Backpacking Cirque of the Towers Wyoming Wind River Range

How to pack and not pack for a backpacking trip

There’s a lot that goes into packing for a backpacking trip. Gear. Food. Photography equipment. Clothes. It can get a bit crazy trying to organize and then fit it all into your back. Here, we’ll dive into what you shouldn’t pack – or at least the things I don’t recommend. If you thought planning a backpacking trip was hard, wait until you try to lose a few extra ounces from your pack and can’t seem to do it!

Packing for a backpacking trip

hiking ridgeline summiting mt daniel pnw

How to plan a backpacking tripWhat not to bring

While you’re free to bring whatever the heck you want, I highly suggest staying away from these when packing for a backpacking trip.

Heavy containers

  • Leave the cans of soup (or whatever), the wine, whiskey, beer bottles, and hydro flasks behind. Seriously, stop bringing hydro flasks on backpacking trips. They weigh a ton and offer nothing better than a Nalgene or plastic water bottle.
  • When it comes to alcohol, I know many people think it’s a good idea when planning a trip. But once you’re five miles into an eight-mile hike and your back is killing you, the extra couple of pounds is not at all fun. 
  • While canned tuna or salmon could be a nice meal, I’d look to find the packaged kind, which lets you drop ounces, and then you don’t have to pack out the can.packing for a backpacking trip colorado

Things that sound good but you won’t really use

  • Books: I’m guilty of this. Unless I’m backpacking alone, I rarely will ever have a chance to read, yet I still feel the need to bring a book (softcover, obviously). Thankfully, my girlfriend has reminded me that I won’t actually read 7 miles into the backcountry.
  • Hammock: Another thing that you can probably leave behind is a hammock. I love a hammock. You love a hammock. But in reality, it’s unnecessary as you’re likely going out adventuring rather than lounging. While you pass on the hammock, say yes to the camping chair, and you’ll be just as happy.
  • Speakers for music: Leave the speaker behind. Enjoy the birds chirping and leaves rustling in the breeze. Plus, no one else wants to hear your music. (Or bring headphones.) When people ask me how to plan a backpacking trip, I usually tell them to enjoy the scenery and nature without using music.

Related: Backpacking meals for your next trip

Too Many Clothes

You’re packing for a backpacking trip, not the President attending 12 separate balls on inauguration night. There’s no need to look cute or think that this is where you’ll get your fashion on. This is obviously dependent on weather/distance, but bring two shirts – one to sleep in and one to hike in, two pairs of socks (again, hike & sleep), and then figure out how cold you think it’ll get. Packing a down jacket will help alleviate too many layers as it keeps you warm.

This also goes for shoes. Bring two pairs. Whatever you are hiking in and a lightweight, comfy camp shoe. I’d stay away from Chocos or Tevas as they weigh a considerable amount, and find something (flip flops work) that won’t add much weight to your pack. I really like my Crocs as they’re also good in the water, and I can’t stub my toes in them.

packing for a backpacking trip
how to plan a backpacking trip

Too Many Snacks

I’m super guilty of this, partly because I pack extra just in case of an unforeseen issue that strands us another night. Plus, I love food. However, even with this, I’ve been known to bring way too much food home. Try to be reasonable. Yes, you want to consume 3,000+ calories a day, but you also have to keep in mind that you can’t possibly eat as much as you expect because you’ll be moving about all the time. Be reasonable and plan your meals and how much “snack time” you expect.

Too Many Lenses

This is for the photographers out there. It’s a hard conundrum. You must be prepared, but bringing too many lenses can weigh you significantly. I have four lenses in my camera bag, but I definitely won’t bring in my 150-600. I packed my wide, normal, and 70-200 before, which was cumbersome. Now, when packing for a backpacking trip, I’ve tried to be more cognizant of what I may shoot and what I will not. For example, on a trip to Colorado, I knew I wanted to shoot the milky way (wide-angle) and hoped for some layers (70-200). I could leave behind my 24-70 because those in-between distances wouldn’t be shot as often. This saved my pack 3-5 pounds, and my legs were a big fan.

backpacking guide how to learn gregory packs
planning a backpacking trip

As it always is, the final call is your decision. I hope these help guide you on how to plan a backpacking trip.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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