When backpacking, weight is the name of the game. You want to bring all the gear you need to be safe and happy, but not so much as to burden yourself on the trail.And even if you can carry more, you shouldn’t always do so. Creature comforts like a book or music? Your call. But the below list of nine must-haves should serve to form the perfect base kit for your summer backpacking adventures.
Either a traditional topo map and compass or handheld GPS with your route and waypoints pre-loaded. A trail map with your route on it is also good to have, when you can get it.
Whether backpacking for two days or seven, you need a large-capacity pack to accommodate all the essentials. A pack with at least 50 liters of storage should do. Look for a pack with a padded hipbelt and suspension system to make carrying heavier loads more comfortable, and some styles employ mesh backs to elevate the pack off your back to help keep things cool. Water-resistant shell fabric and an integrated rain fly protect your gear dry in wet climates. A few pockets keep you organized, but you don’t want so many bells and whistles that it weighs down the pack.
You need a bag that is rated for the lowest temperature you will see on your entire trip. Down is usually lighter and more packable than synthetic, but synthetic will keep you warm even if it gets wet. Also go for models that include compression sacks to make it easier to fit among the rest of your kit.
Generally a weight-versus-comfort battle, there are now some really light inflatable camping pads on the market that will have you sleeping soundly each night. Be sure to bring the included repair kit in case of puncture. The last thing you want is to be without your pad on that prime rocky summit site.
Depending on your school of thought, you need a tent, simple tarp, or hammock. But most beginning backpackers should consider going for a good, two-person tent. Look for a three-season model (good for spring, summer, and fall) with plenty of venting options and detachable rain fly to give you the most flexibility throughout the year. Dual entry/dual vestibule comes in handy for sharing a tent, so you don’t have to climb over each other for that midnight call of duty. Make sure to split the tent parts between your party to cut down on backpack load. And, as we mentioned above, weight is the name of the game here. Go for ones that weigh between four and six pounds.
If you are going the dehydrated meal route, you really only need a stove that can quickly boil water. Otherwise, consider a stove with different pot attachments in order to cook up a variety of meals. Once again, kitchen supplies are easily split up between the group.
Water Filter System
Even in remote Alaska, the water contains nasty bugs. Filtration options range from the simple Vitamin I or iodine tablets you pop into your water bottle to boiling water and gravity-assisted filtration reservoirs that can purify up to four liters of water in just a few minutes. The last option may be the heaviest of the bunch, but the water will taste better than if you use iodine or bleach, and it’s more versatile when you need to filter water mid-hike.