Before we dive in, I cannot stress enough how amazing the employees at outdoor/camping gear stores are. I always have a million questions and want to learn about new technologies and products, and these people have gone above and beyond every 👏 single 👏 time 👏 Gear sales people are the MVP’s when you’re planning a trip.
FYI: I am receiving no compensation for mentioning these brands! These are pure suggestions for those who don’t know where to start. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!
A Great Backpack
This seems pretty obvious, but this is where we start! Finding the perfect backpack can be intimidating, but never fear.
First, find your local gear store with an idea of what you will be using the pack for, and from there you can work with the employees to figure out what will be best for you. Trying on packs is kind of like trying on shoes! Let the salesperson help you adjust the straps, show you where the buckles should sit, and other tricks. They may even grab some other merchandise in the store for you just to test it with weight.
Backpackers easily become pack-obsessed. There are so many styles and sizes, but every backpacker has a go-to favorite that they’ve probably used for many years. Your pack is the central part of your trip as an extension of you, so it can very quickly gain sentimental value!
My packs (small, medium, large): Camelbak Trailblazer, Vaude Asymmetric 48+8L, and a new Osprey Porter 46L which I have yet to use. Keep in mind that I am 152cm/5ft so these are packs that work for my size, posture, and needs!
Backpacking has two main connotations: there’s backpacking in cities and towns, and backpacking in nature (hiking). If you’re going to be traveling through civilization, any comfortable shoe should be fine, but remember that you will be carrying your bag, so opt for something on the more durable side (sneakers are fine!)
If you are hiking with a pack, it’s a little different than hiking on a weekend. You will need a nice, sturdy shoe, or even hiking boots. Hiking boots provide the most support for your poor little ankles! When you try them on for the first time, remember that they’ll feel stiff for a while. Take this as an excuse to go out and break them in! 😉 Eventually they’ll mold so well to your feet that they’ll only feel comfortable to you.
A great in-between option if you’re not ready to commit to hiking boots is a Chelsea boot. I love Chelsea boots because I can wear them around town and trek through the mountains for a few days. They provide more ankle support than sneakers, but you don’t have to deal with laces or feeling too constrained. I’ve had my Blundstones for four years now with INTENSE use (always with thick wool socks), and the soles are only just beginning to look worn.
My shoes: Blundstones Super 550 (Style 585) and Source Classic sandals in red (In true form as an Israeli, you can determine the seasons based on the rotation of my footwear). I wear size 37 EUR or 6.5 US.
Do we love staying hydrated? YES! Do we love saving the planet? YES! Do we love being frugal? YES!
So why are you still buying water everywhere you go? You have tons of options! Whether you prefer bottles, bladders, or flasks, that’s just the beginning. From there, you choose the material, size, and shape that you prefer.
Once you have your reusable receptacle in hand, go forth and fill up! Can’t find a water source? You can always ask for help, but there are more and more apps specifically for that in development every day.
My water containers: 2L Camelbak bladder (that can be used in each of my packs) and a 500 mL-1L bottle that rotates (currently I’m using a stainless steel 450mL S’well).
Okay, so we live in a world of technology, but sometimes you just want a physical map in your hand. But unless you’re snagging a free one from your hostel (which, honestly, bless them), maps are expensive AF and a drag. So, check your internet connection and buckle up, because we’re talking apps. Specifically, resources that allow us to find our way around offline. (Just make sure you have a portable charger!)
Google Maps: Is fantastic with an internet connection and should never be underestimated: I use it for bus and train schedules, walking, and driving. New features are added all the time, including *drumroll please* offline maps! In the current version, offline maps you have downloaded will be deleted after 15 days without an internet connection.
MAPS.ME: A year ago, I walked into my favorite gear store to talk to a man about a map. I was planning a four-day trek called Sea to Sea, which goes from the Mediterranean to the Galilee. I was fully prepared to buy a giant map of more trails than I knew what to do with for about $50 USD, but the salesperson and I got to talking and he decided to forgo his commission. He downloaded MAPS.ME on my phone, downloaded the entire map of Israel, and sent me on my way without selling me a thing. It turned out to be one of my favorite travel apps ever. During my trek, I could find campgrounds, water sources (to fill up my reusable container!), bus stops, and restaurants in addition to all the information for the trail itself (elevation changes and rerouting based on desired difficulty or curious explorers, for instance). It was seriously a life saver.
This all may seem like a lot, but this is the basic gear I have accumulated over many years! Some things were gifts/hand-me-downs, some I bought secondhand or on sale, and other things I spent months saving for. Even so, there’s tons of gear that I still borrow from friends (for instance, I don’t even own a tent). Gear store folks are extremely sympathetic (see above!). If you want to try on packs or shoes without buying a thing, just be honest. These are investments, and they just want you to be a happy camper!
(I’m not sorry, people. I’m really not.)