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10 Amazing Backpacking Hacks

November 03 2018

Your first backpacking trip or your next adventure can be a little daunting in terms of what to bring and how to go about it. There’s what to eat, how much to hike in a day, what to put in your pack, etc. In our time on the mountain, asking for advice, and scouring the internet for ideas, we’ve compiled hack after hack to make our time hiking efficient, fluid, and stress-free.


1. Plan Your Trip Around Water Sources

backpacking water sources 

We’re not going to begin to tell you how important hydration is, but after a long day, jumping into lake or stream to cool your muscles and get the dirt off is one of the best rewards on or off the mountain. In addition to filling your water bottles, you’ll get water for food and even wash clothes if you need to.

2. Know Your Flora

backpacking foraging

During a long week on the PCT, chugging up ridges with fifty pounds on our backs, we ate the huckleberries and blueberries that grew at our feet to give us the extra calories and push us through the day. While wild nuts and mushrooms are also edible, you can even repel mosquitoes by crushing herbs and rubbing them on your skin. Find a great guide here.

3. Bring Instant Coffee Instead of Regular Brew

You might balk as coffee purist, but Keurigs and other coffee makers don’t exactly fit well in our packs. After a little breakfast and before a long day, a little instant coffee gives you that kick while fitting unnoticeably in your pack. We’d never go instant in the city, but something about it pairs well with mountain air. 

4. The Water Bottle Heater

You don’t have to share a sleeping bag with your friend to stay warm at high altitudes. Before you head in for the night, boil some water and put it in your Nalgene (or any container that can take the heat). Then wrap it in some clothing so you don’t burn yourself and stick it at the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet nice and toasty while you sleep.

5. Bring Whiskey 

Another way to stay warm is to put a little fire in your belly. While you might think a cold bottle of beer sounds best after a long day trekking, a fifth of whiskey takes a lot less space and lasts longer into the trip. Plus, it’ll coax you right to sleep.

6. Use These Creative Fire-starters


This is something of a well-known trick: soaked some cotton balls in petroleum jelly for quick tinder on the trail (in addition to a lighter). The petroleum jelly prolongs the burn time while you can set up small sticks or newspaper.

Not-so-classic options: corn chips, hand sanitizer, or duct tape are flammable and burn slow enough to give you time to stoke the flames.

7. Ditch Your Tent


If the weather is permitting or you want to lose pounds in your pack, roll up your tarp to sleep under the stars. If you’re looking for minimal coverage and don’t want to build a fort, most tents have rain flies that can go up without the actual tent and can spare the morning dew on your clothes and sleeping bag.

8. Make Your Own Trail Mix

backpacking trail mix

While the prepackaged stuff is cheap and easy, making your own trail mix saves you some money and tailors to your preference. Go for nuts high in protein (almonds) and salted nuts to keep the hydration in your body. You’ll need any sort of calories while hiking so don’t be timid into putting some of your guilty pleasures into your mix. Pro tip: replace the M&M’s with mini Oreos or sour gummy worms for a nice change-up. 

9. Choose a Down Sleeping Bag

The debate of down-feathered sleeping bags versus synthetic ones will never end: synthetic saves you money, but down saves you pounds. Additionally, down sleeping bags are often warmer and compress to take up less space in your pack. Finally, they warm up faster, making down the cozier option of the two.

10. Take a Rest Day

 backpackers resting

If you’re doing a long trip, putting on miles on a day-to-day basis, drop half the distance one day to let your limbs rest. Your body will thank you, make the rest of trip easier, you’ll get a chance to soak up nature. Tap your inner Walden to pen some thoughts, take photos, read, or even go on a little day hike without your pack. You’re already outside, so slow things a bit and enjoy it.

Article by Mike Shymanski