Packing can be a daunting task for any trip, but especially the first time you go backpacking. With a goal of keeping your bag light, it can be hard to decide what to bring and what to skip. After a number of trips, I have worked out the most essential items, as well as the most efficient way to pack.

First, plan in layers. You want to bring as few items of clothing as possible, while still staying warm (or cool). Packing in layers allows you to exchange one piece of clothing for another depending on the weather, or to layer up when it’s cold.

Second, make sure you have a change of base layer for the campsite/sleeping. Sleeping in the sweaty, dirty clothes you hike in does more than just make you feel gross. It can also make you colder and less comfortable.

It is essential to have a dry base layer for sleeping in. I usually bring long johns as pyjamas, but any comfortable, warm clothes are sufficient.

A very blue outfit. While I can’t pretend to be a fashionable hiker, I did have a fun moment of all blue layers in summer 2020.

Beyond your sleeping layers, you want a pair of pants, shorts, a t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, sweater (or fleece), rain jacket, rain pants, and maybe a down jacket. These items can include what you are wearing day one. You also want a minimum of one new pair of hiking socks and underwear every day. I usually bring extra of both just in case. I also bring warm socks to sleep in. Finally, you should bring a sunhat, a warm hat (toque), and mitts/gloves. The weather can get very cold in the rockies, especially in early or late summer, so it is good to bring layers to protect the extremities in case of cold nights. Depending on the length of your trip and the weather forecast, you may want to add or remove items (ex: if the weather is cool and rainy, you may not need shorts). Always lean towards too many warm clothes over not enough.

Some Dos and Don’ts

DO NOT wear denim anything, it will not dry if it gets wet during the trip.

DO bring campsite shoes such as crocs or sandal to let your feet breathe.

DO NOT bring a poncho instead of a rain jacket, it will not keep you dry.

DO pack your clothes in a dry bag or plastic bag to waterproof your clothes and keep your backpack organized.

DO NOT plan to re-wear socks. Wearing dirty/sweaty socks can cause pain or discomfort while hiking.

DO bring socks, mitts, and a toque to keep warm at night.

DO NOT rely on cotton. It is a slow drying fabric and will make you cold if it gets wet.

DO choose athletic fabrics and quick dry clothes.

DO NOT bring a new outfit for every day.

DO change out of your hiking clothes shortly after arriving at your campsite, before the air cools down.

ClothesOuter Layers
T-shirt (not a tank top)Fleece (sweater)
Long Sleeve shirtDown jacket
Shorts (1 pair)Rain jacket
Hiking Pants (1 pair)Rain Pants
Base Layer (ex: Long Johns)Campsite shoes
Hiking Socks (for every day)Sun hat
Sleeping socks (1 pair)Mitts
Underwear (for every day)Toque (warm hat)
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Published by immersivetraveller

I am a recent graduate with a BA in Honours English. I enjoy creative writing and language learning as well as travelling and exploring.

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