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Backpacking Checklist

 
Backpacking Gear

Note

Snack and Drink

Please remember that snacks will be locked in a car during the trip. Do not bring a can of soda, it can explode in the heat (it has happened in my car, and it is a mess to clean up!). Do not bring something that will melt, like chocolate. Do not assume the car driver will allow you to eat in his car. A light snack that you can eat and share before getting into the cars is a good idea.

Clothing

Only bring the clothing that you intend to wear. I like to change into fresh underwear and socks on my second day of hiking. That is about all the spare clothes that I bring. There is no reason to change your shorts, just because the one pair is a little dusty from the day before. If you normally do not change your underwear during a campout, do not let you mother pack an extra pair for you when you are backpacking. Bring only what you will use.

When hiking, always change your socks. Get yourself some good hiking socks. You can find good outdoor socks at Walmart, Target, K-mart or your favorite outdoor equipment store. They should be thick and contain absolutely no cotton. If you can tolerate wool, there are good socks made with wool blends. Expect to pay $10 a pair (even at Walmart). 100% synthetic hiking socks are bit more expensive. Expect to pay about $15 a pair.

Poncho

I strongly encourage a poncho over a rain coat or rain suit. A poncho can double as a ground cloth. It can also be made into a lean-to. A poncho breathes better than a rain suit. It can also help cover your pack when hiking. There are special ponchoes with longer backs for back packing. Get something that is light weight, but practical.

When you pack something, consider multiple uses for the item. If the item does not have two uses, consider, again if you really need to bring it.

Long Pants (no jeans)

In a word: nylon. Bring a pair of wind-suit pants. Bring nylon camping pants. Do not bring blue jeans, do not bring Boy Scout pants, do not bring khakis. Long underwear bottoms and shorts can also be worn on cooler evenings. That avoids the weight of the pants. For me, long pants are really seasonal. I will only bring them along on a winter trip. Otherwise, it is wasted effort to carry them.

Polypro long underwear tops and bottoms

In a word: nylon. Bring a pair of wind-suit pants. Bring nylon camping pants. Do not bring blue jeans, do not bring Boy Scout pants, do not bring khakis. Long underwear bottoms and shorts can also be worn on cooler evenings. That avoids the weight of the pants. For me, long pants are really seasonal. I will only bring them along on a winter trip. Otherwise, it is wasted effort to carry them.

Nylon or quick drying shorts

Year round, I will wear shorts to hike in. Wear nylon shorts.

They can double as a swimsuit in warmer weather. I have never been on a backpacking trip that we just walked by a lake without getting wet and cooled off.

On longer trips, you can wash out nylon shorts and they will be dry enough to wear in a hour.

No clothes will rub against you more than your shorts. Wear something slick and soft.

Hygiene

As I said before, if you don't plan to use it, don't bring it. If you aren't going to brush your teeth, do not carry the toothbrush and toothpaste. If you are not going to wash your face, do not bother with the soap.

I carry a small bottle of biodegradable shampoo. I use it to wash my face. I use it as shaving creme (soap) to shave (yes, I shave on every campout), and I use it to wash my hair on longer trips. I pack a bottle of shampoo, a comb, a disposable razor and a plastic mirror (in addition to a toothbrush and toothpaste). Personal hygiene and clean underwear are some of the creature comforts that I am not willing to give up when camping.

I carry a pack towel (these quick dry towels that you can buy at camping supply houses). Paper towels work just as well. I use the pack towel to dry off my tent (when I use a tent) from the morning dew. The pack towel seems to work better than paper towels for this job.

Insect Repellent / Sunscreen

Both insect repellent and sunscreen are required on some trips. Consider where you are going. Put a bit of sun screen in a film canister--you can make it part of your first aid kit. Then you do not have to carry the whole bottle.

I used to think that insect repellent that you rub-on was much better for campouts. Then, I went to Canada. I quickly learned that there are some places that an aerosol can of OFF is worth its weight in gold. Consider your trip, bring the repellent if you think you will need it. Otherwise, leave it at home.

Backpacking with rain cover or trash bag

Get a back pack that fits you. Most younger scouts have packs that are too big, and the hip belt is useless for them. Get a cheaper pack for your younger scout, or realize that you can sell the pack after your son grows out of it. It is hard to find packs for kids. We liked the REI Rising Star and the Kelty Coyote for smaller backs. We have tried to adjust internal and external frames to fit smaller bodies, and we were never successful. It is very difficult to change the shoulder straps, the hip belt, the rest on the small of the back, and keep everything working together, properly.

You do not need a 7000 cubic inch pack. Keep the pack volume under 3000 cubic inches, if possible. You will pack until you fill up the back pack. I would hope that your pack is full before you reach 30 pounds.

The external frame packs are easier to pack, they can accommodate a wider variety of gear. They do not hug you body as close as the internal frame packs, so they can be a bit more uncomfortable on long or difficult trips.

If you have an internal frame pack, learn about compression sacks. These are stuff bags with ends and straps that squeeze the contents down to a minimum volume. You do not save any weight, but you can get things into and out of your pack easier.

A trash bag makes a great cover for your pack at camp in the rain. It is much lighter than a nylon cover, too. You can also put trash in the bag, if it is not raining.

Sleeping bag in waterproof stuff sack

Down sleeping bags have the most warmth per pound of weight that you have to carry. However, I really recommend a synthetic sleeping bag (holofil, thinsulate, etc). If your down bag gets wet, you are cold and wet. If a synthetic bag is wet, it will drip dry in minutes. The higher quality filling materials weigh only slightly more than down. If you have a bag that can get wet, you do not need such a great tent. You can save more than 5 pounds on the tent weight by having a synthetic sleeping back that weighs about one pound more than down.

Tents, Tarps or Bivy Sacks

Tents are over built and too heavy. They block the view of the stars and block the evening breeze. The thin nylon sides of a tent do not protect you from any animals. I usually sleep under the stars. My tent does not have a rainfly. I have learned not to touch the tent walls during a rain storm, and I stay dry. I do not have a vestibule, a gear loft, a guest bedroom or a welcome mat. The tent holds me and no one else. My tent weighs 3 pounds.

A piece of Tyvek rigged as a lean-to would be bigger, lighter weight and just as dry. Why do I carry a tent? Well, I don't always carry a tent. I do use my poncho for a lean-to on campouts. I did not have access to Tyvek before. However, I am now anxious to give it a try.

Personal First Aid kits with mole skin

First aid kits are nothing more than some band aids, alcohol wash-wipes, moleskin (perhaps the most important item) and tylenol or aspirin. If the problem is bigger, I will improvise. Paper towels can cover bigger cuts.

I also carry a couple of needles and dental floss in my first aid kit. The dental floss makes great string to sew together tents. It also works when food gets stuck between your teeth. I have used it help tie a boot. Dental floss has lots of uses.

Some people like to carry duct tape. I have carried it on trips, but never used it. So I leave it at home.

Water Treatment (filter or iodine tablets)

I put a bottle of iodine tables in my first aid kit. I usually filter my water. However, if my filter breaks or if the water is really scummy, I will add iodine. I have been told that a vitamin C tablet will take away the terrible taste of the iodine. I have not tried it.

I suggest carrying 2 liters of water. Many people want to carry more. I think you should drink a lot at the water sources and only wet your mouth during the day. If you carry a platipus (plastic bag with a hose that runs to your mouth) you will drink twice the three times as much water. They might be convenient, but they will force you to carry many extra pounds of water. A few plastic water bottles (or empty softdrink bottles) works well for me.

Flashlight

I do not carry extra batteries for my flashlight. I sometimes wonder why I carry the flashlight. When backpacking, I go to bed when it gets dark and get up when it gets light. The flashlight is for an emergency or to see what time it is when I wake up in the middle of the night. I still have not figured out why I like to look at the time in the middle of the night. No matter what time it is, I behave the same, I roll over and go back to sleep.

Knife

I have my pocket knife if I need a knife.

Deep plate, cup and spoon

I only bring one deep plate (like hybrid between a bowl and plate), one cup and a spoon. I have never used a fork when backpacking. A frisbee can be used as a plate and a toy after the meal.

2 sealable plastic bags for garbage

Note that I carry zip-lock bags to pack out my trash. I think it much less "gross" to carry toilet paper out of a camping area than it is to find clumps of toilet paper in the woods.

Toilet paper and paper towels

Paper towels can be used to clean pots, plates and spoons. Paper towels can dry your face or be used as toilet paper in an emergency.

Toilet paper has all the same uses. I usually carry a bit of each. Although, one is certainly sufficient. I would never bring a new roll of paper towels or toilet paper. That is too much.

If I have to use the toilet paper for the toilet, I dig a hole with the heel of my boot. You can carry a plastic trowel, if you want. (Do not dig the hole too deep, only about 4 inches down.) I take the toilet paper back to my campsite and burn it (or I pack it out).

Pot for cooking

I only bring one pot and cook everything in that pot. I clean my stuff in that pot.

Emergency Whistle

I do recommend putting a whistle in your first aid kit. Not only does it help if you get lost. Sometimes, it is necessary just to get the group to stop and regroup.

Aluminum foil

A lot of optional stuff is listed, like aluminum foil. If you know you are going to use it, bring it. Otherwise leave it at home. Aluminum foil can be used as a wind deflector around your stove. You will use less fuel with the wind deflector.

Scouring pad

Other optional stuff like the scouring pad and the detergent, I never bring. If I need soap, I use the shampoo. One soap is plenty for the trip.

Camp Stool

Some people swear by their camp stools. I have never carried one, and probably never will. You decide if they are worth the weight.

Plastic trowel (shovel)

If I have to use the toilet paper for the toilet, I dig a hole with the heel of my boot. You can carry a plastic trowel, if you want. (Do not dig the hole too deep, only about 4 inches down.) I take the toilet paper back to my campsite and burn it (or I pack it out).