Hiking Part 2: Backpacking Hikes
July 17, 2013

Hiking Part 2: Backpacking Hikes

After writing about day hikes, I wanted to also talk about backpacking hikes. In many ways, day hikes and backpacking hikes (also called backcountry hikes) require some similar gear. However, backpacking trips are usually overnight and require more of just about everything. With this type of hiking, you spend more time in nature, sleep in the backcountry wilderness, and experience life in a much different way.

REI, an outdoor equipment store, has a list of the top ten essentials for backpacking.

The Ten Essentials

(for safety, survival and basic comfort)

1. Navigation

Map (with protective case)


GPS (optional)

2. Sun protection


Lip balm


3. Insulation

Jacket, vest, pants, gloves, hat (see Clothing)

4. Illumination

Headlamp or flashlight (plus spare)

Extra batteries

5. First-aid supplies

First-aid kit (see our first-aid checklist)

6. Fire

Matches or lighter

Waterproof container

Fire starter (for emergency survival fire)

7. Repair kit and tools

Knife or multi-tool

Kits for stove, mattress; duct tape strips

8. Nutrition

Extra day’s supply of food

9. Hydration

Water bottles or hydration system

Water filter or other treatment system

10. Emergency shelter

Tent, tarp, bivy or reflective blanket

Each of these ten essentials are absolutely required for a safe, successful backpacking trip. I would like to say that number 10 should be taken not just as emergency shelter, but as shelter period.

In addition to the ten essentials, REI lists the other necessities:

Beyond the Ten Essentials


Daypack or summit pack

Pack cover

Tent, tarp or bivy sack (with stakes, guylines)

Tent-pole repair sleeve

Footprint (if needed for tent)

Sleeping bag

Stuff sack or compression sack

Sleeping pad

Pillow or stuffable pillow case

Whistle (plus signaling mirror)

Multifunction watch with altimeter

Trekking poles

Ice axe


Energy food (bars, gels, chews, trail mix)

Energy beverages or drink mixes



Cookset (with pot grabber)

Dishes or bowls


Cups (measuring cups)

Bear canister (or hang bags for food)

Nylon cord (50 feet for hanging food)

Backup water treatment (e.g., halogens)

Collapsible sink or container

Packable lantern

Clothing options: Warm weather

Wicking T-shirt (synthetic or wool)

Wicking underwear

Quick-drying pants or shorts

Long-sleeve shirt (for sun, bugs)

Sun-shielding hat

Bandana or Buff

Cool weather (insulation in Ten Essentials)

Wicking long-sleeve T-shirt

Wicking long underwear (good sleepwear)

Hat, cap, skullcap, balaclava or headband

Gloves or mittens

Rainwear (jacket, pants)

Fleece jacket or vest, and pants

Footwear; assorted personal items

Boots or shoes suited to terrain

Socks (synthetic or wool) plus spares


Sandals (for fording, in camp)

Camera and memory cards



Route description or guidebook

Field guide(s); star identifier

Notebook and pen or pencil

Credit card; small amount of cash

Earplugs and eye shade

Toilet paper

Sanitation trowel

Hand sanitizer

Insect repellent


Bear spray

Toothbrush and/or toiletry kit

Biodegradable soap (and shower bag)

Quick-dry towel

Cell phone/satellite comunicator/2-way radios

Post-hike snacks, water, towel, clothing change

Trip itinerary left w/ friend + under car seat

If you plan at all to spend time in the backcountry, this is a great list to consider when packing. Backpacking hikes are about more than just the end destination of a day hike. Backpacking is about the entire experience; sleeping in the primitive wild in areas that not many people get to. It is about hearing and seeing and smelling and feeling and tasting parts of nature that are unique and more private.

Of course, it is also important to be responsible by making sure you have water, food, shelter, and protection. That’s why having a checklist like REI’s is crucial to a backpacking trip. Whether or not you bring everything on the list, it is good to look at what professionals consider before taking off on their own treks.

Frankly, backpacking is my favorite way to camp and hike and live. If I could live like this all of the time, I would. I can’t do that right now, but maybe someday. I took the pic that accompanies this blog on a recent backpacking hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. We stayed for a couple of days and plan to go back soon. This is of our campsite in the middle of nowhere in the Rockies. Incredible.

Featured Image Credit: Rayshell Clapper

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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