I recall packing for my first backpack trip, thinking more in terms of camping or overnighting with friends. I found decisions to be a real struggle and wish I’d had more guidance in this area when I was getting started.
Obviously these guidelines will vary based on personal preferences and weather conditions. Mostly it’s a lot of trial and error and finding what works for YOU! Packed clothing can be bulky and hefty, obviously impacting your pack size and weight; however, you don’t want to find yourself with hypothermia because you were under prepared.
Fabric choice is a big factor. You want something that wicks, breathes, dries quickly. I prefer merino wool. Cotton is NOT a good choice (Why?). There are many synthetics that work quite well, but many retain odor. I recommend trialing garments on the trail over multiple days without washing to see how they will perform on backpacking trips. Also, wear your garments with a loaded pack. Do you have any rub spots from seams? belts? bra hooks or straps or rings?
What to Wear?
What works for you, the weather conditions, in conjunction with your pack? short or long sleeve? no sleeve? SPF treated? V or scoop neck? t-shirt or button down?
My preference is a short-sleeve lightweight merino wool shirt such as the Ice Breaker 150 or Smartwool NTS 150, and a long-sleeve wind shirt for layering (my current favorite is the Columbia Silver Ridge or Smartwool NTS 150 zip T).
So many options to consider. Shorts? Crops? Long Pants? Zip-Offs? Skirt? Skort? Kilt?
For me it’s hiking pants that I can roll up to make crop pants. Key details include gusseted-crotch, quick dry with slight stretch fabric, soft waist and strategic placed/sized pockets. Of course, my favorites have been discontinued (Mountain Hardware Ramesa).
My preference is seam-free or minimal seam underwear and sports bra, something suitable to double as swimwear. I’ve just recently tried Jockey Micro’s and they seem to fit my needs.
I wear ultra light Smart Wool toe socks as my base layer (they’ve solved my under toe pinch blisters), followed by a second pair of light to medium weight merino wool socks such as the FITS Light Hiker.
I don’t go anywhere without my Dirty Girl Gaiters (keeps the gunk out of my shoes) (Real men wear Dirty Girls too!)
There are lots of choices when it comes to footwear. Boots? Sandals? Hiking Shoes? Trail Runners? Five Fingers? There are plenty of opinions and experiences. At the bottom of this page are some links that may be of help. Sadly, this can be an area that requires lots of trial and error, in my case more error than satisfaction. My current shoe of choice is the New Balance WT810V3.
I’ve found the following to be key to my satisfaction:
- Comfort – they should not require any time to “break in”
- Toebox – I need plenty of room to wiggle my toes so I can keep the blood flowing
- Tread/heel cup – needs to be sufficient to handle wet rocks, loose scree, steep downhills
- Upper – breathable and quick draining, but not with mesh of sufficient size to allow entry of debris
- Lacing – appropriate length and at collar to allow me to use my preferred lacing system
- Cushioning – I don’t want to feel the rocks, especially on my forefoot
- Stability – I prefer some stiffness to prevent ankle twisting
- Toe Kick – I’m klutsy and don’t want to “place” every step, so I want a rubber upper to protect my toes and shoe
I also recommend a good insole, such as Superfeet Green
- Don’t tolerate blisters, even if it means getting rid of fairly new footwear.
- Replace footwear regularly. They say every 500 miles for trail runners.
- Be kind to your feet. Feel a hot spot, STOP and take care of it. Take your socks off at lunch and let your feet air and socks dry. Get the grit out between your toes. Make it a priority to wash your socks and change daily.
- Be prepared for your feet to grow if you suddenly start hiking longer distances.
I prefer visors (Sunday Afternoons)
I always have at least one Buff with me. It serves as a sweat cloth, hat, neck gaiter, hair band, wash cloth . . .
What to Pack?
I usually bring one extra pair of underwear, sports bra, and toe socks (so one can dry while I’m wearing the other). I may bring some lightweight nylon shorts for swimming depending on my trip companions (but usually wear undies or . . .)
Camp/Stream Crossing Shoes
Many consider these luxuries, others necessities. It’s really a personal choice. I had some really great foam sandals that I found at Big 5, but after using them for a couple of years I decided I’d rather have something to protect my toes so I’m currently carrying Crocs.
- Foot Care on the Trail
- Footcare Basics on the Trail
- Fixing Your Feet
- Boot Lacing Options
- Stress Fractures – A Guide for Backpackers
Tips on selecting the right rain gear
- Laundering your rain gear with regular detergent will cause it to become less waterproof with time. Instead, wash without soap if it just needs to be rinsed. If it needs to be cleaned, use something like Nikwax Wash. Also follow manufacturers recommendation for drying your gear. I found out that my jacket should be put in the dryer to help maintain it’s waterproof state. If your perfomance gear needs renewed waterproofing, consider something like Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In.