Hiking and backpacking gear is the equipment taken on outdoor walking trips. Hiking is usually divided into day-hikes and multiple-day hikes, called backpacking, trekking, and walking tours.
The hiking equipment selected varies according to the duration, distance, planned activities, and the environment. Additional factors include weight and preparedness for unplanned events. The level of preparedness can relate to remoteness and potential hazards; for example, a short day hike across farmland or trekking in the Himalayas. The length and duration of a walk can influence the amount of weight carried.
The nature of a hike or backpacking adventure is both by the natural environment and the applicable government regulations and hikers plan accordingly when considering equipment. To minimize the impact on the natural environment, many hikers follow the principles of “Leave No Trace.”
Basic backpacking and hiking gear and abilities
The most basic hiking equipment is a stout knife, a pot, cordage, a few ways to make a fire, and equipment to carry water and other gear.
- Cutting, chopping, and sawing: knife, multi-tool, tomahawk, hatchet, axe, bucksaw, snow knife or snow saw
- Container (see below)
- Cordage (see below)
- Flashlight (UK torch) or two, preferably hands-free (headband or headlamp), spare batteries and bulb.
- Candle from wax or tallow, or an oil lamp
- Medical: first-aid kit, medicines, medicinal plants, cloth, cordage, superglue, Nitrile gloves
- Avoiding the need for medical treatment is preferable when possible by learning about nature, water treatment, food poisoning, poisonous plants and animals, and survival skills to avoid things like frostbite.
- Sun protection:
- Clothing: long-sleeved shirt and pants, hat with a full brim or used with a bandana, thin gloves
- Sunglasses: year-round protection from blowing sand/snow, sharp objects, glare, and snow blindness. A band of cloth (bandana) or bark can be used to fashion a pair of emergency sunshades by cutting narrow slits in them. They are critical at high altitude.
- Sunscreen protects from some rays
- Lip balm
- Digging: sharp stick, stout knife, trowel, ice axe, entrenching tool (folding shovel), compact shovel, snow shovel
- Fire (see below)
- Information: Having information includes being aware of the surroundings and events that may be relevant to the hiker. This starts by being able to navigate. Another part is the weather, being able to read the weather, having gathered the latest and longer predictions before a hike, and possibly having a weather radio for updates. Being able to see further (binoculars) and record what is seen maybe additional equipment in this area.
- Navigate by reference, terrain, and by map and compass.
- Swimming goes with the first Rule of 3: air. If a hiker is swept off his or her feet into deep water, or falls into a lake, then swimming moves to the top of the list.
- Bandana, uses: a hat, dust mask, face scarf, water filter, first-aid, signal, etc.; larger versions like a shawl, sarong
Water needs to be drinkable. Hikers usually carry some, but do not carry all that they need, because it weighs one kilogram (2.2 lbs) per liter, and hikers can consume 2-4+ liters per day (4-9 lbs). Additional water usually can be located, collected, filtered, and purified. All water in the wild is potentially unclean.
The details of locating water are beyond the scope of this article. The basics for locating water is using a map, knowing how water flows through and collects in certain geographical formations (natural cisterns), and identifying which plants indicate shallow-underground water and contain easily accessed water. Heading downhill to streams, and looking for rich, green vegetation that may indicate a spring are a couple ways to start. Following bees and tracking animals to cisterns, and knowing where to dig in apparent dry stream beds, and maybe waiting for night when vegetation releases water are a little more advanced techniques. Water can be collected in a clean container. Clear plastic bags to make vegetation and solar stills. Dehydrated, chemical-free sponges can be used to wipe dew from vegetation, tied to ankles and walked through damp vegetation in the morning, soaking up water from wet rocks or sand. A flexible drinking straw can access water in a rock crack, or drink from a water still without opening it. Tarpaulins can also be used to collect rain water or dew.
To remove larger impurities, water can be filtered through grass, sand, charcoal or cloth, such as a bandana or panty hose. Panty hose can also be used as an emergency fishing net. Filtering water of larger impurities is a useful way to extend the life of commercial filters. preventing them from getting clogged quickly.
Water must be purified of harmful living organisms and chemicals. Some commercial filters can remove most organisms and some harmful chemicals, but they are not 100% effective. Distillation filters, purifies, and removes some harmful chemicals. Chemicals with a lower or about equal boiling point of water are not eliminated by distilling. Iodine or chlorine dioxide solutions or tablets can be used to purify water. It can be boil water in a fire-resistant pot or water bottle. Water can be boiled in some flammable materials like bark because the water absorbs the heat. Pasteurization takes place at temperatures lower than boiling point, but knowing the temperature of the water and calculating the duration of treatment can be difficult. This technique is useful when only non-durable containers are available. Sunlight can be used with a clear container. Filters made from heat-treated diatomaceous earth can also be used.
A wide-mouth, metal water bottle or a metal pot or cup can also be used to boil and transport water, and they can be used fairly easily for cooking: A lid for the pot will help water to boil sooner, helps with cooking by requiring less fuel, and reduces water loss. Other containers for transporting water include; appropriate plastic water bottles in materials like Nalgene. There are hard plastic bottles, and soft-collapsible bottles. A hydration pack tube freezes easily. A non-lubricated condom can hold up to two liters. It is very vulnerable to puncture. Placing a stick in the knot will allow it to be re-used. Breast milk bags are plastic bags that double-Ziploc, so they are easier to reseal than a condom and they do not puncture as easily. They are transparent, allowing solar purification and use a magnifying lens to start a fire. Containers that may freeze with water in them may allow for 10% expansion. In other words, just fill them up 90%.
Oral rehydration therapy to counter dehydration is worth learning about using sugar and salts to help replace electrolytes: per liter/quart: 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate) has many uses for backpacking.
Fire needs ignition, oxygen, and fuel, and the ability to extinguish it. Ignition can come from a spark, a chemical reaction, electricity, or concentrated solar energy. The more oxygen involved the easier the fire starts and the hotter it burns. Organic material must either be dry or the fire must be hot enough to dry it and burn it. Fraying organic material is more combustable as a tinder. Grain dust and granulated sugar can ignite when oxygenated over a flame.