What to Put in a Backcountry Backpack

What to Put in a Backcountry BackpackPacking a backpack may sound easy, and it is once you learn what you need and how to pack it. At first it can be hard to know what you will need out there if you have never been on a backcountry trip. Start by packing these basic items and personalize the list from there.

Home Away From Home

You will need to pack a place to lay your head at night--a shelter. A lightweight tent is nice for the backcountry because it usually takes up less room in your pack and is lighter. A tarp can also work as an extra lightweight alternative. If you are really extreme, just pack a bivy sack to sleep under the stars and to keep any weather out of your sleeping bag. A sleeping pad (inflatable or foam) for the appropriate season as well as a sleeping bag with an appropriate temperature rating are what will keep you warm and help you rest up for the next day of hiking, climbing or skiing. Pack a short (2 to 3 foot) extra section of 1/2-inch or 1-inch closed cell foam. This works great to kneel on while cooking and in cold weather helps to insulate your body from the ground even more when placed under the core of your body in conjunction with your regular sleeping pad.

Food and Cooking Supplies

You can cook some backcountry gourmet with the right set of tools and ingredients. Pack a stove with adequate fuel canisters or bottles for the number of days you will spend in the backcountry. Pack a lighter and a backup method of lighting your stove like matches. Be sure to take a pot set which contains one larger pot for boiling water and another small one that packs inside the first to use as your bowl or to cook small amounts of food like oatmeal. Pot grips and a small plastic measuring cup can also pack inside the pots. Bring a spoon made of a heat-resistant material like Lexan. Many backpackers can get by with this one utensil, but a fork and knife are nice luxuries. Pack a collapsible dromedary to haul water to the campsite for cooking. Also, have an extra water bottle you can use for hot drinks. Pack all your food rations in a nylon zippered duffel and put this above anything that could possibly contaminate the food, like stove fuel.


Backcountry Closet

What you wear should function for the weather and season you are heading out in. No matter the season, always pack extra layers. Moisture wicking base layers, insulating mid layers and wind and water repellent outer layers are what you want to put in your pack. Pack a pair of thick socks that you keep in a clean plastic bag and only wear at night in your sleeping bag as well as an extra pair of hiking socks. Put a handkerchief in your pack--you will no doubt find a use for it on your head, around your neck or as a dish rag. Whatever you do, boil it before changing its purpose from one of those things to another. Camp shoes are nice to have, as are foam sandals or light sneakers in summer or down booties in winter. Give your feet a break and let them air out. Also put in a hat, sunglasses and gloves. On most backcountry trips you will want to have gaiters.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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