The Essential 8: Must Haves For Your Backpacking Adventure

Before hitting the trails this summer, be sure these items make it into your pack.

I’m trying to live by the mantra, “take only what you need.” It’s a straightforward concept, simple, but not always easy to put into practice. It’s a challenge to decipher between what’s essential and what’s excess … when shopping, speaking, exercising, eating, all things, all the time. Now imagine fitting all your needs into a backpack, enough to survive each day but not so much that it weighs on your ability to move forward. Talk about a metaphor for life.

As Nick Stollings writes on the 10 blog, “Backpacking forces you to choose between what’s important, and what will ultimately slow you down. Anyone who’s gone backpacking before knows that major difference between their first and second time out; the first time is always a learning experience. There’s not only an art to packing your bag, there’s an art to packing the right gear. Even the deepest bag has a limit and it’s not as difficult as you think to reach. That being said, filling your bag shouldn’t be your goal.”

With that in mind, it’s important to edit your contents to only what’s absolutely needed to endure the trip. As an experienced backpacker, Stollings breaks down the eight items he brings along on every trip.

A Knife

“This tool is on every survivalist’s list of things to have when in an emergency situation, but you don’t need to be in an emergency to see the benefits. If you have a sharp knife and know how to use it, it can mean all the difference when it comes to your comfort.

I have a 6-inch Buck knife that I take every time I go backpacking or camping, and I usually gather firewood faster than any of my partners. I can also use it to cut food, split gathered firewood, and heat it to cauterize an inconvenient, bleeding wound (yes, I’ve really done this). If you do find yourself in an emergency situation, making and setting traps for food will take half the time with a knife.”

The Buck G-10/110

Unrivaled American-made S30V steel: one of the most sought-after steels on the International knife market. The high-pressure epoxy resin G10 handle, most commonly employed in demanding tactical applications, will not absorb water, and is dimensionally stable (this handle won’t shrink or expand due to differences in temperature, humidity, etc.).

$138, Best Made Co.,

Water Filtration

“There are plenty of options where this is concerned. For a long time, I was a fan of simple iodine tablets. They’re easy to carry, very lightweight, and like all water filtration techniques, they keep you from getting sick.

Currently, I’m using a straw filtration system that allows you to drink straight from streams or filter water into your bottle or pack bladder. It’s also extremely lightweight, doesn’t take up too much space, and it’s good for thousands of uses. It also doesn’t give the water that weird taste iodine seems to cause. It goes without saying that having plenty of water is a must.”

The MSR AutoFlow Gravity Microfilter (4L)

A durable, reliable filtration system with no pumping required. Hollow Fiber Membrane technology filters out harmful bacteria, and the filter connects easily to another bottle or bag with the included universal bottle adapter.

$79.99 at Sierra Trading Post,

A Compass

“Always bring one of these and understand how to use it. If you have a smartphone you always have a compass, but you don’t always have a way to charge it on the trail. An analog compass is so small that it can literally fit in your pocket, and it can be the difference between life and death. If you’re using trails that aren’t traveled often, it can be easier to get lost than you think. Please, don’t get lost.”

Suunto M-3G Global Pro Compass

With luminescent markings, magnification and a 20° tilt margin for easier readings, this globally positioned compass offers reliable navigating in extreme conditions.

$80 at REI,

Get Stolling’s entire essential’s list here.