What to Pack for an Overnight Hike - 'W' Checklist
So you're about to venture out on your first overnight hike. What do you need to consider when packing?
Here are some helpful hints that will get you started.
Let’s call it the list of W’s:
Weight: Possibly the most important consideration when walking with a backpack. Carrying 15kgs on your back may seem easy for the first hour, however by the end of the second day you might find even 10 grams feels like a brick. It's recommended you carry no more than between 20-30% of your body weight. Less is always best. Consider the weight of everything you pack and choose lightweight gear such as tent and sleeping bag. Your feet and knee joints will thank you. While I don’t usually endorse plastic bags, I find that ziplock plastic bags are really useful on a bushwalk. Scrap as much extra packaging from food as possible and fill the ziplock with meal-sized portions. The ziplocks will also be handy when carrying your toiletries and other loose items. To be extra safe, double-bag things like sugar, coffee, matches etc. Of course, always hike out what you carrying in to Leave No Trace.
Water: Water is your most important item. Even though it’s heavy, don’t skimp on water. The water bladders or hydration packs (eg, camelback, platypus) are the best way to carry your water and it is recommended you drink about a litre every two hours of hiking- more in hot weather. If you know you will be hiking near a water source you can carry less and bring a filter or some purification tablets just to be safe. Always carry at least 2 litres and start your walk well hydrated.
Weather: Consider the weather when you pack and always pack a ‘back up plan’ such as a spare set of clothes or wet weather gear in case it rains, even if the forecast is clear (we all know that weather forecasting is not always accurate). Always carry a pack liner, a waterproof bag or some spare big plastic bags to store your sleeping bag and food items in. Bring sunscreen and a hat on warm days and a lightweight puffer jacket with gloves and a beanie is ideal for those chilly nights.
Wounds- Ok, so I’m pushing it with my “W” theme here but never leave home without a first aid kit. Make sure it includes Band-Aids or blister packs, bandages for snakebites or twisted ankles, some pain relief medication like paracetamol or ibuprofen, scissors and tweezers, antiseptic, burn gel and an emergency blanket. Camping shops usually sell some really good compact hiking first aid kits.
Wine- Hey, how lucky are we? It starts with W! Worth the extra weight for the evening around a campfire in my opinion, but of course optional. Camping shops sell great lightweight collapsible wine bladders or you could bring the bladder of a wine cask. Don’t be a dag and carry the bottle!
What else you should bring that doesn’t actually start with W:
- Food: A serve of muesli with a spoonful of powered milk in a ziplock bag for breakfast; teabags and/or coffee; mountain bread and sachets of tuna and a cuppa soup for lunch; a dehydrated meal from a camping store for dinner (washing this down with a glass of wine makes it a little more edible) and plenty of snacks such as chocolate, trail mix and muesli bars to keep your energy levels high.
- Cooking equipment: such as a trangia or jet stove with gas bottle, a box of matches in watertight bag, a lightweight bowl, mug and cutlery.
- A pair of thongs or lightweight shoes to wear around camp. This is the only place on earth where wearing an ugly pair of crocs will be perfectly acceptable.
- Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, sleeping bag liner and tent (with fly) are essential items
- Toiletries: A toothbrush, travel sized tube of toothpaste, hand sanitiser, small bar of soap and a face-washer and/or small microfiber towel is really all you are going to need. Please leave the makeup and hairbrush at home, no one cares what you look like out on the track.
- A small portion of dishwashing detergent, a chux and tea towel for dishes.
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- A torch and or lantern. Head torches are handy. Bring a spare set of batteries.
- Toilet paper and trowel (or dig a hole with a stick rather than carry a trowel)
- Spare plastic bags for rubbish
- Phone battery charger, camera, book or kindle, headphones are all optional extras
At the end of the day, be safe and as well prepared as possible. What you forget on one hike you will remeber on the next! It's all about getting out there and learning about what works well for you, and your packing requirements.