Many of you probably go car camping. Or you have a camper trailer/caravan, so we are not really travelling light are we? If you have children, then travelling light is a foreign concept because they seem to need so much “stuff”.
It’s become the way I camp – I know that every camping trip, there needs to be a fair amount of prep work done before we leave; ensuring everyone has everything they need for the trip and planning for all sorts of contingencies that could arise. Consequently, the amount of gear that we as a family take, is quite impressive, even if its only for one night.
But when hiker husband wanted me to hike in to a campsite (with no kids), just carrying whatever I needed for the overnight trek, it meant re-thinking the way I had camped previously.
Planning was the key
When you have to carry all your gear in a backpack, you do question what is really necessary and what is not.
Just because we travelled light, didn’t mean there was no organisation leading up to the trip. On the contrary.
The trip was planned with precision!
Meals and snacks were discussed, cooking methods pondered and clothing options reviewed. Trial packs were done to see if I could bear the weight and strategic packing of the backpack to maximise all available space.
Hiker hubby has trekked The Overland Track and other hikes before, so this was to be a simple stroll for him, but for me, a first-timer, it was an epic trek.
Because of his previous treks and our love of good gear, we did have all the gear we needed to take on an overnight hike. Some of the gear we take car camping is considered lightweight, so that was lucky that we didn’t need to buy gear especially suited to backpacking. Typical car camping gear would have not only increased pack weight dramatically, but the size of the pack would have been enormous!
When purchasing camping gear, you might want to think further than the next camping trip you have planned, and think to the future and the way you might want to camp later on, and buy accordingly if possible.
Key considerations before heading out:
I knew my limitations – I was no hiker. Anything uphill was going to be a big challenge.
The overnight camp we were staying at, was a walk which many hikers do, as part of a longer walk, and was an established route. It was very hilly; not something I really wanted to hear, but taking my time, I believed I could manage.
The weather was checked, and revisions made to our intended destination. Warm weather meant the hiking trail had been closed because of bushfire risk, so we had to re-think our hiking options, and find a hike that could be done without me expiring from heat exhaustion.
What was packed
Our shelter was MSR Hubba Hubba, a 2 person tent, which we think is a tent that is suitable for good warm weather, and easy to set up. It’s not the lightest tent to carry, but for this walk, it suited our needs. Our model has now been discontinued, and replaced with the Hubba Hubba NX.
If it had been Hiker Husband alone, a hammock or something Ultra light would have been taken. This tent, one of my favourites, was good, gentle introduction to minimalistic camping.
We could have saved weight not taking the fly (pictured on the tent above), but just in case of rain we did take it. The photo below, shows the tent in its naked state.
A comfortable night sleep is so important, and this is one area where I wouldn’t skimp on getting a good sleeping mat - whether you car camp or not.
- Not sure how to choose the right one? Then read our top tips for choosing a sleeping mat.
We had the Exped SynMat UL 7 and the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm. Both of these mats are comfortable, lightweight and pack up to a very small size.
- Further reading: Therm-A-Rest Mattress Selection Guide
If you are not sure what to look for in a sleeping bag, here are tips to choosing a sleeping bag that you should read before purchasing.
I used my Marmot Plasma 15 sleeping bag as the night was to be cool plus its lightweight (864g). Down sleeping bags are the best to purchase if you are going to be going hiking, as they compress greatly and really keep you warm (I had to sleep with it unzipped on this hike to prevent overheating).
Husband used a top quilt by Hammock Gear. He was originally going to hammock camp, but I thought it would be easier to share a tent for that night.
I got a new backpack by Osprey, and was keen to see how comfortable it was. Maybe I should have tried it out a little more before I left – but it didn’t matter in the end, because it was comfortable and I wasn’t too weighed down.
- To learn more about choosing a backpacking backpack, Outdoor Gear Lab has a good article. Read it here
As we had checked weather, we could see that the night was to be cool but not so cold I would need thermals.
The clothes I wore on day 1 would also work on day 2, and a rain jacket was packed just in case there was a light shower. When hiking, its all about layering your clothes - you can read more about how to do it at this site: www.hikinglife.com
All clothing was quick drying and breathable (avoiding cotton).
I did sneak in extra underwear and a clean T-Shirt for the next day, which was a little luxury, and I didn’t care if it meant a few more grams!
Keeping hydrated is vital and our Osprey packs had bladders which we could utilise if necessary, but as the walk wasn’t that long, we did not fill the bladders. Instead we took 2 bottles with filtration devices, as we knew that the campsite had a dam – where we could use the bottles to safely filter the water.
Not every place is going to have that option available, so taking plenty of water with you is very important part of any hiking trip. We were lucky to have some water options available to us.
We were also able to use the Platypus® GravityWorks™ water filter which we took, which allowed us plenty of clean drinking water when at camp. This filter doesn’t take up any room, and is so handy!
Just remember to take plenty of water with you on your hike and have a method to get clean water should you run out.
- Further reading: Water Bottle Filters – Diercon and Sawyer
Having a hiking stove is a key item to consider.
We have a few to choose from, ranging from the complicated to the simple, and in the end we took the Evernew Titanium Burner and Stove, which runs on methylated spirits.
We were looking for a simple stove, that could boil water predominantly. We were not doing any cooking over the stove, so some of other stoves would have been too big or too much for such a simple task eg. Trangia
- Further reading: Camping and hiking stoves – what to choose
I wanted to keep the food easy and fast. I had tried some recipes out at home, but they hadn’t been a huge success so we took the very easy option, and got a dehydrated meal for 2 for our evening meal (and we had brought along bowls, mug and spork each). We pick up our dehydrated meals at Snowys which has a good range, but they are generally sold in most camping and outdoors shops.
Plenty of snacks too to keep energy levels high, but I didn’t eat much, as I was more thirsty than hungry. I know how important it is to eat well on a hike, so I would need to consider that as an area needing improvement by myself for future walks.
And naturally coffee and milk (powdered and in small bag). We did use the MSR Mugmate to get our brewed coffee. Just because we are hiking and going lightweight, didn’t mean we had to drink instant.
A luxury item was packed – red wine. We decanted a bottle and poured into this bladder and it was nice to sit around the campsite, and have a mug of red with our dinner.
If you don’t have hiking poles, I would think about getting them for any trek. They are a worthwhile purchase and they really helped me climbing down the hills, helping stabilise me. When not in use on a hike, our packs have spots where they are stored.
- If you want to know more about hiking poles and the advantages of them and correct use, check out backpackinglight.com for further information.
If you are going to go to the toilet in the bush, you need to be responsible. In some places you are going to have take out everything – and that means your toilet waste! Thankfully, I didn’t have to do this on this trip (not sure I am ready for that), but you do need to take a trowel and toilet paper.
No toilets where we were headed, and when you gotta go, you gotta go…..
Never near a campsite, away from all water sources, and in deep holes, well covered up.
- If you are a bit unsure about pooping in the wild, this website Mountain Top High covers this necessary topic in more detail.
The above picture is of our trowel – the I-Pood by Sea to Summit.
Not so necessary items
Lucky we were not weighing our packs religiously for this trek. We were carrying excess weight in chocolate. Have no idea why Hiker Husband packed so much, but was obviously thinking that I might have a chocolate craving of mammoth proportions and was afraid of my reaction should he fail to provide it in a remote location.
And of course the wine, mentioned in the Food Section above! Wine is not a necessity apparently.
The wine bladder below is available at a lot of retailers – we picked this one up at Snowys.
Another luxury we allowed ourselves was a comfort item….a Helinox Chair One.
Sitting around the camp at the end of the day (and for me, recuperating after the trek), we could have sat on the ground or a piece of Tyvek. But we had each brought one of these chairs, and whilst they added to our pack weight, how great was it to sit in one of these and relax?
Overall, the first overnight hike by me was a success – I actually had a good time, and not having so much gear to think about, made the camping trip all about simplicity and getting back to basics (for me anyway).
I am under no illusions that I am some sort of experienced hiker - it's going to take more than 1 walk to do that! There is no "Wild" book in my future where I hike the Pacific Crest Trail hike for self discovery..... though a subsequent book and movie deal is a highly appealing aspect. No, that level of hiking is not for me.
This first foray into overnight camp/hike was a little on the difficult side for me; I thought I was going to throw up my lungs on some of the hills and sweat poured off me like a river, which was a very unattractive sight I am sure, but amazingly, I will do it again. With a few less hills please.
The above list of items that we took is far from comprehensive, so if you are considering starting out on an overnight hiking trip, use our key items as a guide, but do build on this list by further reading. Additionally, I had the benefit of going with an experienced hiker, which allowed me to relax and not worry about every single thing needed, as I had someone who was prepared.
- Check out REI and hikingforher for more information and tips. Better to be over-prepared than under-prepared when venturing out.
Have fun and be safe.
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