Packing Guide to Wilderness Trekking

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Overland Track food for 7 days: Couscous for 7 dinners, one pack rice noodles, crackers, oats and fruit for 7 mornings, falafel mix for 3-4 meals, 6 wraps, one loaf bread, peanut butter, dried figs and dates, 4 large baggies of trail mix with chocolate, nuts and fruit, dried milk powder, tea/coffee bags, spices, 8 vegetable broth cubes, olive oil, one garlic clove, one onion, one emergency Snickers bar. This was not enough snack food for Tom, but was fine for me. He forgot his cheese in the car, but ate it a week later :)

I recently finished the Overland Track in Tasmania, a 65-110km hike through a World Heritage Wilderness Area. I was shocked at the weight most people I met were carrying. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to keep your pack to ¼ of your body weight, not to exceed 35lbs for a short hike- more if it’s a long hike, or if you’re an experienced hiker.  Many people had packs weighing 25 kilos (a whopping 55lbs!) for just 5 days on the trail. And these weren’t only big men carrying this weight- I saw numerous fairly unfit women struggling under their enormous loads, too exhausted to do any of the beautiful side trails. In one group, the two men and two women each had 25 kilo packs, even though the men themselves were far larger than their ladies. They had way too much food, gear and luxury items (multiple bras, swimsuits, plates and bowls, two pairs of shoes each, enough food to sink a battleship…). They looked at my 16.5 kilo pack enviously (and I thought mine was heavy!), and tried pawning snacks off on me.

campfood2
Here’s the food I packed for 8 days on the South Coast Track: 3 packs of rice noodles, couscous and dehydrated peas for 8 dinners, oatmeal and quinoa flakes with dried fruit for 8 mornings, falafel mix for 4 meals, dried milk powder, 16 tortillas, plenty of coffee and tea bags, two soup mixes, three coconut curry packets for couscous or noodles, spices/salt, olive oil. I included a big container of peanut butter, two bars of chocolate, banana chips, crackers and trailmix (not shown). 8 kilos total.

Because the Overland was a relatively easy hike (for those not hiking the side trails to mountain summits, and even those weren’t too hard), you could probably do this hike with just a daypack if you were happy living very simply. Although I was satisfied with the amount of food I packed, Tom struggled with the lack of lunchtime snacks, but it should be noted he eats a lot more than most people and has a very high metabolism. Above is a picture I took of the food I packed for the South Coast Track, which should take 7 days. I packed enough for 8-9 days in case we hang out on a beach or get stuck due to high water crossings.

Here’s a list of food ideas and what I think are the necessities for hiking in non technical/snow/freezing conditions, as well as a list of ‘to consider’ items and luxuries. It’s important to take into account terrain, duration of hike, your specific needs, weather, and how remote you’ll be.

Food Ideas for 2 People: Frugality tip- avoid expensive “backpacking” foods

  • Heavy duty bag for all food (or drybag for $30, helps mask smell, keeps things dry)
  • 1.5 cups Couscous per night feeds 2 – Dinner
  • 1.5 cups fast cooking oatmeal+dried fruit mixed in per morning feeds 2 – Breakfast
  • Tortillas/wraps – Dinner
  • Falafel mix for vegetarians (beans)- Dinner
  • Rice noodles (cooks quickly)
  • Small plastic container of Olive Oil
  • Baggies of salt, pepper, curry, herbs, milk powder
  • Vegetable broth cubes, 1-2 per night for Couscous or rice noodles  
  • Block or two of harder variety white cheese (lasts longer)- Lunch
  • Tub of Peanut Butter (this is my #1 feel-good food item, with banana chips, chocolate and crackers)-Lunch
  • Banana chips- Lunch
  • Crackers in Tupperware- Lunch
  • Dried fruit/trailmix- Lunch (I pick out cashews to use in CousCous for dinner, plus vegetable broth and herbs or curry)
  • Chocolate- Either bars or mixed in trailmix
  • Dehydrated mashed potatoes or vegetables
  • Dehydrated hummus mix
  • Instant coffee or coffee baggies, tea
  • Eggs cracked into bottle and frozen for short hikes
IMG_8121
For the South Coast Track, Tom had other ideas and packed 7.5 kilos of snacks!: extra peanut butter, another bar of chocolate, a bag of chocolate chips, 24 mini snickers, 4 packets of beef jerky, two big blocks of cheese, dried fruit and another bag of trailmix. 15 kilos total (delicious, but TOO HEAVY!)

TravelBug’s Essential Items:

  • Well-fitting backpack and waterproof cover (Osprey’s ospreyAether 70 is my current pack- not that great for packs over 35lbs)
  • Plastic garbage bags to line inside of pack or fancier bag liner
  • Matches or lighter(s) in waterproof container
  • Headlamp and extra batteries
  • Water purification tablets (iodine) or water pump
  • First aid kit
  • Sleeping bag (check warmth rating), plus stuff sack and garbage bag to keep it try, or fancier dry bag/waterproof compression bag (which don’t always work!)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Good, lightweight 3 season tent with ground cloth
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lightweight stove and fuel in MSR container (+ extra fuel for hikes over one week)
  • Cooking pot with lid
  • Water bottle x2+ depending on water availability (or water bladder)
  • Sufficient food and snacks
  • Spoon or fork
  • Knife
  • Map of area
  • Duct tape
  • Compass
  • Clothing + rain jacket/pants
  • Evening footware (sandals)
  • Extra plastic bags for garbage, things that can leak/spill
  • Sunblock, SPF 30 or higher, waterproof
  • Camera
  • Sunglasses
  • Toilet paper (dig hole 15cm)

To Consider and Luxury Items:

  • GPS Navigator
  • SPOT Device/EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon)
  • Toiletries: hairbrush (or just French braid hair) toothbrush and biodegradable toothpaste
  • Hiking poles- good if you have knee issues (I always bring mine)
  • Wash rag, body sponge or unscented baby wipes (pack them out though!)
  • Pot/dish sponge
  • Pack towel
  • Trowel – (dig hole and poo into it- very important in some wilderness areas)
  • Biodegradable soap (try using just hot water to preserve environment)
  • Bug repellent, bite cream
  • Gaiters (may be in the “necessary” category depending on hike)
  • Watch (if you have somewhere to be or use it as an alarm)
  • Warm hat, sun hat, or both (I always have at least one of these)
  • Gloves, depending on climate
  • Windscreen for stove
  • Whistle
  • Needle/thread for blisters
  • Blister pads/moleskin/etc (very necessary for my feet in any climate, if more than 3 days of hiking, or 20km+/day)
  • Small notepad, pen
  • Chapstick (one of my “necessary” items if more than 3 days on trail)
  • Deck of cards, light book or standard Kindle
  • Cord (hanging clothes, tarp or if tenting on wood platforms)
  • Phone, turned off and in ziplock baggie (for end of hike- sometimes a necessity)
  • Sewing kit
  • Feminine products plus ziplock baggies to pack things out while on long hikes

Necessary Clothing: No cotton!

  • Longsleeve shirt (Merino is great. Expensive, but not stinky like synthetic materials)
  • Pre-broken in boots or trail running shoes depending on terrain/needs
  •  1-2 pairs hiking socks (again, Merino is best. Bamboo is nice but isn’t quick drying, which can be a real problem)
  • One pair quick dry pants
  • Lightweight shorts unless you have zip-off pants (I use yoga shorts for hiking/swimming/sleeping)
  • 1-2 pairs undies
  • Sports bra, if applicable
  • Hiking shirt
  • Warmer layer, weather dependent (I often bring my down jacket)

Some Examples of Totally Unnecessary Items:

  • Excessive amounts of clothing. Even if wet, Merino or similar clothing should keep you warm and will dry while you hike
  • Soap/detergent for hikes under 4 days- bad for environment, even the ‘earth friendly’ stuff- use hot water
  • Deodorant- you’re in the woods for Pete’s sake
  • Can opener (don’t bring cans!)
  • Wallet – use plastic baggies

I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list, so if I’ve missed something important, please post below!

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