Setting off on a long backpacking adventure — such as a thru-hike or section hike of the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail — can be truly life-changing. But before you start the hike, you need to pack. Deciding what to bring can be particularly difficult when you have to carry all of your essentials on your back for weeks or even months. Here are a few tips to help guide you as you pack your clothing and plan your outfits.
1. Wear a Belt
Your hiking pants might fit you perfectly right now, but there's a good chance they'll be loose by the time you return home. The average hiker needs to eat 5,500 calories per day to maintain their body weight during a backpacking trip. Most hikers don't meet these needs and end up losing weight over the course of their adventure.
A belt will ensure that you don't spend the last 100 miles of your hike pulling your pants up every other step. Make sure the belt you choose has a few notches left so you can tighten it when needed. (And, of course, wear pants and shorts that have belt loops.)
2. Bring Long-Sleeved TeesWith the hot summer temperatures, you may be tempted to just pack short-sleeve tee shirts to keep your pack weight down. But in many areas, especially those at higher elevations, nighttime temperatures still dip down into the 40s and 50s. If you decide to hike into the evening or even just leave your tent after dark, you'll be chilly in short sleeves. Pack a long-sleeved tee for these occasions.
3. Don't Forget a Hiking Hat
Hiking hats are not just for winter! In the summer, you will still want a cap of some sort to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your scalp. Hats also help keep insects from landing in your hair. Look for a hat that has breathable mesh inserts or a breathable mesh back so your head does not get too hot.
You should also make sure your hat is not too loose. After many miles on the trail, a bouncing or wiggling hat can rub and irritate your scalp.
4. Choose Your Socks Carefully
On a long backpacking trip, your feet support your weight and carry you over miles of rugged terrain. Not only do you need to give them support with proper shoes, you also need to choose your socks carefully. The wrong socks can lead to rubs, blisters, and overly moist feet.
The best socks for long hikes tend to be made from a mixture of merino wool, nylon, and lycra. The wool combats smelliness and keeps your feet warm, even if they get wet. Nylon makes the socks more durable, and lycra adds stretch so the socks don't become baggy partway through your hike.
Socks that fit just above the ankle tend to stay up well and prevent rubs and blisters. Make sure your socks are snug, but not tight. Try them on before your hike so you can be sure they fit properly.
5. Pack Something for Laundry Day
If you’re going on a longer hike and plan on stopping in trail towns to do laundry along the way, make sure you pack clothing to wear while washing your trail clothes. You don't want to have to stand around wrapped in a towel for a couple of hours while the washer and dryer work their magic. Women often like to pack a casual dress to wear on laundry day, and men may want to pack an extra shirt and lightweight shorts to slip on.
Follow the tips above to pack effectively for your summer backpacking hike. If you're searching for the perfect belt, hat, shirts, or other apparel, visit Over Under Clothing to explore our selection of American-made apparel.