Summer Backpacking Essentials
Sunny days are here again and the summer backpacking weather is just about ready to kick off. Whether you’re a weekend warrior out for an overnight, or marching down the miles of a thru-hike, I’ve gathered together the essentials you’ll need to safely and enjoyably hit the trails this season.
Safety first, a good first aid kit is a must all year round and that doesn’t change just because the weather is warmer. A solid kit should be able to handle the bumps, scrapes, and pains that can happen on the trail. Bandages, sterile gauze, blister treatment, personal medications, and small tools like tweezers are a must. Sunscreen is often overlooked, but critical to happy hiking in the summer. A small tube in a ziploc bag will make a big difference, especially for faces. Aloe offers refreshing relief if you do get burned, and small packets are an easy add to your kit.
Speaking of sunscreen, the best defense against the sun is actually your clothing. UPF-rated fabric does more to protect you than any lotion or spray. You can protect your face with a proper wide-brimmed sun hat that will also keep your neck covered. While it may be tempting to strip down to shorts and a tank top, long-sleeves and pants of lightweight tech materials are actually a wiser choice. Not only do they protect against the sun, they also reduce chafing under your shoulder-straps, and reduce your risk of ticks. With the recent rise in Lyme disease in warmer months, appropriate clothing can go a long ways towards protecting you. Be sure to do a quick tick-check each night before climbing into your sleeping bag as well.
Bug spray is a must on summer trips, especially if camping near a water source. From black flies to mosquitoes, and everything in between, a good spray can make your experience much more pleasant. Pre-treating your clothes with permethrin sprays before your trip adds an extra layer of defense against the biting horde.
As temperatures rise, dehydration becomes increasingly likely. One way to encourage yourself to drink more is to keep your water deliciously cool. Insulated camelbak bladders and tubing or insulated water bottles come in handy to keep your water chilled and tasty. Always pack along some form of electrolytes to keep your body in balance after a sweaty day. There are numerous yummy options on the market now. Taste-test at home before your trip though. You’d hate to be stuck with a flavor you don’t like in the backcountry. As always, some sort of filtration or water purifying device is highly recommended year-round.
Choosing the appropriate foods as fuel is another way to help stay hydrated. Consider packing along salty nuts and trail mix to keep your sodium and potassium levels up. Dense foods like jerky and energy bars give you the caloric punch necessary to maintain energy, especially when you don’t feel like cooking in the warm weather. Dried fruit makes a perfect dessert, in addition to providing much-needed carbohydrates.
TowelsTo cool off after a long day of hiking, alpine lakes and roaring rivers are just the ticket. A lightweight camp towel is an simple solution for drying off after your swim. Hung from the outside of your pack, it can dry quickly in the sun while you walk. Good microfiber is a nice soft choice for toweling off, unlike cotton which can stay heavy and wet long after you’re asleep in your tent.
Of course, on any adventure into the outdoors, no matter how short, I highly recommend bringing the ten essentials. Always remember to tell a friend at least a rough travel itinerary. It’s also a good idea to go over a proper response if you are late or miss an expected return time. Though highly unlikely, having a plan in place can save hours of search and rescue time and potentially save your life.
Every backpacker has their personal preferences for the trail, but I feel confident that these summer essentials will keep you smiling on your hikes. Is there something you feel is required for the hotter months? What are your go-to summer backpacking items? I’d love to hear about it in the discussion below.