Few things bring us closer to nature than hiking through the wild. Whether you’re following a trail, or venturing deep into unknown reaches, one thing is certain: you’ll need to prepare. Packing for an outdoor excursion means balancing comfort with minimalism. Supplies are sparse once you’ve left civilization, so you’ll have to bring (at least) the bare necessities, while keeping total carry weight as light as possible.
As a rule of thumb, the net poundage of a full pack shouldn’t exceed 20% of its bearer’s bodyweight (10% for day packs), although those with good endurance and hiking experience may be able to handle more. For new hikers, staying on the lighter side is best; you’ll be surprised how heavy a 20-pound pack can feel after trekking for a few miles.
Below is a list of necessities that no wilderness explorer should start a trip without.
- Pack – Adjustable, framed backpacks with a carrying capacity between 50 and 65 liters are ideal.
- Shelter – Lightweight and quick to set up, tents are a typical form of wilderness shelter. Some tents can be bulky even when stored, however, so you may want to conserve space and select another option. Those looking for comfort in wooded areas may prefer a hammock.
- Sleeping Bag – Sleeping bags made specifically for backpacking are designed to compress into small, easily transportable packages. Synthetic bags are an affordable option. For those aiming to pack less weight, ultralight down sleeping bags may be a prime choice. Bags also come rated for sleeping in certain temperatures; 20-degree bags are great for spring and fall, while 40-degree bags are suited for summer.
- Clothes/Dry Bag – Bring a few layers of synthetic clothes including a t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, shorts, yoga pants/long johns, 2-3 pairs of socks, a light rain jacket, and, depending on location and time of year, a heavier coat. (avoid cotton or denim, as they are slow to dry and take up weight when waterlogged). Store them in a waterproof bag, and you can use the bundle as a pillow.
- Footwear – Go with footwear optimized for long treks, such as hiking shoes, hiking boots or trail running shoes. You might also want to pack a pair of sandals, flip flops, or crocs to wear off the trail.
- Hygiene/Medical Supplies – Use a small, ziploc-style bag to store toiletries: toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper and feminine products if needed. General first aid supplies might include ibuprofen for altitude headaches, benadryl to counter allergic reactions, as well as disinfectant wipes and bandaids.
- Portable Stove/Cooking Pot – Many camp stoves get their heat from disposable gas containers, but makeshift stoves can also be fashioned out of empty soda cans and denatured alcohol. Of course the age-old option for cooking in the wild is simply to light a campfire.
- Water Bottle – Be sure to take along containers capable of storing two to three liters of water. Those traversing desert terrain or other dry areas, or traveling in hot weather should consider packing even more if places to refill won’t be readily available.
- Food Bag – It’s a good idea to store food separately and in a closeable bag, as you’ll have to hang it up at night if you plan on camping in bear territory (bring a thin cord, around 30 feet long if this is the case). Keep in mind that each person will consume around two pounds of food per day when hiking. Also be sure to avoid perishables (they won’t last) and canned goods (unnecessary weight). Many veteran hikers prefer to pack dehydrated meals.
Honorable mentions include a flashlight or headlamp, pocket knife, pepper spray, and a guide map. Equip yourself with these essentials along with a sense of curiosity and adventure, and you’ll be properly outfitted to conquer the trip of a lifetime.
Finding the perfect travel gift can be a challenge, especially when you’re buying for veteran voyagers used to journeying with minimal baggage. Here are a few ideas for sustainable presents that can help travel enthusiasts preserve the beauty of nature, support local economies, or connect with foreign cultures. From birthdays to Christmas, the following gifts are ideal for those looking to avoid wasteful practices and maximise their travel experience.
Reusable Travel Bags
Affordable and versatile, travel bags are a staple for explorers aiming to stay organized. Luckily, the internet offers numerous green alternatives to ziploc for storing small objects. One option is Flip and Tumble’s zip top travel pouches, made from 100% recycled plastic. They are machine washable and come in packs of five, with each pouch sized differently to fit shoes, clothes, toiletries and electronics.
Whether you’re diving off cliff, taking a dip in the ocean, or simply showering after a long day, an all-purpose towel will come in handy. The best travel towels are extra-absorbent and quick-drying, and take up minimal space during storage and transport. Having a good multipurpose towel can also cut down on unnecessary water costs from frequent washing and dying. Packtown’s ultralight microfiber towel is a good accessory for the minimalist who enjoys venturing off the path for a swim.
Adventuring across the globe can’t be done without a steady source of hydration, but typical water bottles can be cumbersome. The reusable “Anti-Bottle” by Vapur solves the problem of transportability; it’s made of a flexible, BPA-free material, and can be folded and flattened to fit nearly anywhere. For those traveling to areas where clean water may be scarce, there’s the Lifestraw: a bottle with a built-in filter that eliminates waterborne contaminants. Lifestraw also matches the purchase of every bottle by providing a child in need with clean drinking water for one school year.
Maintaining hygiene on the road can be done without buying items full of ingredients that harm local ecosystems. Those planning on spending time under the sun might prefer Sunscreen Butter from All Good, formulated with organic materials that won’t damage reefs or other aquatic life. Do remember, however, that where possible, sunscreens only complement clothing; do wear a wide brimmed hat and cover up with a sun protective shirt. For cleaning tasks, Dr. Bronners offers an all-in-one product that serves as every type of soap imaginable, from shampoo and body wash to laundry/dishwasher detergent. Dr. Bronner’s product is 100% percent eco-friendly: the soap bottle is made from recycled plastic, and the soap itself contains only organic and certified fair trade ingredients.
Donating to a Cause
If you’d like to give a gift that goes beyond material consumption, consider donating to an organization or an objective that a loved one is passionate about, such as preserving endangered species, or funding small businesses in developing economies. Frequent travelers might also book with Responsible Travel; for every journey booked, their Trip For a Trip program buys a day trip for an underprivileged child.
Plane trips dominate long distance travel, at least in the US. But the headache of flight delays (and the nightmare of cancellations), as well as security hassles and limited amenities may spur longtime air travelers to search for alternatives. Passenger trains are often slow, and the routes they take can be less than convenient. However, many appreciate the comfort, scenery, and relaxed atmosphere of train travel. Whether traveling by plane or train is ideal for you depends on your reasons for travel, time constraints, budget, and preferred ambiance, among other factors.
In the past, train travel was much more affordable than air fare, but budget airlines are now well established, as a result of a combination of deregulation and widespread demand for cheap flights. If other factors aren’t an issue, it’s a good idea to check into both options, as one may be cheaper than other depending on a trip’s timing and destination. Amtrak, for example, offers bi-weekly and “flash” sales on select trips. For travelers booking a trip with multiple destinations, taking the train is usually less expensive. Other perks from Amtrak include two free bag checks, and the ability to purchase rail passes, which authorize a certain number of trips over a designated time period.
Train travel isn’t exactly renowned for blazing speeds, but the difference in overall time is much less dramatic for short distance trips, as total travel time by plane doesn’t just include the flight itself, but transport to and from the airport, as well as the time it takes to get through security and wait for luggage. Accounting for these factors, a flight from New York to Boston takes a total of 3 hours and 13 minutes; only an hour and 37 minutes less than a one-way Amtrak, which takes 4 hours and 50 minutes. On the other hand, flying from Indianapolis to Denver is dramatically faster–at around four and a half hours–than the same trip by rail, which clocks in at 25 hours and 15 minutes.
Security is in place for railroads, but (in most cases) it’s not quite as intrusive as what you’ll encounter before a flight. Generally, train passengers will walk through a metal detector and have their carry ons screened. Check ins are quick as well, requiring little more than the presentation of valid ID. Alternatively, airport security is notorious for hyper-strict regulations; expect to remove your shoes and all metal accessories, and don’t be surprised if you’re tagged for a full body scan or physical pat down. Restrictions for what can be taken in a carry on apply as well, such as limiting liquids to 3.4 ounce containers.
While both options offer a range of service classes, train carriages are designed to prioritize comfort, as voyages by train last much longer on average. Even coach-class seats in trains recline, allowing for comfortable sleep. Dining cars and observation decks are common features on trains. Train passengers are welcome to stand up and walk, while those traveling by air are generally urged to remain seated. Socialization between train passengers is a regular occurrence, enabled by common areas such as cafes and lounge cars. In addition, overnight trains usually provide the option of sleeper cabins outfitted with beds and other amenities.
About Peter Jutro
Peter Jutro has a passion for travel and exploration, as well as cartography and the history of maps. Having traveled extensively over the past 50 years, Peter has had the opportunity to learn a great deal about people and the world as a whole. He is a firm believer in his wife Ellen’s adage that “the more you travel, the bigger the world gets.”
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, Peter Jutro is always excited about the opportunities that a new place and culture have to offer. Some of his fondest memories include his honeymoon in Switzerland, a country that has felt like a second home to his family, as well as a research trip to Central Siberia where he had the exciting opportunity to work with the Russians on environmental issues.
An intently curious individual, Peter Jutro is continually looking to explore what exists around the world. While he may be learning about a culture’s history, studying its environmental concerns, or he and his wife might be hiking and scuba diving in one of a number of countries for pleasure, Peter always appreciates how travel serves as a catalyst for education, personal growth, and developing friendships.
Biodiversity In The Florida Keys
Peter Jutro is currently in the process of writing a book about Lignumvitae Key, an island in the Florida Keys. He has been involved in research and in the preservation of this area since the early 1970’s. Dr. Jutro finds it an incredibly fascinating place for historical, political, and biological reasons. The Lignumvitae Key Aquatic Preserve encompasses 7,000 acres of seagrass meadows, deep water channels, hard bottom communities, and mangrove wetlands. The island itself includes the last pristine lowland tropical forest remaining in the United States.
Berlin: A Family Connection
Of German-Jewish descent, Peter Jutro has an extremely personal connection to Berlin, the city from which his family emigrated to the United States. Just prior to World War II, his late father spent several months as a concentration camp prisoner in a Berlin suburb. Recently, Peter was excited to find a journal among his family’s historical documents; This journal had been written in by his father in 1939, and detailed life in the concentration camp. This inside look at the concentration camp, as well as the close personal connection with the author, makes this find a unique historical document. Peter is currently in the process of transcribing and translating the manuscript into English so that his father’s experiences can be broadly shared.
Peter Jutro dedicated more than 35 years to Federal service, serving in a variety of positions involved with Environmental Policy and National Security. Most recently, Dr. Jutro was Acting Associate EPA Administrator for Homeland Security. Before that, he was Deputy Director for Science and Policy and Director of the Washington office of EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center. This group is responsible for the research needed to provide the science and technology behind the EPA’s disaster mandates, which fall primarily in the areas of decontamination, water protection, risk assessment, and resilience. His earlier work in academia, on Congressional Staff, and with Federal Agencies, dealt largely with risk assessment, global climate change and biological diversity.