First Backpacking Trip to a Distant Land? Here Are the Essentials You Need.
So you did it. It’s official. You booked your first trekking trip to a far distant land and now that the honeymoon phase of admiring the glamorous pictures with sweeping views has passed, you’re left wondering what it is that you will need on your new journey.
This can be a daunting and intimating task. No one wants to be in a space where they are unfamiliar with the culture and language and not be able to access what it is they might need.
Luckily, there are many people who have shared the wealth about their initial trekking trips or multi-day hikes and provided useful insights into what it is that you might need.
Money saving fact: Did you know that there are things you can purchase ahead of time, items that you can borrow or rent and even supplies that you can buy while on your expedition?
If this is your first trekking trip or if you feel as if you will rarely trek, it might make sense for you to look into renting a backpack from an agency. Sometimes this can lead to backpacks that may not be the best fit, but after the trip, you won’t have to worry about finding a storage place for it.
In all seriousness though, whether you’re renting or purchasing, you’ll want to look for a backpack or rucksack that is both comfortable and functional. As far as comfort is concerned, you should consider the size of the bag. Is it too big that you feel as if you’ll topple over? Look for a backpack that fits comfortably and that you’re sure you can manage to carry all of your items in for a considerable amount of time.
As far as what type of backpack to purchase for multi-day trekking trips, an Extended Trip Backpack is a safe bet. Experts recommend this to individuals who are going on a journey longer than five days and need to carry more than 70 liters. These are good for carrying extra clothing, a 4-season tent and a sleeping bag. Also look for an Extended Trip Backpack that has an internal-frame feature, as this will help with stabilization on uneven terrain as well as transferring the weight to the hip area.
If you’re unsure of what backpack to get, many outdoor stores have specialists who can help you find the right fit! They’ll measure a proper one based off of your torso length and make sure it provides a snug fit around your hips, which you should use to support the weight of the load.
Because your hips play such an important role in carrying a backpack, it’s wise to pack your backpack in a way that won’t be an issue on the trip. Be sure to keep the items that you’ll need at night as well as your sleeping bag at the bottom, load the heaviest items towards your spine for added support and round out the top with lighter items like clothes and things you need easy access to.
This can also be applicable when packing, but consider the number of pockets & compartments the backpack or rucksack has so that you choose the best one. You want to make sure that you have easy access to important items, but you will also want to make sure that your backpack provides protection from the elements.
Experts also mention that mid-size backpacks might be a happy medium, especially if this is your first adventure. The more (useless) space you have the more tempted you may be to over pack.
If you’re thinking about pricing, good, sturdy backpacks can run somewhere from $100-$400 and remember you not only want to think about comfort but functionality too.
This might seem minor but can have a tremendous effect on your body when you are actually out there on a mountain or trail. One of the main reasons to purchase the appropriate footwear beforehand is to make sure that you are able to break them in.
For those who may be new to the world of hiking or trekking, there are various types of footwear out there that are geared towards different adventures and terrain. Hiking shoes provide flexibility, but less support, making them appropriate for single-day hikes. Hiking boots are a rigorousness step up aka the middle ground. Hiking boots provide more support and protection on rougher terrain but are typically advised to use if carrying a moderately heavy load. Backpacking boots are the go-to when it comes to multi-day trips. Not only are backpacking boots great for loads of all sizes, but will offer the support & stability you need. Backpacking boots are also good for all terrain types and weather conditions.
A safe bet to prepare for your trip is purchasing backpacking boots. But you can always ask the agency you booked your excursion through what type of footwear that they suggest you purchase. See if you need mid or high-cut hiking shoes that will provide additional ankle support. High-cut hiking boots are great for the extra support.
Before you solidify the purchase of your new hiking footwear, test them out in the store. Experienced hikers recommend that your new footwear be snug and to make sure your foot isn’t constantly sliding forward. You can quickly check for this by placing your foot in the unlaced shoe, slide your foot forward and see if you can slip your index finger in the back of the shoe. The best fit will provide you with ample room between your heel and the back of the shoe.
Breaking in the right pair of backpacking boots can also save those delicate feet from blisters and uncomfortable situations. Another quick tip when trying on boots or breaking in your new hiking footwear is to try them on at the end of the day. Experts say this is usually when your feet swell & you’ll be able to avoid getting footwear that is too small.
It might also be a good idea to get some sandals or camp shoes of some sort.
When it comes to renting pieces for your trip, it might be a good idea to wait until you get to your destination to rent some items. You’re likely to save money when checking in bags at the airport and you may not end up using these items very often after the trip! Many companies offer places where you can rent certain items, but it may also be good to first check out renting companies while in your home country.
Tents are not optional, but there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on the right tent. You’re going to want to consider capacity, seasonality, livability and other important deciding factors.
One of the first things people think of when considering a tent is how many people it can hold. Capacity concerns the number of people a tent can fit. If you’re taller or larger, a tent one person larger than your group size or a plus-size tent might provide extra space and comfort. Tent designs range from 1-4 person models.
Depending on where you are going for your trekking trip, there are a few different tents that are geared towards certain elements and seasons that you should weigh. The 3-season tent is definitely one of the most, if not the most popular tent on the market. This tent supports moderate weather conditions and is suggested for the spring, summer and fall seasons. These tents can hold up under light snow and downpour but aren’t advised for heavy winds and snow or severe weather.
If you’re headed to a region with a bit of rougher weather, consider picking up an Extended-Season Backpacking Tent (3-4 Season). These tents are especially good for trips to exposed, high-elevation areas, but are also appropriate for summer and late fall.
When it comes to weight and livability, an ultra-lightweight tent can be just as strong as a heavy one and when making tents, designers are starting to take into consideration roomier interiors that don’t add the extra weight. Along with your tent, you’re also going to want to add some extra protection between yourself, the tent and the ground. This is where a footprint and sleeping pad, which are sold separately, come into play.
Just like with footwear, if you’re still unsure what tent make and model is best for you, be sure to ask a store or agency specialist.
This is another item that you need while you’re roughing it, but certainly, an item that you can choose to rent.
One of the first things you’ll want to consider when choosing your sleeping bag is the sleeping bag temperature rating. The rating indicates the lowest temperature the bag is projected to keep the average sleeper warm. So the number on the bag is the lowest outside temperature that the bag would keep the sleeper comfortable. A quick rule-of-thumb is to choose a sleeping bag that is slightly lower than the lowest temperature of the region you’re visiting, so you don’t run the risk of freezing.
The right insulation type will also fair you well. The most popular insulation type is a synthetic one. Synthetic sleeping bags not only are non-allergenic but also dry quickly and insulate when wet. Another reason synthetic bags are popular is for their affordable price tag. One thing to keep in mind with these is that they aren’t as compactable as other options.
Goose/duck down insulation bags are an alternative and are a considerable option for colder climate locations. Down insulation is more durable, lightweight, compressible, and perfect for cold and dry climates. The only cons with this option are that when wet, these bags struggle to insulate and can be a bit pricier.
For those looking for a happy medium between synthetic and down, there are also hybrid insulation bags which offer a combo of both.
Sleeping bag shape is strictly a preferential choice. Different models trap heat differently. Traditional rectangular sleeping bags provide the most comfort, room and with the right complementing sleeping bag, can be combined into a double bed. Semi-rectangular/barrel shaped bags provide a step up in comfort and efficiency. Mummy sleeping bags, although not the best for comfort, definitely provide the most warmth and for this can be optimal for backpacking excursions.
Depending on the destination and company, you can sometimes find rental items for as low as a dollar a day!
Items You Can Get Along the Way
A lot of the items that you can pick up along the way are miscellaneous additions. Walking sticks are an additional item that many hikers find useful, especially for downhill parts of the journey, but can definitely be picked up last minute either from a shop or along the trail.
If you don’t need to bring important medication, but would like to have some basic medicine or medical supplies on hand in case of emergencies, feel free to pick up some Tylenol, aspirin or Band-aids from a local pharmacy. These will generally run pretty cheap and you won’t need a prescription to purchase these either.
Whether you’re going on a multiday trip or somewhere locally for a few days, most if not all of the items we talked about you will need some form of. We only touched on many of the important items that you’ll need on your trip, but we hope to explore other avenues like how to prepare before a trekking trip, what clothing to pack and what snacks to bring. Be sure to check back for more useful information!