Over many years, with a few mistakes along the way, I’ve developed a set of overnight hiking and camping gear that I’m fairly happy with. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learnt in determining what to pack for an overnight hiking trip (which I still forget from time to time) is avoiding the temptation of buying cheap stuff that looks like it’s good value. You generally get what you pay for, especially with tents and rain gear: it’s better to buy one expensive rain jackets that will keep you dry and last for years, than having eight raincoats in the cupboard that all leak in heavy rain…
The gear list below is based mostly on what I own and use, plus some suggestions for a few items that I would recommend. Prices are generally RRP, with a link to one of the Australian outdoor stores which usually has the best prices.
Essential Overnight Hiking Gear
This is the gear that forms the “core part” of your outdoor hiking equipment, and where it generally makes sense to spend as much as you can afford to get reliable and lightweight gear. I’ve rarely regretted paying too much, and often wished I paid more at the outset when I look at the all the “bargain” caamping items I’ve purchased over the years. The only thing I’ve not included are trekking poles – I’m not a fan of these, although they may be an “essential item” for you!
|Backpack||Lots of options – my advice on choosing a backpack or rucksack for overnight hiking is to get one that’s good quality and properly fitted from a reputable outdoor store. A good backpack will last decades. For overnight hiking, 60-70L is a useful size, and it can be helpful to have a detachable day-pack. Also consider whether you need/want lots of pockets and attachment points on the outside.
|Tent (or hammock)||Tents and hammocks could be an entire post on their own – the key points to consider in selecting a tent (other than size) are weight, whether it’s free-standing, how much vestibule space you get and quality. Some single-wall tents offer good value for money – but in a humid environment it’s almost impossible to avoid getting condensation inside the tent, Reputable brands include Big Agnes, Big Sky, Hilleberg, Marmot, Mont, MSR, North Face, Terra Nova and Vargo. Some recommended hiking tents to consider include:
|Sleeping bag||This is one item where the price normally correlates to quality: you’ll generally pay more for a higher warmth rating. Snowys.com has a useful guide to understanding the EN13537 temperature rating. Unless you’re only hiking in summer, I’d always recommend getting down over a synthetic fill. Rather than trying to list some suggested sleeping bags, Cotswold Outdoor has a Sleeping Bag Finder which asks four questions to come up with appropriate options.|
|Sleeping mat||As well as weight, cost and size, the “R value” gives you an indication of the thermal resistance of a sleeping mat. Snowys has a guide to understanding R-values.
|Stove||Many lengthy debates (or arguments) have been had over the “best” stove. The most convenient and popular ones take disposable gas canisters; if travelling overseas or doing longer multi-day walks, consider a stove that burns a variety of liquid fuels (eg. white gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline) for greater flexibility.
|Cookware||One of the advantages of the JetBoil system is it integrates a cooking cup (while the Trangia 250-1 includes ftying pans). So depending on your stove, you may not need any additional cookware. There are a few lightweight cooking sets I’d recommend:|
|While I’ve got the snazzy Sea to Summit X-Set of collapsible plates and bowls, I used this once, finding it much easier to clean a lightweight stainless steel plate. For really lightweight hiking, I take dehydrated meal pouches, which means I don’t need a plate. Work out what you need for each trip, based on what you’re going to cook and eat:
|Water treatment||I’ve written a separate blog post on the many water treatment options; it’s another contentious area with many different options. In short: boil, filter, sterilise or purify with chemicals… I’ve been very happy with my Grayl filter. A few popular options are:
|Navigation||An old-fashioned paper topographic map (and compass if going off-track) is still essential as a back-up, but modern technology considerably simplifies route-finding. I use my phone with Avenza (IOS and Android) providing access to thousands of topographic maps which are stored on the phone. I also like AllTrails, which allows you to download maps. A phone should last 5-10 days in airplane mode, but I also bring a battery pack on longer walks. If you want a more rugged and purpose-built GPS devices, Garmin is the market-leader with a wide range of model. In deciding which one’s best, consider: battery life, replaceable vs inbuilt battery, weight, screen size and availability of detailed topographical maps).|
|Water Bottle||Way too many options to list…
|Lighting||A head-torch is the most practical light, and there’s a lot of choice: consider how bright you need it, run-time and if you want an internal rechargeable battery, or replaceable batteries. Black Diamond, Ledlenser and Petzl are some of the most trusted brands.
|First Aid Kit||You can create your own, or purchase a ready-made kit.
|PLB||Sometimes (incorrectly) called an EPIRB, a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) should be considered an essential item, except for perhaps the most popular tracks.
An alternative is a satellite communicator, which is more expensive and requires a subscription – but allows two-way communications as well as SOS functionality.
|Dry bags||Having a few small, good quality drybags helps to keep electronics/phones dry – and larger ones ensure clothes and sleeping bags stay dry. If you’re using a phone for navigation, a waterproof phone case like the Sea to Summit Audio Waterproof Case is great as you can still the screen.|
A few lightweight items can make washing up hassle-free:
A few things that MAY be essential, depending on where you are walking…
Everyone will have their own food preferences – the items below are just some suggestions. Wiser people than me suggest that you should plan on 18,300kJ/4350 kcal (women) and 25,000kJ/6000kcal (men), based on an average weight and six hours hiking a day; I would probably consume a it less than this while hiking.
|Dinner||You can purchase dehydrated meals, which are quick and convenient, or cook your own meals using a few basic ingredients.
Clothing & Footwear
As well being somewhat personal, what you take will depend to a large extent on where you’re hiking, and at what time of the year.
|Night / Camp||
The “Nice to Have” Gear
While some people won’t leave home without a camping pillow, these items are ones that you may selectively take to make a short camping trip more enjoyable – but they might not make the cut on a longer trip where every gram matters!
|Battery pack||This (for me) is more of an essential than a “nice to have” – even though my phone lasts for quite a few days in flight mode, I still feel safer carrying a spare battery pack. I’ve got a few; like children, it’s hard to have a favourite…|
|Camping Chair||I’ve never felt the need to bring a chair on a hike… but if you want that extra bit of camp comfort, these generally come in two flavours: inflatable or light-weight frame.|
|Pillow||Another item that’s essential for some and unecessary for other. The lightest camping pillows come in at 100g, gives you a good night’s sleep, the you can get some that will ad|
|Coffee Machine||You can give up coffee for a few days… or bring coffee bags… or pack a camping-size espresso machine!|
|Camp Slippers||A completely unecessary item… until you reach camp with wet shoes, and need to decide whether to walk around in socks, or put those wet shoes back on… Take some Crocs, thongs / flip-flops, or try the North Face Base Camp Slide II Men’s Sandal / Women’s Sandal ($60. $175g) which is has a moulded EVA footbed.|
|Hand Warmer||Disposable Hand Warmer ($150, 40g) if you’re camping in winter and want a bit of a luxury (or emergency source of heat)|
Tips and Tricks
I’d love to claim credit for all these – but many have come from observing other hikers and engaging in online bushwalking discussion groups!
- A4 sized packing cells
- A few lightweight pegs on longer trips can be useful for hanging up washing or wet clothes. You can also use safety pins to attach wet clothing to a pack.
- Instead of a light cord, a spare shoelace can be used for hanging stuff up at camp or off your pack.
- A carabiner can be used to attach a cup to a backpack so you can quickly get a drink from a stream (I also use one to attach a powerbank with solar panel to the outside of my pack).
- Those tiny fish plastic soy sauce bottles that comes with sushi make great containers for lighter fluid (fire starter), soap shower gel and dish washing liquid.