The library of congress could be filled to the brim with all of the articles that have been written about what you should and shouldn’t bring on the trail with you. There are many terms for the different ways folks like to experience the outdoors. From “Ultralighters” to “Bushcrafters” to Clark Griswold.
With no disrespect to any practice or mindset, most of the sensible world falls somewhere in the, “I just wanna have fun, see some amazing shit, and be safe doing it” realm.
There are plenty of extensive articles battling over what you DO and DO NOT need, so I’m going to tell you what you MUST have in regards to safety. Comfort is all in the eye of the beholder. I will say you don’t need half of the crap you are planning to bring, and that’s all I’ll say about that.
What happens to your body when you exert any kind of energy? You burn fuel. Fuel comes in three forms: water, food, and rest.
For our bodies to live, we need to fuel them. It’s a balancing act, and most of us live on the surplus side of things day to day, myself included, but I’m not here to talk about body image. I’m here to talk about your body as an engine and chassis. Fueling that engine and taking care of it. I’m talking about:
Not the sippy tube and bladder you jammed down into your new backpack. This is in relation to that extra 3 pounds of water in that spare Nalgene bottle you hastily left in the backseat of your rental car becoming the reason your kids never get to kiss you goodnight again. I know this sounds extreme, but WATER is everything when it comes to living or dying in the wild. The human body can survive for about 3 days without water. Amplify this situation to the Utah desert, and you might make it a day and a half in the scorching heat before you become the next heartbreaking news headline. Unless there is an adequate water source, bring water. More than you think you need.
We can go 3 WEEKS without food if pushed to the limit, but don’t be fooled - food is a necessary tool to get us out of dire situations. Food is fuel for our minds as well as our bodies; the things we need the most when shit hits the fan. Taking along an extra apple, granola bar, and energy gel could get you through that last 2000 feet of elevation, or 6 miles back to the car when you think you might pass TF out. Besides, food can equal good morale! Never seen a sad person with grub in their hand. Pack an extra protein bar and thank me later.
The ever elusive rest. Sleeping in the wild does not come easy for the general public. It’s dark, sometimes cold, and uncomfortable. You’re nestled down in your sleeping bag, on a sleeping pad, with your backpackers sleeping pillow… but sonofabitch you can’t find sleep! What in the Hell is going on… what was that?? Ah, yes… it has found you. In the dark, your imagination has flipped open door after door and finally found FEAR. I mean, it could be anything out there!! What if it’s a person who wants to kill us? Or a Coyote? Hell, what if it’s any number of weird ass demented shit you’ve seen on Netflix?? Here’s the thing - wanna know the most dangerous thing in the woods at night? IT’S… (looks dramatically side-to-side… slowly leans eerily close and whispers exaggeratedly) YOU! There ain’t a damn thing out there gonna hurt you. If its an animal, it’s 100% looking for snacks you left out and we all love snacks, so don’t leave food or trash out. You can give yourself a huge leg up by buying a good sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Also invest in a good tent appropriate for your needs. Don’t buy that six person tent at Walmart for you and your spouse or friend. Buy a two person Half Dome from REI. It’s a great tent and sets up easily, and is also easy to shove into a pack.