Get Outside: A Beginners Guide to Backcountry Camping

Sleeping outdoors, wild animals, carrying all your gear, pooping in the woods… backcountry camping can seem daunting if you haven’t done it before. Like most things though, camping in the backcountry is something you get better at with practice and everyone has to start somewhere! This guide shares with you all the essentials for getting out on your first backcountry camping trip. Including how to research, plan ahead and what gear to use. Already a seasoned camper? You may just find some useful tips for your next adventure!

Get Outside: A Beginners Guide to Backcountry Camping

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

In collaboration with Backcountry.comFor 15% off your first order, use code RENEE15 (offer expires December 31, 2018) *some exclusions apply*

Step 1: Research & Plan

It’s important to have done your research and planned accordingly before heading out into the great outdoors. Here are some things you should definitely consider for your first (or any) backcountry camping trip:

Where are you legally allowed to camp?

You can’t just set up a tent anywhere and every trip should be referenced with a Google search and/or conversation with a local ranger. I will typically refer to a park’s website or call the local ranger office to ask where camping is allowed in a particular area. It’s also a good time to take note of any permits that may be required.

Do you know where you are going?

Be sure to have adequately researched the route you are taking prior to leaving home. I would recommend taking a physical map and you can also consider carrying a GPS style navigation and emergency device (more information listed in the gear section below).

Do you know Leave No Trace (LNT) principles?

I cannot stress this enough… please don’t go hiking or backcountry camping without knowing how to respect nature. I have listed some more information further down this blog post, or you can check out the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Who are you going with?

You are best to travel with someone more experienced if it’s your first time going backcountry camping. Solo trips are absolutely okay (and preferred by many) but be sure to know what you’re doing before setting off

What are you packing?

You definitely don’t need every single thing I have listed below, but you should 100% have anything required for survival. These items are commonly known as the “10 Essentials” and they include navigation, insulation, nutrition, hydration, shelter, means to start a fire, illumination, first-aid supplies, repair kit, and sun protection. The National Park Service has a great article on this topic if you want to check it out here.

Does someone know where you are going?

It’s important that you tell a friend or family member where you are going hiking/camping. Some people also leave an itinerary under their driver’s seat at the trailhead, in case a ranger notices your car has been there for a long period of time.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-2

Step 2: Gear Up

I won’t lie, there are quite a few gear items you need for backcountry camping. In saying that, going on trips with friends can help reduce the items you need to bring along/purchase. Some things that can easily be shared include a tent, stove/cook system, bear canister, first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, an emergency device, etc.

Below I have listed the items I personally would recommend for backcountry camping, though you may find that some things aren’t necessary for your own kit. I also prefer to invest in lightweight gear so that my overall pack weight is as light as possible. These lightweight items are usually more pricey and you may decide to start with heavier/more affordable gear to begin with. Lastly, please note that the items listed below also lean more towards summer/3-season use and are recommended from a female perspective.

Don’t forget that you can get 15% off your first Backcountry.com order, using code RENEE15 (offer expires December 31, 2018) *some exclusions apply*

Backpack

Packs are very personal in terms of size, fit and overall functions. Some people prefer ultra-lightweight with minimal pockets, zips and padding. I personally prefer a light pack that has a few of those features (especially the hip padding) but doesn’t go overboard with the weight. Also note that I typically carry a slightly larger pack than necessary as my camera gear takes up a lot of room!

My go-to pack for an overnight trip or a summer 2-3 nighter is the Unisex Osprey Exos 58L, which has newly been made into a women’s specific pack called the Eja. The Exos and Eja packs are lightweight, supportive bags that come in three sizes: 38L, 48L and 58L. My go-to pack for week long+ camping trips (plus winter adventures) is the Women’s Osprey Xena 85L. I also use the Osprey Pack Cover for rainy situations. For an ultra-lightweight pack  I would recommend the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider 55L Backpack.

Get Outside_ A Beginners Guide to Backcountry Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Shelter

I typically share a tent with my husband and we recently purchased the Big Agnes Copper Spur Classic UL3 Tent (3 season). We chose that one because it is lightweight, functional and looks great in photos. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 Tent is essentially the same tent but a slightly newer and lighter version, plus there is also a 2 person option. Another great ultralight tent is the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2, and a more affordable (but heavier) option is The North Face Talus 2 Person Tent.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Sleeping Bag

Everyone sleeps differently in the backcountry. I personally sleep very cold and also spend most of my camping trips in the mountains, where temperatures run cooler. My favorite 3-season sleeping bag is the lightweight unisex Western Mountaineering Apache MF 15 Degree (Fahrenheit) Down Bag (more of a deep red color in person). I’ve provided some more affordable options below, as the Western Mountaineering bag is fantastic but on the pricier side. I also use a Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack to keep it as compact in my backpack as possible and protected from any moisture.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Sleeping Pad

These days you can get really lightweight 3-season sleeping pads. I use a discontinued Exped pad but it’s equivalent appears to be the SynMat HL Lite. Another popular (and slightly cheaper) pad is the Therma-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, and an even more affordable option is the ProLite Plus Sleeping Pad. Keep in mind that the cheaper options tend to sacrifice either warmth, comfort and/or weight. My husband and I also sometimes opt to use our double summer pad, the Exped Synmat HL Duo.

 

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Pillow

Some people prefer to skimp on a camping pillow and instead use their down jacket or nothing at all… but I’m a comfort queen when it comes to this category. I typically use the Exped UL Air Pillow with a Buff over the top AND my down jacket stuffed inbetween haha. I have also been eyeing the Western Mountaineering Cloud Rest Down Pillow for a while now as it looks super comfy.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping 10 Tips for Winter Camping

Stove

I’m a big fan of the Jetboil MiniMo Stove for it’s ability to boil water in 1-2 minutes, how lightweight and compact it is, and it’s ability to simmer. Some other great options are the MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove (ultra-lightweight) and the MSR Reactor 1L Stove System (hardier for windy/harsh conditions).

If you are using a stove like the PocketRocket then you will need to bring an additional cooking pot. The Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium Cooker and the Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium Cookset are both good options.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6

Dinnerware + Utensils

Your dinnerware and utensils will depend on how and what you choose to cook in the backcountry. I typically prefer to pack a light-weight spoon or spork that has a longer handle. This allows for eating out of pots and dehydrated meal bags without getting too messy. For a mug I love the GSI Infinity Backpacker Mug and if I’m taking a bowl it will be the MSR Alpine Nesting Bowl.

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Food

For a quick, easy and yummy camp dinner I usually opt for dehydrated meals by Mary Janes Farm. They are organic, taste like real food, don’t have a bunch of nasty ingredients and never leave me feeling bloated (I can’t say the same about numerous other dehydrated meal brands!)

Some of my favorites are the Alfredo Pasta, Chillimac, Cous Cous + Lentil Curry, and Bare Burrito (with some tortillas and cheese from home). For snacks I will typically take some granola bars, energy chews, trail mix, gummy worms, honey wafers, or dark chocolate.

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Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6

Bear-proof Food Storage

Areas that are home to bears require proper storage of your food and other scented items. We typically use a Bear Vault Resistant Food Canister or will sometimes hang our food from a tree in places that allow it. Be sure to read up on the correct way to do this (stay tuned, I have a bear safety blog post coming up).

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

Water Bottle

A water bottle or hydration bladder is an absolute must when hiking and camping. Dehydration can be a killer so it’s not something to skimp on. I personally haven’t had a great experience using hydration bladders so I stick with my trusted Hydroflask and Nalgene water bottles. Hydroflask’s will keep your water cool (or warm) for an entire day, and Nalgene’s are super lightweight and can also function as hot water bottles when winter camping (read about my winter camping tips here).

 

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Water Purification/Filter

I always opt to filter/purify my water in the backcountry. In my opinion it’s just not worth the risk of getting giardia or something else nasty. There are numerous options to filter/purify your water. The easiest is probably using purification tablets like the Katadyn Micropur Tablets, though they can sometimes leave a taste to the water.

My preferred method is via a squeeze or gravity flow system, like the Katadyn BeFree 3L Filtration System. Another option is something like the LifeStraw, though that could potentially get tedious over the course of a longer trip.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

Headlamp

As mentioned above, illumination is vital when going into the backcountry. You need to be able to find your way in the dark and safely maneuver around camp. I enjoy using the Petzl Actik Headlamp when hiking and backcountry camping. Some other great options are the Petzl Tikka Headlamp and the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp. Though not required, you may want to bring along a lightweight lantern for use at night, like the Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Navigation

Another one of the “10 Essentials” is a means of navigation. A great starting place is purchasing or printing a map for the area you will be hiking and camping (keep it inside a protective/waterproof sleeve). It’s also a great idea to bring along a compass and have some basic skills to use it. In addition, some phone apps for offline navigation/maps include Gaia and Maps.Me. I usually try and have a mix of phone apps and a paper map when going backcountry camping.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Emergency Device

It’s important to have a means to call for help if you find yourself in a precarious situation. You may be taking local trips where you have phone service, but if not it might be worth investing in a device that has an SOS feature and tracker, like the Garmin InReach Mini or Explorer+ (some also have navigation/GPS). My husband and I didn’t make this purchase for quite some time after we got into hiking and backcountry camping, but it now gives us peace of mind on longer treks and more risky hikes.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

First Aid

I always take a lightweight first aid kit on backcountry camping trips. You just never know when it will come in handy for yourself or your hiking partner. I really like the range by Adventure Medial Kits as they are ultralight and waterproof. I always throw in a couple of extra blister-pads too, just in case!

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Sun Protection

I am a little intense when it comes to sun protection. The older I get the more I realize the importance of protecting against skin cancer and aging. I typically bring a sun hat and/or a sun-brella on hiking trips to protect my face from the sun. I will also sometimes use a Buff or bandana for neck protection.

Sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are also a packing must. I also typically wear long sleeve tops and pants to reduce the amount of sunscreen and bug spray I have to wear (which keeps my sleeping bag cleaner!)

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

Bug Protection

Depending on where you are hiking, it’s probably best to take some bug spray with you. Ticks and mosquito-born diseases are no joke in many places around the world so best to be prepared. As I said above, I often choose to hike in full-length clothes to avoid wearing bug spray and I sometimes wash my clothes in mosquito deterring solution/spray for longer trips. I also nearly always take a bug headnet with me.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Toiletry Kit

These items are all optional, but I personally prefer to take some extra things along to freshen up. For going to the bathroom I find a trowel to be really convenient, especially when the ground is hard. I also take along some toilet paper, tooth brush, hand sanitizer, face/body wipes and sometimes a 1.3oz bottle of Wilderness Wash.

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Trekking Poles

Not everyone enjoys using trekking poles. I personally take 1 or 2 along when we are going to be crushing some serious elevation or hiking on unsteady terrain. My go-to poles are the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles as they are lightweight and comfortable to use. Some other good options are the Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles and Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles.

10 Tips for Winter Camping 10 Tips for Winter Camping 10 Tips for Winter Camping

Hiking Clothes

I have an entire blog post on hiking where I mention my favorite clothing – check it out here! In summary, some of my favorite pieces to hike in are the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Crew Tops and the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Softshell Pant (or leggings). For a mid-layer I typically reach for my Arc’teryx Atom LT jacket or my Patagonia R1 Fleece.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Sleeping Clothes

I love the feeling of changing into clean, dry clothes when arriving at camp. My go-to camp and sleeping clothes are basic thermals, fleeces and insulated jackets. I always keep my sleeping clothes in a ultra-lightweight dry sack just in case rain was to get into my bag (or I fell into a creek!)

My favorite thermal pants for summer are the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Bottom (or the midweight version in shoulder seasons). Similarly, my go-to sleeping thermal top is the Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew Top. As mentioned above, I love the Patagonia R1 fleece for a mid-layer.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Insulation & Rain Protection

During backcountry camping trips I most typically reach for three types of jackets: a rain jacket, down jacket, and a wind jacket. You certainly don’t need to own all three of these but I would always recommend having some sort of insulation/protection layer that is suited to your destination.

My all-time favorite lightweight down jacket is the Arc’teryx Cerium LT (an investment but SO worth it for such a feather-light warm jacket in my opinion), I pretty much take it everywhere I go. I have also recently been loving the Patagonia Down Sweater in Maraschino (plus, it looks great in photos!)

For protection from the rain my go-to jacket is the Fjallraven Abisko Eco-Shell, but I also like the Patagonia Torrentshell.

You might be wondering why I would own a wind jacket as well as the above…? The reason is that often the wind chill makes hiking less enjoyable, but it’s just too sweaty hiking in a rain or down jacket. That’s where a light-weight and breathable wind jacket comes in handy – I like the Arc’teryx Squamish Jacket and the Patagonia Houdini Jacket.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)Head Net

Gloves

I nearly always have a pair of light-weight gloves me on, especially for around camp and when hiking during the early morning hours or late in the day. The North Face and Icebreaker both make a range of good choices.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Hiking Boots

Some people love hiking in heavy-duty boots whereas others prefer something lightweight and minimalistic. My go-to hiking shoes are the KEEN Leather Terradora’s and the Danner Mountain Light Boot (I have also own the Danner Mountain Pass boots and find them great for hiking and traveling). I’ve also used the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Hiking Boots in the past and would highly recommend them. I personally prefer waterproof styles to keep my feet dry when out exploring.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Socks

Don’t overlook the importance of having socks that fit correctly and are comfortable to wear for a long time. Over the years I have found that Darn ToughSmartwool, and Icebreaker are the most durable, least smelly (due to the merino wool) and most comfortable hiking socks. I typically take 2-3 pairs of socks with me when backcountry camping – 1 pair for hiking, 1 pair for sleeping and 1 back-up. I hate having wet/gross feet so taking a third pair is often worth the weight in my opinion.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Camp Shoes

I love being able to take off my boots and slip on a pair of camp shoes after a long day of hiking. I find sandals with straps like the Teva Originals are easiest to get around in. Alternatively, flip-flop style slip-ons are also lightweight and easy to pack.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

Extra Items

Some extra “just in case” items you may consider bringing along are a mini field/gear repair kit, waterproof matches or means to start a fire in the case of an emergency, a knife or multi-tool, and a whistle. I also usually opt to bring my phone, an outdoor watch, ear plugs for sleeping at night, my camera and a lightweight Kindle for the chance to read.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

Post Hike Kit

Lastly, you may want to consider leaving a post-hike kit in your car so that you can freshen up on your return. Some items to include would be a change of clothes, face/body wipes, deodorant, hand sanitizer, small towel, a bottle of water, and snacks.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

 

For 15% off your first Backcountry.com order, use code RENEE15 (offer expires December 31, 2018) *some exclusions apply*

Step 3: Do The Right Thing

If you’re going to be out in nature, it’s important that you strive to protect it and follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. Please be sure to educate yourself on proper hiking and camping etiquette before heading out. I’ve listed the main points  below and you can find more information via the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. This brochure is also an excellent resource.

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit
  • Travel and camp on established trails and durable surfaces
  • Pack it in, pack it out (do not leave any trash int the backcountry)
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • Examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home
  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail
  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-4

Step 4: Have fun!

Most of all – have fun! Getting out into the backcountry is a special experience and one you will be drawn back to time and time again (I hope!) I personally love the feeling of getting from A to B with everything I need to survive, sleeping out under the stars, waking up with the sun, and being completely off-the-grid. Be safe out there and have a blast 🙂

 

More Resources

Get Outside: A Beginners Guide To Hiking

10 Tips For Winter Backcountry Camping

Road Trip Essentials To Make Every Adventure Special

10 Tips To Feeling More At Home On The Road

 

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Disclaimer: Thank you to Backcountry for collaborating on this camping blog post. As always, all opinions are my own. The offer of 15% off does not apply on top of any other offer or discount, and it’s one use per customer. This post does contain some affiliate links,  which means if you buy something my blog will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

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Sleeping outdoors, wild animals, carrying all your gear, pooping in the woods… backcountry camping can seem daunting if you haven’t done it before. Like most things though, camping in the backcountry is something you get better at with practice and everyone has to start somewhere! This guide shares with you all the essentials for getting out on your first backcountry camping trip. Including how to research, plan ahead and what gear to use. Already a seasoned camper? You may just find some useful tips for your next adventure!

Get Outside: A Beginners Guide to Backcountry Camping

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

In collaboration with Backcountry.comFor 15% off your first order, use code RENEE15 (offer expires December 31, 2018) *some exclusions apply*

Step 1: Research & Plan

It’s important to have done your research and planned accordingly before heading out into the great outdoors. Here are some things you should definitely consider for your first (or any) backcountry camping trip:

Where are you legally allowed to camp?

You can’t just set up a tent anywhere and every trip should be referenced with a Google search and/or conversation with a local ranger. I will typically refer to a park’s website or call the local ranger office to ask where camping is allowed in a particular area. It’s also a good time to take note of any permits that may be required.

Do you know where you are going?

Be sure to have adequately researched the route you are taking prior to leaving home. I would recommend taking a physical map and you can also consider carrying a GPS style navigation and emergency device (more information listed in the gear section below).

Do you know Leave No Trace (LNT) principles?

I cannot stress this enough… please don’t go hiking or backcountry camping without knowing how to respect nature. I have listed some more information further down this blog post, or you can check out the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Who are you going with?

You are best to travel with someone more experienced if it’s your first time going backcountry camping. Solo trips are absolutely okay (and preferred by many) but be sure to know what you’re doing before setting off

What are you packing?

You definitely don’t need every single thing I have listed below, but you should 100% have anything required for survival. These items are commonly known as the “10 Essentials” and they include navigation, insulation, nutrition, hydration, shelter, means to start a fire, illumination, first-aid supplies, repair kit, and sun protection. The National Park Service has a great article on this topic if you want to check it out here.

Does someone know where you are going?

It’s important that you tell a friend or family member where you are going hiking/camping. Some people also leave an itinerary under their driver’s seat at the trailhead, in case a ranger notices your car has been there for a long period of time.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-2

Step 2: Gear Up

I won’t lie, there are quite a few gear items you need for backcountry camping. In saying that, going on trips with friends can help reduce the items you need to bring along/purchase. Some things that can easily be shared include a tent, stove/cook system, bear canister, first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, an emergency device, etc.

Below I have listed the items I personally would recommend for backcountry camping, though you may find that some things aren’t necessary for your own kit. I also prefer to invest in lightweight gear so that my overall pack weight is as light as possible. These lightweight items are usually more pricey and you may decide to start with heavier/more affordable gear to begin with. Lastly, please note that the items listed below also lean more towards summer/3-season use and are recommended from a female perspective.

Don’t forget that you can get 15% off your first Backcountry.com order, using code RENEE15 (offer expires December 31, 2018) *some exclusions apply*

Backpack

Packs are very personal in terms of size, fit and overall functions. Some people prefer ultra-lightweight with minimal pockets, zips and padding. I personally prefer a light pack that has a few of those features (especially the hip padding) but doesn’t go overboard with the weight. Also note that I typically carry a slightly larger pack than necessary as my camera gear takes up a lot of room!

My go-to pack for an overnight trip or a summer 2-3 nighter is the Unisex Osprey Exos 58L, which has newly been made into a women’s specific pack called the Eja. The Exos and Eja packs are lightweight, supportive bags that come in three sizes: 38L, 48L and 58L. My go-to pack for week long+ camping trips (plus winter adventures) is the Women’s Osprey Xena 85L. I also use the Osprey Pack Cover for rainy situations. For an ultra-lightweight pack  I would recommend the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider 55L Backpack.

Get Outside_ A Beginners Guide to Backcountry Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Shelter

I typically share a tent with my husband and we recently purchased the Big Agnes Copper Spur Classic UL3 Tent (3 season). We chose that one because it is lightweight, functional and looks great in photos. The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 Tent is essentially the same tent but a slightly newer and lighter version, plus there is also a 2 person option. Another great ultralight tent is the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2, and a more affordable (but heavier) option is The North Face Talus 2 Person Tent.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Sleeping Bag

Everyone sleeps differently in the backcountry. I personally sleep very cold and also spend most of my camping trips in the mountains, where temperatures run cooler. My favorite 3-season sleeping bag is the lightweight unisex Western Mountaineering Apache MF 15 Degree (Fahrenheit) Down Bag (more of a deep red color in person). I’ve provided some more affordable options below, as the Western Mountaineering bag is fantastic but on the pricier side. I also use a Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack to keep it as compact in my backpack as possible and protected from any moisture.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Sleeping Pad

These days you can get really lightweight 3-season sleeping pads. I use a discontinued Exped pad but it’s equivalent appears to be the SynMat HL Lite. Another popular (and slightly cheaper) pad is the Therma-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, and an even more affordable option is the ProLite Plus Sleeping Pad. Keep in mind that the cheaper options tend to sacrifice either warmth, comfort and/or weight. My husband and I also sometimes opt to use our double summer pad, the Exped Synmat HL Duo.

 

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Pillow

Some people prefer to skimp on a camping pillow and instead use their down jacket or nothing at all… but I’m a comfort queen when it comes to this category. I typically use the Exped UL Air Pillow with a Buff over the top AND my down jacket stuffed inbetween haha. I have also been eyeing the Western Mountaineering Cloud Rest Down Pillow for a while now as it looks super comfy.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping 10 Tips for Winter Camping

Stove

I’m a big fan of the Jetboil MiniMo Stove for it’s ability to boil water in 1-2 minutes, how lightweight and compact it is, and it’s ability to simmer. Some other great options are the MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove (ultra-lightweight) and the MSR Reactor 1L Stove System (hardier for windy/harsh conditions).

If you are using a stove like the PocketRocket then you will need to bring an additional cooking pot. The Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium Cooker and the Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium Cookset are both good options.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6

Dinnerware + Utensils

Your dinnerware and utensils will depend on how and what you choose to cook in the backcountry. I typically prefer to pack a light-weight spoon or spork that has a longer handle. This allows for eating out of pots and dehydrated meal bags without getting too messy. For a mug I love the GSI Infinity Backpacker Mug and if I’m taking a bowl it will be the MSR Alpine Nesting Bowl.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6 Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6 Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6)

Food

For a quick, easy and yummy camp dinner I usually opt for dehydrated meals by Mary Janes Farm. They are organic, taste like real food, don’t have a bunch of nasty ingredients and never leave me feeling bloated (I can’t say the same about numerous other dehydrated meal brands!)

Some of my favorites are the Alfredo Pasta, Chillimac, Cous Cous + Lentil Curry, and Bare Burrito (with some tortillas and cheese from home). For snacks I will typically take some granola bars, energy chews, trail mix, gummy worms, honey wafers, or dark chocolate.

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Bear-proof Food Storage

Areas that are home to bears require proper storage of your food and other scented items. We typically use a Bear Vault Resistant Food Canister or will sometimes hang our food from a tree in places that allow it. Be sure to read up on the correct way to do this (stay tuned, I have a bear safety blog post coming up).

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Water Bottle

A water bottle or hydration bladder is an absolute must when hiking and camping. Dehydration can be a killer so it’s not something to skimp on. I personally haven’t had a great experience using hydration bladders so I stick with my trusted Hydroflask and Nalgene water bottles. Hydroflask’s will keep your water cool (or warm) for an entire day, and Nalgene’s are super lightweight and can also function as hot water bottles when winter camping (read about my winter camping tips here).

 

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Water Purification/Filter

I always opt to filter/purify my water in the backcountry. In my opinion it’s just not worth the risk of getting giardia or something else nasty. There are numerous options to filter/purify your water. The easiest is probably using purification tablets like the Katadyn Micropur Tablets, though they can sometimes leave a taste to the water.

My preferred method is via a squeeze or gravity flow system, like the Katadyn BeFree 3L Filtration System. Another option is something like the LifeStraw, though that could potentially get tedious over the course of a longer trip.

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Headlamp

As mentioned above, illumination is vital when going into the backcountry. You need to be able to find your way in the dark and safely maneuver around camp. I enjoy using the Petzl Actik Headlamp when hiking and backcountry camping. Some other great options are the Petzl Tikka Headlamp and the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp. Though not required, you may want to bring along a lightweight lantern for use at night, like the Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Navigation

Another one of the “10 Essentials” is a means of navigation. A great starting place is purchasing or printing a map for the area you will be hiking and camping (keep it inside a protective/waterproof sleeve). It’s also a great idea to bring along a compass and have some basic skills to use it. In addition, some phone apps for offline navigation/maps include Gaia and Maps.Me. I usually try and have a mix of phone apps and a paper map when going backcountry camping.

Get-Outside-Beginners-Guide-to-Camping-6) Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Emergency Device

It’s important to have a means to call for help if you find yourself in a precarious situation. You may be taking local trips where you have phone service, but if not it might be worth investing in a device that has an SOS feature and tracker, like the Garmin InReach Mini or Explorer+ (some also have navigation/GPS). My husband and I didn’t make this purchase for quite some time after we got into hiking and backcountry camping, but it now gives us peace of mind on longer treks and more risky hikes.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

First Aid

I always take a lightweight first aid kit on backcountry camping trips. You just never know when it will come in handy for yourself or your hiking partner. I really like the range by Adventure Medial Kits as they are ultralight and waterproof. I always throw in a couple of extra blister-pads too, just in case!

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Sun Protection

I am a little intense when it comes to sun protection. The older I get the more I realize the importance of protecting against skin cancer and aging. I typically bring a sun hat and/or a sun-brella on hiking trips to protect my face from the sun. I will also sometimes use a Buff or bandana for neck protection.

Sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are also a packing must. I also typically wear long sleeve tops and pants to reduce the amount of sunscreen and bug spray I have to wear (which keeps my sleeping bag cleaner!)

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Bug Protection

Depending on where you are hiking, it’s probably best to take some bug spray with you. Ticks and mosquito-born diseases are no joke in many places around the world so best to be prepared. As I said above, I often choose to hike in full-length clothes to avoid wearing bug spray and I sometimes wash my clothes in mosquito deterring solution/spray for longer trips. I also nearly always take a bug headnet with me.

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Toiletry Kit

These items are all optional, but I personally prefer to take some extra things along to freshen up. For going to the bathroom I find a trowel to be really convenient, especially when the ground is hard. I also take along some toilet paper, tooth brush, hand sanitizer, face/body wipes and sometimes a 1.3oz bottle of Wilderness Wash.

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Trekking Poles

Not everyone enjoys using trekking poles. I personally take 1 or 2 along when we are going to be crushing some serious elevation or hiking on unsteady terrain. My go-to poles are the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles as they are lightweight and comfortable to use. Some other good options are the Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles and Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles.

10 Tips for Winter Camping 10 Tips for Winter Camping 10 Tips for Winter Camping

Hiking Clothes

I have an entire blog post on hiking where I mention my favorite clothing – check it out here! In summary, some of my favorite pieces to hike in are the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Crew Tops and the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Softshell Pant (or leggings). For a mid-layer I typically reach for my Arc’teryx Atom LT jacket or my Patagonia R1 Fleece.

Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking Get Outside: Beginners Guide to Hiking

Sleeping Clothes

I love the feeling of changing into clean, dry clothes when arriving at camp. My go-to camp and sleeping clothes are basic thermals, fleeces and insulated jackets. I always keep my sleeping clothes in a ultra-lightweight dry sack just in case rain was to get into my bag (or I fell into a creek!)

My favorite thermal pants for summer are the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Bottom (or the midweight version in shoulder seasons). Similarly, my go-to sleeping thermal top is the Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew Top. As mentioned above, I love the Patagonia R1 fleece for a mid-layer.

Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping Get Outside A Guide To Backcountry Winter Camping

Insulation & Rain Protection

During backcountry camping trips I most typically reach for three types of jackets: a rain jacket, down jacket, and a wind jacket. You certainly don’t need to own all three of these but I would always recommend having some sort of insulation/protection layer that is suited to your destination.

My all-time favorite lightweight down jacket is the Arc’teryx Cerium LT (an investment but SO worth it for such a feather-light warm jacket in my opinion), I pretty much take it everywhere I go. I have also recently been loving the Patagonia Down Sweater in Maraschino (plus, it looks great in photos!)

For protection from the rain my go-to jacket is the Fjallraven Abisko Eco-Shell, but I also like the Patagonia Torrentshell.

You might be wondering why I would own a wind jacket as well as the above…? The reason is that often the wind chill makes hiking less enjoyable, but it’s just too sweaty hiking in a rain or down jacket. That’s where a light-weight and breathable wind jacket comes in handy – I like the Arc’teryx Squamish Jacket and the Patagonia Houdini Jacket.

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Gloves

I nearly always have a pair of light-weight gloves me on, especially for around camp and when hiking during the early morning hours or late in the day. The North Face and Icebreaker both make a range of good choices.

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Hiking Boots

Some people love hiking in heavy-duty boots whereas others prefer something lightweight and minimalistic. My go-to hiking shoes are the KEEN Leather Terradora’s and the Danner Mountain Light Boot (I have also own the Danner Mountain Pass boots and find them great for hiking and traveling). I’ve also used the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Hiking Boots in the past and would highly recommend them. I personally prefer waterproof styles to keep my feet dry when out exploring.

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Socks

Don’t overlook the importance of having socks that fit correctly and are comfortable to wear for a long time. Over the years I have found that Darn ToughSmartwool, and Icebreaker are the most durable, least smelly (due to the merino wool) and most comfortable hiking socks. I typically take 2-3 pairs of socks with me when backcountry camping – 1 pair for hiking, 1 pair for sleeping and 1 back-up. I hate having wet/gross feet so taking a third pair is often worth the weight in my opinion.

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Camp Shoes

I love being able to take off my boots and slip on a pair of camp shoes after a long day of hiking. I find sandals with straps like the Teva Originals are easiest to get around in. Alternatively, flip-flop style slip-ons are also lightweight and easy to pack.

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Extra Items

Some extra “just in case” items you may consider bringing along are a mini field/gear repair kit, waterproof matches or means to start a fire in the case of an emergency, a knife or multi-tool, and a whistle. I also usually opt to bring my phone, an outdoor watch, ear plugs for sleeping at night, my camera and a lightweight Kindle for the chance to read.

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Post Hike Kit

Lastly, you may want to consider leaving a post-hike kit in your car so that you can freshen up on your return. Some items to include would be a change of clothes, face/body wipes, deodorant, hand sanitizer, small towel, a bottle of water, and snacks.

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For 15% off your first Backcountry.com order, use code RENEE15 (offer expires December 31, 2018) *some exclusions apply*

Step 3: Do The Right Thing

If you’re going to be out in nature, it’s important that you strive to protect it and follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. Please be sure to educate yourself on proper hiking and camping etiquette before heading out. I’ve listed the main points  below and you can find more information via the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. This brochure is also an excellent resource.

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit
  • Travel and camp on established trails and durable surfaces
  • Pack it in, pack it out (do not leave any trash int the backcountry)
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • Examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home
  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail
  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals

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Step 4: Have fun!

Most of all – have fun! Getting out into the backcountry is a special experience and one you will be drawn back to time and time again (I hope!) I personally love the feeling of getting from A to B with everything I need to survive, sleeping out under the stars, waking up with the sun, and being completely off-the-grid. Be safe out there and have a blast 🙂

 

More Resources

Get Outside: A Beginners Guide To Hiking

10 Tips For Winter Backcountry Camping

Road Trip Essentials To Make Every Adventure Special

10 Tips To Feeling More At Home On The Road

 

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Disclaimer: Thank you to Backcountry for collaborating on this camping blog post. As always, all opinions are my own. The offer of 15% off does not apply on top of any other offer or discount, and it’s one use per customer. This post does contain some affiliate links,  which means if you buy something my blog will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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13 Comments

  1. Emily Mandagie on August 26, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Renee!! This is so so good! Definitely going to be directing my friends to this post on their backpacking trips. ? I love the part about a fresh post-hike outfit too, I need to start doing that!
    Thanks again for such useful info, I love how beautifully you write your posts!

  2. Jackie on August 27, 2018 at 12:34 am

    Thankyou Renee for this blogpost on backcountry hiking. I have learnt so much and hope to give it a try someday. I’m definitely checking out some of these products you recommend.

  3. Liana on August 27, 2018 at 4:38 am

    Love this post! It’s so thorough. Hoping to start upgrading some of my backpacking gear to lighter weight alternatives so this is super helpful! Also a huge fan of Osprey packs, but have only used them for plane/train travel. When posssible, my husband and I like to dehydrate our own food for backpacking trips. That way we know exactly what’s in it and it’s way cheaper than store bought. Although we do splurge for the desserts sometimes:) Thanks for the great post!

  4. Holly on August 30, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Love this post! So in depth & so many great, helpful tips! Thanks Renee! Will definitely be saving this one for future reference 🙂

  5. Madhu on September 1, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Wow this is a great guide to outdoor camping. I learned so much reading it
    . Thanks for sharing all the details.

  6. Sonja on September 3, 2018 at 10:20 am

    This is such a great breakdown of the steps to take to do something that many people find really overwhelming! I’ve never gone totally backcountry, although I have been to pretty isolated campsites!

  7. Saad on September 3, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    I am a fan of the way how you write such in-depth and interesting guides. This guide made me feel like packing up my backpack and leave for camping tomorrow. Haha, well good work Renee.

  8. Lou Lou on September 16, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Renee,

    I love your blog and read it religiously. I am just wondering why you haven’t written a blog on living in Australia and now living in the USA. People love to hear about traveling to other places, but what we really love to hear/read about is living in other countries. This is really where you see difference in culture. I would love to hear what it was like growing up in Australia and now living in the USA, the differences, how Christmas was celebrated during your summer, how other holidays were celebrated, the trends, the landscapes, do people really care about America as much as we think they do, how hard it is living so far from your entire family, etc. I really think EVERYONE would love this blog.

  9. Courtney on September 25, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    Renee!! This is SO SO SO helpful! My boyfriend, Chase, and I are thinking about doing this eventually and it seemed really overwhelming on where to begin as far as gear goes.. definitely will be referencing this post in the future.

  10. Sébastien on October 7, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Hi, this article really helpful for me. I am confused about choosing the right camping plan what would be the best for everything. But review this article my confusion is clear, Thanks.

  11. Marty Deemst on October 7, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Wow! Such awesome tips in regard to camping, I love camping in different places, I remember there were awesome days when I’d first time camping for the fun of it and it was fantastic, I glad to have a blog to accompany me in my quest.

  12. Samantha on November 20, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Woah your photographs are so impressive! I love how you included the leave no trace link in your post. Every camping trip I try my best to not only leave no trace, but to reduce the waste I bring back with me too.

  13. […] For this, we’d consider directing you to a backcountry hiking guide, like this incredibly well written one by Renee Hahnel. […]

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Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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