How Much Your Epic Backpacking Trip Will Cost You

March 22, 2017, 5:02 PM UTC
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An opportunity to hit the trail and explore the world is a blessing, and you want to get the most out of it. Whether you’re spending a few nights on a local hiking trail or backpacking across Europe, planning is everything.

All great backpacking trips start with smart packing, and this handy guide shows you how to prepare for an outdoor adventure — whether it’s for a week, month, six months or a year.

Packing for a one-week trip

A one-week backpacking trip is a great way to introduce yourself to the thrills of long-distance hiking. Packing is a challenge, but the great thing about a one-week trip is that the stakes aren’t too high. If you overpack, at least you only have to carry that weight around for a week — and the lessons you learn on a shorter trip make it much easier to pack for a longer trip.

Choosing Your Pack

Your backpack is your trusted companion on any long hiking trip, so choose wisely. For any trip lasting a week or longer, choose a pack with a capacity of at least 4,500 cubic inches, or 75 liters, according to Sometimes called extended trip packs or expedition packs, a good one typically costs between $200 and $400. Buy your pack in person rather than online so you can choose one that has a comfortable fit and the storage features you want.

Pack Weight

Some backpackers obsess over the weight of their packs, and there are numerous opinions on the ideal pack weight. But as a general rule, for trips lasting a week or longer, it’s a good idea to keep your pack weight at 30 pounds or less, including water. If you have a hard time getting your pack that light, take a harder look at what you’re bringing, and eliminate anything that isn’t absolutely essential.

Gear Essentials

Every trip is different, but in a lot of ways, your needs are the same no matter where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone. There are some major exceptions, but for the most part, one-week backpacking trips require much the same gear and supplies as six-month trips. Here’s a basic look at the essentials:

  • Shelter: A tent is an essential item for most backpackers, although some rely on a tarp or hammock system instead. You can get a one-person backpacking tent for under $200.
  • Sleep system: A warm, lightweight sleeping bag can cost anywhere from $100 to over $500, but it’s worth it on cold nights in the woods. Camping pillows and sleeping pads are optional. If you can sleep comfortably without them, leave them behind.
  • Footwear: Your shoes should be durable, comfortable and lightweight. But above all, they need to fit right. You can get a good pair of hiking shoes for under $150.
  • Clothing: Some hikers pack only the clothes they are wearing, but that’s pushing it. Consider packing an additional shirt, pair of pants and pair of socks in case you get wet, as well as a lightweight waterproof jacket and an insulating layer to ward off the cold.
  • Food: For a one-week trip — assuming you won’t be cooking — bring nutritious and calorie-packed things like granola bars, cereals, dried fruit, nuts, trail mixes and jerky. About 1.5 pounds of food per day is a good general rule, depending on your weight and exertion level.
  • Water: Expect to drink 3 quarts of water per day, and always carry at least 1 quart with you at all times in case water gets scarce. That means packing one or two water bottles, along with some method for treating your water, like purification tablets or a filtration system.
  • Navigation: GPS and mapping apps on your phone are nice, but don’t rely on them alone. Bring a compass and a detailed physical trail map or guidebook.
  • Toiletries: Bring a toothbrush, small roll of toilet paper, some toothpaste and biodegradable soap in small travel-sized containers. Include anything else you consider essential based on your needs — just remember not to overpack.
  • Emergency supplies: At a minimum, bring a lighter, waterproof matches, a basic first aid kit, flashlight or headlamp, extra batteries, a knife or multi-tool, whistle, signal mirror and a tiny roll of duct tape for emergency repairs.
  • Storage: Choose a selection of dry bags in various sizes to keep your clothes, food and supplies dry and organized within your backpack. If you’re hiking in an area where bears have been seen, bring a waterproof bear bag and a 50-foot cord to hang it from a tree overnight.

If that seems like a lot to you, don’t panic. There are plenty of things you can do to cut back on the weight you’re carrying, including streamlining the amount of food, water and clothing you have to carry.

Learn How: I Traveled to 8 Countries With $2,700 in My Pocket

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