I remember planning my first backpacking trip. Apart from the enthusiasm, I was overwhelmed by all these things I needed for my trip but didn’t have.
Backpack, jacket, boots, sleeping bag… What was really necessary? I needed to define this because the money I had was not enough for everything.
Gradually, over the years, I acquired all the equipment necessary for backpacking comfortably.
Some products were key, other not so much.
Here is a list of the items that experience defined to me as essential.
The protagonist of the trip (the sidekick if you count yourself). The most essential of all. With no backpack there’s no backpacker.
This is the first product that you are going to have to buy. What to consider when choosing a backpack? Five things:
- Weight distribution
- Number of pockets
The main thing. Capacity is measured in liters.
By common sense, we can say that the longer the trip, the more capacity will be needed. But there are other factors to consider: Are you going to wash your clothes? Are you going to a warm or cold place? Are you taking photography equipment with you? All these things you should take into account when choosing your backpack.
In my experience, I can say that you won’t need more than 70 liters. My backpack (Gregory Baltoro 75) is 75 liters. I’ve never used it to its full extension (the backpack has straps to enlarge or compress it).
For regular backpacking trips a backpack between 60 and 75 liters should be more than enough.
– Weight distribution
A vital factor, but one than many people ignore. It is of utmost importance for your spine that the backpack has a good back support.
Frames today are usually internal. It’s a structure, usually made out of aluminum, that goes inside the backpack and is responsible for transferring the weight from your shoulders to your hips.
This will be especially crucial when you have to take long walks with the backpack on your shoulders (or on your hips?).
Apart from back support, the backpack must have a well padded waist belt so it doesn’t hurt your skin and a sternum strap for better stability.
– Number of pockets
For some people this is not decisive, for me it is. I like to keep my stuff well organized. Having quick access to them, for me, is basic.
My backpack needs to have multiple external pockets (8 exactly). This allows me to have all my everyday-use items just one zipper away, which means I don’t need to be dive into the main pocket just to grab my toothbrush.
With accessibility, I mean that the backpack doesn’t have one unique access to the main pocket from the top.
Again, this is not important for some people. But if the backpack has zippers to the main pocket on the sides, at the bottom, or maybe the front can be opened (like the Baltoro), it’s going to make things much easier for you.
You left your underpants at the bottom of the pack? No problem, you open the bottom zipper and there they are. The other way you would have to shove your arm down up to your shoulder, messing up everything in your path, trying to touch with your hand something that feels like underpants and take it out only to realize it was actually a t-shirt.
The weight is a factor that will not only affect the backpack, but since backpack is the first thing on our list, we are going to talk about it here. What I say now should be considered for every other piece of equipment you ever get.
We always try to keep our baggage as light as possible. What we want here is to travel as comfortably as possible, and in terms of travel: heavy = uncomfortable.
The backpack is going to bear the weight, but it also has a weight by itself.
As with all the travel equipment, if it’s lighter it tends to be more expensive, usually because of the materials used in the construction of the product.
For a 70 L backpack, ideally, the weight should be no more than 3 kg.
The philosophy of this blog is to cheap travel, so we won’t spend a fortune on the lightest backpack on the market. But it would be nice, if we can, to stretch out our budget to get a relatively lightweight backpack.
Backpack recommendations (CLICK ON LINK TO SEE PRICE):
– Gregory Baltoro 75 (Deva for women): http://amzn.to/2FurirF
– Osprey Atmos 65: http://amzn.to/2DLwVkw
– REI Co-op Traverse 70
One more thing about the backpack and I’m done with it. I promise that the rest of the items won’t be so long!
The backpack is the most important thing in your list, so that if there’s an item for which we believe that we can spend a little more money on, forget everything else and put your money on the backpack. You won’t regret it.
2) Hiking Boots
Elementary! Though they don’t necessarily have to be boots, they can be shoes.
Me? I’m personally inclined to boots. Why? Because boots offer an extra support for your ankles. This is especially useful during long trekking days, when rocky paths can make you tread badly. The higher support of boots protects your ankle from sprains and strains.
There are no other big differences between boots and shoes. It boils down to personal preferences and how you think you’ll use them.
An advantage of shoes is their smaller size, which makes them easier to fit in your backpack and weight a little less.
No matter which one you choose, always try them on before you buy them.
Regarding the size, if you are going trek with them, whichever footwear you choose has to be half or one size larger than your regular fit. When you are trekking downhill your feet tend to move forward and if you don’t have that extra room, your toes will get sore from pushing them against the front of the shoe. The last thing we want is to ruin our trip because of an ingrown toenail, right?
Hiking Boots recommendations (CLICK ON LINK TO SEE PRICE):
– Merrel Moab 2 Ventilators Mid: http://amzn.to/2Fwpa2z
– Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II: http://amzn.to/2DMNflf
– Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX: http://amzn.to/2DXsiau
– Keen Targhee III Mid: http://amzn.to/2EpJLX1
The daypack is the small backpack that will come with you every day after leaving the large one at the hostel.
You may already have one of these; the one you used for high school, college or for sports.
Still, I think it’s appropriate to list it here, since it’s one of the objects that I use the most..
If you have a daypack which you feel overall comfortable with, don’t spend money on a new one. Test it out at least on one trip to see if you really need a better one.
For many years I’ve used the same classic Jansport that used for high school. For a long time it was more than enough, but little by little the content of my backpack was extended (I began taking pictures), until it got to the point where I realized I needed more room and better organization.
It was then that I decided to buy a new daypack: with more capacity, lighter, with more pockets and better weight distribution.
Maybe you never feel like you need to change it, maybe you do. Do the test and decide for yourselves.
Daypack Recommendations (CLICK ON LINK TO SEE PRICE):
– Osprey Stratos 24: http://amzn.to/2Ft5cWe
– Deuter Speed Lite 20: http://amzn.to/2FuUGh8
– REI Co-op Flash 22:
– Gregory Miwok 18: http://amzn.to/2DLUD0e
4) Torso Equipment
This isn’t actually one item, but a group of them. We will call this setup style, onion style. I’ll explain why:
Wherever I go I don’t bring with me more than 4 upper body items (apart from the t-shirts, of course).
– Fleece jacket
– Insulated jacket
– Hard shell jacket
– Rain jacket
Depending on the destination and the season of the year, I might leave some of these out of my luggage.
I like to build my setup in a way in which, if the place is very cold, wearing the 4 items together can keep me warm. But I also need to be able to use these items in different combinations so that I’m covered in changing climates. For example: if one day it’s freezing outside, I’ll use the 4 items together. If the next day is not so cold but it’s raining, then I might use only the fleece and the rain jackets.
Do you now understand why onion style? Because we use layers… like onions.
Now, if I had to choose a priority order to help you choose which to purchase first, I would say that the most important is hands down the insulated jacket. It’s definitely the one I wear the most. Followed by the rain jacket (although for some destinations, it’s completely useless). The hard shell jacket takes the bronze home. And the last position goes for the fleece jacket, since it can be replaced by any hoodie you might have at home.
5) Legs Equipment
I have only two pants. One light zip-off for almost every weather and one heavy but warm special for cold weather. Depending on the destination, I will take one or the other.
Zip-off pants are the best, it’s a 2 x 1! No need to bring extra short pants, so we have more room in our backpack and less weight to carry.
If the weather at my destinations is really cold, I will also bring with me some thermal underwear. Since the legs are the part of the body that suffer the cold the less, this setup is usually enough.