So, you want to go Backpacking? – Adventure On

So, you want to go Backpacking?

erica

August 2, 2021

SO YOU WANT TO GO BACKPACKING?

Starting any new hobby can seem overwhelming at first, but don't worry- we have you covered with everything you need to know as you get ready to hop on trail and fall in love with the outdoors even more!



BACKPACKING OVERVIEW

  • 01

    LEAVE NO TRACE

    The backcountry is magical, heres what you need to know to keep it that way. 

  • 02

    CHOOSING A TRAIL

    3 things to keep in mind when you're picking a pack to sleep in the woods. 

  • 03

    GEAR 

    Everything you need and more to make your first trip enjoyable!


LEAVE NO TRACE

Each of us play a vital role in protecting Mother Natch. In order to help minimize our impact on plant life, animals, other people and ecosystems it’s important to understand some basic outdoor ethics. Leave no Trace principles highlights 7 key ways in which we can reduce the impact we have on the nature as we adventure outside:


ONE: Plan ahead and prepare

TWO: Travel and Camp on durable surfaces

THREE: Dispose of waste properly

FOUR: Leave what you find

FIVE: Minimize Campfire Impact

SIX: Respect Wildlife

SEVEN: Be considerate of other visitors


If you're unfamiliar with Leave no Trace principles  you can read more HERE

CHOOSE YOUR TRAIL

Now that you’re an expert in how to take care of Mother Earth, it’s time to choose your trail. We recommend making your selection with these 3 things in mind:


01: Ability level


If you’re like us,  you probably jump to the extreme and are down to pack 50 miles in 3 days… but we don’t recommend that when you're just getting started! For your first trip keep it easy! Pick a trail with lower mileage and mellow elevation gain. You may be able to cruise 20 miles and 5000ft elevation in a day no problem, but once you start hiking with 20+lbs on your back, it's an entirely different game. 


Here are some of our favorite beginner friendly trails in Utah:


Willow Lake

Silver Lake

Granddaddy Lake

Naturalist Basin


02: time


Sticking with the take it easy theme we recommend planning your trail over a few days so you can really relax and enjoy it! Backpacking is FUN! Some of our favorite trips have been when we pack in a few miles, set up a base camp, and then explore for a day before heading back.  In addition to the amount of days you plan- the time of year can have a huge impact on your experience. Be sure to triple check weather before you embark!

03: location


Although escaping the crowds is our favorite part of exploring the back country- when you’re just getting started we recommend choosing a trail that’s more well known. Check out popular backpacking trails on All trails and local blogs to find one that suits your fancy. This will help reduce the risk of something going wrong and not being close enough to others for help.  Location will also play a role in the weather- scroll through the gear below to make sure you're prepared. 

GEAR

Most beginner backpackers make the mistake of over packing and consequently having a pack that weighs more than it should. On short trips weight may not be a back breaker, but having a comfortable backpacking set up can be a game changer on how much you enjoy the trail. As a general rule of thumb your backpack should weight about 20% of your body weight. 


Before you go out and spend all your money on a set up, we recommend checking out rentals at local universities and recreation stores like REI.  They can help get you fitted and explain each piece of gear to you! 


You can also find great used gear on facebook marketplace and at REI 


THE BIG 4


BACKPACK

If you come across an ultralight hiker they will likely recommend a pack with a less bulky frame that will cut down weight, but keep in mind that when you lose the frame you will also lose the comfort a frame provides. We might convert to UL one day, but for now we love our osprey packs!

Osprey Aether 65L

Osprey Aura 50L


TENT


When we are with the pups we rock the REI half dome 3+, but when its just the two of us the Nemo dagger 2 is perfect! If you’re not comfortable getting cozy with your backpacking partner we recommend the 3. This free standing tent weighs in at just under 4lbs and comes with a Unique Divvy dual storage stuff sack which makes it easy to split the load and has been one of our favorite purchases! 

Nemo Dagger 2p


Don't forget the footprint! Most tents sell footprints separately so make sure you add it to your bag to increase the life of your tent by protecting it from rocks, sticks and cacti on the ground. If you’re looking to save some money, you can also use a tarp found at any home improvement store and cut it to size. You won’t have the easy ability of attaching it to your tent, but it's a decent alternative. 


SLEEPING PAD


The options when choosing a pad, and bag, for sleeping in the wilderness can be daunting- but here is what you need to know when you’re looking for some comfort sleeping on the ground. We love inflatable pads, but you will run the risk of it popping and deflating if you don't care for it well. The Nemo Switchback, flexmat plus and therm-a-rest sol are great options if you’re looking for something other than inflatable, Keep in mind these pads will be strapped to the outside of your pack rather than packed inside. 

Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL


Our sleeping pad of choice is the Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL. As a side sleeper finding a pad that keeps my hip off the ground was a challenge until I tried this bad boy! The second thing to consider when choosing a pad is the insulation. Sleeping pads are rated on an R scale. The higher the number, the warmer it will keep you at night. If you have a warm bag, this isn’t super important but if you use a summer bag or quilt choosing a pad with a higher R value is key. With a R rating of 4.4 this kylmit pad helps keep us warm and comfy without breaking the bank.



SLEEPING BAG

Just like with your sleeping pad, choosing a bag that works for your body and style is important. I am personally a quilt lover, but John uses a traditional mummy sleeping bag by Klymit. 

Klymit KSB 20

Enlightened Equipment Enigma

If you’re a side sleeper, quilts were made for you! Allowing me the space to toss and turn, while keeping me snug as a bug in a rug has drastically changed the quality of sleep I get on trail. I splurged and got a custom Enlightened Equipment enigma 0 degree quilt. What I love the most about this quilt is that I got to custom make it for me! Enlightened Equipment allows you to pick the fill, size, color and more to ensure you have the best nights sleep! 


Before the switch I rocked a summer bag I found at an REI garage sale and added the Sea to Summit extreme sleeping bag liner to give some more warmth on colder nights in the mountains. If you're not ready to splurge on a fancy sleeping bag, we highly recommend this option.


COOKING & Food


WATER FILTER

We have tried several water filtration options over the years and as much as we love our Be Free gravity bag, we have officially converted to the swayer squeeze. Small, relatively cheap and fit on top of a smart water bottle its perfect for long weekends in the mountains. In addition to a water filtration system we recommend always packing a back up in case your filer gets clogged. Iodine tablets wont filter out any silt, but is a solid option that wont fail you on the trail. 

Sawyer Squeeze

Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets



STOVE SETUP

We recently switched over to a more compact and lightweight system but before that we rocked a Jetboil for years. Although its more bulky, a jet boil is fast, insulated and great alternative! 


If you’ve chosen one of the two set ups listed above, you’ll want to snag yourself Isobutane/ Proprane fuel mix as well.


If you want as smaller set up, here is what we recommend:


MSR Pocket Rocket 2

Toaks 750

Sea to Summit Alpha Light  Spork- Long

A spoon, fork and knife combo is awesome, but we learned the hard way that more often than not your hands get covered in food trying to reach the bottom of the meal bag, which is why we recommend a longer utensil like the sea to summit long spork! 

That being said you can totally rock a bamboo set and be just fine.



COFFEE

Going backpacking doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice good coffee, although now a days you can certainly find some tasty instant coffee! We love our ultralight dip coffee system by GSR. Pack a few tablespoons for each cup in a reusable ziplock and enjoy your mornings in the mountains. Keep in mind that if you choose to make fresh coffee you will need to pack out the coffee grounds in your trash bag to keep with leave no trace principles- Forrest critters definitely don't need caffeine!  

GSI Ultralight Java Drip

Snow Peak Titanium 

Double Wall 450L


FOOD

Don't worry, you don't have to eat mush everyday while you’re exploring the nature…. 

There are PLENTY of tasty meals out there! 


We love to buy in bulk or 2 person meals and split them to cut down on cost. If you choose to go that route you’ll want a scale to measure out servings and some microwave safe & BPA free plastic bags (ideally reusable). You'll also want a cozy if you're not planning to bring a jetboil or insulated cooking system. 


You can also make your own meals- we aren’t professionals at that just yet, but a quick google search will leave you with tons of recipes for homemade backpacking food.


Here are some of our favorite meals and brands to eat on trail:

Food Cozy 

Outdoor Herbivore

Fernweh Food

Mushroom Pot Pie

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl 

Sasquatch Fuel

SouthWest Mac N Cheese

Kickin' Cactus Bowl 


Looking to save even more? Make a ramen bomb! Grab yourself some top ramen and add in two servings of instant mashed potatoes (and a tuna packet if you like). Tons of calories, cheap, and surprisingly delicious! 



CLOTHES 



FOOTWEAR


After years of rocking the Merrell Moab hiking boot, we recently made the switch to hiking in trail runners. There are a lot of pros and cons with the switch but over all we are loving how lightweight and comfortable trail runners are on long trips. You'll lose the ankle support, but have found that our feet hurt far less in sneakers after big mile days. 


In addition to what you wear during the day, having shoes to give your feet a rest at base camp is a must for us! We looked at a lot of options, but so far we are really enjoying our crocs. Super lightweight and incredibly comfortable! 


MerrellFlight

Hoka OneOne Speed Goat 4

Crocs

For socks we are loyal darn tough people. Tried and true they are unbeatable in our book. With a variety of selections and a life time warranty what’s not to love. 


PANTS


We have been rocking the REI convertibles for years. We have tried other brands, but have yet to find a pair with a side zipper that lets us slip off the legs without taking off our shoes. Lightweight and super durable, we’ve gotten into some wild canyons with these pants, they are a great choice for a pair of hiking pants that wont break the bank. 


SHIRT


As nice as the tan line from a tank top can be, we always chose to rock UV protective wear on trail. No sense is getting burned day #1 and being miserable the rest of your trip. 

Columbia Silver Ridge 

Lite Hybrid Shirt

Patagonia Capilene 

Cool Daily Hoody


RAIN GEAR 


Even if you don't think it's going to rain, bring your rain gear. We have made the unfortunate mistake more times than we care to admit and now never leave home without at least our jacket. Depending on the time of year you are backpacking, rain pants might be a great addition to your gear list. If you're not looking to spend the money on a good rain jacket, a poncho is an excellent alternative (some hikers eve ditch their backpacking rain cover and just grab a big poncho that will fit over them and their pack)

REI Essential Rain Pants

Rab Meridian Rain Jacket

WARM CLOTHES


Temperatures drop at night no matter where you are, if you're like me and sleep cold, making sure you have a solid base layer and micro poofy is important. I'm a huge fan of smart wool when it comes to thermals, spent many a cold mountain night in my pair over the years and have zero complaints! I also love my patagonia micro puff. A little more money, but I have had mine for years and it provides me the perfect amount of extra warmth when i needed it on trail


Patagonia Micro Puff Insulated Hoodie

Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer

HAT & BEANIE


It’s personal preference here. Any hat will do. After wearing the same baseball camp for years, John and I found an awesome lightweight and packable cap that was a total game changer! 




Hygiene Kit 


BATHROOM/TOILET

Do yourself a favor right now and get a trail bidet! We always bring toilet paper just in case but the culo clean is top of the list for favorite gear we have when backpacking!  The Culo Clean will easily fit on to most water bottles so you don't have to worry about packing a ton of extra stuff. In addition to a clean tushy, l love having my Kula cloth (ladies!)

You already know this as a LNT expert, but disposing of waste properly is a HUGE part of backpacking. If you missed our how to guide click HERE.  Always be sure to go at least 200 ft from camps, trails and water sources and dig a 6 inch hole using one of these

The Deuce

GSI Outdoors 

Cathole Sanitation Trowel


TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE


We do our best to reduce our waste both on and off the trail and that's why we love Bites! As an added bonus you get to cut the weight of a toothpaste tube and just pack a small baggy of these for the trail. We also love the bites bamboo tooth brush because it gives us the option to keep it shorter and lose the extra ounces of a handle for our teeth brushing needs. 

OTHER


TrailBath

As much as we embrace the hiker stentch nothing beats a trail shower. We love to cut a kitchen sponge in half and use it to wash our body and face after a long sweaty day. 


Sunscreen

Most of our body is usually covered when we hike with UV protective clothing, but bringing sunscreen is super important when you're hiking all day, especially if you use hiking poles. Trust me when I say you will only forget to put sunscreen on the tops of your hands once! 


Bug spray

We treat all of our clothing/gear with permethrin before hopping on trail, but always love to bring a little bottle with us to shield our hands, faces and other exposed areas. 




Miscelaneous


GPS & MAPS


We love using our paper maps and compass and always recommend bringing them along no matter the trail, but having an app or GPS system that can track you as you go is a great peace of mind. 

Our Garmin InReach Mini has been such a great addition when backpacking. It allows us to update our trip ICE on our progress, get  location specific  weather updates and has an SOS option.  Download the earthmate app and use  the GPS/ Texting system easily from your phone. 

We also recommend downloading your trail map on Alltrails, Guthooks or Gaia
 


POWER


We love our Goal Zero Nomad 10 Solar Pannel. A little excessive if you're just out in the back country for a short while (we would recommend just a power bank) but once you start heading out on longer trips having a way to keep your powerbank, GPS, camera, etc charged while you hike is a great luxury. 




By no means is this an experts gear list, this is just some of the gear we have grown to love over years on trail. Everyone is different and we encourage you to find what works best for you so that you can have the best experience on trail! See you out there! 



Head over to our instagram and check out our highlights On HOW WE PREPARED FOR 3 weeks on the John Muir Trail!

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