Health, Sports

Essentials for a summer backpacking trip

Charlie Dahl

School is nearly out, and for those not taking summer classes, this fast approaching season is time for the long needed break that has been lingering since fall quarter began. Summer break is the phase to refresh the spirits that have been contained throughout of the continuous exhaustion of 3 back to back quarters.

The summer of 2016 is waiting to be experienced, and adventure is summoning the weary spirits to action. Backpacking, the pursuit that many dream of accomplishing is the sport that allows people to escape into the outdoors for days at a time and disconnect from society. Whether planning a single overnight trip, or a week long expedition, these 12 essentials are wise to accompany anyone on any trip. Keep in mind that many outfitters rent shelter, packs, and other gear if certain essentials are not owned. Not only does renting cut costs, it allows experimenting gear before buying any.

  • A backpack. A backpack that is comfortable, with straps around the waist, and the chest is ideal. In this case, not all the weight will be on the shoulders. The backpack will need to be spacious to allow the variety of materials to fit securely into the pack. Comfort is the key to an expedition backpack as many intolerable irritations can occur while backpacking, such as blisters. The bag will need to be spacious to fit other gear, but too much weight in the pack will make the trip terrible. Packing wisely is imperative. Taking only what is necessary to enjoy the trip comfortably.
  • A lightweight tent. These are expensive and many people don’t have one lying around. Lightweight tents can be rented from stores such as REI for minimal cost. A lightweight tent is ideal as it will be carried everyday and it should include a rainfly to protect from any sporadic weather.
  • A sleeping bag. Ideally, a lightweight sleeping bag. This will need to be warm and able to compress into a sack to store in the backpack without taking too much space.
  • Sleeping pad. There are two types of sleeping pads. A close-cell foam pad, which is a minimalist foam mat. They’re cheap and really good on snow. For more comfort, a blowup sleeping pad is basically a small blow up mattress.
  • The right clothing. Clothing can make or break a backpacking trip. Choosing the right clothing is essential, taking into consideration mainly the weather. In Washington, layering is always immensely important. A base layer is what comes in contact with the skin. It will keep warm and dry. This includes long underwear or thermals for nighttime and comfortable under garments for hiking during the day. A mid layer is next. This layer is for insulation. A comfortable shirt or jacket made from natural fibers, preferably made from fleece is the best option. Fleece is lightweight, breathable, and insulates even while wet. Next will be the shell used for protection from the environment. Shells can range from expensive mountaineering jackets to a windbreaker, but will need to be able to breathe as well as protect from the possible extreme weather variations. The specific type of shell that should be brought will vary with the climate, but a soft shell should be included, as well as a hard shell that is water resistant.
  • Water purification. Lugging around day’s worth of water is heavy and is not feasible. Fill up before trekking out, but acquiring water while in the backcountry is inevitable and should be done safely. Water purification straws are a good option to drink out of almost any water source. Iodine drops or tablets also work to purify water making it safe for consumption.
  • Food and Cooking. Food can get very heavy; avoiding this situation doesn’t take much effort. Some food such as trail mix should be taken out of its original packaging and put into individual plastic baggies. This eliminates the air that fills up about half of the package and makes food much easier to pack. Bring food high in calories as it will be burned off quickly. Protein bars are easy to pack and will restore much needed energy.
  • Other essentials. Head lamp, sunscreen, compass, map, lip balm, knife, first aid kit, wool socks, camel pack, moleskin, sunglasses.


There are a couple things to keep in mind for a first time backpacking trip: First, respect the environment you’re in and leave no trace; leave the area you travel like no one was ever there. Second, beware of animals. Third, have a plan B so if something goes wrong the trip won’t be ruined. Becoming a great backpacker is learned by experience, personal safety always comes first, but always have fun and learn along the way.