10 Must Haves For Summer Backpacking Trips
Summer is almost here friends, and you know what that means–it’s time to sort through those storage bins in your garage and break out that backpacking gear! It was a long and very cold winter for most of us, so it’s safe to say we’re pretty stoked to get outside and on the trails without needing four layers of insulation to keep warm. Whether you’re a backpacking veteran or are just starting out, we have 10 must have gear essentials that every backpacker should have in his or her pack!
We can’t always depend on our smartphones to tell us where to go, especially when we’re planning to get off the grid and out of cell service. That’s why it’s crucial to have a compass and a map of the area you’ll be hiking in. It may be old school, but it can save you from walking in continuous circles and being the next breaking news story.
2. H2O (and plenty of it!)
No matter how hot or cold it is, always, ALWAYS pack plenty of water. If there is one thing on this list you absolutely should not forget, it’s your H2O. Water can literally save your life, and taking off on a trip without enough of it would be a rookie mistake, so that’s why we’re here to reinforce this essential item. And hey, it’s also the one item on the list that’s virtually free of cost, so there is no excuse for not having enough of it!
Backpacking for a day, two days or ten days takes a great deal of energy, and to produce that energy requires packing a good supply of sustenance. Fruit, nuts, bars, jerky, gels etc… whatever your palate prefers bring it, and bring enough of it! And if you’re planning on setting out for a multi-day trip, be sure to pick up some of your favorite dehydrated meals so you can have something more substantial to eat throughout the day. The great outdoors can be unpredictable, and sometimes your two day backpacking trip can suddenly turn into three, so make sure you pack for a couple extra days just in case. The only thing worse than getting stranded in the wilderness for longer than anticipated is getting stranded without enough food😟.
4. First Aid Kit
From minor scrapes and bruises to lacerations that need medical attention ASAP, a first aid kit is always a good idea. We hope that you never have to use your first aid kit on any of your backpacking adventures, but if you ever run into a situation in which you need to, you’ll be glad you have it.
5. Fire Starter
Let there be fire! Or at least let there be the option. If your casual day trip suddenly turns into an overnight trip, you’re going to want to have the option to have a fire. Even in the summertime, temperatures can drop significantly once the sun goes down, so be prepared for that possible change. Be proactive and throw a lighter, matches or some other type of firestarter into your backpack, that way you’ll never go cold!
6. Extra Layers
And on the subject of fire and warmth, so goes the need for an essential set of extra layers of weather versatile clothing. We will say it now and we will say it again–you can never have too many layers. Layers are great because like their name implies, you can layer down or up as conditions change. Also, be sure one of those layers is waterproof in case any summer storms roll in and try to douse you with an unexpected shower!
7. Sun Protection
The sun can be very unforgiving if you decide to depart on your journey without any sun protection. Even when it’s cloudy out, the sun is still there and can do damage your skin without you noticing. Bring a good pair of sunglasses and apply more sunscreen than the average overprotective mom at the beach–your skin will thank you. If you know it is going to be extremely hot and dry temperatures where you’ll be backpacking, we also recommend packing a couple lightweight, synthetic sun-protecting clothing items in addition to applying copious amounts of sunscreen. (guys & gals, I wear sun gloves, a huge hat, and long-sleeve collared sun-shirts when working in southern California. I look like a dork and I do not care)
Afraid of the dark or not, remember to pack a handy headlamp or small flashlight for after the sun goes down! You can find a good, inexpensive headlamp or flashlight at any sporting goods store and be safe from ever being stuck in the dark tripping over tree roots and jumping at every little sound coming from the bushes. Please don’t make me embarrass myself by telling you the time when a mountain lion stalked us coming down from Angel’s Landing in Zion, off season, after dark, with NO lights (we got the time change thing wrong).
9. Knife or Multipurpose Tool
A basic knife or multipurpose tool can come in handy for a variety of functions while out backpacking. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but having a tool with a sharp blade, screwdriver, can opener and even scissors can make all the difference while you’re exploring in the wilderness.
10. Emergency Shelter
If your going out for a day trip and have no plans to spend the night under the stars, you should still pack as if you’re going to stay overnight. You never know what may happen when you head out on the trails, and if you find yourself losing daylight and still have yet to make it back to the trailhead, you may have to call it a day and camp out for the night, and if that happens you’re going to want to be prepared. We’re not suggesting you bring all your fancy camping gear, but packing something like a lightweight blanket and tarp can make a huge difference in your overnight experience.
Once you have all your gear essentials, throw everything in your pack and get out there! Be sure to always research and check condition reports wherever you decide to go backpacking and inform someone of your plans. Be smart and use your best judgement while out on the trails, and most of all, have FUN!