6 Things To Bring Backpacking And 3 Things To Leave Behind

You want to backpack with the right gear. But sometimes you don't know until you go.

Learn from the miscalculations of others and get a head start on perfecting your pack.

Here are things experienced backpackers regretted not bringing on their first trek (and a few things they should have ditched).

I Wish I Had…

Here are things experienced backpackers regretted not bringing on their first trek (and a few things they should have ditched).

Rain gear in summer  

Man wearing a rain poncho.

Hikers who head out in the middle of August figure the chances of rain are super slim.

Cutting weight by not bringing rain gear seems smart. Until it rains.

Bringing along just a packable poncho will save you from serious unpleasantness should the summer skies decide to open up.

Topo map/Compass 

Even when you know the area. Even when you’ve been there before. Even when it seems like there’s no way you could get lost.

You can get lost.

Having (and knowing how to use) a topographical map of the area you’re in along with your compass is one of the only surefire ways to keep from getting lost.


Paracords in different colors.

Relatively light and relatively inexpensive (quality varies — opt for the good stuff) paracord is always useful. 

Repair gear, replace shoelaces, hang a clothesline to dry clothes, hang food from trees to discourage bears, tie it to your pack to lower it down a ridge that’s too tough to climb down with your pack on.

Even use it to create emergency shelter with a tarp. The list is long.

Used shoes 

Used of course, by you. Too often first timers get excited and get all new gear. Including new boots that can ravage the feet. Make sure your footwear is something you’ve worn before in total comfort. 

Duct tape 

On the trail, as in life, duct tape can do anything. Repair a tent, a sleeping bag, a rain jacket. Lash things together. Make a splint. 

Like paracord, it’s the backpacker’s multipurpose substance.

Waterproof stuff sack 

No matter how waterproof your pack promises to be, no matter how great the reviews say your pack’s rain cover is, if there’s something you really really want to keep dry, (sleeping bags come to mind) dry sacks are the way to go.

Really Wish I’d Skipped...

Fancy multi-tools 

bring a pocket knife

They seem great in the store or online: “75 different tools in one!”

Turns out most of those tools are totally unnecessary. A good folder pocket knife is generally all you need.

Way too much food 

You never want to starve. But many first timers really get carried away in the food department. No one needs 15 Cliff bars. Plan your meals, pack those ingredients plus 1 or 2 snacks per day — and that’s it.


In the city cotton is great. Comfortable, stylish, breathable.

On the trail, it’s another story. It takes forever to dry, gets super heavy and starts to smell bad quick.

Instead get wool and synthetic hiking gear. They dry faster, smell better and make everyone a happier hiker.

Young happy woman with arms raised against mountain peaks and sky.

When you head out, the experiences of others can help put you on the right path. But keep in mind, you’ll never get it perfect the first time because each person’s perfect is different.  

It’s good to get it a little wrong. That’s where experience comes from — and the good stories. 

About the Author

After spending 5 years testing gear, meeting people and exploring his home state of Colorado with his wife, Andrej realized something about the outdoor industry. Mostly, that it was complicated. Andrej set out to create no-nonsense gear that was just as easy to use as it was reliable. He recruited a team of wilderness professionals and educators and hit the drawing board. The result was simple gear that you could trust, with specs you understood. Now he’s inspiring others to get out there and explore, by giving them the confidence to trust both themselves and the gear they use.