Whether it’s a backpacking trip through the mountains or a few hours spent walking through the woods, there are essentials you’ll want to pack for a weekend hike. Everything from the bare minimum that might seem obvious to those little extras that you’ll wish you had, we’re here to help you prepare.
So, what do you need for a weekend hike? Here’s a quick overview.
- The right shoes
- The right backpack
- Make sure your pack weight is right
- Have some essentials for the unknown
- Have the right cooking equipment and food
- Sleeping equipment
- Don’t overlook the little things
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The right shoes
Step one, something with which to step. We’re talking shoes, obviously! Not just any shoes will do. Any experienced hiker knows that out in the terrain you can get wet, you can get dirty, or you can get injured.
They’re called hiking boots for a reason – make sure they’re your absolute number one priority when you’re packing for a hike.
It’s important to have a pair of hking boots or shoes that are broke in. Failure to break them in before a weekend trip could result in a tremendous amount of foot pain.
If you don’t have hiking boots specifically, a good pair of sneakers is the next best option. Choose your most comfortable pair (that you’re willing to get a little dirty).
These will fair best on easy to moderate trails. Knowing the level of difficulty to expect will dictate which shoes to wear. That’s the most important part of preparing for a hike.
The right backpack
After you’ve established your sturdy base and know the terrain you’ll be tackling, you can decide what you’re going to need.
Remember, you’re literally pulling the weight, so be methodical while stuffing your bag.
Starting with your backpack, make sure it’s comfortable for you. A good backpack on a hike is equivalent to a good tent – your life is in there.
Many experienced hikers like backpacks that can adjust for comfort. Oftentimes, they’ll also include a chest or waist strap to aid in support and weight distribution.
Distrubute the weight of your supplies
Ideally, a weekend hike won’t require too much overly-heavy weight. There will still be some things, like food supplies and water, that might end up adding some extra poundage.
The best way to know how to pack them is to identify them by weight and pack in stages based on that.
When you’re packing your bag, avoid putting the heaviest stuff in first. All of the weight on the bottom will be a burden that’s constantly pulling at your backpack, putting a strain on your back and shoulders to support it.
Start with some of the lighter gear. If you have sweatshirts, socks, or change of clothes to bring, those can go on the bottom of your bag. This will help save space in the long run, as these items can easily be flattened by heavier items on top.
Prepare for the unknown
It’s a good idea to pack some extra items should the weather change, to prepare for the unseen events, or just to stay comfortable.
It’s highly recommended to have layers when you’re out in the wilderness. Layers can protect your skin from the sun, but having the option to add and remove as your body temperature fluctuates will keep you comfortable.
This soft bottom layer will also help provide some shock absorption while walking all day. Who doesn’t want a bit of added comfort?
While we’re on the subject of layers and sun protection, now is a good chance to mention bringing sunglasses. They’re one of those things that are easy to forget but can really make a difference.
To be clear, these aren’t for the bottom of your bag, but it’s a good thing to put to the side as a reminder to bring.
Be prepared to eat
Once the soft, shock-absorbing base is set, it’s time to consider the bulk. A weekend hike is a relatively short amount of time, but to keep you energized you’re going to need to eat.
If you plan to stop to make camp somewhere, cookware will be handy, and the middle portion of your bag is a good place to store it. You won’t need it exceedingly often, so putting things on top of it is okay.
Cookware can range from one pan and a fork to various utensils. Depending on how many people you are in your caravan, you might need some extra tools.
It’s ideal to plan out cooking in one pot. An aluminum pot is generally light and won’t lead to burning food over the fire. A few small plates will do the trick for serving.
Stick with aluminum ware, as well. As tempting as paper can be, chances are there are no garbage bins out in your hike and you want to leave your setting as unpolluted as you found it!
If you’re a wilderness-savvy hiker, then you know how to fashion a safe, contained fire over which you can cook.
To save some time to collect materials, there is also an option for a stove. A stove is a bit of a commitment to space in your pack. With a stove, you’ll also need fuel. For some, this is necessary; for others, it’s cumbersome.
If you do decide to pack it, it can go in the central part of your pack along with the cookware. Make sure it’s stowed properly so as not to leak on your other belongings or be damaged in transit.
Your food can also be packed with your cookware. This might be slightly heavy products as well, which is why it’s best to keep it in the core of your backpack.
Many hikers enjoy having trail mix and granola bars for their trips, but mealtime should allow for some substantial fuel. Things like pancake mix, individually packaged tuna pouches (or similar), or even canned goods are easy to pack, carry, and whip-up on your trip.
Don’t forget water
The only thing more important than food is water. Many hikers make food use of refillable water bottles that are capable of filtering water you encounter out in the wilderness.
This cuts back on how much you need to pack. You can also treat your water with iodine tablets.
If you don’t have one of those, then it’s up to you to make sure you’re hydrated and that means packing some up. Gallons can be heavy, and plastic water bottles can be cumbersome and wasteful, but both are necessary to replenish yourself. Make sure there is enough to keep you quenched and store the excess with the food and cookware.
Having the soft layer of clothing below that is a good idea too, since stopping to camp is a good chance to change into whatever gear you see fit and refill your accessible water bottle.
Store small things in pockets
This is the bulk of your weekend hike needs, but you still have room (and a little bit of necessity) for more. The top of your pack is akin to backpack pockets.
Whatever you might need to access quickly should go there. That includes a first-aid kit, a quick snack if you get hungry, bug repellent and sunscreen, and toilet paper.
Now’s a good time to toss your sunglasses in, or to choose a pocket you can slip them into.
Now you need sleeping equipment
All the hiking gear is accounted for, and now you can decide where you’d like to stow your tent and sleeping pack. Many people put it at the top of their pack, rolled up and tied on. Others like to put it at the bottom.
Your best option is to give both options a try. If it is pulling too much hanging from the bottom, putting the weight on top might help to distribute it and lighten your load a bit.
While you’re considering shelter, a light jacket might also be helpful should the weather take a turn. This is one of those clothing materials that is best for the top of your bag so you can grab it in a hurry.
Don’t forget light
In the light of day, it could also be overlooked to bring a flashlight.
Don’t get caught in the dark. Even under a full moon and next to a successfully-made fire, a good flashlight or headlamp packed in an accessible place could become your most important ally.
Here’s some extras that might help
Now that all of the life-essentials are packed, you can start to consider those little extras that will make your weekend go smoothly.
Things like a GPS or even a good ol’ fashioned compass can come in handy when you’re navigating the terrain.
A few overlooked extras
While you’re out in the wilderness, it’s important to consider hygiene just as you would at home. It’s highly recommended to bring along some hand sanitizer so that you’re still properly handling food.
A first aid kit is handy for cuts and scrapes, but it won’t save you from catching a nasty virus while you’re out on your hike! Keep yourself as clean as you can.
In the spirit of keeping clean, a few wet wipes will go a long way throughout your day.
They’re great for wiping off sweat and dirt for a makeshift shower at the end of a day, or throughout as needed. They’ll also come in especially handy for bathroom breaks.
The rest of your hiking needs are all contingent on you as a hiker. Most people go out into the wilderness prepared with a swiss army knife.
It would take a whole other article to explain the usefulness of a swiss army knife while hiking – so long as you know how to use it.
Going for a weekend hike is an incredibly satisfying way to spend some of your free time. You won’t be away from civilization too long, but two or three days is still long enough that you’re going to miss a bit of toilet paper if you don’t have any.
Make sure you have all the essentials, and then you can play around with extra space or consider extra activities that you expect to do. It’s an incredibly personal time with friends, with nature, or just with yourself. Taking the time to plan will make all the difference.
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