Packing for a Trek?

Written by Joe
9th April 2018
trekking, mountain, packing, how to, essentials, base layers, suncream, insulated

We have previously gone through essential kit for a ski tour, but as spring progresses the weather becomes more temperate, the snow disappears and we look to ditch the skins in favour of walking gear.

Whether you are heading to the hills in the UK or further afield, correctly packing for your trip can make the difference between a blissful romp and a tragic trudge through the wilderness.

Please note that this article is intended for hillwalking, not high alpine adventures, although many of the points will still apply. Keep an eye on the blog for an article specific to alpine mountaineering coming soon.


There are certain non-negotiable items that may seem like obvious items to pack for any experienced hillwalkers, but to avoid any confusion we have listed them below:

Compass and Map - Whatever distance of expedition you are heading out on if you are treading new ground, and even if you aren’t, you should always carry with you a means of navigation. Whilst aids like GPS navigation devices and watches from the likes of Garmin can be useful accessories, there is no substitute for a good old map and compass which both boast infinite battery life.

Hydration and Nutrition - Whether you are heading out for a day or a month you will need suitable levels of nourishment to keep your body working at its optimal. This season, we produced a handy guide detailing how best to fuel your body when touring and many of the same principles apply for trekking.

Waterproof Clothing - In hilly areas weather can change in an instant, and anyone who has ever been outside in the UK for an extended period will appreciate that you can never be over-prepared for a little precipitation. A waterproof, breathable shell will not only shield you from the rain but also the wind.

Insulated Clothing - Base and mid layers are essential to wear under your jacket. Make sure every layer of your clothing is breathable to prevent moisture build-up which leads to temperature loss. By packing numerous layers that can be mixed and matched, it ensures that a comfortable temperature can be maintained whatever the conditions.

Base Layers - Whilst you don’t need two of everything, if you are planning on hiking for multiple days or in inclement weather it is worth considering taking some spare essentials. Anytime layers next to your skin are always worth having two of.

Sun Protection - It’s not just cold weather that can be detrimental to performance, overexposure to the sun can lead to a rapid decline in condition. Whilst sun cream is a great start, packing hats that shade your skin and clothing with UV protection will really make the difference. Protecting your eyes is also key, so whenever there will be sustained periods of sunlight, especially over snow then make sure you have some UV protective sunnies to hand. Check out our ‘skincare in the mountains’ blog for more info.

Tenting and Bedding - For those on multi-day treks you will need somewhere to sleep. Whether you are staying in an alpine hut, Scottish bothy or roughing it in the wild, make sure you have a sleeping bag that is up to the temperatures of the season. Whilst down sleeping bags are unrivalled for weight to warmth ratio and pack down smaller, synthetic bags are cheaper and tend to work better if they get wet. There are several sleeping matt options available, the most common of which are foam or inflatable mattresses, these are essential if you are sleeping on the floor, indoor or outdoor, not just for comfort but also for insulation.

Walking Poles - These aid stability over rough terrain and are used by many but not all. Choose collapsible models that can be strapped to the outside of your pack for easy access.

Cooking Apparatus and Fuel - When it’s cold and wet outside a mug of tea or soup can do a world of good, not only for the body but morale as well.

Toiletries - A toothbrush and other essentials are no-brainers, but things like toilet paper are easily forgotten and dearly missed!

First Aid Kit - Hopefully you will never have to use this, but it is something that should always be on you when heading away from civilisation.

Phone - Whilst many of us explore the wild to escape technology and the hustle of city life, a phone is still an essential piece of kit, especially in an emergency.


A good backpack that fits well is essential when carrying any weight. When choosing a bag, do not simply rely on online reviews, similarly to when buying ski boots, there is no substitute for trying bags on.

When trying any pack loosen the shoulder loops all the way and clip the waist belt, so it sits comfortably on the hips, only then tighten the shoulder straps. Selecting a pack with a good hip belt is essential as the hip belt should carry the brunt of the load. Ask for a weight to be put in the bag when you try it (most good shops will have large bean bag weight for this purpose), to recreate carrying a load. Generally, day bags will be up to 25 litres and multi-day bags will start at around 40 litres.

When you come to packing the bag, there are a few essentials to remember:

  • Keep heavier items close to your back to maximise manoeuvrability and comfort.
  • Where possible keep essential items near the top of your pack - if a rainstorm comes in fast you don’t want to have to unpack your whole bag!
  • Using dry-bags for items aids organisation of your bag and means that should it get soaked through, the contents will stay dry, after all, no one likes wet pants.
  • Waterproof backpack covers can provide a welcome barrier from the elements for your kit and will come with most good packs, usually hidden in a pocket.

Did we miss anything? What do you venture out without? Share any handy tips you might have on our Facebook Page.

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