Backpack Full of SunshineA travel blog of a boy following his dream and embarking on a four year backpacking sabbatical around the world

The Ultimate Packing List for Trekking

Mount Everest from the Tibetan side

From the foot of Mt. Everest to the top of Kilimanjaro, from tranquil villages in Swiss Alps to magnificent glaciers in Southern Patagonia, I was fortunate to have trekked through some of the wildest and most beautiful alpine regions on earth. There is just something very, very special about being in the hills. The sublime views, the crisp mountain air, and the solitude to reflect; it is truly one of the most magical experiences one could have.

I have come a long way from that very first journey in Nepal, where I sported a pair of blue jeans and carried up a whole container of shampoo (which I never used). From absolute necessities to first world luxuries, here are my two cents about all you need for a multi-day trek.

Essential:

Tent…

Tents have a wide range of prices that seems intimidating at first. But unless you are going into some high alpines with extreme weather, most generic 3 season ones would do.

Most traditional outfitters (think Columbia, Patagonia, REI…) generally offer a decent quality product. I would focus on price, weight, and ease of assembling. Something under $150 and 5 pounds in weight would be a good starting point for a beginner 1 person tent.

Here are a few key things to look for:

  • Polyester shell and floor to withstand wind and rain
  • A (partially) mesh body for ventilation
  • Aluminum poles for lightweight and flexibility
Sleeping Bag…

Unlike a tent, which most generic products provide more than enough utility and comfort, I seriously recommend investing in a high end sleeping sack. I made the mistake of slowly stepping up in price and quality, and regret not buying outright the bag I own now. My first sleeping bag didn’t provide nearly enough warmth; shivering through the night in the Himalayas was no fun. My second bag was way too bulky, and it made packing in all my supplies for a long haul difficult.

I know it’s your first bag, and a couple of hundred bucks is indeed a lot of money. But I would go straight for a mummy style down bag that could compress into a foot and a half long-ish tube. Trust me, that’s the bag you would eventually get anyway. Try to look for something in the 0 to 5 Fahrenheit range, and try not to go for anything over 4 pounds. Water repelling material and heavy duty zippers are always great additional features to have.

Comfy Shoes…

As far as comfort level and overall experience goes, shoes rank up there as one of the most important purchases for a multi-day trek. I am a bit old school and favor the heavier duty ones, and here is why…

  • High top for ankle protection, warmth, as well as keeping your socks dry for those more than occasional puddles
  • Leather exterior is my preference against wear and tear, as well as a better waterproof material in my opinion. A few friends and I have dabbled with Gore –Tex. Although it is indeed more breathable, it didn’t seem as waterproof as advertised. (Plus leather looks way more stylish as the all-in-one street/going out shoes)
  • Thick rubber soles for optimal traction. Going down a mountain is a lot harder than going up one, as most of injuries I have witnessed occurred during descent. Make sure to get a pair of shoes with a good grip.

Always, always make sure to break the shoes in well before the trip! Unless you like having blisters, which is totally OK, I guess.

Food and Water…

I tend to go for dry goods since they are more bang for your buck in calories vs. weight. Trail mix, granola bars, protein bars, chocolates, salami, pita bread, hummus. But then again, I once brought a whole rotisserie chicken onto a 10 day trek in Chile, so feel free to be creative.

If you are traveling in tandem or a group, it might not be a bad idea to invest in a Jetboil. Get yourself a small bottle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, some pasta, and some sun dried tomatoes, all of a sudden you got yourself a ghetto Italian dinner. But seriously, from instant ramen to freeze dried mountain meals, the (Wally) world is your oyster.

Everywhere I have been so far has drinkable lakes, springs, or glacier water. Although I did have a terrible case of food poisoning in the Colombian jungles, so maybe grab a Platypus bag or some water tablets?

Toiletries…

Bring only what you absolutely need. And chances are, you won’t be taking a shower. And baby wipes are very underrated.

A Warm Hat…

No, you don’t lose 70% (or whatever arbitrary number people like to drop here) of your body heat through your head, but freezing earlobes are no fun.

Recommended:

Thermal Layers…

No need for the fancy stuff, any generic Nike/Under Armor winter gear would do. You are really just looking for some moisture wicking insulation. But do make sure to grab layers for both upper and lower body if you are expecting some cold weather.

A Rain Jacket…

Your backpack should already come with a rain cover, so any rain jacket will do.

Trekking Pants…

I messed around in the Annapurna and Mt. Kenya with jeans and cargo shorts… not recommended.

A Sleeping/Yoga Mat…

Hey, you don’t always find that perfectly flat, gentle pasture of grass. So a mat sure makes sleeping on rocks a little more tolerable.

A Good Camera…

Without diving into this vortex, a nice four thirds mirror-less is probably the ideal midpoint between portability and picture quality.

A Head Torch…

For those midnight bathroom breaks.

A Good Book…

For those of us who don’t like people.

A First Aid Kit…

For those of us who are clumsy. (Even a tube of antibacterial cream and some band aids go a long way).

A Pair of Sandals…

Along with solitude, breathtaking mountain tops, and peeing with a view, kicking those shoes off after a long day is one of the greatest joys in the hills.

Optional:

Sunglasses…

Well, I guess this could be darn right essential for winter trekking. But squinting also prevents snow blindness… maybe.

Sunblock/Bug Repellent…

Pretty first world stuff if you ask me.

Trekking Poles…

If you are under 40 with no knee problems, just stop. They are shiny and “professional” looking, but any sturdy wooden stick scattered around would do if you really need some extra support.

Gloves…

I bring pockets.

A Towel…

I would just use a dirty T-shirt from Day 1. But then again, I have been called disgusting by multiple ex-s. Make sure to grab one of those lightweight, quick drying, microfiber ones.

Swiss Army Knife and Duck Tape…

My pack straps snapped 3 times the first day in my Walker’s Haute trek between Chamonix and Zermatt. A knife and some duck tape saved me big time. Definitely an honorable mention.

And of course, bring your smile, your good spirit, and indulge the great outdoors!

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