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Make a list, pack your backpack, and head out on a new adventure. It sounds simple enough, but anyone who’s ever had to go anywhere will know that packing can be hard, and there’s a constant fear of not packing right and forgetting that all important item that could save you in the wild.

Packing essentials for hiking and backpacking

Avoid cotton and be sure to pack clothing that is specifically designed to keep you warm and dry. Photo: Outdoors Geek Northface Hiking Gear

Backpacking gear checklist

There are essential items that every backpacker needs to pack, and then there are items that are annoying to forget but aren’t going to kill you. However, let’s talk a little about the most important part of backpacking: what are you going to wear?

Proper hiking clothing

The right backpack, clothing, and shoes are essential to backpacking. Yes, packing a tent and food and cooking materials – including a spoon (for the love of nature, bring a spoon!) – are important, but clothing plays a huge part in keeping you comfortable and safe on the trails.

Cotton is unsuitable for backpacking

Backpacking gear rentals in Denver

Dress in layers and try to avoid cotton fabrics.

Cotton is soft and fluffy and makes you feel like you are being hugged by a cloud, but you’re going backpacking in the wild. If you were going glamping, by all means, bring all the cotton attire you want, but when you’re going hiking and backpacking, you’re going to get wet, and cotton is going to suck the joy of your adventure.

One of the reasons cotton is so soft is because it has big air pockets. When you sweat, these air pockets become little sweat (or rain) pockets. Unlike synthetic clothing that is designed to pull the moisture away from your body, leaving your skin dry and better insulated, cotton will absorb and retain the water right up against your skin. If the air is cooler than your skin – and it most likely is because you’re working hard and sweating – then the water-soaked cotton becomes a cold, wet, uncomfortable, not to mention heavy, rag on your body.

The best fabric for backpacking

Look for backpacking clothes designed to regulate body temperature. The right materials will keep you warm, dry, and insulated through rain and sweat. The best materials to shop for are wool, polyester, silk, and nylon.

Dress in layers

Backpacking gear checklist

We can outfit your entire group with backpacks and gear for your next outdoor adventure.

Because the temperature is going to rise and fall throughout each day and night, it’s important to dress in layers when you are backpacking. You never want to get too cold, risking hypothermia and disorientation, but you also don’t want to overheat and dehydrate. A good mix of long- and short-sleeved shirts and something rainproof and something warm should do it. Don’t forget wool socks and hiking shoes.

Everything you need for your next backpacking trip

Outdoors Geek is an outdoors retail shop that specializes in everything camping and backpacking. Once you’ve checked our checklists and made a few of your own, talk to a Geek to put together a package of every item you’ll need for your next backpacking trip.