Backpacking - How to Plan the Perfect Backpacking Trip

Backpacking from late Spring, through Summer, and into early Fall is incredibly enjoyable. I love setting out at a trailhead with a featured destination in mind and pushing on until we arrive. In my opinion, backpacking to a new destination is preferred to visiting known areas. There's something about exploring with a pack on that makes and outdoor adventure complete.

Whether squeezing in a weekend overnighter or setting out on a 50-miler with the Scout troop, backpacking almost always makes memorable experiences. The kids and dog love to go too. We're to the point where getting ready is a synch and we can focus entirely on the scenery and wildlife.

Can't wait for the next backpacking trip!

How to Enjoy the Perfect Backpacking Trip

Over the years we've learned how to pull off the perfect backpacking trip. We've learned how to plan, what gear and supplies to take, how to prepare for the weather, how to stay safe and how to ensure we get back home safe.

Adventure Story: 50 Miles in 4 Days

...and one of the boys yelled out, "Hey, is that a bear?!?!"

We all looked over and saw a black bear charging for a herd of sheep in a little valley..."

Read the Story

Below you'll find the following topics:

  • Tips for executing the perfect backpacking trip
  • What to include in the ideal backpack
  • Top backpacking product reviews
  • Best backpacking resources

If you're like us you'll love the trail and backpacking will become second nature. Let's get started.

Backpacking Tips

Over the years we've learned how to set up the perfect backpacking trip. To really enjoy backpacking we found you have to conquer hunger and fatigue. The 3 main keys to enjoying backpacking:

  • Learn to Manage the Weight You Carry - You need certain gear and supplies to be comfortable and enjoy the trip. However, you can't take everything. You have to be very conscious of the weight you add to your pack. Your body size makes a HUGE difference in how much can carry. Your body composition also makes a big difference. If you're packing extra weight on your body, you'll likely be able to carry less weight in your pack.
  • Get the Food Right - If you're just learning to backpack, it's not the time to experiment with cooking. Keep it simple until you are experienced. You don't want to burn your food or eat raw food and get sick. The best beginner camping food is either ready-to-eat (trail mix, energy bars, etc) or just-add-water (dehydrated meals). We LOVE dehydrated Lasagna pouches you can buy at camping stores. We get the 2 serving pouches because the 1 serving pouches don't have enough food. Just boil water and mix it in. So easy!
  • Get a Good Night's Sleep - A sleepless camping night seems endless. If you are cold or uncomfortable you're in for hours of misery followed by a day of fatigue and poor mood. Get this one right no matter what.

    It's a bit of a challenge. I'm a 6'4, 230lb man. The typical ground pad doesn't cut it and light weight, short sleeping bags are awful. 

    Invest in a GREAT sleeping pad and a GREAT sleeping bag. Besides the waterproof tent, these two items will do more to make your camping trip enjoyable than any other gear. 

    I found a high-end, extra long, zero-degree sleeping bag. Most nights I sleep with ski bibs (even when backpacking) because I absolutely don't want to be cold at night. I'll shed the extra layers if needed but it's better to have and not need than to need and not have. Don't skimp on the sleeping bag.

    I also found a high-end inflatable pad that keeps my pressure points off the ground when fully inflated. It was a game changer. 

Basic Tips

  1. Plan ahead - even if you decide to go on a spontaneous hike, take a minute and plan just so you're prepared. If your hike is more involved, spend the time you need to make sure you're ready.
  2. Know your route - pull out the map or GPS and locate the trailhead and exit.
  3. Gear up - make sure you have the right gear and supplies. Many hikes are day hikes. We recommend taking a day pack with you (see below). At minimum carry:
    • multi-tool
    • water filter
    • first aid kit
  4. Dress right - know your weather, climate and terrain. Be sure to dress in layers so you can add or subtract a layer if you get cold or hot. Consider these layers:
    • Waterproof Jacket
    • base layers (for cold weather)
    • zip off pants  - you can have shorts when it's warm and add the pant legs as it cools off
  5. Footwear - take quality hiking shoes. The sole should have deep tread and good traction. We strongly recommend waterproof shoes for many hikes. Make sure your footwear is broken in so you don't get blisters.
  6. Tell someone where you're going - be sure someone knows where you're starting, your route, and when to expect you home. Don't forget this one! You want someone coming if you get injured or lost.
  7. Buddy up - Take a buddy with you in case you get injured or lost.

Advanced Tips

  1. Mole Skin - Blisters can form at any time, however they form most often with new shoes. Learn how to use moleskin.
  2. GPS - On hikes you've never done before or in terrain where you can get lost easily, take a GPS dievce.
  3. Topo Maps - If you are scaling a steep trail or bushwhacking through thick brush you'll need a topo map so you can read the grade of the territory.

Outdoor Tips

  • Leave No Trace
    Leave the outdoors better than you found it
  • Buddy System
    Always take someone with you
  • Give Notice
    Always tell someone where you are and when you'll be home
  • Safety First
    Be prepared for the elements and first aid situations
  • Layer Up
    Dress in layers so you can adjust your temperature

Recommended Backpacking Gear

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Survival Kit - 1 Person

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Survival Kit - 2 Person

Overall Best Ready-made Emergency Kit

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Sleeping Bag - Cold Weather

High end 4-season survival sleeping bag for overnight campouts

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Reflective Foam Pad

Comfortable, radiant, heat-trapping sleeping pad

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Hydration Bladder

2 Liter leak proof hydration bladder for trail daypacks and backpacks

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Waterproof Hiking Shoe - Keen

Waterproof hiking shoe for outdoor trail activities

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Shop Camping Gear

Safety First

We all have different risk tollerances. As I've gotten older I've consciously slowed down a lot and take fewer risks. I've seen guys with life-altering injuries who can't enjoy the outdoors any longer. I talked with a man this week who has messed up his knees and joints so much he can't go on a simple hike. That can't be me!

When we venture out, we need to keep in mind that we have future outdoor experiences to enjoy so we need to get home safe after every one. Our chances of survival and safe return increase with a few principles:

  1. Prepare before you go out
  2. Take adequate first aid supplies - just in case
  3. know your limits and opt for safety over risky activities.

Having the right first aid supplies handy can help a lot. Make sure you have the right supplies for the activities you're doing. 

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Survival Medical Guide

Critical first aid field guide for survival situations

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First Aid

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First Aid Kit - EDC

Personal Everyday Carry IFAK First Aid Kit

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First Aid Kit - Tactical

Tactical, Portable IFAK First Aid Kit

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Shop All First Aid Kits

The Perfect Backpacking Checklist

You want light weight, durable gear for backpacking outings. We start with the larger essential gear for shelter and sleeping. Then we organize 3 essentials kits: gear, first aid, toiletries.

Let's start with the larger protective gear:

Shelter, Sleeping, Clothing

  • Tent - Make sure your tent is waterproof and large enough for you and maybe one other person.
  • Sleeping Bag - Don't go cheap here. Buy the best sleeping bag you can afford. You want to get a warm, comfortable night's sleep.
  • Pad - Invest in a great pad that keeps your body off the ground.
  • Layered Clothing - Make sure you bring layered clothing. Most regions of the country have temperatures that swing significantly from the heat of day to the cold of night. Most people shed their outer layers by mid day but as evening comes on they need to add those layers back. Even when backpacking, be sure to bring layers you can wear or shed. Make sure to keep the clothes dry if you take them off.

    Consider wool socks when it's going to be cold. Wool insulates really well, even when wet.
    • Bring extra underwear and socks - on every outing - trust me, a fresh pair of dry, clean underwear goes a long ways some times.

Water, Food and Kitchen

  • Water - In the outdoors people tend to be more active than at home. Bring enough water for your entire outing unless you are near fresh water and can plan on filtering plenty of water.
  • Food - We recommend ready-to-eat (energy bars and trail mix) and just-add-water dehydrated meals. You get the best calories for the least amount of weight.
  • Kitchen - There's a trade off between keeping your gear light weight and having what you need. If you're backpacking in to your camp site you should have a light weight stove and mess kit with the bare essentials. Be sure to bring enough fuel if you pack a light weight backpacking stove.

Now let's look st the 3 essentials kits:

Gear Kit

  • Water filter
  • Multi-tool
    • blade
    • saw
    • tweezers
    • screw drivers
  • Paracord
  • Lighter
  • Ferro rod
  • Emergency blanket
  • Poncho
  • Emergency fishing kit
  • Snares
  • Duct tape
  • Head band (ear protection)
  • Safety pins
  • More...

First Aid Kit (IFAK)

  • Bandages
  • Ace bandage
  • Tablets
    • Pepto
    • Tylenol
    • Allergy
  • Bug spray
  • Sun screen
  • Alcohol pads
  • Burn cream
  • More...


  • Pocket tissues (perfect portion of toilet paper)
  • Carmex
  • Toothbrush (handle cut off)
  • Toothpaste
  • Nail clippers
  • More...

Top Rated Products

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Rubbermaid Lockable Bin Container

Sturdy, lockable, plastic industrial totes/bins for survival gear

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Sterilite Bin Container

Sturdy plastic industrial totes/bins for outdoor gear

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Waterproof Gloves

Durable, waterproof gloves for emergencies

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Milspec type 3 550 paracord for survival

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Top Backpacking Product Reviews

I'm a former Scout Master. I've used or seen others use just about every outdoor product you can imagine. When it comes to hiking, there are some pretty tried and true products you can rely on. Here are some of the outdoor products we recommend taking on all outings.

Click on the image to read the review or click on the button to purchase.

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Camping Cookware/Mess Kit

Modern cookware mess kit with accessories

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Biodegradable All Purpose Soap

Clean your hands, body, dishes and other items with biodegradable multi purpose soap

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550 Paracord Type 3

Milspec type 3 550 paracord for survival

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550 Paracord with Integrated Fishing Line, Wire, Tinder

Enhanced milspec type 3 550 SurvivorCord for the outdoors

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Ideal primary option for rapid fire starting

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Ferro Rod with Striker

Great secondary option for fire starting, especially when wet

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Pocket Tissue

Individually packaged pocket tissues and toilet paper.

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Toiletry Kit

Toiletry kit for the trail or camping

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All Time Best Sellers

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Personal Water Filter - Sawyer

Affordable, long lasting personal water filter and purifier for the trail

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Leatherman Wave Multi-Tool

The most popular, reliable outdoor multi-tool on the market

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Rechargeable LED Headlamp 450 Lumens

Durable, rechargeable 450 lumen LED head lamp for hands free trail use

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Hydration Bladder

2 Liter leak proof hydration bladder for trail daypacks and backpacks

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Shop the Gear Catalog

Backpacking Resources

Being prepared with some survival skills, trail information, and weather forecasts can make your hike relaxing and help you get home safe.


Don't get lost! Find the right map for your area. We recommend reviewing the map BEFORE your embark on your adventure. Get a feel for the topography, water sources, trails and roads, etc.

Choose Your Map


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Survival Handbook

Layman's survival field guide for the outdoor survival

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Time to Hit the Trail

We love our trail time! We hope your outings this year are memorable, relaxing, full of adventure, and safe. 

We'd love to hear about any memorable stories you experience. Submit them to us and if we feel the story matches the site we'll publish it.

Gear up, prepare, and hit the trail! Enjoy!

1This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
2 As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
3 Most reviews are based on personal experience from one of our content editors. Some are based on research and the opinions of other reviewers.


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