricted only for emergency situations. Keep them away from your regular butane lighters for fear of combustion. Ideally store them in a cool and dry box. Popular brands include Colan, Cyclone and Hurricane.
It is an excellent idea in a multiple-use Swiss knife that has a knife, cutter, bottle opener, scissor, wire crimper, etc. Opting for a ‘Master Swiss army knife’ or a ‘ Victorinox Swiss champ’ is the best option. These tools weigh as little as 6 oz and ½ pound respectively.
Water Bottles and Filter
It is always possible to carry water bottles from home on short backpacking expeditions. However, if your trip happens to be lengthy, then you may have to refill water from local sources. Carry sufficient water bottles to suffice your water requirement. Similarly, it can be unhealthy to directly consume local water for fear of contamination. Personally, I suggest you to carry a light weight water filter as a precaution. Other options for water purification include boiling water before consumption or rolling a lump of alum in the water that helps remove impurities.
It is quite likely that the places that you visit are rampant with mosquitoes or leaches. Carry sufficient quantity of insect repellents in lotion and spray forms.
When out under direct exposure to the sun, there is a high chance of getting skin problems and sun burns. It is best to keep a good amount of sunscreen lotions that give a good amount of protection against harmful UV rays of the sun.
Whistles act as an ‘SOS’ when there is any kind of emergency during the trip. You cannot foresee when a whistle can come in handy. Opt for a good, shrill and light weight whistle that can help you communicate over long distances too. I recommend you to purchase a whistle of Fox40 brand which costs as little as $6.
Ropes are quoted as the survival cords for a backpacking trek. They have multiple uses viz for tying up your luggage, for rock climbing, etc. It is one of the most important safety gears and needs to be ultralight with minimum space requirement. You may opt for a sturdy nylon rope which is approximately 80 ft to 100 ft in length. A good quality military use rope is priced at approximately $25.
No other journey tests your body limits as much as a backpacking trip on unfamiliar terrain. Be it a solitary journey or in a group, these ultralight backpacking gear will be the key to your survival and success of your trek. All it needs is an additional monetary investment to get hold of these possessions. I wish you all…Bon Voyage!