How To, Travel Lists

Backpacking 101

This post was originally published in May 2020 amidst the upheaval of everyone’s travel plans, including ours. With the stay-at-home orders in place, our planned travels for the summer were replaced by local outings, including multiple backpacking trips through the Colorado mountains. Even as we’ve been able to travel more widely again, we’ve continued to backpack at least a couple times per year, including some multi-day trips. We’ve also upgraded some of our gear resulting in an improved experience, so I decided it was a good time to update this post as well. Hopefully this is useful to anyone who may be planning a backpacking trip this summer.

I’ve also linked to some of our gear below. I’m not being paid to do so, this is just me putting in a good word for items that have worked well for us.

Headed off on a 4-day/3-night trip!

Let’s start with the basics

I’m a member of a couple hiking groups on social media and people will periodically ask for recommendations on the best backpack. My answer is always the same: whichever one fits you the best. Backpacks are never a one-size-fits-all item.

To find the best backpack, go to an outdoor gear store and try some on. Even better, go to a gear store where the workers will discuss the different packs with you and show you how to adjust them correctly. REI will put sandbags in packs and let you walk around the store with them weighted down to ensure proper fit and comfort. (I’m sure other stores do this too, I just mostly shop at REI.)

Just ask Pat; nothing will put a damper on your trip as quickly as having an uncomfortable pack.

Are you even a real backpacker if you don’t have a gazillion things attached to the outside of your pack?
(Photo credit: Kaylyn)

It’s also important to consider the size and features of the backpack. Most backpacking packs range from 45-80 liters. For trips requiring minimal gear or in warm weather, 45L might be enough. For more gear or longer trips, more space will be needed. Here in Colorado, we have to pack lots of layers and warmer sleeping bags, necessitating a larger pack. More and more places are now requiring hard-sided bear canisters (more on this shortly), which also take up quite a bit of space. My pack is a 60L and Pat’s is a 65L and they’ve been sufficient for 4 day/3 night trips in summer and fall.

Long story short, choose a backpack size based on the gear you’ll be carrying.

The other thing that will quickly turn a backpacking trip into a sufferfest is bad footwear. Bear in mind that you’ll have a lot of extra weight on your back so shoes/boots that work great for day hikes might not be adequate for backpacking. More ankle support might be necessary to help with the extra weight. Whatever type of footwear you prefer, this is in the same category as backpacks: find the ones that fit you best. Try them on with the socks you’ll be wearing, walk around the store in them, put some weight on your back and walk around in them… make sure they really, truly fit your feet.

Pat can vouch for this one too; bad shoes = miserable hike.

(Can you tell we’ve learned a lot of this by trial and error?)

Bare minimum, a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad are the necessities (unless you prefer to sleep in a hammock or bivy sack). Which specific items to purchase is largely dependent on climate and budget. Off-brand items can be purchased fairly inexpensively online, while the kind of high quality gear necessary for outings in colder weather can cost many hundreds of dollars.

How much each item weighs is an important consideration for backpacking. In general, you want your pack to be no more than 20% of your body weight… so every pound counts. Since Pat and I share the gear-carrying burden, we are a little less restricted here. A typical, mid-range tent (in terms of quality and price) will likely weigh about 4-5 lbs (1.8-2.3 kg). A comparable sleeping bag will be 2-3 lbs (1-1.4 kg), and a sleeping pad probably around 1 lb (0.5 kg). We also have small inflatable pillows, but to save a few ounces of weight you can fold up your extra clothing beneath your head as a pillow instead.

This past year, we opted to upgrade both our tent and sleeping pads, and while the new pads are a little heavier than our old ones, they’re substantially more comfortable resulting in better sleep, so for us it’s worth the weight. Also, our new tent is an ultralight one, coming in at barely over 2 lbs (1 kg), so that more than makes up for the heavier pads.

While we’re on the topic of tents, we actually ended up returning the first ultralight one we purchased after just one use and this was an important learning experience for us. In addition to a pole and stake layout that was just plain awkward, there was too much space between the tent and rainfly, and when a thunderstorm rolled in we just barely stayed dry. Had it been raining any harder, the splatters of raindrops and dirt would have come right up under the rainfly and through the screen. Our new tent has much more overlap and kept us dry through many hours of heavy rain and hail.

Moral of the story: be sure your tent can handle the full range of possible weather conditions.

This is the one we ended up returning
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 tent
Nice and dry inside the tent during a hail storm

The other main consideration with your sleeping gear is space; a down sleeping bag will compress much more than a synthetic one, while inflatable sleeping pads roll down much smaller than foam ones (and are, in my opinion, more comfortable). In terms of temperature rating, the higher the R-value of a sleeping pad, the more insulated it will be. All of these factors will be important considerations when choosing the right gear to suit your needs.

Sleeping bags actually have two ratings: a comfort limit and a lower limit. The lower limit essentially means “if it gets this cold, you won’t die of hypothermia.” However, you will not actually be warm at that temperature. Theoretically, the comfort limit is the temperature at which you will stay warm. For someone who naturally sleeps cold – me, for example – the comfort limit is not accurate. The comfort limit on my bag is 27°F and I stay warm down to maybe 40°F. Because of this, I also carry a packable down throw, and this combined with my sleeping bag does keep me warm.

This is another category that isn’t one-size-fits-all, and what to pack is highly weather dependent. Since I mostly backpack in the Colorado Rockies where it can cool down into the 40s (4-9°C) or lower overnight even in the summer, here’s what I typically wear/bring.

(NOTE: none of this should be cotton; cotton gets wet very easily and doesn’t dry quickly, which is a recipe for hypothermia.)

  • Tank top with built-in bra
  • Base layer (this also serves as my pajama top)
  • Packable down vest
  • Packable down jacket
  • Rain jacket and pants
  • Fleece-lined spandex pants (these are also my pajama bottoms)
  • Full-length hiking pants that roll up into capris
  • Warm hat, fleece ear band, and buff
  • Gloves
  • Extra socks and underwear

(Pro tip: keep most of this in a dry bag, just in case; wet clothes won’t warm you up.)

All bundled up during breakfast

For me, this is the hardest part. I’m always afraid of running out of food so I end up overpacking, which adds unnecessary weight to my pack. It’s a work in progress, though I’m getting better. A typical breakfast might be a breakfast cookie, dried fruit, and tea (for me) or instant coffee (for Pat). For lunch, we typically just bring a variety of trail snacks since we’ll likely be on the go. Protein bars, Kind bars, Chex mix, trail mix, beef jerky, Honey Stingers, and fruit snacks are some of our go-tos. For dinner, we typically bring Mountain House freeze-dried meals, with some type of candy for dessert.

That being said, what I like to eat while hiking probably isn’t what other people like to eat while hiking, so this is another thing that requires some individualization. Here’s what I will say: nutritionally speaking, easy-to-digest carbs are ideal for before and during your hike, while a hearty combination of carbs+protein makes an optimal dinner. You’ll be burning a lot of calories, so you’ll probably need more food than usual. You’ll also want a way to replenish electrolytes (specifically sodium, potassium, and chloride) during the day; salty snacks are good for this, as is dried fruit, trail mix, and specially-formulated sports products. Most of the freeze-dried meals have a decent amount of sodium and potassium in them as well.

We always aim to bring food that minimizes the amount of garbage and dirty dishes produced. The freeze-dried meals just require adding hot water and eating out of the package, meaning we only end up having to clean a couple spoons. It’s also a good idea to try out any new-to-you food choices at home first… 1:00am in the backcountry is never an optimal time to learn that your digestive system really disliked your dinner.

(Fortunately, this is a lesson we didn’t have to learn by trial and error.)

My personal favorite Mountain House meal

On the other hand, I feel pretty comfortable with our water system. We have LifeStraw filter bottles for drinking water and a collapsible Katadyn BeFree filter for cooking water and to refill our backup Nalgenes if necessary. We carry purification tablets just in case, but having these water filters has so far eliminated the need for drinking iodine-flavored water or expending fuel to boil water. We used to use a Sawyer Squeeze Micro filter instead of the Katadyn, but have found the Katadyn to be both faster and easier to use, not to mention smaller and lighter. The only downside is that it’s a little less durable than the Sawyer, so you have to be careful not to tear it.

One very important thing to know about all of these filters… if they freeze they’re no longer safe to use, though there won’t be any visual signs of this. To prevent freezing, we remove the filter portions from the bottles at night, shake them out as best we can, wrap them in bandanas, and keep them inside our sleeping bags. They also require proper cleaning and storage while not in use, so be sure to take the time to do this after your trip. And always test them to make sure they still work before you set out.

Other Necessities

Backpacking stove and adequate fuel
Yes, you can cook over a fire. But we never plan to do that, for a few reasons: (1) stoves are much faster and easier, (2) fires aren’t allowed in many backcountry locations, (3) there may be seasonal fire bans, and (4) campfires have a very negative impact on the environment. Not only do they use resources that other animals rely on (for example, animals that use sticks to build a nest or rely on pine cones or lichen as a food source), but the high heat also causes permanent damage to the soil such that, even if you dismantle your fire ring before you leave, it’s likely that nothing will grow there again for 100s of years. I’m not saying never have a campfire, I’m just illustrating why a stove and fuel may be preferred or even necessary.

A tiny backpacking stove can be purchased for $20 or less and fuel canisters don’t add that much weight to a pack. Even if your stove is self-igniting, it’s a good idea to bring some strike-anywhere matches just in case. Sometimes the igniters don’t work very well, especially if they get wet.

Food storage bag + rope, or bear canister
I know plenty of people who are very anti-bear canister, and I get it. I do. They’re big and bulky, they add weight to your pack, and you do sometimes have to get creative to fit everything inside. They’re also expensive. But the reality is that they’re required in quite a few places already and that’s a trend that’s likely to continue. At this point, they’ve basically become a backpacking necessity.

Personally, I’m a fan. Despite the downsides, I see plenty of upsides… mainly that they’re so much easier than bear hangs. You just seal it up and go place it 200+ feet (60+ m) from your camp, and that’s it. The last 4 places I’ve backpacked, there haven’t been many – if any – suitable places for a bear hang. And when someone hangs their bear bag from a branch that’s “close enough” to meeting the requirements, an animal will inevitably eventually get into it, and not only do you now have no food, but also that animal becomes habituated to human food and starts approaching humans and it becomes a problem animal that has to be put down. So yes, you have to add some extra weight to your pack… but ultimately it’s not about weight. It’s about the safety of wild animals and also the other humans using the backcountry.

So what goes in a bear canister? Everything scented except DEET. That means food, dishes (even when clean), pet food and dishes if you backpack with your dog(s), all toiletries, other small items like hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and chapstick, and all garbage. As with other items, purchase the size of bear canister that is compatible with your planned trip duration and the amount of food you’ll be bringing.

(Pro tip: for items with bulky packaging, consider repackaging them into something smaller or poking a tiny hole in the package to let the air out and then folding everything down as small as possible to fit into the canister. If it’s a package you’ll be pouring water into, be sure to poke the hole near the top to avoid leaks.)

Dinner with a view (and a bear canister)

We typically pack a small pot, bamboo silverware sets, and collapsible silicone cups (pro-tip: before your trip, use a sharpie and your at-home measuring utensils to mark the increments on your cup so you can measure water for freeze-dried meals). If we will need to do some washing, there are biodegradable soaps specifically for this purpose. If your chosen meal will result in food pieces being left behind in the dishes or dishwater, be sure to strain these pieces out and place them into the garbage before disposing of the dishwater a safe distance away from your site.

Garbage bag(s)
To store said garbage in your bear canister without making a mess. And also to pick up any garbage you might find along the trail. We’ve found empty tortilla bags that zip closed to work well for this purpose.

The Ten Essentials
First aid kit (pro tip: include supplies for treating blisters and burns, which are the most common backcountry injuries), navigation system, fire starter (we carry strike-anywhere matches in a waterproof container + a small firestarter brick), knife/multitool, emergency blanket/shelter, light source + extra batteries, sun protection, extra food, extra water or filtration system, and extra clothing.

Over the years, we’ve added various things to our ten essentials, including bug spray, anti-itch treatment, a small sewing kit and collapsible scissors, rubber bands, safety pins, bungee cords, paracord, a repair kit for our sleeping pads and tent (tenacious tape is the best invention!), hand and foot warmers, kleenex, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and chapstick.

Battery pack and charging cord
All the battery packs in the world are useless without your phone cord. Rather than a battery pack, I actually carry a solar-powered charger, and while I’m eventually planning to upgrade to a higher-capacity one that charges more quickly, my current one works well enough for now. Whatever you bring, be sure it’s fully charged before departure and is adequate to recharge all your devices. In my case, I have my phone, headlamp, and GPS device that all may need to be recharged while on the trail.

(Pro tip: if it’s cold, keep the battery pack and your devices as close to your body as possible during the day – an inside pocket of your jacket, for example – and in your sleeping bag at night.)

Trowel for digging cat holes, toilet paper, and bag(s) to carry out your toilet paper
The truth is that TP doesn’t biodegrade very quickly, especially in deserts or high elevation areas… it’s far more likely that an animal will dig it up before it decomposes. Feminine hygiene products don’t decompose at all and should NEVER be buried. Burning these items is also not an environmentally sound alternative. It all needs to be packed out. Dog poop bags work well for this.

When you do have to go in the woods, Leave No Trace principles state that you should be at least 200 feet (60 m) – which is about 70 adult steps – from water, trails, and your campsite. Solid waste should be deposited into a hole that’s 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) deep and buried… unless you’re camping in an area that requires a WAG or ReStop bag (this is common in deserts, alpine zones, and canyons), in which case you’ll be packing out the solid waste too.

I know it sounds unpleasant, but it’s just one of those things you have to do if you want to backpack. And honestly, once you get the hang of pooping into a bag, it’s not that terrible. The bags are double sealed and filled with powder that absorbs odors, and you can just roll it back up and shove it into the outside pocket of your backpack for the hike out.

Some of the more popular backcountry sites in Rocky Mountain National Park have privies, but this definitely isn’t the norm

Toiletries, medications, etc.

Microfiber towel
Or bandana, or something similar, for any cleaning or drying needs.

Obviously you want to know where you’re going, how to get there, and what to expect on your hiking route. This is also part of the Ten Essentials (listed above).

ID and copy of health insurance card
Just in case.

Car keys
And a safe place to store them in your pack. If you’re backpacking with someone else, give them your spare key to carry, just in case.

Passes, permits, and/or other paperwork
Also any money you might need to pay for trailhead parking, permits, shuttles, etc. If you live in Colorado, consider also purchasing (and carrying) a CORSAR card to support Search & Rescue.

Now that we’ve covered the necessary items, let’s talk optional gear

Things like tent and backpack and food are obvious, but it’s the little stuff that’s taken us the longest to acquire, either because we didn’t initially consider that we might want these items, or we didn’t know they existed.

Kula cloth
As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the very best hiking inventions! It’s basically antibacterial, reusable toilet paper for wiping after you pee. The fabric is infused with silver to kill bacteria and reduce odors, it snaps to your backpack and to itself for privacy and cleanliness, is easily washable, and eliminates the need for TP when peeing (yay for convenience and being eco-friendly!). I was very skeptical at first but now I never go hiking without one.

Waterproof backpack cover and dry bags
I think I speak for most of us when I say that wet clothes and gear makes everything so much more miserable. And also raises the risk for hypothermia.

Drying out our gear after twelve hours of rain.
Raise your hand if you can relate to this!

Waterproof shelter
This is a more recent addition to our gear and I’ve been very thankful for it on multiple occasions. It can be tied to trees and/or staked into the ground and is large enough to keep both of us and our camp stove and food dry (unless it’s hailing so hard it bounces all over the place, in which case nothing will keep you dry). In my opinion, it’s 100% worth the extra few ounces it adds to my pack.

Staying (sort of) dry beneath the shelter during a massive hail storm
(Photo credit: Kaylyn)

Ridiculous? Maybe. Useful? Yes. Especially if it’s large enough to cover your backpack as well. These have kept me dry on more than one occasion.

Satellite communication device
We finally gave in and purchased one, and as much as I grumble about the expense (not only do you pay for the device, but you have to purchase a monthly service plan for it to work), I know it’s an important thing for us to have. It’s essentially wilderness insurance for $12/month, plus it brings our families some peace of mind when we’re way off in the backcountry for days at a time. I did a lot of research before committing and settled on the Garmin InReach Mini 2, and I have no complaints. The battery life is incredible, it connects to my phone via bluetooth and an app, and for as small as it is, it’s pretty easy to use. We purchased just the basic service plan, but we always have access to all the features for a small extra fee should we find ourselves in an actual backcountry emergency.

We’ve hiked through snow and ice in July and been snowed on in August. For me, microspikes have become a year-round necessity for safety purposes and are worth the extra little bit of weight. While inexpensive and less spiky versions are available, we opted for the more expensive ones for purposes of durability. Four years later, they’re still going strong.

Shoes for camp
The last thing I want to do when I get to camp is keep walking around in my sweaty hiking boots. We used to bring sandals but, after an unfortunate encounter with mosquitoes, we’ve switched to Crocs with socks underneath. Ugly? Kind of. Light weight and functional? Yes.

Sitting pad
I think this one is probably self-explanatory. There’s nothing worse than getting to your campsite and having nowhere to sit because everything is wet. These have worked well for us.

Giant garbage bag
One that’s large enough to fit your entire backpack, just in case you need some extra rain protection. I always put my pack in the bag and place it beneath the vestibule of the tent before heading to bed; if the ground gets wet, my pack stays dry.

Collapsible backpack for day hiking
This is a recent addition to our gear list and it’s been great! This little backpack folds down into itself, weighs less than 1 lb (0.5 kg), and allows us to leave our big packs behind and carry just the few items we need if we want to day hike beyond our campsite.

Collapsible backpack with a view

Hiking poles
This one is all about personal preference. We both carry them and find them especially useful on steep downhills and to facilitate water crossings. Having your hands wrapped around them can prevent the finger swelling that often occurs at high altitude. And, as a last resort, they can be used for protection (on at least two occasions, I’ve used mine to keep an aggressive dog at a distance).

(Photo credit: Kaylyn)

Bear spray
After growing up in grizzly country I feel weird hiking without it, even though there aren’t grizzlies here in Colorado. But again, this is just personal preference, and I would never hike in grizzly country without bear spray. If you do carry it, be sure it’s easy to get to (i.e. don’t attach it to the back of your pack) and that you know how to use it before you set out. Also, make sure it’s not expired.

Or something similar to prevent or treat chafing. Long days of walking and sweating can result in chafing of the inner thighs… and other more sensitive areas. (Yet another unfortunate lesson we learned the hard way.)

Deck of cards, something to read, etc… in case it’s pouring rain and you’re stuck in your tent all evening. We’ve found magazines to be a good lightweight option.

Before You Go

Review all the rules and regulations for where you’ll be traveling to ensure you have the necessary permits and any required gear. 

Brush up on your Leave No Trace knowledge to ensure a minimal impact venture into the backcountry.

To minimize your impact, use an already-established campsite whenever possible.

Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone you trust. In addition to where you’ll be and when, let them know the route you plan to take and when you expect to return. Also include info about your car (make, model, color, and license plate #) and your gear and clothing (what color are your tent and backpack, what colors will you be wearing?)… if something should happen, this information helps Search & Rescue narrow down where to look and know what to look for.

Did I miss anything? Any tips, tricks, or other things you’ve learned? Any favorite gear items you never leave home without? I’d love to hear about them!

42 thoughts on “Backpacking 101”

  1. I’m a sucker for packing way too much food too. And I don’t know why because it’s not like I’ve ever gone hungry while backcountry camping before. I’ve learned the hard way about bad hiking shoes too. And cheap gear. You find out real quick whether your camping stuff is any good when the weather sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an incredibly helpful and thorough guide, Diana! I’m Team Hiking Pole all the way. I can’t believe you’ve had to fend off dogs – yikes! I’ve been chased, but never gotten into a face-to-face with one.
    If I make any hiking mistake consistently, it’s forgetting to bring some sort of mittens or gloves. Since it’s so hot in Minnesota when we leave for, say, Colorado, I forgot how cold it will be in the mountains (or desert in the mornings).
    We have a Garmin InReach Mini also. It always makes me feel better when the husband is off on one of his solo bikepacking trips.
    As for packing out poop, I’ve got a story . . . I’ll tell you in person sometime. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, there are a whole bunch of these in my spam folder. Very weird, but now I know to look.
      Yup, two dog situations in the last year or so. Nothing like a dog running at you and barking uncontrollably and not listening to us shouting no, while the owner tries to assure you they’re super friendly. I’m so over all the off leash and poorly trained dogs here.
      As for the poop story… I’m not sure if I should be horrified or intrigued haha!

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  3. One repair item I carry is a full-size replacement buckle for my pack waistbelt – hard to improvise effectively and it would really suck hiking out without a belt if it came to that. I broke one once shutting it in the car door – fortunately it was when I was leaving home, not at the trailhead. A spare shoelace is another such item.

    One of my personal little luxuries that I find worth the extra weight: plenty of clean socks. For a long trip I’ll wash em, but for 2-3 nights I’ll just carry extras.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s a great suggestion! My old day hiking pack suffered the same fate. Shoelace is also a good call. I think I actually have one somewhere so I’m going to go toss that into my pack right now. Thanks!


  4. Excellent review of backpacking needs, Diana.
    I had to chuckle when I read your paragraph about food. During our last several backpacking trips, I had honest-to-goodness food angst, always worrying about running out of it. Not sure where that comes from, but it’s a running joke now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is really a great guide to backbacking and what you will need for it! You put a lot of thought and time into it and it’s very helpful. I’m going to send this to my hubby so we can look at doing a backpacking adventure 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It’s just been pointed out to me that some comments are ending up in my spam folder. I had no idea, so I apologize for all the ones I’ve missed!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Exceptional post and timely to repost Diana. I was lucky for my backcountry hike to hike with people who had done it all before, so got the list of supplies and equip they had curated over the years. We did well in all manner of weather conditions (it seemed to rain or hail at almost every mealtime). The freeze dried food and instant coffee/cocoa were the best. My son had a UV water sterilizer that was light and worked well. We met people on our hike who said they drank the water right out of the lake, because they would eb home before giardiasis hit. Yeah right. Have a great day Diana. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely something that takes some getting used to. I used to hate even having to pee while hiking. Going to the bathroom is my least favorite thing about backpacking too, but at this point I’ve decided it’s worth it for the adventures!


  7. This is such a fantastic and useful post, Diana. I am so glad to see that you agree, as ridiculous as it may sound, on a poncho thing – I find that rain ponchos leave no seam uncovered when it comes to foul weather. I’ve lost count of how many occasions I was left dry all because I was wearing one. Keeping you and your gear dry from head to mid-thigh is reason enough to consider purchasing a poncho, and the fact that many can double as a shelter only sweetens the deal. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  8. What a fantastic and comprehensive post. Since selling the RV we’ve actually discussed pulling out the old camping gear. Your pics have me missing Colorado. Fortunately, my brother lives in Grand Junction and if we don’t make it anywhere else this summer, we’ll at least visit GJ.

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  9. This is such a comprehensive packing list, Diana! Discovering dry bags was a lightbulb moment for me – until then, I’d been double-bagging my stuff in carrier bags, but a dry bag is much more effective! I’ve been caught out a couple of times when I’ve not packed sunblock – once in February(!), and once on long a weekend when it was forecast to be wet and miserable and turned out to be scorching hot. I’ve not forgotten sunblock since! I bought a pair of zip-off trousers last year, and they’ve been a great investment (and have saved a bit of space in my pack!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing! I’ve tried to buy those zip off pants but I’ve yet to find any that fit me properly… definitely a good space saving alternative though!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. And as I was sending the other comment I thought of another. Being young this one wouldn’t come to your mind but being an old hiker this is important. Medications……On over night trips when packing food I take small snack bags and put whatever meds I have to take at that mealtime in with my food so as not to forget. I also carry a couple of days worth on day trips just in case something happens such as an injury etc. that delays my returning home. This also helps rescue know what kinds of meds you take , need or might cause reactions to what you already take. I know I know damn old guy…………..

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  11. One thing on Shoes. Yes try them on and make sure they fit. I also buy mine 1/2 size too big. Your feet will swell after miles of hiking and this helps prevent toe rub especially on the downhill which can cause you to lose toe nails.

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  12. Great post! I love the fold up backpacks. Never heard of those but may need to consider getting one! Our normal day packs really don’t cut it.

    We prefer the ursack/opsak combo to a bear canister. We haven’t backpacked anywhere that a bear can was required, but some places will allow the ursack/opsak in lieu of the canister now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The little packs have been great and they were only like $18 each!

      I’ve never used an ursack, mainly because the first backpacking trip we went on required canisters only, so we went ahead and bought one. I know Rocky and Maroon Bells require hard sided storage too so I don’t know that we’ll ever go the ursack route. But I know people have good things to say about them!

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  13. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I consider myself an experienced backpacker but I enjoyed reading through the list as I believe it is always worthwhile to revisit your knowledge base.

    I suffer from cracked skin on the bottom of my toes. This painful problem I contend with by applying heavy duty 1/2″ waterproof tape. I never go on any hike without it. The tape keeps the skin from pulling and the pain is immediately relieved. Being middle-aged, I also carry ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling and associated pain in my various joints.

    My planned trips to Canyonlands and Yellowstone National Parks are cancelled, so I too am busy reconfiguring my schedule to accommodate the current circumstances. Mostly I’ll stay local here in the Gunnison Country but hope to see other parts of nearby Colorado. Perhaps I’ll visit northern New Mexico or select location in Wyoming. Time will tell…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! I’ve never had that toe problem but I can see how that tape would be good for other things too. Maybe something I should add to my list.

      I didn’t specify the medications we carry but ibuprofen is one of them. We also keep Benadryl and an anti-diarrheal in our first aid kit, just in case.

      Bummer about your trips. We were supposed to be headed up to Dinosaur this weekend but that’s not happening either. Fortunately we have so much to explore close to home in this state. If you’ve never been to the Snowy Range in Wyoming, I highly recommend it!

      Any Gunnison County gems you’re willing to disclose?


  14. That looked pretty comprehensive, although I should add I don’t do either backpacking or camping. It’s just not my thing though I do get why a lot of people love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely not for everyone, but the beauty is that there are so many other ways to explore! I know there are things others like that I don’t really care for (visiting cities, for example).

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This was a wonderful and comprehensive checklist and I’m glad that you included the 10 essentials as a separate item. I had to chuckle because my first long back packs were in Scouts when I just started my teens in the early ’60’s – in Oregon – the 36 mile Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood (twice) and multiple treks all along the Pacific Crest Trail in Central Oregon.

    The food was terrible (Kisky dehydrated eggs, etc.), my Trapper Nelson pack with a wooden frame was heavy, my water bottle an aluminum canteen which weighed a lot more than a plastic bottle and our shelter was big sheets of VisQueen plastic that we made into a lean-to tarp. Nevertheless, I will never forget those times and the years afterwards when my two daughters and I replicated many of them – this time with great equipment.

    Thanks so much for this post which all should keep as a reference document.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like some beautiful places to backpack! My first trip was when I was a kid (2000ish) and I used my dads old metal frame backpack. Definitely not comfortable. I don’t remember our other gear or food, but I know it wasn’t nearly as nifty as stuff is today!


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