What does a hiker need to spend a week, or a month, or three months on the trail?
We’ve provided a checklist of basics for Florida backpacking on this website, but I’ll reiterate and expand on that list here, thinking about trips of a week or more:
- backpack and backpack rain cover
- tent (or bivy, or hammock – I don’t recommend tarps due to the insects and humidity here)
- sleeping bag and sleeping pad
- water filter and water bottles / bladder
- camp stove and fuel, firestarter (matches or lighter)
- food for the trip (or until resupply) in a bag you can hang at night
- cook pot, eating utensil
- cord for bear bagging food
- Swiss army knife with knife, scissors, file, tweezers
- headlamp or other light source, with spare battery
- rain gear (poncho OR jacket and rain pants)
- hat, bandana, spare dry t-shirt, underwear, and socks
- duct tape for emergency repairs
- biodegradable soap and shampoo
- alcohol-based hand cleaner
- toilet paper or wipes
- toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
- sunglasses, bug spray, sunscreen
- a first-aid kit personalized for your needs
- maps / guides plus compass or GPS (again, spare batteries)
Now, for my commentary on the list.
I add a contractor’s garbage bag (or garbage compactor bag) to the inside of my backpack as a rainproof inner lining, cut down to fit.
I use trekking poles not just for my knees, but they are the poles for my tent as well
Stuff sacks add weight, but compartmentalizing your gear makes it easier to find things without rummaging through everything. I like zip-top plastic bags as mini stuff sacks. Keeping clothing and food dry is essential!
A stove is optional if you’d rather “eat cold” – but it gets cold here in winter, so you’ll appreciate warm drinks and food.
Some people prefer chemical water treatment. In Florida, agricultural runoff is common along the Florida Trail so a
filter is a safer choice.
I prefer to err on the side of extra socks, since they get wet often here.
I like a light fleece layer as a wind barrier between my t-shirt and rain jacket.
If you expect cold weather and you sleep cold, consider lightweight thermal underwear. The top will also double as an extra layer on very cold days.
Ladies, use an extra bandana as a “pee rag” to be environmentally friendly, rinse it out daily.
I prefer to create my own first-aid kit in a zip-top bag, customizing components to what I’d use at home. Essentials include ibruprofen (“Vitamin I”), multivitamins, Benadryl, antibiotic cream, several sizes of bandages, some alcohol wipes and gauze.
Carrying a camera is optional, but why miss out on sharing the scenery? Find one that takes AA batteries and you can tuck in a pants pocket. I used a Canon Powershot A1100IS on the AT and was pleased with the images I captured.
If you have a cell phone and need to charge it, don’t forget the power cord for when you find a power outlet at a resupply stop!
Don’t forget to lighten your wallet to just the essentials before you leave. Some hikers carry a “Ziploc wallet” to lighten the load even more.
Have some suggestions of your own? Leave them in the comments below. I hope this was helpful!