This Spring I went on my first backpacking trip so I thought I would share my packing list for women. It all started last summer when I told my mom that I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail and that I thought I’d start by section hiking. She shocked me when she immediately said she wanted to join me. She asked my sister, Aimee, if she was interested in joining as well. We ended up planning our first section hike but then decided to throw in a shorter “practice” backpacking trip to celebrate our March birthdays. Hence, backpacking the Trans Catalina Trail in California. In addition, I also took a couple of local overnight trips in preparation, so I am confident in my packing list ideas.
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Backpacking Ideas: What I Packed
Here is everything from my packing list that went in my backpack or was worn on my body to backpack the Trans Catalina Trail (TCT) in early March, not including food or water.
Travel & Dry Bags for Backpacking
I stuck to Osprey for my dry sacks but there are a ton of great brands. These dry bags roll up and can hang from either end which is great. I use two 3L size – one for my food for the day, the other for my cookware; one 6L for my food (I’ll be using a bear canister on the A.T.), and one 12L for my clothing.
*click images to shop*
“The Big 3”
When my mom and I first decided to get into backpacking, we went immediately into REI to check out and be fitted for backpacks. I liked this Women’s Osprey Ariel 65 Pack. After using it for over 50 miles so far, there are things I like and dislike about it. Based on my spine measurements I ordered the XS/S but I’m a plus-size woman and so even extended the straps are a tight fit and not particularly comfortable. The gear capacity for this size is actually 62 liters, and it weighs 4 lbs. 13.55 oz. I really love all the pockets — everything had a place and it’s made packing up a very calculated and simple process for me. The internal frame does a great job helping distribute 30 lbs. of pack weight. I like this bag a lot but I am definitely interested in upgrading in the future.
My first big purchase was the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent. Prior to our trip, my son and I “camped out” in the living room a few times and then I met a new friend for an overnight at Amicalola Falls to test my gear. I love this tent. It packs up very compact and only weighs around 3 lb. I also like that it’s a 3 season tent. I haven’t had any issues with moisture inside my tent, despite sleeping through two very windy days (one of them on the beach). Unfortunately, a couple of my poles were pretty badly bent in said wind. I’m not going to have a chance to replace them before my A.T. trip but I think I’ll be okay for now.
I purchased the Women’s NEMO Tempo 20 Sleeping Bag, and have exactly zero regrets. I LOVE this bag! This bag is a “Relaxed Spoon™” shape vs. a traditional mummy bag, so it’s meant for side sleepers. I sleep on my stomach and move around a lot. This doesn’t feel as restricted as I would in other bags. I have the long version even though I’m shorter, but I use the extra space for clothes sometimes. I also sleep lower in the bag and use the integrated pillow pocket to store things I want to keep warmer, like my iPhone, charger, headlamp, etc. The zipper hardware is snag-less and allows you to zip from in or outside the bag. This bag weighs 3 Ibs. 15 oz and includes a draft collar which I pull up for extra warmth. Absolutely love the colors! Someday I may upgrade to a quilt but for now, I am very happy with this purchase. Here is a similarly shaped synthetic sleeping bag.
The rest of my sleep system includes the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Camping and Backpacking Sleeping Pad (an upgrade from my original Sleepingo Sleeping Pad, which I realized was only for summer camping). I purchased the Therm-a-Rest pad in size Regular Wide. It comes with a dry bag which is used to blow it up, and works really well.
My favorite “luxury” item is this Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow (size Medium). My sister recommended it after I had originally purchased a cheap blow up pillow and then also tried not using a pillow at all. Never again! This pillow was SO comfortable and made for such a better night’s sleep. No waking up with a crick in my neck.
Lastly, and obviously optional, twinkle lights. Fun to have and a little bit of a morale booster but totally unnecessary. I’ll probably save them for overnights or camping trips with my car, and not bring them on a longer backpacking trip next time.
Packing List for Women – Backpacking Clothing: What I Wore On My First Backpacking Trip
The clothing I packed for backpacking the Trans Catalina Trail for 3 days is more or less the same clothing I plan to wear on the A.T. for 5-6 days. Keep in mind we went the first week of March in California (and our next trip is the last week of April in Georgia). Before the trip we realized that we were actually going to have rain and pretty significant winds. I originally packed my rain pants as part of my rain gear but then ditched those at my sister’s house when I flew in. I will be bringing them on my next trip.
My backpack came with a rain cover, which was perfect not to have to worry about! I ended up wearing this Sunday Afternoons Ocean Trucker Hat, which was fantastic at keeping both the rain and sun off my face! I have the Columbia Women’s Arcadia II Jacket and Columbia Women’s Storm Surge Waterproof Rain Pant. For this trip, this was the only jacket I brought and also served me well as a wind breaker. I liked that I could cinch the hoodie tightly over my hat and velcro the arms as to not let water or wind in. Size-wise, it won’t fit over my puffy jacket so my dilemma is if I get a size up for cold-weather trips or just get a cheap pair of Frogg Toggs for those times.
I tend to run hot when I sleep, so I’ve been really concerned about that when it’s come to packing for these trips. I’ve decided that layering is best. I bought this thermal set on Amazon because it was inexpensive and had good reviews. The top is too restrictive for me, but I like the leggings. I really like this Colsie Women’s Ribbed Bodysuit but there are a ton of ribbed/seamless options for a bra, tank top, or bodysuit in this brand. On a previous overnight trip I packed a lightweight mid-layer like this Cuddl Duds long sleeve layering shirt. For this trip I brought a basic fleece zip-up in case I got cold. I ended up wearing it every night and even as an additional layer over my base layer during the coldest part of my trip. Amazon sells a great basic fleece jacket in straight and plus sizes, in a variety of colors! Lastly, I slept in a designated pair of classic wool socks. I brought these socks specifically for sleeping.
I bought these TEVA Women’s Original Universal Comfortable Quick-Drying Casual Sport Sandal in “Sun and Moon Insignia Blue”. I like how easily these velcro onto the outside of my pack. They’re comfortable but not the easiest to slip on and off at camp, unless you’re just not going to both with the back strap. I was debating switching to Crocs but I think I’m going to stick with these for a while.
After nearly a year in my Salomon’s (similar to these) I splurged on the ALTRA Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe in “Balsam Green”. I got them on sale at REI and also had a $20 off coupon. The new Lone Peak 6 shoes come in really fun colors! I’ve put just about 35 miles on these shoes so far and I’m still not 100% sold. I know they are like the pick for thru hikers, so I’ve really tried to make them work. Its a plus that my toes never hit and I have lots of room in the front. I am having a lot of issues with my ankles hurting though. I definitely see myself trying hiking boots soon. I’ve got my eye on Danner boots.
Clothing I Wore Backpacking
I pretty much always wear the same thing hiking – BuffBunny Collection leggings (my favorite style is Rosa). I did an entire review of plus-size active wear and they’re my absolute favorite. They carry sizes XXS-XXXL. For this trip, I packed/wore two pair of BuffBunny leggings, the Jazzercise Jacket (they’re pretty much sold out but have similar styles available), the Spin Crop Top (OOS), a sports bra from Target, and a tank top from Old Navy. I also packed 3 pair of Darn Tough socks.
In colder weather (and on the A.T.) I will also have my Grace Eleyae GE Adjustable Satin Lined Wool Winter Cap/Beanie and my Down puffy – a Men’s Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Hoodie.
Packing List for Women: Toiletries & Emergency Kit
I use the small heart Bumkin bag as my “potty” bag, and store it in the outside pocket of my pack. In our recent trip, there were restrooms at all of the campsites so I didn’t even need to use these items other than my hand sanitizer, but I’ll definitely be using them on the A.T. Here’s what goes in that bag:
- Kula Cloth – Antimicrobial pee cloth that attaches to the outside of your pack to dry.
- Deuce Potty Trowel
- 1 oz Hand Sanitizer
- Two sandwich-sized ziplocks: one with a bit of toilet tissue and the other with a few wet wipes. I use the bags to pack out my trash.
Sharing the Load
One of the benefits of backpacking with other people is that there are some things only one person in your party really needs to bring. My sister is an RN and took care of having our first aid and emergency devise. I did bring a couple extra bandaids, KT tape, and small bottle of Advil. Of these items, I will likely only bring extra pain relievers next time.
I was in charge of bringing gear aid, which thankfully we didn’t need. Although its pictured as a full 2 oz. liquid soap, I did end up putting my soap in a smaller 1 oz. bottle.
What I Will Skip Next Time
These items sounded like must haves but I ended up not using them much. Likely they will not end up on my next packing list. I probably will not bring my glasses on the next trip since we pretty much pack it in to sleep when I would normally need them to better see. Also, likely will not bring ear plugs. I never used them. I did love having the tiny foundation and mascara but I’ll be switching to a tiny eyebrow pencil. Did not regret having deodorant (I know it’s a luxury ultralight backpackers turn their noses up to) and this one was lighter than the one I originally purchased. I didn’t need the extra freezer bag but was glad to have it just in case. I’ve heard of people using these with shoe emergencies, so they’re good to have. Also, really enjoyed having the Rawlogy Original Ultralight Cork Massage Ball for foot care along the way. This Pack-It bag fits a LOT… the challenge is not to fill it. 😉
Miscellaneous Backpacking Ideas
- Osprey Pack Rain Cover – Came with and stores in the brain of my pack. It did it’s job and I was glad to have it.
- This little $10 sit pad is awesome. I put it in the outside of my pack for hiking trips but it’s also small enough to fit in my tote bag (purse) to use at my son’s soccer games/practices. I use it all the time.
- TrailBuddy Trekking Poles – Basic trekking poles — not the lightest or most compact, but they come in fun colors and I have no complaints! They got the job done and I was happy to have them. I even got my 9 year old a pair for Christmas. Since they’re adjustable, they work for just about any age.
- Power Bank Solar Charger – I scoured the reviews on Amazon for a good power bank. This thing is heavy at nearly a pound! However, fully charged it lasted all 3 days and had I needed it longer (which I will on my next trip) it is solar powered. Love it.
- ZIPKA Compact Headlamp by Petzl is probably my favorite ultralight gadget. It’s 3.2 ounces and fits either in my side pocket during the day or in my sleeping bag with me at night.
This is already pretty lengthy, so I will share the types of food I pack for backpacking & camping in another post!