So you have decided to get away from the craziness and hit the back country! Awesome, I love hitting it as well. But what do you take? Maybe this is your first trip or your a beginner at this backpacking game. Maybe you have been on some trips and are just looking for some supplemental information on a different perspective. No matter how you made it here, thanks for reading and I hope you find the information useful. So lets get down too it!
Backpack: I recommend a lightweight pack. Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain! Some of my favorites are the Hill People Gear Ute Pack, Jansport Klamath Packs or the Gregory Baltoro Packs. A nice lightweight pack I am testing now is the Black Diamond Element 60. While some of these might have some weight, it is there to add support. I call that good weight!
Sleeping Bag: Depending on the time of year, you might need a 10 degree sleeping bag or a 40 degree sleeping bag. I always say if it is 20 degrees out to get a 10 degree bag. Sleeping bag rating have gotten better with companies but some still stretch the comfort zone. I have really come to like the Vaude Arctic line of bags. In my sleeping bag scientific testing videos these performed the best.
Sleeping Pad: Do not think the sleeping bag is what solely keeps you warm. The sleeping pad is an integral part of a good nights rest! Get off the ground, which is what sleeping pads do for you. There are tons of companies making loads of different sleeping pads out there. You do not want a camping pad, get a backpacking pad. If you want comfort get a wide. I usually do because, well because I can! MSR and Nemo are my recommended sleeping pad companies. They make a few different versions. Nemo's PrimaLoft filled pads are my favorite for winter.
Shelter: This could mean a tent, tarp, primitive or like a hammock. I am betting a tent would be the easiest though for many reading this article. That being said if you think you will be doing this every year I say get a good tent. If it is a you are trying it out and seeing if backpacking is for you, then get a budget tent. Depending on how many people are going on this trip I say always go a size up on the tent. For two people get a three person tent, etc. If your investing in doing this in the future go with either the MSR Hubba Hubba (2 person rated) or Mutha Hubba (3 person rated). Another excellent option is the Nemo Galaxi series of tents. You will spend some money on these tents, but they will last and you will not need to worry about them performing in bad conditions.
For the budget minded person something like the Kelty Gunnison line is about half the cost of the MSR and $75 less than the Nemo Galaxi line but packs lot's of performance and features. The Kelty will certainly get you through a few years with no issues, they make rock solid gear for the most part. Whatever you do get the footprint with it. It will protect the bottom of the tent.
Stove: For this type of trip an MSR Pocket Rocket and a can of fuel will get you through just fine. Honestly I use the Pocket Rocket on most of my trips, it works and works well. Make sure to get the fuel canister stand to give you a stable platform when you put your pot or mug on the stove. You could also cut down on having to carry canisters and bring a wood burning stove. Something like the LittlBug Junior or SilverFire Scout or Emberlit stoves are all great choices.
Pot (No, not Mary Jane!): I have a Snow Peak I have used for years both outdoors and while at home. I just love it's size and weight. But lot's of companies are making them nowadays. Whatever you go with look for something that will nest your fuel canister. While the aluminum pot I have is no longer made by Snow Peak, they make the same sized one now called the Trek 900 Titanium. They seem to have moved on from aluminum. Another great option, but a little heavier is the MSR Alpine Stowaway Pot.
Knife: Having a knife is one of the most important things to have in the outdoors. But it doesn't have to cost you tons of money. For like $12 bucks you can get a Morakniv Craftline Basic 546 knife. This is made of Sandvik Stainless Steel (Sharp!). Which means you do not have to worry during your trip about your blade possibly rusting like you would with a carbon steel blade. But if you want a sharper knife that is easier to sharpen, get the Morakniv Craftline Basic 511 Carbon Steel knife which is the same price. You will just need to oil that one after each use!
Water Filter/Bottles: Let's face it, the heaviest stuff you haul on the trail is water. Depending on the trail you are on you can get by with less and refill as you go. But if you choose a trail with limited water sources you might have to carry more water on you. Either way the water needs filtered. MSR Autoflow and Platypus GravityWorks (Same parent company) make the best filters. I say this because I have talked with many people in the industry, including MSR. They are at the top because they test their filter ratings at end of life, not beginning of life like many water filters. So you can rest assure that on gallon 10,000 with an MSR or Platypus water filter it will still keep you safe from bacteria, etc. Given I believe you should have a water filter anyhow for emergency situations I say just buy the right one the first time. Get the Platypus or MSR gravity filter. They are easy to use and are fast with literally no effort like those pump water filters. I have each companies and love them. As far as bottles go, get some PlatypusPlus flexible bottles. Super light when not filled, strong and last a while.
Compass/Map: It is always smart to do a little research before you hit the outdoors. I like to check out something like Google Maps, get a feel for the area. But have a compass and map of the area with you. I like Suunto A-10 Compasses. Also, leave information with someone on where and how long you will be before you leave!
Firestarter Kit: I say make your own. I have a article already on this. If you hit the woods, have a firestarting kit no matter what. Click here to read my article on my Modern Firestarting Kit.
Clothing: On a trip this small you will need, depending on time of year and climate, some rain gear and insulation layers, hat, gloves, underwear and socks! Do not forget socks, change them every night. I always take a pair for each night if I can. Your feet are to be treated like gods. But you should not need to change pants or shirts during a trip this short.
Boots: I am a Salomon guy. I have a tall pair for winter and a short top pair for summer. I recommend them after using other brands which gave me blisters and a rough time. The Salomons have treated by dogs well. I say check their offerings out. For winter boots go a half size larger so you can use thicker socks without having to squish them into the boots. I love the Fox River Outdoorsox Heavy Wool Socks.
Bug Spray: If going during times when pests might try and get fresh with you, take some bug spray. If you go anytime but winter and late fall take some. I have had good luck with 3M Ultrathon.
Food: I have had good luck with HawkVittles, CampChow, Packit Gourmet and Valley Food Storage meals. Of course Mountain House is the big name, but I like supporting smaller companies and honestly their food tastes better. It has better ingredients most of the time, especially Valley Food Storage. But you could take some Cream of Wheat packets for breakfast or some Rice a Roni meals that just need water for lunch. Anything that just needs water is good to go for meals. Snacks are huge, I like to snack. So protein bars or energy gels work well. Just remember to pack out your trash! In regard to amount of food, bring something for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks. Pretty simple. For a Friday night through Saturday night I would take one breakfast meal, one lunch and two dinner meals. What to take is up to you.
Saw/Axe: Yea I can already hear it now from all the ultralight backpacking snobs, "he has too much stuff". Well yea, I have what I want! It is called 'Merica! I like to pack in an axe and a saw of some sort. Maybe I want to make a makeshift bench at camp or process wood easily. These tools make life much easier if you know how to use them. They add weight though. My favorite axe is the Wetterlings Bushman Axe (Les Stroud designed). While I like the Bob Dustrudes Quick Bucksaw for a saw.
Medical Kit: Hopefully this is a no brainer. When you are in the outdoors and not around medical assistance you will want some medical gear. This does not have to be a large kit, but covering the basics. Ibuprophen, Benydryl, Immodium, itch cream, band aids, space blanket, triple antibiotic ointment, wound cleaning wipes, butterfly bandages, etc. But most of all have some blister gear like Moleskin! You can grab a Ziploc bag and fit everything in a 6"x4" bag.
Electronics: You went to the outdoors to get away from everyday life, so keep the electronics to a minimum. I pack a headlamp, flashlight and a little tiny lantern. Each has it's own use. For headlamps Princeton Tec makes theirs in the USA, so I say go with them. Streamlight makes great flashlights at a resonable price. Get something over 150 lumens. For a small lantern go with the Black Diamond Moji. It is like $12 bucks and gives you 100 lumens. Great for inside the tent. Pack backup batteries for each device in a ziploc. I recommend Energizer Lithium for AA and AAA and Streamlight or Surefire for CR123. Lighter and laster so much longer than Alkaline batteries which can leak and damage electronics. You can bring a GPS with you or you can also use apps on your phone to track your GPS. If you use your phone then bring something like an Anker USB Battery Charger. They are like $16 bucks, size of like a roll of Rolos and just get one in case of emergency anyhow!
Pillow/Seat: If you want to take a pillow I have found the Nemo Fillo Pillow to work awesome while backpacking as well as when traveling on planes. Dual usage. For a seat the Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat works great to keep you insulated and cozy from the ground, tree stump or wherever you are sitting. You do not need to take these, but it will make the adventure more comfortable.
Poop Kit: Yea we all do it. Some are regular and some are not. Either way, take some butt wipers. I like to take a lightweight Coghlan's Trowel, a half roll of TP and some butt wipes of some sort. Scott's makes some delightful wipes. Do not bring the tub, just bring the refill pouch. Also take some hand sanitizer and some backpacking soap to clean up your dishes and such. Campsuds by Sierra Dawn makes a great biodegradable soap.