Increasing your hiking miles by backpacking opens up hundred of trails and scenic destinations that are not available to day-hikers. But while backpacking requires some of the same equipment as day hiking, such as sleeping bags, tents and hiking poles, it also requires additional or specialized equipment. Moreover, weight becomes an important consideration as well, with tents for instance spanning a weight range for a two-person tent from 2 to 6 lbs.
All hiking guides advise hikers to always carry the 10 essentials on every trip. Until you actually have an emergency, whether large or small, you may discount the necessity for the additional weight, but that reluctance could put you and your fellow hikers at serious risk. The 10 supply and equipment essentials include: a detailed map, sun protection, extra warm and waterproof clothing, a flashlight or headlamp, first aid supplies, a reliable fire starter, a repair kit, extra food, extra water, and emergency shelter such as an emergency blanket or ground cloth. Most backpackers prefer headlamps to allow hands-free maneuvering and water bladders for extra water to allow flexibility in where it is carried in the pack.
Water Filtration Systems
Even a clear mountain stream will not be free from bacteria, viruses or parasites that cause serious intestinal discomfort and disease. Chemical treatments such as iodine tablets offer one option, but these methods take some time to work and leave a residual taste in the water. Most backpackers opt for a reliable water filter that works by trapping most of the microorganisms that cause disease. The editors of "Mountaineering First Aid" recommend that filters have a pore size of 2 microns to trap both bacteria and parasites. Some systems have reusable filters that you can remove and clean while in the outback.
Bette Filley, author of "Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail encircling Mount Rainier," reminds hikers that a pack "rates second only to footwear as the most important factor" for those heading out on the trail. As with tents, weight does matter; wise hikers choose sturdy packs that are large enough to carry everything they need (including a bear canister if one is required in the area you are hiking), but not so large that the weight limits their comfort or mobility. Unlike day packs, backpacks need a waist strap, to transfer some of the load from the shoulders to the hips, and shoulder pads that are adequately padded. Plenty of outer zippered pockets add a convenience for carrying toilet supplies or for quickly stashing gloves or a bandanna. Some backpacks feature a removable upper cover that doubles as a day pack.