Problem-Free Packing for Your Multi-Day Hike
Author: Stephanie Ford Date Posted: 8 August 2019
Packing for long treks is quite the task. Carrying too much and not carrying enough both pose huge risks. Finding the packing sweet spot requires a ton of experience. There is so much gear to choose from! The list (of what makes packing challenging) goes on.
That’s where we come in.
We’ve compiled this packing list for you for multi-day or thru hikes in summer, spring or autumn. We’ll also provide some tips and tricks along the way about what to look for in your hiking gear - so keep an eye out for those!
What to pack for your multi-day or thru hike
This is where people really overdo it, so we’ll start here. My first tip: You need far less than you think you do. Yep, you’ll be smelly. Your clothes will get dirty. Maybe there’ll even be a hole or two. But overpacking clothing quickly adds weight that’s better spent elsewhere.
You’ll need two sets of clothes - one for hiking and one for when you call it a day. I’d recommend staying as far away from cotton gear as you can for both sets. It’s not a great pick for longer hikes.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Leggings/lightweight pants/thermal pants - pick 1, not 1 of each.
- 1 x set underwear (or none if you’re game!)
- 1 x down jacket
- 1 x thermal top (synthetic or merino)
- Thongs/crocs/camp shoes
I take Vivobarefoot runners as my camp shoes. It means I’ve got kit for a run if the mood strikes, plus they’re good for water crossings.
Do not take hiking sandals as your camp shoes. They’re too heavy!
- Rain pants (I often go without in summer or dry regions)
- Hiking hoodie (fleece, merino or synthetic - not cotton)
- 2 pairs of socks
- Base layers - top and bottom
I opt for merino bottoms if I’m going sans underwear and quick dry synthetic if I’m going without rain pants.
- 1 x set underwear
2 if you feel like overpacking. I recommend merino wool underwear for its antimicrobial properties.
- Sports bra
For those who want the support. I often go without but it’s a matter of preference.
- Hiking bottoms
If you’re rolling with hiking shorts or a skirt, make sure that your thermals will stand up to the weather and terrain.
- Hiking Boots/Trail Runners/Hiking Sandals (Pick one!)
- If you're hiking somewhere sunny, don't forget a small tube of sunscreen and some lightweight headwear to keep the sun off. For a versatile and super lightweight option, try a High UV protection Buff
Camping Kit (plus some tips)
- Tent (or other shelter)
Your tent or bivy should be lightweight, comfortable and capable of handling the weather you’re expecting (and some that you’re not). Bonus points if it’s easy for you to set up when you’re tired and cranky.
We reviewed two popular tents last year. Check out what we had to say.
- Camping Stove (and pots)
When choosing a stove you need to balance weight, speed, ease of use, and cost and availability of fuel.
For my first 2-week-long hiking adventure, I chose a gas stove. For shorter trips (in a group), I use a trangia system where the weight can be distributed more evenly.
- Sleeping Bag
Down or Synthetic? Down is more compressible and lighter, while synthetic is cheaper and retains warmth when it’s wet (down doesn’t). There are pros and cons to each, so it’s a matter of personal preference and what the conditions look like. I usually use down.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s rated to 10 degrees lower than your expected temperature or use a silk liner. See our full guide for choosing sleeping bags here.
- Sleeping Mat
Upgrading to a mat with tons more features doesn’t add substantially to the price. And having a mat that inflates by itself is incredible when I’m a little tired or crabby. Food for thought.
Speaking of Food...
How much food you need will depend on how far you’ve got between restocking stations. For multi-day hikers, this might mean carrying everything. For thru-hikers, you’re in essence multi-day hiking on repeat with difficult logistics, so the same logic applies.
The list below is my starting point for multi-day hikes. You’ll need to change it to cater to your own tastes and calorie needs.
Breakfast: Overnight Oats
- Powdered milk
- Jam (if I’m splitting the weight)
Hot Meal: Pasta or dehydrated meals
I usually have at least dehydrated meal with me (they are just so convenient), but there are plenty of people who use them every day. Otherwise, just throw some pasta in with oil and salt or pesto - add tuna if you want some meat.
Other Meal: Tortilla with refried beans
Throw some refried beans (plastic or silicon ziplock bags, don’t bring a can) into a tortilla with some cheese and spinach (lightweight and doesn’t matter if it gets squished).
If I have a dehydrated meal, I get a double serving and have this cold for lunch the next day. Check out our article about backcountry nutrition for some extra tips!
- Chocolate bars
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried apricots
- CLIF (or similar/homemade) bars
You need to work out where your water will come from. Then, you need to plan something that’ll ensure access to drinkable water.
Most of my lengthier hikes have been in Scandinavia where there’s abundant drinkable running water almost everywhere. I carry water purification tablets but haven’t found myself in any situations where they’ve been necessary.
If you’re headed somewhere a little more gnarly, you’ll want to take a filtration device with you. Some filters even come attached to a soft flask or bottle, so you can fill it up and drink without waiting for a drip-fed filter or chemical/UV treatment.
Tableware and Storage:
I avoid tupperware on longer hikes because I want my pack to get smaller and lighter as my food disappears. But, I am conscious of my waste (I love the “I leave nothing but footprints” hiking mentality). So, here’s how I balance that:
- Collapsible bowls that double as storage (like the Sea to Summit X-Seal)
- Silicon resealable bags (reusable baby food pouches are good too)
- Camping mug
- Spork (or cutlery set)
- Chopping board
- Tea towel
Packing and Miscellaneous:
- Your hiking backpack
Get it fitted in a specialty store. The consequences of ill-fitting backpacks are chafing, added soreness and injury. It’s not worth the risk.
- Waterproof Stuff Sacks I prefer these since they make backpack organisation a breeze. But you can line your bag with a heavy duty garbage bag in a pinch.
- Basic first aid kit
- Head torch
- Navigation stuff (GPS, Compass)
- Hand Sanitiser/Pocket Soap
- Duct Tape/Tenacious Tape
Finally, I once interviewed an experienced Danish outdoorsman who suggested bringing something to improve the mood of the group. I love this advice!
Whether it’s a deck of cards, surprise candy, a little tipple or a small tub of nutella that’ll make your breakfast oats infinitely more delicious - making your group members happy is a weight sacrifice I’m willing to make!
Check out the huge range of camping and trekking gear available from Wildfire Sports and Trek.