A friend asked me the other day a question about what to bring in an overnight hike! It happened that he was going to Roan Mountain for a two-day, 20-mile massif hike along the North Carolina-Tennessee border, and he was at a loss as to what to bring. As an experienced backpacker, I told him that he should go light on his first hike and aim for convenience. I am also sharing what I have told him in this article, for you too might benefit from it.
Of course, trying to figure out the items you should bring on your first overnight hike is quite confusing because essentials change with every hiking circumstance. For example, the requirements when going alone to that of going with a companion differ.
Moreover, hiking trails vary from each other. Some are near a population center, and you can buy goods along the way, while some are really isolated areas far from civilization. Besides, hiking trails vary in weather, plus, there is the varying season. So, if you are going to a tropical hiking trail, for example, a mosquito repellant lotion will become essential. At the same time, it will never matter if you are going to a snowcapped mountain.
Overnight Packing List
Although trekking trails vary from each other, the essential things you need to bring do not vary that much. Check out these essential items that should always be in your packing list:
1) The Right Lightweight Backpack
The first essential to hiking is the right lightweight backpack. Lightweight, of course, doesn’t mean that it should be of lesser quality. Ensure that your backpack is durable and made of lightweight materials like canvas or nylon. It should also have wide shoulder straps and well-padded for even weight distribution. Thicker padded straps, of course, can lessen pressure on shoulders.
Another thing is that it should have multiple compartments to distribute the weight of your items evenly. It should also have a mesh or holder outside for your water bottles.
2) Essential Clothes
Your clothing choice will depend much on the weather in the hiking trail and the season you will be hiking. Think in layers! You can pack several thin and warm pieces of clothes instead of bringing a bulky coat. When it comes to choosing your wardrobe, consider what is not heavy. Be a minimalist. Instead of carrying several sets, keep your clothing compact and small.
The ideal thing to do is select according to layers, like base, mid, and outer shell layer, plus extra socks. The base layer is ideally of polypropylene materials for added warmth. On the other hand, the mid-layer should be of thin insulating fabrics ideal for hiking.
A light windbreaker is perfect for mild weather and a more massive shell for temperature below 30. Moreover, you should also bring with you extra socks made of wool blends or wool. You should also bring gloves and a hat for protection from UV light.
3) Tent and Sleeping Gear
Some established trails have cabins or huts or places where you can sleep. However, you can bring a tent and sleeping gear with you in the absence of such cabins. Sleeping bags come in mummy and rectangular forms. So you can choose between these two types of sleeping bags.
A good sleeping bag can provide you with comfort even in the coldest wilderness. Sleeping bags, however, are rated by season and comfort. So, choose something that is suited for the season and place.
4) Calorie-rich Food
You will enervate yourself and burn calories as you bob up and down along the trail. It will help to replenish those lost calories with nutrient-rich food. Examples of such food include nuts and seeds rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. You can also bring dried fruit, which is not highly perishable.
Moreover, you can bring jerky, which is an alternative to fresh meat. Other nutritious foods to bring are protein bars, dehydrated meals, instant oatmeal, powdered milk, coffee and tea, hard cheeses, preserved meats, whole grains, and spices.
5) Drinks & Water
Besides bringing food, you should never forget to bring your water. Whether you are engaged in morning hike or trekking the trail to the top of Mount Everest, having enough water is crucial to hikers. Keeping hydrated is more important that eating other food on a two-day hike.
You got two options when hiking overnight. You can pack all the necessary water for the hike to have ample water supply throughout the hike or bring a water purifier or filter to let you filter or purify water from the stream or lake.
The former option, of course, will add so much weight to your load. The latter, therefore, is the more appealing and convenient option because it will reduce your burden.
Besides, there is plenty of water along the trail from streams and lakes. Ideally, however, you should carry pack bottles or even energy drinks. It will indeed help if you can bring energy drinks to give you that extra boost when you are already exhausted.
6) Comfort Items
The comfort items may not be essential to a two-day hike. Yet, they may come in handy somewhere along the trail. If you are attacked by a throng of mosquitos, for example, along a stretch of the trail, you will feel that having a bug spray at hand is essential.
Moreover, if you are trekking an open field or a high mountain pass wherein you are exposed to intense UV light just like what happened to me when I hiked in Tibet, you will indeed find the sunblock or sunscreen very essential. Other comfort items include a bandana, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, hand shovel, urine director, and sanitary napkins.
7) Other Items that May Come in Handy
Aside from the abovementioned essentials to an overnight hike, you should also not forget to bring these other items which may come in handy when you are engaged in an overnight hike: toothbrush and toothpaste, toilet paper, a trowel, pocket knife, head torch, matches or lighter, phone, wallet, keys, lightweight stuff sacks, trail map, camera, bear spray if you are hiking along a bear-inhabited area, reading materials, and hiking pole. You should also not forget to bring with you your first-aid kit and medicine kit.
Before engaging in a hike for the first time, it will help if you do your assignment and study the terrain and everything else about the trail. It will also help if you prepare yourself physically for the hike’s rigors to avoid the risks of painful muscles and joints and injuries. Plus, it is advantageous if you know the dos and don’ts in hiking.
You should also hike in a group so that you can enjoy your hike. Moreover, if you hike alone, you run the risk of having no one to come to your aid when something untoward happens.
Besides, it will also help to keep yourself hydrated. Always remember that if you plan well, everything may go smoothly during your hike.
When choosing clothing items to bring with you, it will help if you choose breathable and quick-drying lighter items. The general rule is you should use one set of clothes for hiking and a new set of clothes for changing during nighttime.
It will help too if you bring with you a pair of socks for each day. Yet, you can stay with the rule of having one set of socks for hiking and one set of socks for the night.
If the place experiences occasional rain, then you should not forget to bring a raincoat. If you think it will be scorching hot while you trek, bring a hat or bandana with you.
You should also choose the best hiking shoes to avoid having blisters afterward. Lastly, don’t forget your first aid kit and medicine kit.
Hiking can be fun and de-stressing. It can break the monotony of your life and give you the needed break from life’s ennui. If you are a newbie in hiking, it will help if you understand that everything becomes easy if you plan it well. Hence, you should plan a hike that is best suited for your capability and stamina.
Of course, even the best plan may go awry. Yet, it will always help to have a more comprehensive plan to make your hike hassle-free and more memorable. So, if you pack well, whether you are hiking in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Japan, or even Nepal, you can always ensure that you got every essential item packed inside your backpack.