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Autumn is a beautiful time of year to take a hike – the crisp air! The jewel-toned fall colors in nature! The lack of extreme heat or cold! While our last post told you some of the best places in America to take a hike this time of year, this one will explain how to pack your fall backpack for your upcoming trip.

Pick the right backpack:

When you're hunting for the right backpack, don't measure against your overall height, but by your torso, and know that like women’s jeans: each backpack manufacturer has their own sizing system. This means you’ll be trying on a few different backpacks before you find The One.

Now, there are external-frame backpacks, and internal-frame backpacks to choose from. The external-framed backpack holds your pack away from your body, making it a good pick for warmer days early autumn. Once it gets cooler, consider the internal-frame backpack. The internal frame makes balancing easier (great for tricky climbing) and has you carrying most of the pack’s weight on your hips instead of straining your back. Also, water is one of the most important things to bring, so if your backpack doesn’t come with a hydration system of its own make sure it at least has an outside pocket to hold your water bottle.

Bring a variety of clothing, and pack several outfits:

One of the most vital parts of packing for an autumn hike is your clothes. Usually you would need at least one change of clothes, pajamas, some extra underwear and at least three pairs of socks (one to wear, one that will be wet after washing, and one dry pair on standby). You’ll almost always be wetter, colder, and hotter than you anticipate; and the weather can be uncertain so make sure you have a variety of clothes ready: long-sleeves, short sleeves, long underwear, a hat and gloves, and rain gear. You can always shed your outer layers later, and even if the day is hot there may be no trees for protection from the wind. And warm clothes come in handy when you’re climbing to a higher elevation, which can be at winter temperatures even if the base of your hike was balmier – a winter jacket wouldn’t go amiss. Avoid cotton in the fall since it absorbs sweat and dries slowly instead of keeping the moisture away from your body. Wet cotton pressed against your skin can lead to chills and hypothermia. Try packing synthetic fiber instead.

Rain gear is of the utmost importance, so keep it at the top of your pack, or in an easy-to-reach pocket. Even if the weather doesn’t predict a storm, they can happen and what you’ll want more than anything is just to be dry. Make sure your fear isn’t just water resistant but waterproof. If it should happen to be clear skies on your hike, a rain jacket will still come in handy by keeping your body heat close when the wind tries to whip it away. Your rain gear can be compressed so as to take up very little room – there’s no reason not to play it smart and bring it along. Pack as if a downpour is for certain, and you won’t have any regrets later.

Take along accessories that will protect you from wildlife:

Bear canister: a hard food storage container that is animal-resistant. You can hang it up in a tree out of a bear’s reach while you sleep for extra protection (to best keep it out of a bear’s reach, use rope to suspend it between 2 trees, about 20 feet in the air).

Bear spray: a type of pepper spray used to deter aggressive bears. Not only is it non-lethal, but it’s more effective than using firearms. However, if you research bear-avoidance techniques and are aware of bear behaviors, you may not even need the spray in a wild bear encounter!

Bring an insulated sleeping bag:

It's preferable that you put it in its own compartment in the backpack. You can keep this at the bottom of your backpack as you’ll need it last, and you can put your sleeping pad in the pack against your back to avoid the sharp corners of any cookware. (When packing your backpack, take your trail into account: keeping heavier items at the bottom will help your balance on a rocky terrain, although women may prefer to pack this way for every trip as a woman’s center of gravity is lower. For a more moderate trailer, you might want to keep your center of gravity high, and for that you would pack your heavier items near the top of your pack. This will also help you manage the weight more easily.)

Stuff sacks: brightly covered sacks (waterproof and with drawstrings), these sacks are a way to organize the items in your pack so instead of digging around every item in the dark, you can grab your bright orange bag knowing that that is where your toiletries are.

Don't bring more food than you have to:

Food can be one of the heavier items to carry. However, you don’t want to pack too little food either, so planning your meals ahead of time is wise. Make sure you keep your food in tight Ziploc bags, so nothing spills on out (although even Ziploc bags won’t stop animals from smelling your food). Pack dried fruits, nuts, jerky, energy bars, whole-grain crackers, and other foods that are high in calories and energy. You can buy powdered electrolytes to add to your water. The electrolytes will help your body retain water and exit through your sweat. Plus, they help towards muscle function.

The longer your trip the more variety of food you’ll want. You can bring tea bags to add your powdered electrolytes to as well. Pack around 1.5-2 pounds of food per day – you may eat a bit more or less according to the amount of hiking you do each day. (If you’ll be hiking on a dry terrain make sure you bring enough water for your trek – think in gallons, not quarts). Your cookware can go in your back or on the outside. Lightweight cooking stoves won’t weigh you down or impact the environment when you use them. To pack lightly, a spoon can be used for any meal, unlike a fork, and your cooking pot can be your serving dish.


Other miscellaneous items you may wish to bring include:

A book, a compass, sunglasses, a water purifier, pocket knife/multi-tool, waterproof matches (even if you’ve never needed them before, they could save your life). Your outside pockets should also include: a first aid kit, insect repellant, your bear spray, a map, flashlight, and whistle. Each of these emergency items needs to be easily accessible, part of which includes returning the item where you found it – you don’t want to be digging around for your bear spray when an angry bear shows up!

FAQ:Will I need my phone? Sure, bring it for emergencies. How about my journal? Great! How about my Dunkin Donuts gift card? No, leave that at home. Should I bring air fresheners? No, smell the nature. It won’t hurt you. Sunblock? Definitely. Tanning oil? Um, sure. My favorite cuff links? No, you will drop them and lose them forever and your mother will yell at you. Pet turtle? No, he’ll probably just slow you down. Turtles are notoriously poor hikers. My full-sized American flag? Nope.


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