Five Backpacking Essentials

We’re off backpacking as a family soon and I’ll be honest – I’m nervous about it. Being wholly responsible for two small people is scary enough at home, but out in the big bad world with only whatever you can carry to depend on is something many people just wouldn’t attempt.

karen walking

I’m not ‘many people’ though, and so I suggested to my husband that we take the boys, leave the car at home and set off on an adventure. I’ve planned every single step of our journey, because as much as I’d love to be able to wing it, you just can’t when it’s your first time and you’ve got small children.

I had very little idea where to start when planning the equipment we needed for this holiday because although we’ve camped more times than Soft Mick, we’ve always taken a huge tent and all the accessories known to man. the car is packed to the rafters and the roof box is fit to bursting. Not this time though. This time we’ve got two 70 litre rucksacks and two small boys with backpacks. The more I think about it, the more I question my own sanity.

There are some staple bits of kit you definitely do need though, whatever kind of camping you’re doing. I’m going to post a full kit list when we get back from our trip, including what we should’ve taken and what we took but didn’t really need, but the things you absolutely cannot camp without are:


Pretty self explanatory really! For backpacking a small pop up is fine, and new air beam tents are becoming more and more popular due to them being so very easy to put up.

Sleeping bag

If you’re camping in the UK you need a sleeping bag for all weathers. I would recommend a three season bag at least, which will provide you with the warmth you need in most of the UK’sĀ ever-changing weather conditions. These are the kind recommended for those undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh Award or school trips.

sleeping mat

Sleeping mat

While airbeds and campbeds arefairly comfortable, they’re not the smallest of things to take with you on a camping trip. Something that lends itself rather more favourably to backpacking is the self-inflating mat, or SIM. They’re not as inexpensive as a standard air bed but a good quality SIM (like this one from Above and Beyond) is a good investment item if you want to mix the adventure of backpacking with some degree of night-time comfort.

First Aid Kit

This is something you can adapt to your own needs. In ours, we’ll be taking a standard first aid kit and adding paracetamol and my epilepsy medication. We’ll also be taking a spray that was introduced to me recently called NatraSan First Aid Spray. To be honest, I agreed to do the review because I thought it might come in handy while we are backpacking, but since it arrived I’ve honestly kept this spray to hand all the time. It is great for me as a mum to two rather boisterous children and I’ve used it on grazed knees and insect bites, as well as using it as a hand sanitiser when we’ve been walking up mountains and stopped for lunch. I’d really recommend it, and I’m not just saying that because I received it for review, I will be buying it myself when this bottle runs out. The other thing I wouldn’t be without is a knee sleeve – I’ve had problems with my knee before and I couldn’t risk it playing up without any support at all.

Heat Source

If you’re doing basic camping, you won’t have the luxury of electric hook up and a plug-in stove – you’ll need to get creative with what you take. A small, portable gas stove is ideal as it provides a quick and easy heat source that you can also cook over, should you decide to. In addition to the stove, a mess tin is a great addition to your kit, serving as a pan and a dish. They’re lightweight and you can buy them in camping shops for just a couple of pounds each.

I know that any number of items can be added here, but these are the first things I’d be packing if I was going backpacking or hiking!

What would you add to the list?

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