Hi, my name is Noah. I am an Eagle Scout with a Bronze palm and I spent 13 years in the Boy Scouts of America. Backpacking was my specialty.
Tools of the Trade
There are many things that you carry around with you on a day-to-day basis that you don't actually ever notice or need that much. Chapstick, wallet, maybe a knife—but what about when you're on the trail? No need for a wallet out there. Chapstick and a good knife do, however, go a long way, so when packing your backpack, keep those.
What All Should You Throw In?
I'd also recommend spicing up your pack with a solid firestarter, mine is a Uberleben, and there are many versions of the old flint and steel kind. This is a great alternative to a match or lighter because if it gets wet, no problem, it will still work. I'm not saying, "Thou shalt not have a lighter," but having a backup is never a bad idea.
Next in the picture is the Gerber Suspension NKT. Multi-tools are great because you can get a lot in a small package. Knives, can openers, tweezers, files, scissors—you name it, and there is a multi-tool with exactly what you need. Gerber has been one of my favorite companies for knives and tools that work well.
The main drawback to this is the weight. But I made the decision that, yes, the weight was worth the value it brought to my trip. On top of having a blade in the muli-tool, having another dedicated and fixed blade is a good idea. It can be more accessible than having to unfold the knife, and as with all tools I consider to be essential, having a backup is a must.
The last major tool that you need to have two of is a flashlight. I bring the Streamlight ProTac and a Colman Headlamp. The ProTac is a very nice lightweight flashlight that doesn't take up much room in your pack. Colman Headlamps are great for cooking and hiking in the early morning or late evening. The best hands-free way to move around in low-light settings. I prefer ones that can tilt and that have a red light on them as well.
Cookin' in the Wild
The speed at which you can boil water may not seem like a factor that needs much attention, but in instances like where I was stuck under Hunchback Pass, as I described in an earlier article, this can be the difference between keeping your core temperature up or venturing into hypothermia.
Additionally, the ability to cook quickly means that you can be more efficient with your fuel, and it will last longer. I have two different stoves, and they each serve different roles. One is a Canister pocket stove from Coleman. This is a compact and light way to bring some heat to your new nature kitchen. It has two parts, the first is the canister of blended gas that is threaded at the top, and the second is the burner that is attached to the canister.
These boil water surprisingly fast and sound like little jet engines. The only downside is that you have to bring the empty one back with you. Additionally, some regions restrict this kind of stove and only allow stoves with refillable liquid fuel (like this single burner from Coleman) and do not create waste.
My stove choice depends on the region of Colorado or New Mexico that I am in, and this will be part of your homework when planning your trip. What is needed for the type of backpacking trip you're taking? Think about it carefully—it will save you hassle in the long run.
Read More From Skyaboveus
A hot meal at the end of a long day on the trail is a great reward for the hard work you just put in; it is also a time for the trekkers to come together and review the events of the day. Meals historically bring people together, and the bond that comes from a common goal is something that can be enhanced by cooking and trading food.
Regularly we would have a "Cracker Barrel Dinner," and everyone would bring their favorite item to dinner, and we would all share in the dining experience. I remember one time in New Mexico, where our desert was a very large, pie-sized blueberry muffin. An extremely simple thing to make, and yet, to this day, I remember the setting, who cooked it, and what it tasted like after days of eating unsweetened food.
Meals are the cornerstone of rest on a backpacking trip, and having the ability to prepare them with ease makes the experience that much better. What you are going to cook your food in is just as important as how you cook it. The recurring theme with backpacking is lightweight and compact, so having something like this stackable set of bowls or mugs you can cook in is a must.
Some of my favorite mugs and cook-worthy bowls are titanium and stainless steel. It's strong, lightweight, and easy to cook with. However, these items come with a price. Some brands of titanium cookware can be quite expensive. Coleman, Stanley, and Snow Peak, for example. For hot or cold drinks, I always turned to the Coleman Enamelware Mug; it's a classic design, sturdy and durable.
Come Back for More
These are the basics of what I always kept in my pack for any trip. Backpacking is all about the adventure; if you are missing components to your pack, then your attention will be divided from what's going on around you and focused on the frustration. Trust me, mistakes will be made, you will learn, and with every trip, you will get better and better!
Start with shorter trails closer to civilization and work your way further out and further up. The key is doing your homework, reading about the region you are traveling to, and then deciding on the equipment you need to carry. It is imperative to figure out what essential tools work best for you. Everyone has their list of most to least important items, and this is where "shakedown trips" (as I call them) are a great way to hone your skills and equipment list.
The main benefit is that if you make a mistake or find you need to bring or remove tools, it does not have a large effect on the trip as a whole. After each trip, I recommend taking notes on what went right and what could have been done better. Do it while it is fresh on your mind, even if your next trip is not for a while. Trust me, all the work you put into this will make for an amazing experience and wonderful adventure.
I will be sharing more advice on camping and other tips I'd recommend for making your time smooth and comfortable. My next article will cover water purification, shelter, and hygiene while camping. So please, check back soon!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Noah