Comprehensive Guide to Packing Your Backpack for a Multi-Day Hike

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Embarking on a multi-day hiking adventure is a thrilling experience that allows you to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty and challenge your limits. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking to take on a longer trek, one of the most crucial aspects of your journey is packing your backpack efficiently.

For a multi-day hike where food resupply points are available along the trail, thoughtful packing will ensure you have all the essentials without being burdened by unnecessary weight. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you pack smartly for your adventure.

The feeling of accomplishment when reaching the finish of a long distance hike is amazing, and if you plan carefully, you can get the best experience. If you are untrained or inexperienced, the first few days might be tough, but don’t give up yet! You will eventually get used to the extra weight.

Choosing The Right Backpack is Crucial

Most of your comfort depends on the backpack you will be using on a long hike. It is advised to choose a backpack with a maximum capacity of between 48 and 65 liters to accommodate all your gear comfortably. If you choose a larger one, or you already have a larger one, don’t fill it completely! You will end up with a backpack that’s too heavy, which will decreased your level of comfort.

Ultimately, the goal is to pack a total weight of 1/5 (one fifth) up to 1/4 (a quarter) of your own weight. Our all-time favorite brand is Osprey, because they offer a wide range of backpacks, with numerous models available for both men and women. They’ve put in a lot of research and development to make the perfect backpacks, and they are very durable.

If you’re tight on budget, it’s better to borrow a backpack from a friend or family member, as long as the backpack is suited for you. There’s a big difference in men and women’s models, so be sure to check the model. Make sure you check the backpack for any damage, since there won’t be many options to fix or replace the backpack during most trails. You might even take it on a smaller hike to test it out.

Shelter and Sleeping Gear

Depending on your preference and the trail, you might have several options in terms of accommodation. On many trails there will be plenty of huts, which sometimes offer sleeping arrangements. This can vary anywhere from a shared room with bunk beds to pre-pitched tents. However, if you want the full experience and more freedom, it’s better to take your own tent. This does come with extra weight, but if you’re sharing the tent with someone else, it doesn’t add too much. You’ll also have somewhat more privacy compared to most shelters, and you’ll feel more connected with nature. 

Now, choosing a tent will depend on your budget and preference, but here are some things to think about:

  • Budget: a good quality, lightweight tent can cost anywhere from €200 up to over €800. There are some cheaper ones, but if you’re on a budget, it’s better to look for a quality tent on discount.
  • Size and shape: there are many different types of tents, with their respective pros and cons. However, essentially all you need to know is that if you want extra space, take a tent that accommodates one extra person.
  • Weight: obviously, the lighter the tent, the better for the overall weight of your backpack. However, some ultra-lightweight tents are more fragile, meaning that for example on granite surfaces they might be prone to damages.
  • Ground sheet: some tents have amazing waterproof abilities. But in wet areas, it’s advised to bring a ground sheet to ensure no water seeps in from the ground.

Additionally, you’ll need a lightweight sleeping bag rated for the expected night temperatures. Temperatures can drop rapidly at night in the mountains, so be sure to get the right sleeping bad. You can also take a liner with you, which can increase the temperature rating. Lastly, you’ll also need a mattress, which can be a self-inflating or a mousse mattress. Check the weight before you buy one, since this can differ a lot, but don’t sacrifice on comfort here, since your night rest will determine your overall experience.

Tip: you can also wear some clothes during colder night for extra heat. Make sure to bring an emergency blanket. You never know that it can save your life.

What You Should Wear On The Hike

Pack clothing suitable for various weather conditions, which you can wear in layers. It’s always good to do a little research about the trail and how the weather usually is in the month that you’ll be going on your adventure. The layers you’ll need to bring are the following:

  • Base layer: your base layer should be made from moisture-wicking materials such as merino wool, synthetic fiber or a hybrid. 
  • Middle (insulating) layer: depending on the temperatures, this could be a polyester fleece and/or down jacket. 
  • Outer (shell) layer: here you can opt for a rain jacket for just your body, or one that also goes over your backpack.

Of course, you’ll also need to bring some underwear, which should also be quick drying since you’ll need to wash these on a daily basis. At least two to three pair are needed, but since they’re so light, feel free to add more if you prefer. Further, you’ll need decent broken-in hiking shoes or trail shoes (type of shoes depends on the terrain). In order to prevent blisters, it’s important to bring high quality hiking socks, preferably made of merino wool, but synthetic will work too. Bring at least two to three pairs, to ensure that you always have a dry pair at hand. It might also be handy to pack a lightweight long-sleeve shirt to protect your arms from scratches, bugs, and the sun.

Tip: if you’re prone to blisters, taping your feet is a great solution! Make sure you also invest in good shoes and socks because they can prevent blisters.

Food and Drinks Along the Hike

Just like all breathing things, we humans need fuel for our body. That’s where food comes in hand, and during a hike this might be somewhat different from your everyday meals. But don’t worry, even for vegetarians and vegans it’s possible to find meal options and resupply. If you have dietary restrictions, you might need to bring extra supplies, but that also makes you more self-sufficient. Which brings us to three options in terms of meals:

  • Reliant: if you want to limit your weight and don’t like to eat mostly rehydrated meals, then you will need to check all the options along the hike to grab some meals. Many huts offer fresh dinner, but also meal packages, including breakfast and lunch. Of course, this option will be the most expensive, but also gives you more comfort and free time, plus you won’t be doing any dishes! 
  • Semi self-sufficient: the best option is to bring some dehydrated meal packages, combined with meals at the huts or other places you might encounter. Most huts have a “small shop” where they sell basic food such as pasta, canned food, and often cheese and bread. 
  • Fully self-sufficient: this option offers the most flexibility, but also requires more preparation. You’ll want to bring three dehydrated meals per day and some snacks, such as nuts, energy and protein bars, and dried fruits. If you are planning to hike more than two or three weeks, it might be good to plan for a package to be sent somewhere, so you can pick it up along the hike. Depending on how long you will be hiking, this might add a lot of weight, limiting the amount of other items you can bring, given the restriction on maximum weight.

Tip: make sure to always bring enough cash with you. During our hikes, many times you can’t pay by card, only cash. It’s better to bring too much cash than too little.

Further, you’ll need to carry at least two lightweight, durable water bottles or a hydration bladder with a total capacity of around three liters. Depending on the availability of water sources, consider packing a water purification system like a filter or water purification tablets. Even when the water is labeled as safe to drink, it might be better to just drop a purification tablet in it to make sure nothing can ruin your hike.

Tip: bring a separate bottle of water to put in electrolytes (you have this in powder, tablets, etc.). When you are hiking multiple hours a day, I recommend bringing electrolytes.

Backpacking Essentials to Bring on a Hike

In addition to your sleeping gear, clothing, and food, there are some additional items you should bring. As with all other items, it might be good to try and find the lightest options to ensure that you can bring all the essentials without exceeding your maximum weight of one third of your own weight. Here’s what you’ll want to bring:

  • Utensils: pack a lightweight and compact camping stove (if cooking your own meals or for coffee and tea), a pot, a cup, and eating utensils. Additionally, bring a small container for food storage and a lightweight multitool for various tasks.
  • Navigation tools: ensure you have a detailed map of the trail, a compass, and a GPS device or smartphone with trail maps downloaded for backup. A powerbank comes in handy to recharge your smartphone. Read more about navigation on the blog How to Download Offline Hiking Maps for Long-Distance Hikes.
  • Personal care items: include a small toiletry kit with items like biodegradable soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, insect repellent, toilet paper, and any necessary medications. Carry a lightweight microfiber towel that dries quickly, which is handy for multiple things such as doing the dishes or drying your tent. Bring extra laces in case they break or when animals nibble them. You can use the laces also for other purposes, for example, to let clothes dry.
  • First aid kit: assemble a basic first aid kit containing bandages, tick remover, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, blister treatment, and any personal medications you might need.
  • Safety Gear: pack a headlamp with spare batteries, a whistle, a small mirror, and a lightweight emergency blanket for unexpected situations.
  • Trekking Poles: trekking poles can significantly reduce strain on your joints during long hikes. Consider bringing a pair for added stability and support. Some tents even offer the option to use your trekking poles to set up the tent.
  • Entertainment: while connecting with nature is a primary goal, downtime can be enjoyable with a book, a journal, or a camera to capture memorable moments.

Tip: buy wilderness wash. You can use this to wash everything like your clothes, body, hair, dirty dishes, etc. It’s biodegradable and flagrance free. Some people bring a soap bar, but we prefer wilderness wash. We also always bring a small bar of soap just in case.

No matter what you decide to take, remember to practice “Leave No Trace” principles by taking all your trash and minimizing your impact on the environment. By using this guide to thoughtfully consider each item you pack, you can ensure a successful and enjoyable 7 to 14-day hike.

Proper preparation will not only lighten your load but also increase your comfort and safety, allowing you to fully savor the breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable moments that only a long-distance hike can offer. Happy trails!

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