Before you head out on a fun and adventurous backpacking trip, there are several things to keep in mind considering must have survival gear for backpackers. Of particular focus should be the supplies and pieces of gear you need to bring along to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time.
Some of the vital survival gear outlined in this article will be obvious, but there may be several items you had not thought about before that will prove to be extremely useful on the trail. And the better prepared you are with helpful supplies and products, the less likely you will be to have anything happen that spoils your outdoor experience.
Must Have Survival Gear for Backpackers
Backpack: You can choose from backpacks of various sizes and shapes, depending on your specific needs and preferences. There is a backpack out there for every type of unique situation or preference you can think of.
Ten Essentials: There is a list of ten essentials that are traditionally recommended to bring on a hike or any outdoor excursion. There are also some updates that have come in the last few years, bringing technological developments to the trail.
Tent: Will you be heading out on your own, or will you need to share your tent with another person or more? Size is just one of the features you will have to evaluate before you purchase a backpacking tent.
Sleeping Bag: You can choose from roomy or more compact options, depending on what you prefer. And there are also different material types to choose from, depending on your focus more on compactness or warmth.
How to Choose the Best Backpack
There are several key factors to consider when deciding which backpack will work best for your outdoor ventures. If you keep the following questions in mind, you should find a pack that meets your needs while staying within your budget.
Do you need the pack to be waterproof? If you plan to hike and camp in wetter climates or simply want to be prepared for any type of weather, then a waterproof backpack is the most appropriate choice. There are many waterproof or water resistant pack options, depending on whether you need one that simply repels water or one that can survive water submersion. A completely waterproof pack will prevent nearly all water from entering the pack, but water resistant products are only designed to minimize the impact of rain on a normal trek.
Are you looking for a lightweight option? As you explore backpack options, you will discover that there are selections available that are specifically designed to be extremely light. These packs are usually intended for short trips, as they typically cannot carry as much gear as heavier options. Heavier packs usually have a frame to support the weight of supplies for a trip of several days, while lighter packs are designed for short trips where you want to keep the amount you carry as minimal as possible. A frame-based pack is also great for keeping the pack balanced while you hike.
How much padding do you think you need for your personal comfort? Whether you are heading out on a short hike or a backpacking trip of several days, having sufficient padding is invaluable. And, if you will be carrying the pack for long distances, having extra padding in the hip belt area will be especially beneficial.
What type of extras are you looking for? As you evaluate the various different backpacks available, you will find that there are optional features that add significant additional benefits. These types of features include a separate sleeping bag compartment, a removable lid and a water reservoir for carrying extra hydration.
The Ten Essentials – Traditional and Updated
There are certain supplies and gear that are highly recommended that anyone who hikes or camps should make sure to have with them at all times. Many of these are obvious basic supplies, but a few are great reminders of things to have on hand just in case of an emergency.
The traditional list includes:
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Extra clothing
- First-aid supplies
- Extra food
To complement this list, there are a few updates that encourage the use of newer products and technology to improve your personal enjoyment and safety during an outdoors trip.
The updated list focuses on grouping the items into systems of support:
- Navigation (map, compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter
For the most effective approach, start with the basics and then add in a few more recent technological developments. Some of the new additions you might consider are a GPS device (or your smart phone) for navigation, sun protective clothing (with SPF), an LED headlamp, and a small water purifier. The newer product developments are not essential, but they will certainly provide valuable benefits to any backpacker who wants to expand their gear beyond the basics.
Whether you plan to hike in a more secluded area on a day trip or want to venture out for several days in any kind of environment, a tent is an essential component of your gear. A tent is critical protection from the elements as well as wild animals, so if there is any chance you will be gone overnight make sure you have one in your pack.
The type and size of tent you should purchase depends on several factors:
- The number of people that will be sleeping in the tent – If you will be the only person in the tent, then a one-man tent is your obvious choice. This option will fit compactly in your backpack, and allows you to avoid adding excess weight.
- The type of tent construction – Depending on where you live and will be backpacking, you may need to purchase a tent with a more sturdy construction. If you will be in an extremely windy area, you will need a tent that is designed to withhold the strain of winds.
- The amount of weight you want to carry – If you are really trying to minimize the weight in your pack as much as possible, then focus on ultralight tent options. Note, though, that these super lightweight options will be less roomy and have fewer features that heavier tents.
- Overall comfort of the tent – Traditional backpacking tents were designed to be compact, and therefore the interior space was minimal. In today’s market, though, product developers have increased the volume of space inside without significantly increasing tent weight. You should always check the peak height of the tent before purchase to verify if you will be able to stand up easily inside.
Sleeping Bag Options
A warm sleeping bag is critical to your survival as well as your comfort during a backpacking trip. Any kind of sleeping bag will be beneficial to carry in your pack, but if you will be in more extreme cold conditions then choose a bag that is rated appropriately.
In addition to checking the temperature rating of the sleeping bag you plan to purchase, investigate what type of materials the bag is made of. There are options with down fill that will be much warmer but also heavier, and choices with synthetic fill that will still be warm but will dry quicker and be much lighter.
Another factor in the sleeping bag decision-making process is the shape of the bag. There are several common shapes to select from, including mummy, rectangular and even body-shaped. Rectangular bags tend to be the traditional choice as they are usually easy to pack away, but the mummy or body-shaped styles are more snug and are better at holding in body heat.
Sleeping bags of today also offer several helpful and innovative additions that may catch your eye and persuade you toward purchase. If you are interested in a hood, a sleeve, or even a pillow pocket for increased comfort on the trail, you can find a sleeping bag that has some or all of these valuable options.
Questions to Consider
Are you taking a short day trip or planning an outing of several days? What type of weather/climate will you mostly be backpacking in?
Are you more focused on having the basics of survival with you, or do you like to have the newest technologies on hand?
Do you mind carrying a heavier backpack if it means you have more supply options available?
Do you want to maximize your comfort on the trail, or are you willing to deal with a few minor inconveniences?
Are you backpacking alone or with one or more other outdoors enthusiasts?