The Proper Way to Pack for a Five Day Trip
Anytime you go backpacking, packing properly is extremely important. However, the longer you plan to be away from civilization, the more important it becomes. On a one day trip, forgetting an item or two is often not a big deal-unless it’s something like a sleeping bag on a cold night or a tarp or tent on a rainy one. Usually, you can improvise or go without whatever it was that you forgot, and the only result will be some temporary discomfort until you get back to civilization the next day. However, on a five day trip, forgetting something important can cause you to have to abort your trip, or worse. Running out of food or discovering that you didn’t pack the right type of clothing can be devastating when you are two days away from any supplies.
So, how do pack properly for a long trip? In order to make sure that you have all your bases covered before you step out on the trail, it’s essential to be methodical and organized. Make a checklist of everything you’ll need. At the end of this article, there is an example of such a checklist, which you can print out and modify to fit your specific situation. The first step is to consider your basic needs. All humans need food, water, clothing and shelter before anything else. When backpacking, of course, you must carry all of these essentials with you.
For food, you’ll need to decide how many meals you need, and of what type. For example, on Day 1 you probably won’t need breakfast because you will eat before you leave the house. However, depending on what time you intend to reach the trail, you may or may not need lunch that day. On Day 5, you probably won’t need dinner. Decide what you intend to eat each day, and make a list of the items needed to prepare each meal. Unless you are in a place where water is scarce, you will probably want to pack mostly dehydrated meals, which are lighter and easier to carry. Also, make sure you have some emergency rations in case something comes up and your trip is inadvertently extended. Emergency rations should be lightweight, nonperishable and nourishing. Extra energy bars and extra oatmeal make great emergency rations.
Also, don’t forget cooking utensils. If you are planning on cooking food over a campfire instead of a stove, make sure that the place you are going to allows fires. If you are bringing a stove, make sure you have enough fuel. You might decide to get a backpacking cook set, but for most meals a pot to boil water, a bowl, a spoon and a mug are all you’ll need.
The next essential item is water. Look at guidebooks and maps for the trails you are taking. Are there streams, rivers, or other sources of water available? Bring a small water bottle to drink from on the trail and a larger container to store/carry water in. If water is not plentiful, you will need to be able to carry enough on your back to get you through to the next water source. Also, most sources of water in the woods are not safe to drink from, as they often contain parasites such as giardia or cryptosporidium that will make you very ill. Bring a water filter or iodine tablets to purify your drinking water.
Packing the right type of clothing is essential on a long trip. Check the weather, and remember that if you are traveling in the mountains it is usually a good deal cooler than it is in the valleys below. You don’t need or want to pack a separate outfit for each day that you will be out, but try to pack at least one item of clothing for each situation that you might encounter, such as hot day followed by a cool night. Do have at least one change of clothes in case the ones you are wearing get wet. Pack at least one pair of extra socks in case your feet get wet. Also, remember to pack a poncho to keep you dry if in rains. Most cases of hypothermia don’t happen in winter-they happen in spring, summer or fall, and caused by wet clothes sucking the vital warmth right out of your body! Also, make sure to bring appropriate hiking shoes.
There are different options for backpacking shelters, and you can choose between them based on who you will be traveling with and what the temperature will be at night. The most common shelter is a tent-make sure to get one made specifically for backpacking so that it is light enough to carry. If you’re sharing a tent with others, make sure the one you use is the appropriate size. If it’s going to be warm at night, you might decide to only pack a sleeping bag and a tarp. In areas with a lot of trees and little flat ground, a hammock is another good choice. Make sure to have a sleeping bag with a low enough temperature rating for the weather that’s expected during your trip.
Now that you have your basic needs covered, make a checklist of other essentials that you’ll need on your trip, including a first aid kit, a flashlight, matches or a lighter, a pocketknife, and of course toilet paper! Don’t forget rope, especially if you are in bear country and will need to set up a bear bag. A map and a compass are essential, while a GPS device is helpful but optional. Any extra items, such as a book to read, an MP3 player, or deodorant, should be considered only after everything else is packed and you can see how heavy your pack is. You may decide these extra items are not so important after all!
To assist you in packing for your trip, here is a handy checklist that you can fill out. Check items off the list as you pack them, and you are guaranteed to have everything you need in your pack when you hit the trail!
5-Day Trip Checklist
Small water bottle
Water filter or iodine tablets
Large water jug
First Aid Kit
Any medications that you take
Emergency Firestarting Kit
Matches and/or lighters (carry in a waterproof plastic bag)
Garden spade for digging a cathole