What's in Patricia's Backpack?
(or Suggestions on what to bring for hikes)
Well, I'm a packrat and probably carry a lot more than I need, but I can
justify everything I have in my backpack. Anyhow, you might get some ideas
of stuff to take with you when you go hiking. Okay, some of these aren't in
a backpack, but are hiking necessities.
- Water. It's basic, but you are stupid to do a hike without it. I even
take water if the hike is only supposed to be about 15 minutes. For the
containers, I've found that the ones with flip or pull-up tops leak (the
reason you'll find the stuff in my pack that I don't want to get wet in zip
lock baggies - I've gotten more water on stuff in my backpack from leaking
water bottles than from rain). Get something that screws on. I have a
plastic 2 liter container with a large top that screws on - when it is
empty, you can fold it up. I also carry a small water bottle (the
commercial water kind that you find everywhere) and drink out of that and
pour water from the large container into the small container when needed.
You may also want to get some sort of case that you can carry on your
shoulder or hook to your backpack's shoulder strap so you can have easy
access to the water (I use my water breaks for rest and don't drink while
hiking (always stop), so I keep mine in my backpack). Always be conscious
of how much water you have left. If the hike is taking longer than you
expected, you may need to be careful with how much you are drinking so
that it will last the rest of the hike.
- Backpack. Get a nice one and make sure it is large enough for all you
are going to carry - go for a named brand and a leather bottom. I've had
the one I have for over 5 years.
- Good hiking shoes. Make sure they are sturdy and fit comfortably.
Hiking shoes give you better traction than sneakers. And don't go on long
hikes in new shoes - get them worn in with shorter hikes.
- Good socks. Take good care of your feet or you'll pay. Spend the
extra money and get some good socks. I like the Thoro light hiking socks
(the thicker socks give me blisters). And a hikers' secret: carry an extra
pair of socks in your backpack to change into at the halfway point. For even
longer hikes, carry more than one pair. Changing into that dry pair of
socks after hours of hiking feels great.
- Hiking stick. Before I had one, it sounded wimpy. But since I got one
(after the summer my knees gave me trouble), I've loved it. It makes
crossing water and over rocks _so_ much easier. Plus it gives you something
to lean on when you just need a short break. And it is good for clearing
spider webs that are across the trail. Leki
(http://www.leki.com) and Tracks (http://www.cascadedesigns.com/tracks/ are
the two big names in hiking staffs. I have the Tracks Compact Travel Staff
that folds into 3 sections and can easily be tossed into a suitcase (Oct. 2001
it was available on REI (http://www.rei.com)
for $60 ($70 including tax and delivery)).
- Water shoes. The best $8 I've spent. Most hikes they are not needed,
but when they are, I've been glad I've had them. They make crossing streams
so much easier - you keep your shoes dry and still have some traction.
Carry them in a plastic grocery bag so that you'll be able to put them back
in the bag when they are wet.
- Camera. Also bring extra film. I've also got a little brush to clean
off the lens. I keep the camera, film, and brush in ziplock bags - just
putting it in it's carrying case and in the backpack does not necessarily
keep the water out if it is raining.
- Food. Even if you are not planning on eating during the hike, it is
good to have something snacky in the bag in case you get hungry or an
- Bandaids. Get the sports kind as they tend to stay in place. I
tried moleskin once, but it didn't stay in place on my foot.
- Tylenol, Advil, Excedrin. I keep all 3 in one small medicine bottle.
- Hand towel. Good for drying off your hands when washing them or
drying off your feet after a wet water crossing.
- Emergency rain poncho. Much better than a rain jacket: the water
doesn't soak through, it fits over you and your backpack, light, and
cheap - should be able to find one for under $2 at your favorite sporting
store. Despite what it says, you can also re-use it.
- Map of the trail and/or area. An essential, but not always able to
- Watch (on the wrist, of course). I also note the time I start the
hike and I have a general idea of how long the hike is going to take and
how fast I am going, so when I look at the clock I usually know about how
far I've gone and how far I have left - keeps me from lying to myself too
- Whistle, waterproof matches, compass (never used). A combo-thing
that I picked up a sporting store. There for emergencies.
- Sandals. Most people probably don't need this, but my feet like to
be free and I wear them before and after hiking - can't recall if I've
ever used them in the middle of a hike.
- Bug repellent and sun screen. I use the Off Deep Woods for Sportsmen
spray and 8-hour waterproof Ironman sun screen.
- Kleenex. I tend to keep a couple in my pocket (my nose sometimes gets
runny after hiking in the cold or altitude) and have extra in my backpack.
I also carry a couple of napkins (leftover from some fast food joint) for
that emergency outdoors bathroom trip.
- Flashlight. A small sized one, but not the smallest. Don't forget
to check every once in a blue moon to see that it still works.
- Gloves. I have the simple, non-expensive gardening type. Good for
when going in a cave or when the hands are cold.
- Emergency blanket (never used).
- Extra plastic grocery bags. You would be surprised for all the uses
of these things - keep stuff you want dry in them, put dirty or wet shoes
in them, put something interesting in them. I also have some spare
ziplock bags in my pack for small things.
- Small pocket knife.
- Water purifier pills. Only used once (Na Pali coast hike), but never
- Knee/ankle wrap - you know, that brownish cloth for sprained ankles,
works on knees too.
- Lip balm.
- Couple of index cards and pen, in case I want to write something down.
- Small thing of duck tape (never used). Saw it in a store and
couldn't resist - you never know when duck tape will come in handy.
- Small deodorant - for after the hike so I don't smell too bad.
- 2 small lock hooks (can't remember their name - D-shaped). One is
on a ring on my shoulder strap and I sometimes hook my camera case to it
for easy access to my camera during picturesque hikes. The other is in
the backpack in case I need it. I've also hook my walking stick to it a
couple of times.
- Small purse. (I am female.) In it I carry my car keys, more
bandaids, car insurance, drivers license, money, credit card, AAA card,
phone card, health card, the pen and paper, and some other minor things.
- Binoculars. Most frivolous, but was a gift and have used it
occasionally when hiking.
- Usually bring a book. I sometimes read at my destination to make
my stay longer and sometimes at rests to make my stops longer (otherwise
I have a tendancy to not take long enough breaks).
- What I'm not carrying but really need to one day add: cell phone.
- I also have a barrette that I use to connect the 2 zippers of the big
part of the backpack (where I carry the water) to insure that it stays
Other suggestions and comments:
- One of my hiking mottos: Take it slow and easy. Often said going
down hill, where gravity makes things more dangerous.
- My other motto: It's a marathon, not a sprint. Go at a comfortable
pace - and don't forget to start at that pace. When hiking with my dad, I
usually start out leading as he tends to start at too fast of a pace. If you
are with others, go at the pace of the slowest so all can enjoy the hike.
- Give yourself plenty of time. If possible, don't have a set time that
you have to finish by. Having to rush to finish a hike by a certain time is
- Never pass up a bathroom. The port-a-potties are your friends. If the
bathroom smells, pinch your nose with your thumb and the lower part of your
forefinger and hold the hand over your mouth while breathing through your
- Have a sense of understanding how long your hike is going to take. A
safe, conservative estimate is 2 miles per hour (though 2.5 is more likely
the pace you'll be going). It goes down to 1.5 to 1 mile per hour for
going up hill (depends on how steep). And going downhill does not
necessarily mean that you'll be going a lot faster - it depends on the
condition of the trail. I had one steep hike that took 1:45 to go down
and 2:05 to go up 2.5 miles. 3 miles per hour is very fast for a
hiking pace. Most people have no sense how far a mile really is and how
long it actually takes to hike a mile. Anything over 10 miles is a long
day hike. 15 miles is a _really_ long day hike. I wouldn't even attempt a
20 mile day hike.
- Don't forget to look around as you hike. It's easy to get in a daze
where you are just watching your feet, focusing on just putting on foot in
front of another. Look up every once in a while and enjoy the views.
- If you are tired, stop and rest. Don't push yourself, even if you
think you're "almost" there.
- If you aren't in the mood to hike, then don't.
- Tourists are stupid. Just because you are on vacation doesn't mean
that you can't get hurt or killed. Wild life can be dangerous and should
not be approached, no matter how tame it looks. Barriers and warning
signs are there for a reason, don't go beyond them. Just because someone
else is doing something stupid don't think it is safe to follow their
lead. There is a reason parks expect an number of fatalities each year.
Don't be one of them.
- Stick to the trail. Many reasons for this. Short-cuts can damage
the terrain. Less likely to get lost. You can usually see your footing.
Animals know humans use the trail and are more likely to avoid it. If you
aren't the first on the trail for the day, no spider webs across the
trail. Remember that for many hikes you are in the wild - the trail will
likely be less dangerous.
- And don't ever litter.
- Dress properly for the hike - know the weather. I prefer hiking in
shorts no matter how cold it's going to be, but there are occasionally hikes
where jeans are needed (see the Mt. Saint Helens volcano tube hike). If it
is going to be cold in the morning or up on a ridge, bring a jacket or
sweatshirt. It's better to unnecessarily carry the extra weight of the
jacket or sweatshirt than be shivering with nothing to put on. If there is
a chance of a waterfall to swim under or beach to enjoy, bring or wear your
bathing suit. I still regret not having my bathing suit for the Green Sand
Beach in Hawaii.
- The outsides of your socks (or a dirty pair if you are carrying a
spare) are good for wiping sand or dirt off of your feet after walking
along the shore or a wet water crossing.
- Throw an extra shirt in the car. A clean shirt can make the ride
home much more pleasant. I also take my hiking shoes off after a hike and
put my sandals on - and don't put my hiking shoes on until right before the
hike (another use for the plastic grocery bags - put your dirty shoes in).
Also throw a full-size bath towel in the car to sit on after the hike so you
don't stink up the car for days after.
- Conditioning. If you are not in shape for a long hike or lots of
hiking, your body will complain and it will take away from your enjoyment of
the hike. Hit the treadmill at the pace you plan on hiking (2.5 is most
people's pace, 3 miles per hour is a fast pace - fine for a treadmill, but
don't expect to be doing that in the real world, and slower for going up
hill) and use the grade as much as possible (start at 15% and go down as you
tire). If you can afford it (retail $1,500, but can get it cheaper at an
auction), NordicTrack puts out a hikers treadmill called the Teton Trekker.
It has a shorter and wider base and goes up to a 50% grade and (this is key)
down to -5% grade. It's the only treadmill I've seen that goes down -
important for me as I got patella tendinitis on one of my California trips
for not getting any downhill conditioning done (downhill does use different
muscles). Also wear your backpack at full or near full weight a couple of
times to get your shoulders used to the weight.
- After hiking for a long while and when you're tired, you get the
most stupid little snibbits of songs stuck in your head and the same one
or two lines keep repeating over and over and over and you can't make it
stop. "Up, up, and away..." "She'll be coming around the mountain..."
Not affiliated with or representing anyone besides myself