A backpacking trip is a fun way to spend time in nature, whether you plan to travel with loved ones or on your own. You’re ready to go if you’ve chosen a trail and have researched the distance, conditions, height, and logistics. But how can you ensure your safety and well-being while backpacking? What essentials should you bring?

If you’ve ever asked yourself this, you’re not the only one. Here are some essentials you should bring on a backpacking mountain trip, whether you’re going to one of the best trails in Portland or just the nearby neighborhood trail:

1. A Backpack


A backpack is, of course, an absolute must for any backpacking trip. Using an old bag from your closet is okay if you’re going for a short distance. But for longer mountain trips, it’s best to get a durable backpack that is also spacious.

Size is an important consideration when purchasing a backpack for a mountain trip. For mountain trips, a good traveling bag should be at least 20–35 liters. Everything you’ll need for a backpacking trip in the mountains should fit in the bag, including your sleeping bag. Additionally, it would be best if you kept an eye out for these other features:

  • A water bottle sleeve or pocket.
  • A hip belt that distributes weight from the shoulders to the hips.
  • A strap around the chest keeps the backpack from moving.

Look around the stores and find what works best for you. As a general rule, the best way to ensure that a backpack is comfortable for you is to try it in the store before buying it.

2. Appropriate Clothing And Footwear

The second most important essential is your clothing! You may think that putting on a shirt and pants will suffice. However, wearing layers on the trail is always a good idea, no matter what season. So, try to follow these rules for layering:

  • Base – Make sure your base layer is comfortable and can keep your body temperature regulated. If at all possible, avoid wearing cotton. Cotton doesn’t keep you warm; it takes a long time to dry and can make you feel even colder. The material also tends to retain heat, which is not ideal in hot climates. You may wear wool, silk, or polyester instead.
  • Middle – Summits can be pretty cold when you’re taking a rest. So, bring along a fleece or insulated jacket to keep yourself warm. The weather is constantly changing, and being cold is no fun. You’ll be glad you brought it with you.
  • Outer – In case it gets chilly, bringing a hat and gloves in your pack and a small, foldable coat would be wise. Additionally, you can also wear a hiking scarf. You can use it for various purposes, such as blotting away sweat, protection from the sun or wind, or keeping your neck warm when it gets chilly.

Furthermore, dress for the terrain by wearing tough hiking boots and thick socks. Wear high-rise boots with solid soles when hiking on rocky terrain to keep your ankles protected.

3. Sun Protection

When backpacking, it’s essential to protect your skin from the sun. Consider bringing waterproof sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or sunglasses to protect your eyes and face from the sun.

Though these may seem obvious for backpacking on a hot or sunny day, you should also take care of your skin during the winter. It’s possible to get sunburned while hiking in the snow on a sunny day. It is because sun rays may reflect from the snow and send back some harsh rays.

4. Navigation


You can use your smartphone as a means of navigation. But when you’re out in nature, you may not have access to Wi-Fi or cellular service, and your phone’s battery may run out sooner than you expect. It can be perilous when you are lost and your phone dies. So, having a reliable backup is vital, especially for those who solely rely on their smartphones’ GPS capabilities. With that said, do not skip bringing a waterproof map and compass unless you are familiar with the trail.

5. Snacks And Water

Keep yourself nourished and energized by bringing snacks to last you through the entire day or travel. Stock up on granola bars, nuts or mixed nuts, and dried meals if you’re going on a long trip. You’ll also likely burn more calories than you’re used to, so don’t skip this essential.

Carrying an additional water supply and a water filter for mountain trips is also a backpacking essential. By staying well hydrated, you can avoid dehydration and altitude sickness.

6. Flashlight


A light source to help you find your way back to the trailhead is a must if you ever get lost after dark on the route. So, bring some form of a light source, whether it’s a headlamp or a flashlight. Make sure to check the batteries and take more with you.


Going on a backpacking trip in the mountains is a pleasant way to spend time in nature. Choosing a trail, researching it thoroughly, and learning about its distance, conditions, height, and logistics are all required to start. To enhance your safety and well-being when out in the open, including the above seven essentials in your backpack would be wise.

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