Packing Tips for Hiking & Camping Trips

Hiking in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. madflojo
By Kara Murphy

No matter if you're a first-timer or a seasoned pro, fitting all of the necessary gear for an outdoor adventure can be daunting. Whether you're heading off on safari or going hiking, biking, canoeing, camping, or kayaking, it's all about maximizing space and making sure you have the proper clothing and equipment.

"The saying we have in the industry is that there's no bad weather, just bad gear!" says Dan Austin, director of Austin-Lehman Adventures ( Do your research and invest in quality items, especially when it comes to protecting yourself from the elements and possible injury.

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Photo Caption: Hiking in the Grand Canyon, Arizona
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Double Diamond ski pack by REI, $119. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. REI
No matter the size or type of backpack, it's extremely important to find the best one to suit your needs and your body. An ill-fitting backpack can cause back pain, muscle strain, or even nerve damage.

Head to a store like REI (, Paragon(, or Eastern Mountain Sports ( and have a salesperson take your hip and torso measurements. Store employees can also help you sort through all of the different styles and features -- from zip-off day packs and hydration packs to top-loading zippers and interchangeable straps -- to find the backpack that best suits your needs. Many companies make packs specifically for women.

When packing your backpack, a general rule to follow is to "put the things you don't need en route on the bottom, along with items that will compress, like a big puffy down jacket. You can always redistribute things when you get there," says Dan Austin of Austin-Lehman Adventures. "On top, pack a light windbreaker jacket, a hat, and gloves in case you need them right when you arrive."

Place oversized or oddly-shaped items on the outside of the pack to free up space on the inside. For example, clip a bike helmet to an outside hook or strap and stuff bulky shoes into outside pockets.

Photo Caption: Double Diamond ski pack by REI, $119,
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Go-To boat neck cap sleeve shirt by ExOfficio, $40. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Eastern Mountain Sports
"Pick lightweight fabrics that will wick moisture away from your body, will dry quickly if washed by hand and can be layered when needed," says Austin-Lehman Adventures' Dan Austin. Whether you shop sportswear brands or fashion brands, look for synthetic fabrics like polyester-spandex blends and microfiber. Always avoid heavy fabrics like 100% cotton and denim. Brands like ExOfficio (, Columbia Sportswear (, and Nike ( all make clothes that are specifically made to repel moisture, but you can also find clothes that will work at stores such as Target or Old Navy.

Depending on what activities you'll enjoy on your trip, you also may want to consider water-resistant or waterproof clothing and shoes. Gore-Tex ( makes these items for every activity. Look for items that are UPF-rated, or specially-made to block out the sun's harmful rays. Columbia makes a wide range of UPF-rated clothing and accessories.

Photo Caption: Go-To boat neck cap sleeve shirt by ExOfficio, $40,
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Denali thermal scarf by The North Face, $35. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Dick's Sporting Goods
Even though you're heading to a warm climate, you should always plan for cooler temperatures just in case. Bring lots of clothes that you can layer -- a thin jacket, long-sleeve shirt, or scarf should do the trick. You may want to consider pants that are convertible (pant legs that can be unzipped at the knees and turned into shorts depending on the temperature). They may not be the most stylish, but you'll be grateful to have them if the weather shifts.

Photo Caption: Denali thermal scarf by The North Face, $35,
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Moab Mid waterproof hiking boots by Merrell, $109. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Dick's Sporting Goods
Most likely these will be your hiking or biking shoes. Even if the shoes have laces, the extra space in your bag will be worth the hassle of taking them off at the airport security checkpoint.

If you're buying new shoes specifically for your trip, keep in mind that while some shoes may require a short break-in time, they should still be comfortable from the moment you put them on in the store. "Newer boots and shoes made of synthetic fabric shouldn't need a lot of break-in time, but if at all possible, put them to the test on similar terrain as what you will encounter on your trip," says Dan Austin of Austin-Lehman Adventures.

In addition, invest in a good pair of socks to help cut down on blisters. You also may want to wear sock liners as well. Made to be worn underneath your socks, sock liners are made of ultra-thin, lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics. They will help keep your feet dry and cut down on the friction between your skin and outer socks, which will help prevent blisters.

"A painful blister can ruin your trip, so you definitely want to bring a good blister kit," Austin adds. "You used to have to put them together yourself, but now you can buy kits with everything already in it." A typical blister kit includes hand soap, antiseptic ointment, gauze, and moleskin.

Photo Caption: Moab Mid waterproof hiking boots by Merrell, $109.99,
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Teva's Tirra sandals, $70. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Teva
"Flip-flops are limited," says Dan Austin of Austin-Lehman Adventures. "If you go on a rafting trip, they'll fall right off!" Although flip-flops don't take up too much space, every inch is considered precious real estate when packing a backpack (or any bag for that matter). So opt for a pair of secure water shoes instead. Strappy pairs from Teva ( or Jambu ( are good bets.

Photo Caption: Teva's Tirra sandals, $70,
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Travel pack by Soak, $10. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Ask yourself how many times you'll actually wear each item. If the answer is "once," don't bring it. Being able to clean items quickly and efficiently throughout your trip will allow you to bring more items that will serve a dual purpose, such as a sarong that can be used as a beach cover-up and a scarf or wrap.

Pack a bit of clothesline or twine sturdy enough to hold your clothes while they dry. It's perfectly OK to use the same soap you plan to bathe in on your clothes. You can also consider travel-size packets from a brand like Soak ( It's a no-rinse wash, which will come in handy for places where water is in limited supply. If you've already packed your maximum limit for carry-on liquids, packets of powdered soap are great options.

Photo Caption: Travel pack by Soak, $10,
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Fill + Fly bottle set by Flight 001, $22. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Flight001
Don't weigh yourself down with big bottles. You can either buy pre-packaged travel sizes, or buy empty bottles and fill your own. If you're going on an extended trip, pack enough to get you through the first few days and buy larger bottles when you get there.

In addition to your toothpaste and toothbrush, always bring (or buy at your destination) hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen that best suits your needs, whether it's water-resistant or has a high SPF. Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is changing the rules about how sunscreen is marketed, as reported by the New York Times. Don't fall for waterproof or sweatproof gimmicks.

Photo Caption: Fill + Fly bottle set by Flight 001, $22,
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30% DEET pump bug spray by Ben's, $6.50. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Eastern Mountain Sports
Bring just enough bug repellent to get you through the first few days of your trip, and plan to buy more along the way. Especially if you're going to be in places with lots of bugs like mosquitoes, you're going to want to reapply often.

You may want to consider a heavy-duty product that contains DEET, a highly effective active ingredient that is found in many kinds of bug repellent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of DEET you should look for depends on the amount of time you plan to be outdoors. Check for more information on DEET, as well as vaccinations and other health precautions that must be taken when traveling to certain areas of the world.

Also be sure to bring a well-stocked first aid kit with plenty of bandages in different shapes and sizes. It also never hurts to have some Imodium or Tums, along with an immune system booster like Airborne or vitamin C.

Photo Caption: 30% DEET pump bug spray by Ben's, $6.50,
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Remix headlamp by Princeton Tec, $39.99. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Dick's Sporting Goods
One item that is always good to bring is a compact head lamp with a bright light. "It doubles as a flashlight and a reading light, so it will always come in handy no matter where you're going," says Austin-Lehman Adventures' Dan Austin.

Other items to consider depending on where you're going: sport gloves, a cover for your pack, ear plugs, and wet bags.

Photo Caption: Remix headlamp by Princeton Tec, $39.99,
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Air Strip Lite shirt by ExOfficio, $80.<a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Eastern Mountain Sports
When planning outfits for a safari, think neutral colors like beige, khaki, and army green. These colors reflect the sun's rays and will also blend into the environment. Avoid dark colors like brown, black, and navy that will absorb heat and stand out. Also opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics. Pack plenty of layers, and don't forget a hat and binoculars.

Photo Caption: Air Strip Lite shirt by ExOfficio, $80,
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The Nikishi Tacoma Bike Helmet 2011, $39.99. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Dick's Sporting Goods
"On a bike trip, I like to bring my own helmet," says Dan Austin of Austin-Lehman Adventures. "That way I know it's comfortable and it fits. Plus, it can be clipped to the outside of your pack so it won't take up space inside your bag."

It's also a good idea to bring your own biking gloves. They'll protect your skin, improve your grip and control over the bike, and they'll help absorb shock, especially if you take a tumble.

Photo Caption: The Nishiki Tacoma Bike Helmet 2011, $39.99,
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