Recently I had a bit of a dream come true. One of my friends, Megan, has decided to take on the West Coast Trail later this summer and asked me to help her get all geared up for this trip of a lifetime! This meant spending hours within Mountain Equipment Co-op going through their endless aisles of equipment, picking out the essential items needed not only for West Coast Trail but also for any backpacking trip. A DREAM COME TRUE for a gear junkie like myself.
Considering I’ve had a lot of questions from friends in the past on what to bring for multi-day trips, I thought it would be helpful to put together an essential backpacking equipment list (excluding food and clothing). And what better opportunity then to outline the important items needed for one of Canada’s hardest trails!
The number one priority you should have is keeping the weight of your pack as low as possible. Trust me when I say a lighter pack will allow you to enjoy your trip a lot more then having a choice of outfits or your entire makeup bag. Also, understand that you can pack light equipment without having to spend a fortune on titanium cooking sets. With that, here is my essential backpacking equipment list that won’t break the bank, after all, camping is supposed to be cheap.
The items priced out in the list above aren’t always the lightest and most elite pieces of equipment, however they are what I perceive to be the best bang for your buck. They’re light enough for backpacking purposes, function great and are priced reasonably. Over time as your experience, duration and difficulty level of your trips increases, I’d consider investing in some higher quality equipment, but for starters this list is all you’ll need.
I’ve marked which pieces of equipment can easily be rented from outdoor stores. This is a great alternative to buying everything at once, especially those big ticket items like a tent. If you are in the Calgary area, the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre has a great gear rental system, you can pretty much rent anything from gloves to kayaks. Otherwise, check out outdoor equipment stores such as Mountain Equipment Co-op, which also has a great gear rental system. You can see by the totals at the bottom of the chart, that renting can really help alleviate the upfront costs!
As well, the items with a * next to them are displayed in the picture below, which was the result of our MEC raid, this gives you an idea of how small of a space everything takes up.
Now although you are backpacking and your main priority is to keep your weight down, you still want to ensure you’re going to enjoy yourself and have a unique experience. For this reason, I allow myself two pieces of “luxury” equipment, after all, glamping is better then camping! A piece of equipment is considered a luxury when you could easily do without it, but bringing it along will significantly increase your enjoyment. In the list above, the espresso maker would fall under this category. Other luxury pieces could be a wine flask, extra optional pieces of clothing or maybe some makeup, just make sure you really consider how much extra enjoyment you will get and if the extra weight is worth it. For other glamping tips, read my post here.
With this equipment list, you’ll have everything you need to start having some awesome multi-day backpacking trips! Don’t forget you’ll need a good pair of hiking boots for backpacking, if you’re unsure of what that means, then read my guide to hiking boots shopping. If the upfront cost is too steep, consider renting equipment as you slowly build up your equipment base. When you finally cap it all off with purchasing your first backpacking tent you’ll be unstoppable! Hope this gives you a good idea of what to pack and encourages you to give backpacking a try, it truly is an experience everyone should have.