Confused Matthew

7 Things Every First-Time Backpacker Forgets to Pack

There is almost no better way to really experience the beauty of this world than camping out in the wild. It allows you to truly disconnect yourself from the stress of the modern world and immerse yourself in nature.

It is no wonder that backpacking is becoming quite a popular activity for outdoor enthusiasts. According to KOA’s Camping Report, backpacking is the most popular outdoor recreational activity, followed by hiking and fishing. In fact, it has seen a growth rate of 14% over the past four years!

Whether you decide to do this on your own or with a group of friends or family, roughing it in the wild can be a great time – unless of course you forget to pack the essentials.

Many first-time backpackers make the mistake of under packing to keep their bags as light as possible. While you certainly want to take a minimalistic approach, not having the proper equipment can make your experience far less enjoyable – and in some cases, dangerous.

Here are seven of the absolute essential products backpackers need to pack.

1. Portable Power



Even though you may want to disconnect while spending time in the wild, the truth is having some electronic devices can make your trip safer. Having a portable power supply is necessary, especially if your trip is going to last several days.

You will want to have a fully charged cell phone with you in case of emergencies, and it is recommended that you also have a rechargeable flashlight or lantern so you don’t end up without a light source.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to weigh you down. A portable solar charging system (powerful enough to charge a cellphone) weighs less than a pound! Additionally, it can be easily stored in a small pocket of your backpack when it’s not in use.

2. Dirty Clothes Bag

Scrubba Portable Laundry System Wash Bag


You’re going to get pretty dirty when backpacking, no matter what type of terrain you encounter. While many first-time backpackers often focus on what types of extra clothing to bring, they forget about storing dirty ones.

You don’t want your smelly socks or sweaty shirt to stink up your entire backpack – so be sure to pack a sealable, waterproof bag to keep your dirty clothes separated. Some retailers even sell bags that can be used as a washing bag in case you have the chance to do laundry!

3. Water Treatment Drops

close up photo of clear plastic tumbler with green lid


Carrying extra bottles of water will certainly weigh you down. But it is foolish to just rely on finding a clean water source or stocking up at a convenience store during your trip.

So, it is highly recommended that you bring water treatment drops so that you can create safe, drinkable water in case of an emergency. Just make sure that you are using Chlorine Dioxide, as this is what the CDC recommends for water sanitation.

4. Emergency Kit

Image result for emergency blanket for hiking


While most backpackers know that you need a first aid kit, it is important to be prepared for other emergency situations as well.

An emergency blanket is extremely small, but can be a lifesaver if you get trapped in unexpected weather. It is also recommended that you bring a whistle to alert for help and a waterproof lighter.

5. Patch Kit

This might sound like an unexpected camping item for first-timers, but it can be a life saver! Bring along a small sewing kit and extra patches for items like your tent, sleeping bag, and clothes.

Getting a small tear in these items could be disastrous and leave you vulnerable to cold temperatures or water from the rain. Also, be sure to check your tent and other cloth items frequently so you can patch up a small hole before things get any worse.

6. Cleaning Gear

While part of the fun of backpacking is getting dirty, there is no need to be unsanitary. Bring along some dish soap tablets so you can easily clean up after dinner – just be sure the soap is biodegradable and safe for fresh water sources.

If you plan to clean up in a stream or lake, consider bringing a solid shampoo and body soap bar that is safe for the environment. Some even come with extra features, like mosquito repelling scents or ones that can be used to treat poison ivy.


7. Something Fun

person holding book


Backpacking should be fun – so don’t forget to pack something enjoyable along with your essentials. Having a deck of cards can make evenings around the campfire way more pleasurable. If you are traveling solo, consider bringing a small paperback or a Kindle to keep yourself entertained in the evenings. 


The key to a great first backpacking experience is preparation – knowing that will make a world of difference!

By bringing along these essential items, you can rest assured that you have what you need in case of emergency while also making your trip just a bit more fun, too.



Kevin is a proud San Diegan originally from Iowa. He loves hiking, surfing, rock climbing, and experiencing the outdoors in as many ways as possible. His love of exploring and writing motivated him to start Impulsive Wanderlust – a travel + leisure blog providing recommendations to travelers around the world.

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