Camping from a pack: Pack and plan

Montana is one of the best states for outdoor activities. For outdoor adventure, a good workout, and a weekend well spent — try out backpacking. Backpacking contains the elements that making camping and hiking fun and combines them into an ultimate source of good times. Simply put, there are vast opportunities just waiting for you to explore on either an overnight or multi-night trip.

To get out backpacking, the first thing you need is the equipment. This part depends largely on the individual, but can be standardized to some extent based on what your interests are. Below is an equipment list for those looking to get started:

Water -The most important part of any successful backpacking trip. Bring lots of water and have a plan if you run out or need more. If you are in an area where there is water available, I would recommend bringing a filter and/or iodine purification tablets (I prefer tablets because filters can break or not work correctly). If there is not water or you are not sure, bring all you need and then another 32-ounce bottle or two.

Backpack – This may seem pretty obvious, but there is a backpack out there for everyone and every trip. The main subdivisions of backpacks are external frame and internal frame. External frames feature a metal framing on the outside of the backpack. Internal frames lack this frame and look like a larger version of a normal backpack. I personally prefer an external frame because the frame provides extra space for attaching equipment. Make sure you stock up you backpack with all the things said here as well as clothes, a flashlight, matches, rope, extra food, water and more matches.

Sleeping Accommodations – Your choice of sleeping accommodation will depend on the weather. For the fall and winter seasons, I recommend you go for warmth. For me, that means you have a waterproof tent, a low temperature mummy bag and a pad — which could be a thin foam pad for a cheap option. The pad is actually quite important because it provides a barrier between you and the ground, so the ground doesn’t absorb your heat.

Food – There are infinite options as to what you can eat. I would recommend sticking with food with low water content so it is easy to carry. This would include freeze-dried meals, trail mix or my two personal favorites: ramen and pop-tarts. One important thing to consider when it comes to planning is cooking. Generally, stick with foods that require only the addition of hot water, but there is certainly satisfaction to be had in a steak or spaghetti dinner on a mountain. As far as cooking goes, there are various backpacking stoves, all of which can be obtained at a sporting goods store and are easy to use (provided that you remember to get fuel to go with it).

First Aid Kit – Last, but most certainly not least is a first aid kit. This is something you need to have. (See sidebar)

This seems like a lot of information and equipment, but really it is quite simple. You need water, food, shelter and a plan. Always tell at least one person who is not going on the trip where you are going and when you are going to be back so they can help if something goes wrong. And always go through your checklist and bring everything you will need. Good luck out there and have a great trip!

The American Red Cross suggests:

2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)

25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)

1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)

5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)

5 antiseptic wipe packets

2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)

1 space blanket

1 breathing barrier with a one-way valve

1 instant cold compress, 2 pair of non-latex gloves

2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)


1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)

1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)

5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)

5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)

Oral thermometer

2 triangular bandages


A first aid instruction booklet.

In addition to this list, I would throw in some emergency matches. Pre-assembled kits can also be found at any sporting goods stores and, although you should check to be sure, generally contain everything you would need.