These are the twelve kits, or categories of gear, that you will need for backpacking. All the gear can be broken down into these twelve buckets. This helps to keep you from becoming overwhelmed in the planning process, and it also helps you to prepare the right way.
Each of the following images shows the basics of what goes in each kit, or category. I kept the descriptions vague, because you may have different needs then others depending on the trip, the weather, your finances, etc. This approach also makes it easy to customize your gear and your approach as you grow in your experience.
I consider the most important piece of gear to be a JOURNAL. I keep a dedicated journal in my pack, with my gear, just for camping. This is where I take note of what I need to change, or replace. It’s where I keep notes about what gear doesn’t work, or is a waste of money, or too heavy. On your journeys you will see gear that others are using that works better than yours. Capture it in your journal. Keep it simple and lightweight, and if you can, use ‘rite-in-the-rain’ paper and a pencil.
The sleep kit- basically, a sleeping bag and a rolled up mat. There are many types and styles bags, and to start with get a bag that is lightweight (2-4 lbs), non-cotton, and is rated 10 degrees colder than the expected temperature. A compression-style stuff sack to put it in.
The mat should be under 2 lbs., waterproof, and the right size to keep you off the ground, depending on how big you are. The simpler the better, to start with. If it’s inflatable, bring a patch kit in case you spring a leak.
The shelter kit is one of several types of shelter. Tents and tarps make up the basic types, and each have their pro’s and con’s. Good tents are expensive. Cheap tents are heavy. Both are small, and a lousy place to hang out when the weather is bad all day.
Tarps are light and cheap, and a great place to hang out when the weather is bad, but they take a little more skill to set up, and don’t keep out the bugs.
First trip out? Borrow a tent.
I bring two sets of clothes. One to wear, and one as a backup. Included in the kit is rain gear, a hat, and good shoes. Things that easily dry out work best, and avoid cotton.
This is not a workshop, it’s just a little help when you need it most. I like to wrap the plastic jars in my gear with tape. Blue painters tape for bandaging up cuts, and ‘gorilla tape’ for tougher repairs.
A water filter (there are many types) and two nalgene-type bottles are good to start with for water carrying and drinking.
As for food, keep it simple. On the easy side are meals in a bag that you just add boiling water to.
Most of the new campers I see bring 3 times as much food as they need.
Keep it simple.
If you’re just boiling water, a JETBOIL works great. 8 OZ of fuel is more than enough for a weekend. A metal cup for soup, cereal, or warming up water on the fire. A plastic cup as a back up. A small plastic brush to clean up your gear with. Plastic sporks work good, but I always break them, now I use a titanium spork.
Your basics. Liquid bug dope, not spray. It’s lighter, and goes further. The highest concentration of DEET is better, at least 40%.
A quarter role of toilet paper in a zip-lock bag.
Nothing complicated here, just the basics. Put it all in a small container. I like the one pound peanut butter (JIF) container. Lightweight and water proof.
Again, nothing profound here, just the basics. Minor burns, blisters, cuts. Fever, headache, allergies. If you can find a small booklet on first aid that fits in the container, great. A peanut butter jar works great here too.
A few odds and ends. But be careful not to over do it. A good pocket knife, a map and compass. Journal and pencil, to notate what you forgot, wish you had, or wish you didn’t have. Why a whistle? In case you get lost, you are easier to hear than if you yell.