Beyond Backpack Essentials – Girl Tribe Trip

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3 tents along Stehekin River - backpack trip
Not essential, but nice. Door mat to keep your tent clean 🙂

If you are a true beginner, it would mean you probably don’t own a lot of the gear and supplies needed for your first overnight ladies backpacking trip. Good news is…I’m sure you can borrow from friends or find a store that rents out the equipment. Our local REI Coop Store in Seattle rents; backpacks, tents, stoves, sleeping bags and pads.  I would take advantage of both options your first time out, and if it’s something you want to continue with, you can budget to buy a few items each year.  BONUS:  If Christmas or your birthday is coming up, you now have something to suggest as gifts to those who want to buy you something.  

Most of my gear, I have acquired on sale.  I’m a fan of REI Coop and REI Outlet (one stop shopping for backpacking women). They also have good sales throughout the year on all of their products, which includes every outdoor sport you would want to do.  In addition, each year you get a rebate back on what you purchase. For me, that usually means I have earned enough for a new pair of Brooks Sneakers, which run about $120.00 – not a bad deal.

Beyond The Essentials

At the bottom of this post, is your typical overnight list that covers all the basics you should carry, from gear to safety/emergency items , but I have added additional items for your consideration (see the Optional section).   Each year, through trial and error, we learn a little more and our list now includes items that might not be necessary, but we choose to pack them. What – more weight?!  My tribe is not about the mileage, we are about the experience – being out in nature and spending quality time with one another so we are ok with the extra weight because it makes the trip even more enjoyable – aka comfortable for the ladies!   At the end of the day, it’s what works for you and how much you can reasonable carry, the goal is keep it somewhere in the 30-40lbs range

Flex lite chair for a relaxing backpack trip
Optional item = flex lite chair = oh what a difference!

Create some friendly competition

When it comes to weight, it’s kind of been an unspoken competition between on who is carrying the most weight, which is probably not the best scenario for us for so many reasons!  In fact I was super frustrated with myself on our last trip (over packing in 90+ degree heat – brilliant…NOT), that I proposed we have a contest this year.  It’s kind of fun to add new challenges now that these backpacking women are experts!

So this year, whoever has the lightest pack year wins a $125.00 gift card to REI (each of the non-winners will pitch in $25.00).   There will be rules to finalize, but off the top of my head, those items that someone carries for the group (first aid kit, water filtration, etc) would be removed before weigh in.  I already know who is going to win…and it’s probably not me, but I’m going to try!

Now on to some tips I want to highlight that fall under the four categories that follow; food, comfort, clothes and backpack. These are insights from our backpacking tribe on what I’ve learned and works for us.

Food

Food is heavy and figuring out the right mix of what you like and are willing to carry will take some time to master.  We typically bring way too much.  One year, our food was so heavy it  ripped my stuff sack when I was trying to hang it.  Ugh!

  • Make a plan –  plan out what you are going to eat.  Because there are 6 of us, we now double up and each group (set of 2) is not only tent buddies, but they plan their meals together.
  • Freeze Dried Food – one package serves 2 (actually more than 2 the way we eat) and tastes pretty good.  The down side, it has a lot of sodium and I usually wake up with puffy eyes in the morning.   
  • Tortillas – One year, someone brought tortillas for breakfast burritos in the am using friend dried eggs – that was a hit!  You can even use a Mexican meal for a dinner burrito.
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches – I bring the supplies and the night before we each make our own sandwich to pack.  Easy and simple for a good meal or snack on the trail.
  • One Mug – is all you need.  Use it for instant coffee and/or oatmeal in the am and meals latter. 
  • Coffee Creamer – I like sweet, flavored coffee and if you do too – DO NOT buy the powder!  The smell is soooo strong that it permeates whatever you are carrying it in, which is NOT what you want – smells that attract wildlife. Buy the liquid concentrate.
  • Soft sided wine carafe – an entire bottle fits in one of these, which makes it much lighter to carry.  Each of us brings at least one bottle of wine for the two nights (some bring two). 

Comfort

  • Elevating your legs at night – sleeping on the ground, even with a pad, is not comfortable.  I’m a back and side sleeper, and neither feels good…either my back is hurting or my hip.  Last year, I bought an inflatable pillow (XL) and used it to elevate my legs along with my extra clothes in a stuff sack – WHAT A DIFFERENCE!  It took the pressure of my back.  Using just my clothes was never enough.  The pillow really made the difference.  When I roll on my side, it goes between my legs – awwww – relief.  I know some people use their backpack, but our rule is; we leave the packs out at night for safety reasons.  
  • Flex lite chair – this might be the one thing I would buy for my first trip. Sitting on the ground is also not comfortable.  You will be surprised how much sitting you do at camp. 
  • Camp table – this one isn’t as important, but it is nice to be able to set your food, cup, spork, phone, etc., on the table vs. the ground when you are cooking, eating or just socializing.  Each group owns 1.
  • Door Mat – Helps keep tent clean. I like a clean pad! A little camp broom helps too. To go lighter a puppy pad works too.
  • Bear Spray – comfort?  LOL – yes.  I never really gave much thought to bears before, but one of our gals is a little fixated on the topic.  She has even sent bear attack videos that I cannot watch.  Short story – I’ve become a little freaked out about bears now too.  Most of us bought bear spray last year and I have to say, there was less talk about bears, which in general, eased my mind.  Or it could have been the fact that we ended up having to worry about rattle snakes in the area we camped – LOL – just our luck!
Pack bear spray for safety when backpacking
Notice the bear spay 🙂

Clothes

What I want to share here are a couple of key pieces that I finally found or figured out that work for me.  As I’ve gotten older all the sun I got earlier is showing up as an endless game of “connect the dots” on my chest.  As I work to try and get rid of/or fade them, I DO NOT want any sun on my face, neck or chest or it will all just come back.  Making sure your neck and chest do not get any sun is a full time job.  I have finally found a combo that that does the trick for me – a high neck SPF sport shirt and a neck gaiter.  Key is to still wear a good sunblock underneath and reapply every 90 minutes.    

  • High neck SPF shirt – love these from Athleta.  Can wear them for hiking, water sports and travel too.
  • Neck cover – you can use a sweat towel OR a neck gaiter.  On a hot day, you can even get them wet to help keep you cool.
  • Trekking poles – it’s ok, it happens, our joints age AND I am not embarrassed to use my poles because they really do help!  Especially when I have that extra weight on my back.  It will not only help your knees during the hike, but preserve them. 

Backpack

Go in and get fitted before you buy on line or at the store.  Last thing you want is to have one that doesn’t fit right.  I also suggest considering one that is at least 65 liters.   When you end up going for two nights and who knows maybe even 3-5 nights one day – the extra room will come in handy.

Full packs!  Size of backpack is important!
Loaded up! We all have 65 liter packs.

Must Have Individual Gear/Supplies

Each person to pack unless noted with * = does NOT require each person to have, you can buddy up and share as needed/wanted.

  • Backpack (rain cover if needed
  • *Tent & footprint for 2 (buddy up). For a group of six = 3 tents
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camp Pillow OR you can use your stuff sack from sleeping bag and put your clothes/jacket in it for a pillow
  • Safety Whistle (most backpacks come with one – know where it is
  • *Stove (for a group of 6 have at two)
  • Fuel Bottles (4 bottles for 2 stoves)
  • One Camp Mug
  • One Camp Spork or similar
  • Water Bottles (three – 32 oz. or 96 oz. total)
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • *Lantern or extra flashlight (buddy up)
  • Smell poof bags (similar to zip locks for food)
  • Stuff sack(s) for storage of food and hygiene items and Nylon Rope to hang these sacks overnight OR *Bear Cannister (if required) instead of stuff sacks
  • Sunblock
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses (case too for storage)
  • Sun hat
  • *Mosquito repellant (buddy up)
  • *Trowel -for burying waste (you could buddy up)
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Menstrual products (if needed)
  • Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, etc.)
  • Cell Phone
  • ID, credit card, cash
  • Two Ziplocs for personal garbage (1 for food and 1 for bathroom)
  • Meals and snacks for duration of trip
  • Extra food (one day’s worth)
  • Trip Itinerary left with family/friend

Must Have Group Gear

Only need 1 for group to share/use.  Leader should own or assign to members to secure and carry:

  • Biodegradable soap and camp towel/sponge for cleaning cups, etc.
  • First aid kit
  • Fire starter
  • Water Filtration System
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Printed copy of route description
  • Tarps – I use 1 to lay packs on and 1 to cover them up
  • Duct Tape
  • Swiss army knife/multitool

Clothing for Warm Weather

  • Hiking boots or terrain shoes
  • Socks (plus extra pair)
  • Sandals (for at camp or crossing water) I don’t recommend flip flops
  • Wicking layer/t-shirts
  • Wicking underwear (trust me – you don’t want wet underwear)
  • Sport bra (because they take a while to dry, I usually pack two)
  • Convertible hiking pants (roll up or zip-off for shorts)
  • Shorts or Skorts, which have become a favorite of mine
  • Long sleeve for sun/bugs and chill
  • Fleece or insulated jacket for cool evenings and mornings
  • Raincoat
  • Beanie and gloves
  • Something to sleep in (can be a combo of above items)

Optional, but nice for comfort

Especially the ones in bold.  

  • Trekking poles – super helpful for aging knees!  You could even get away with one pole and buddy up on  a set
  • Flex lite chair 
  • Camp table (buddy up and share)
  • Soft sided wine carafe
  • Small camp bungie cords – come in handy for hanging or securing
  • Travel games and pen/pencil  (only need 1 for the group)
  • Toilet seat covers and personal wipes
  • Face wipes to clean face
  • Quick Drying camp towel – if you plan to bath in river/lake
  • Swimsuit – if near river or lake
  • Portable phone charger and your iPhone cord (buddy up and share)
  • Readers – I don’t need them yet, but TRUST me when I say they are important for those that do. 

Other items that might be of interest

  • Bear Spray
  • Hammock
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Journal/Pen

I hope this has given you a good idea of all the things to consider as you research and decide what is best for your needs.

Until next time! Aloha, Inky

Note:  You will find references and links to REI and other brands in my post.  I’m not being sponsored or supported by them, it’s just what I know and where I go.  Plus I want to be able to show you the item.  I’m sure you can find these items at your favorite local sports store. 

2 comments

  1. This is a nice article for beginners! As I plan my thru hike, however, I look at those fully-stuffed 65L packs and read 30-40lbs and my joints start to hurt just thinking about it. I do understand that there is a delicate balance when introducing people to backpacking- they need to have their comfort items to reduce the shock factor and ease fears while also being safe and not hurting their bodies with too much weight. Also, don’t feel bad about using trekking poles! I LOVE my poles and would never hike without them- they make such a huge difference and can be used to clear sticks/debris from the trail, feel for obstacles so you aren’t looking down the whole time, can collapse and be used as a muscle roller on tights calves, are insanely helpful for stream crossings and can be used instead of poles with a lot of tents. As far as food is concerned, I would skip the prepackaged freeze-dried meals and create your own. Even if you don’t have a dehydrator, you could make some great things like tacos or peanut curry from basic pantry ingredients that have a LOT less sodium and preservatives and could be catered to fit each person’s tastes and portion size. I DO love that wine pouch though- might have to look into that! 😉

    1. Yes, definitely for beginners and those of us who are not doing a long distance thru-hike, which I could not imagine doing and have much respect for you and others that do it!
      Using the poles as a “foam roller” – great idea!
      For me, even preparing for a two night trip can be overwhelming, but per your suggestion, I might have to make the time to pre-prep some meals and try that this year. Maybe even have a pre-party with the girls and taste what combinations we like – another reason to spend time with my tribe! 😁
      Would probably take up less space in a bear canister too – those dehydrated food packages are big!
      Thank you for sharing your ideas and wisdom Gretchen! Much appreciation.

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