What's in Your Pack?

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Packing your bag for your first overnight backpacking trip might seem like a daunting task. What food do I bring and how much?  Where does my tent go? And how do I fit the 10 essentials, my stove, and my extra clothes in that one bag?  Take a look at what Gear Aid staffer Kati packs for a two day, one night trip:

  • Sleeping bag- I pack a 20 Degree bag with a compression stuff sack. If it’s too warm, just unzip the bag and sleep with it open. Better to have too hot of a bag than too cold.
  • Tent- if your poles are small enough put them in your bag, if not- strap them to the outside
  • Water- Bring along a Nalgene, a filter, and treatment drops so you can drink at water sources along the way.
  • Extra Clothes- A down jacket for insulation is great because it packs down light, thermal leggings work well for layering during the night, long socks for keeping feet warm, a rain jacket because well, it rains a lot here in the PNW, a synthetic flannel for warmth around the campfire, and an extra pair of underwear.
  • Stove, fuel, cooking apparatus, and eating utensils- I pack a pocket rocket style stove that uses canister fuel. This cook set  (the GSI Microdualist) is for two people because I usually travel with a partner. On a solo trip you’ll likely use a smaller cookset. I bring along my Outgo PT Pod Camp Towel for cleanup in the backcountry kitchen.
  • Food- We all know that backpackers dream of food the entire time on the trail. For a two day one night trip you will need one breakfast, two lunches, one dinner, and snacks. My go to breakfast is old fashioned oatmeal with some brown sugar and craisins, my favorite snacks are Clif Bars, and my fool proof lunch choice is a PBJ sandwhich. Dehydrated meals  for dinner are non-perishable and easy to pack. I regularly pack a box of pasta, dehydrated veggies, and dehydrated pasta sauce for a quick and tasty meal of "Spaghetti".  Remember that while on the trail you will burn more calories than if you were at home, so bring a little more than you would usually eat.
  • Ten essentials- Never travel without the ten essentials! Some of these things will already be in your pack like hydration, extra clothing, nutrition, and shelter. But don’t forget to bring a first aid kit, navigation (map and compass, or cellphone with plenty of battery and downloaded maps), sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen), Lighting (headlamp or flashlight), fire and fire starter (Toilet paper works great!), a knife (I prefer the classic Swiss Army style), and your trusty repair kit (full of Gear Aid products of course!). 
  • Sleeping pad- depending on the size of your pad you can put it inside your pack or tie it on the outside.
  • Extras- There are some things you just can’t live without. For me, it’s a pillow (I know, I know...), my Thermarest™ Trekker Lounge (to convert my sleeping pad into a chair), a pair of flip flops,  and a good book.  

This will all be a trial and error process. Some days you'll find that you forgot your socks and have to sleep with cold feet or that the food you packed tastes gross, but you have nothing else to eat.  Be sure to load your backpack correctly and don't forget to check out our other tips for a successful backpacking trip. Get out there!

Kati Schmidt is a self-proclaimed “Hipneck”, blending her roots as a country girl with her life in the big city of Bellingham. She can often be found skiing at Mt. Baker, gardening, deer hunting, and hiking with her Rat Terrier Remington.

Photo courtesy of Dyrland Productions.

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