Hi guys! Katherine here, head designer at RP. Summer is well underway and it’s high backpacking season. I love escaping to the Eastern Sierras on the weekends and backpacking is a great way to explore the area. While I’m no expert PCT hiker, I have made a few personal discoveries and I’m happy to share my top 10 backpacking essentials with you.
I always bring a headlamp and a separate lantern with me. Even if it is just a day hike, people have died after getting lost because of the setting sun, so be prepared! Black Diamond makes a great light headlamp for directional lighting and I love my Snow Peak Mini Hozuki for space lighting – and it’s so cute!
2. Sleep Pad
The first time I ever went camping was with a girl scout troop, and I didn’t know stuff like sleeping pads existed and neither did my mom who packed for me, so I spent a week wrapped around a giant tree root. While your trip doesn’t need to be this sad, don’t waste your money on a huge air mattress, and instead go for a light blow up pad. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is great, but I personally bring the Z Lite Sol Mattress backpacking because I hate wasting time blowing up and pressing out air when I could be eating or sleeping instead.
An extremely functional item to carry, a bandana is perfect for tying around your neck and blocking the sun, drying camp dishes, tying up a broken arm into a splint, and wiping off blood from scraped knees. Better bring one extra.
You will invariably sweat through your socks after a full day of hiking, and a fresh pair for sleeping in is an essential for my comfort and ease of mind. I always switch into a pair of our crew socks after setting up basecamp.
5. Delicious Snacks
On long strenuous backpacking trips the highs are really high, and the lows are so, so low. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that a good 50% of the time that I’m backpacking I’m wondering why I’m there. Why am I climbing 1000ft of elevation in 1 mile, why am I walking the hundredth switch-back, and why do all the mosquitos seem to want only me? For those inevitable times of misery, a good delicious snack (none of that cardboard tasting trash) will keep you going until you see that breathtaking view and remember that it’s all worth it.
6. Storage Bags
Dry sacks and stuff sacks are perfect for keeping all the things you need together neatly in one spot without taking up too much space. I’ll usually group stuff into clothing, toiletries, stove and utensils, and other miscellaneous items.
You might think this is a duh, but not all tents are made equal. Go for a well made all-season tent and ditch the piece of crap Coleman family tent, because there will be a day when 70 mph winds suddenly come down, break your tent poles, and you have to scramble to run out and sleep in the car. Don’t be that guy. Or be a bad-ass and cowboy camp without a tent – I can’t do that. One word: bugs.
8. Light Shoes/Sandals
If you can spare the weight, bring an extra pair of light shoes or sandals. Not only will they make great campsite shoes, but at the end of the hike when your feet just can’t take all the blisters or if those boots have decided that today is the day to all apart (both true stories) you’ll be glad you brought them.
10. Water Bladder
Stay hydrated! Everyone knows this, but did you know that you can drink water without having to stop, take your bottle out, drink, put the bottle back in every time you needed a sip? That’s where a water bladder comes in. Put it in your pack, thread the hose through and you’re set! My favorite is the Platypus Big Zip LP hydration system. Spend the extra few bucks for a bite valve cover. It’s never fun when the tip gets pressed accidentally and water gets everywhere.
I hope this list was helpful for your next weekend trip. Go outside and have fun on your human powered adventures!
See you on the trail.