By: Tom Claycomb III

I teach three to five Backpacking 101 seminars every year. The very first one that I conducted, I planned on doing an hour-long seminar. The first 45 minutes, I’d talk and then hold a 15-minute Q&A at the end. That’s somewhat the format on all of my seminars, but I learned in the first Backpacking 101 seminar that everyone wants to get some instruction the first 15 minutes and then talk about what gear you need for the remainder of the seminar. And that makes sense because the gear you need to carry is super important.

Maybe you’re backpacking in to hunt for a week. Or, maybe you want to climb a certain mountain, or go back into the Frank Church and see some of the Indian petroglyphs. Maybe to get into some cool flyfishing spots, but regardless of your reason for backpacking, certain gear is needed for all of the above-listed activities. I get to test a lot of gear, so let’s spend the rest of this article listing what items that I recommend and, where pertinent, I’ll tell which brands have worked out for me.

– Boots. If you don’t have good boots, you’re toast.  This year, I’m testing some Danner Recurve Moc Toe boots, and my daughter is testing some La Crosse Lodestar hiking boots. They’re both lightweight, great hiking boots and super comfortable to wear.

– Socks. I use Browning Hiking Socks. Take three pairs – one to sleep in and one to hike in. Rinse them in the river at night.

– Pants. I wear zip-off pants. 5.11 has some durable/functional pants. You’ll want pants that dry out fast when wading the rivers.

– Rain gear. Get a lightweight Gore-Tex coat that extends past your waist.

– Waterproof pouches. You’ll want a waterproof pouch for your cell phone and bill fold.

I like a tent big enough so I can keep a few items in it with me.

– Alps Mountaineering tents.  Lynx 1-person, or if you want a little more room, the Taurus 2.

– Sierra Designs sleeping bag. Super lightweight. I don’t pack a heavy, bulky bag. I use a lightweight one and wear base layers.

– Sleeping pad. Klymit makes a really compact, lightweight sleeping pad. I also carry one of the half-inch thick foam Army pads.

– Tarp. 5×7 tarp to lay on the inside of your tent. It keeps you dry.

– Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor backpack. Kolby just got one, and I think it’s going to be great. Super lightweight.

– Daypack. I always take a daypack to do my day hikes out of my camp. You want something super lightweight to carry your Aquimira filtered water bottle, a few survival items (fire starter, moleskin, food, map, etc.). I just ordered Alps Mountaineering Canyon 20 and their Baja 20. They only weigh 1 lb. 5 oz. and 1 lb. 12 oz.

– Dash chair.  I hate setting in the dirt around a campfire eating or while lounging around camp. Take an Alps Mountaineering Dash Chair. A chair is a slice of heaven.

-Base layers. For base layers, I use Haleum or XGO. You’ll want a set of base layers in case it gets cool at night.

– Day pack. Take along a day pack to do your day hikes with.

-Flashlights. I like the ASP Dual Fuel Raptor because it is super bright. You’ll want a bright one in case a bear comes in camp. Use rechargeable lights. Saves on carrying extra batteries. I just started testing some HybridLight lights. They’re solar charged, AND you can charge your electronics off of them.

– Solar Chargers. I used to recommend these, but now I use my HybridLight.

-Map and compass. I’ve used MyTopoMaps for years. Paige will make you any size/detailed map as you want. They’re the best.

– Paper towels. I always carry a roll of paper towels for cleaning, TP and to help start fires.

If you want to take perishables or keep drinks cold, build a rock ring (refrigerator) under a tree in the river.

– Bottles. Aquimira filtered bottles. Use to drink out of rivers so you don’t have to boil your water. If there’s a large group, take an Aquimira pump and jug to store water in.

– First aid. Adventure Medical Kits makes the best first aid gear. I always carry their moleskin. If you start feeling a hotspot, slap a patch on.  I just received their Molle Bag Trauma Kits. I don’t take a ton of first aid gear, but you want some. All you have to do is patch up and get to the doctor. Also, next time you visit the doctor, get a prescription of Bactroban or Mupirocin. It’s a heavy-duty antibiotic.

-Boy Scout/Army mess kit. I use these to cook or for eating out of. I’ve bought three to four at garage sales.

-Coffee pot. I ALWAYS carry a small aluminum coffee pot to make coffee and boil water for backpacking meals, oatmeal and to drink.

– Plastic coffee cup and a plastic backpacking fork/spoon. Plastic plate from Goodwill.

– Meals. I’ve tested a lot, but Mountain House makes the ultimate backpacking meals. Kolby and I love their beef Stroganoff and chicken & dumpling meals. And if I don’t take their raspberry crumble dessert, there’ll be mutiny in camp!

Cooking breakfast over an open fire. Nothing is better than oatmeal topped of with freshly picked huckleberries.

– For breakfast, we take flavored oatmeal packs, and add freshly picked huckleberries/raspberries.

– For lunch, we eat peanut butter sandwiches. They’re cheap, easy to pack, and not perishable.

– Mouse traps. I always take two mouse traps. Rotten little turds are always trying to eat my food.

– Fire-starting gear. Make sure that whichever fuel bars you take really work. Waterproof matches. Also, throw in two to three cheap Bic lighters. If necessary, you can break one and pour the fuel over damp wood.

– Knife. Take a nice folder or a straight knife. Smith’s Consumer Products has some economical knives.

– String. String to hang stuff or tie stuff down or for boot laces.

– Mesh bag. Mesh bag to hang your food.

– Flight plan. Always leave a flight plan with someone trustworthy (and that loves you enough to come rescue you if necessary).

– Grocery bags. I take a handful of plastic grocery bags to wrap my sandwiches. Also, I use them to wrap my sooty coffee pot and mess kit so it doesn’t get everything in my pack black.

– Misc. I take motel coffee packs, small tube of toothpaste & brush.

– Gun. .44 mag or .357 mag.

– Ammunition. HKS speedloaders or a Clamtainer so you have two extra cylinders of ammo.

– Bible. A little Gideon Bible so you can have your daily devotions.

– Whistle.

– Camera or cell phone. You’ll want to take pictures. Years ago, we got some Nikon Cool Pics. They’re waterproof.

– Clothes. I don’t take but maybe one extra set of clothes. Reduces bulk and weight.

– Salt. A little salt to cook fish or grouse.