How to Kickstart Your Backpacking Adventures
It’s springtime! Well almost, and thank goodness.
It’s time to shake off the snow and break out the backpacking gear, friends. (Unless you’re a mountain warrior who is still tightly gripping your skis, hoping to get a few more powder days in before the season is over, which we absolutely encourage.)
Rather you’re a first time backpacker or sleeping outside is your bread and butter, we’re here to help you get ready for the spring season. Today, we’re sharing some of the most essential backpacking items and the gear we recommend to stay safe.
It’s important to know that every backpacker uses different kinds of gear! The more time you spend outside, the more you’ll learn what works for you. Below is a list of what we think is most important, but comment if you have an essential item we missed.
- Backpack: As the staple piece of gear for the sport, a backpack’s size is measured in liters. For example, a day pack can be anywhere from 10-30 liters while 50-70 liters is ideal for a few nights on the trail. Osprey and Dueter are our favorite brands because of their durability and superior design. Some backpacks are gender specific while other are gender neutral. If you’re confused about what size is right for you, our sales associates will help fit you for the right pack.
- Sleeping Bag: Sleeping bags are rated by temperatures. For example, a 30 degree bag means you’ll be able to survive a night in 30 degree weather but you’ll likely still be cold. We recommend buying a bag that is at least 15 degrees warmer than the coldest temperature you plan on sleeping outside in. Some sleeping bags are made of down while others are synthetic. Often times, synthetic bags are heavier, keep their warmth when wet and more cost effective. Down bags are lighter, don’t keep their warmth if they get wet and can be more costly.
- Sleeping Pad: Sleeping Pads are rated with R values, or a number based system from 1-7. (Lots of weird rating systems, we know!) Checkout the cool R value chart from Section Hiker to get a good idea of what you would need. If you plan on camping in early spring, we highly recommend at least an R rating of 3.5 to insulate you from the cold ground.
- Tent: Backpacking tents can be one of your heaviest pieces of gear. To reduce weight, some packs use aluminum poles, or hiking poles to reduce weight. Tents are described by the number of sleepers that will be in the tent (Ex. two person tent, four person tent). It’s ideal to have a tent rated for one more person that the number of people actually sleeping in the tent. For example, a three person tent is ideal for two people so you’ll have room for your gear inside the tent if it rains. While this isn’t necessary, it’s a great camping luxury.
- Stove: One of our favorite stoves is the JetBoil. These boil water in a minute or two and are perfect for dehydrated meals. They’re lightweight, affordable and last forever.
- Food: If you’re heading on the trail for a day or two, you could easily pack your own food. However, Backpacker’s Pantry and MountainHouse provide yummy dehydrated meals that are packed with the calories you’ll need after a day on the trail with minimal effort.
- Water Filter: Oftentimes, it doesn’t make sense to bring all the water you’ll need with you on a backpacking trip. A water filter allows you to drink from streams and rivers by filtering out bacteria. One of our filters from MSR even attaches to your water bladder for filtration on the go.
- Trekking Poles: Don’t underestimate the importance of trekking poles! You’re likely going to be hiking through elevation changes and these help you take the strain off your knees and ankles. This is especially important hiking with weight on your back!
- Clothes are gear too! With hot summers and cool winters, it’s important to pack accordingly. While rain gear, down coats, and hiking pants are all great additions, Darn Tough socks are a must-have on the trail. They are made of merino wool and wick moisture away from your feet, keeping them just the right temperature. They also have a lifetime guarantee!
Renting Backpacking Gear
We realize that some of these items can have a hefty price tag. If you’d like to test out backpacking before financially diving in, Peace Surplus rents backpacks, sleeping bags and sleeping pads, tents, stoves and hiking poles. Visit our camping rentals page for more information.
While hiking is often a blast, it’s best to be prepared in case something goes wrong. We recommend bringing the following items with you!
- Headlamp: Day hike or overnight trip, a headlamp allows you to navigate a trail, cook, or set up a tent in the dark. Headlamps are measured in lumens or brightness levels. We carry headlamps that are 250-500 lumens. (500 will knock your Darn Tough socks right off!)
- Lighter: These are necessary for most stoves but are also a great tool in case you get stuck in cold weather.
- Knife: Rather you’re cutting rope or just trying to open your dehydrated meal, these always come in handy.
- First Aid Kit: Checkout REI’s first aid kit recommendations here!
- Battery Pack: These allow you to charge your phone on the go. They’re especially important if you’re relying on a digital map.
- Snacks: Duh! We sell locally made Huppy Bars, Cliff Bars and an assortment of jells. Jells are sugary, quick carbohydrates that allow you to stay fueled throughout the day.
- Garmin InReach: If you find yourself spending a lot of time on the trail and without service, consider getting a Garmin InReach. They’re devices that communicate using satellite reception so you can send and receive messages, check trail maps and call for help in an emergency while you’re anywhere.
What About Car Camping?
If hiking far and camping in the middle of the wilderness sounds like a bit much for you, we get it! Car camping is a great alternative that allows you to still experience the outdoors, sleep under the stars and enjoy outdoor luxuries like decadent meals or hopping into your car if it rains. We highly encourage getting outside in whatever way works for you! Want a post on the best car camping spots? Comment below and we’ll get writing.