What to Pack for an Overnight Hiking Trip


If you’re new to hiking you might be wondering what to pack for an overnight hiking trip. With so many products on the market, and so many opinions it can be very daunting setting up a hiking kit for the first time.

It’s very important to get a few of the basics right or you won’t have a great first experience. Further, it’s equally important to realise that you will learn something new every time you head away which is all part of the challenge and enjoyment of living out of a rucksack.

As a hiking instructor, I’ve had the privilege of taking many first time hikers out for their first overnight hiking experience. Here is a list of basic essentials that I recommend to beginner hikers on a budget:

Get a good 2-man tent

  • You will need a good tent to sleep in overnight.
  • I recommend taking a 2 man tent as it will give you room for your gear and pack as well as your bed.
  • Try to keep your tent under 2.5kg, or head out with a friend and share the load.
  • The Companion Pro Hiker 2 is a fantastic entry level tent that will be more than adequate for Australian conditions

The popular Companion Pro Hiker 2 Tent

Did you know the Pro Hiker 2 is Snowy’s best-selling hiking tent?

Keep a groundsheet under your tent

Just a simple Kookaburra Lightweight Standard Tarp will do the trick to protect your tent, keep it clean and add some waterproofing to the floor

Have a lightweight and compact sleeping bag for easy travel

  • There are two choices for hiking bags: ‘Synthetic’ or ‘Down’.
  • Synthetic tends to be cheaper and easier to care for but a bit bulky.
  • Down can be half the weight and half the size but twice as expensive.
  • If you can get a sleeping bag around the 1kg to 1.5kg mark you will be on the money but try not take a giant bag that takes up half your rucksack!

Use a well-insulated sleeping mat

  • There are a wide range of sleeping mats on the market from closed cell foam mats to “down filled” high-quality snow mats.
  • You can choose how much you want to spend but the main thing to look for is something that will insulate you from the ground.
  • The comfort level will depend on how much you want to spend and how much weight you want to carry.
  • Something like the Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated is a good place to start.

Pack simple, cheap and light cooking gear

  • You’ll need a stove to cook your dinner, and the key here is to keep it simple, cheap and light to start off with.
  • The Trangia 27-1 is a fantastic lightweight yet compact outdoor stove that is perfect for cooking for one to two people.
  • A fork and spoon are needed, and a cup is a good idea, but have a think about whether you need a plate and bowl as you can often eat out of the pot you cooked it in.
  • Don’t forget about the cleanup! A scouring pad and a little dishwashing liquid will be required but let it air dry so that you don’t need to bring a tea towel with you.

The Trangia Mini and Thai Chicken Curry Meal

This is actually the Trangia Mini. Ideal for one person. And some yummy Back Country Cuisine. 

Carry plenty of nutritional snack foods

  • When planning your meals, you will need a good balance of lightweight food but good nutritional value. Two-minute noodles are lightweight, but you may as well eat the packaging if you want nutrition.
  • There is a great range of tasty freeze dried meals on the market and, while they are not cheap, they definitely fit the description of easy, lightweight and nutritional food.
  • Speaking of packaging, have a good look at what packaging you need to take and what can be left behind. For example, you don’t need to take the box the muesli bars came in!
  • You’ll use a lot more energy when hiking, so snacks are very important. I recommend you have a “continuously grazing” approach rather than sticking to just three big meals per day.

Know where you can find more water

  • Plan your trip in advance to work out where water is available and how much is available.
  • Water will be the heaviest item in your pack but is also the most valuable so it’s very important to take enough for what you need (meals and clean up included) but not to take too much more.
  • Two to three litres per person, per day depending on the weather, is a good rule. This may sound like a lot for a two to three-day hike but remember you will be working a lot harder hiking than what you may normally do.
  • Try to plan hikes that have water at each campsite when you are starting off so you can minimise your weight and get to know how much water you require when hiking.
  • Make yourself aware of what you need to do to make your drinking water safe, thet way you don’t end up with a nasty stomach bug. Check out Snowys range of water filtration and treatment gear.

Keep clothes to a minimum

  • Try to choose items that are breathable and quick drying and as always, the lighter the better!
  • As a general rule, you should take one set of clothes for walking in and one complete warm and dry set to change into at night.
  • The longer you head away the more clothes you may want to take but remember you have to carry the weight.
  • I take a pair of socks and jocks for each day but stick with the one set for walking and one set at night rule.
  • A set of thermals is a MUST!
  • Pack a warm jacket as well as a rain coat.
  • Pack a hat and beanie and a good set of boots and socks.
  • Your boots should be the most important item to spend a decent amount of money on – and make sure you wear them well before your trip to prevent blisters.

Always have a first aid kit with you

  • Make sure your first aid kit has everything you need while keeping the weight down.
  • Think about what you are likely to encounter in the area that you are going.
  • Some of the more common things to prepare for are: snake/ spider bites, rolled ankles, cuts, broken bones and dehydration.

Hikers walking together on Fraser Island

Hiking with a group on Fraser Island. Image Credit: Sabrina Blaas

Don’t forget the little things

There will be a few other small items that you need for an overnight hike.

  • Toiletries such as toothbrush and toothpaste (only enough for a couple nights).
  • Toilet paper and a trowel (again only take what you need)
  • Head torch (with fresh batteries)
  • Pocket knife (also used for cooking hence why you only need a fork and spoon)
  • Matches/ lighter/ flint (for lighting your stove and a fire)
  • Phone / wallet / keys

“If it doesn’t keep you alive, it’s a luxury”

  • Once you have your kit together, pack it all in your rucksack and weigh it.
  • You should not be carrying more than one-third of your body weight.
  • If you’re not happy with the weight of your pack, then pull it out and take a good look at what you are taking.
    I live by the motto, “If it doesn’t keep you alive, it’s a luxury…”

How do you know you’ve packed well?

When you come back from your first few trips, have a good look at your gear and look at what you used and what you didn’t. You’ll know you’ve got it right when you come back with an emergency meal and half a litre of water still left and you’ve used all the gear you took with you!

I know many of the experienced hikers who read this will have some strong opinions on how things “should” be, so I must stress that the list above has been compiled to ensure that beginners hiking on a budget on an overnight basis can do so safely and successfully.

For further help on what to pack for an overnight hiking trip, read “How to prepare for an overnight hike” and learn how to pack your rucksack in “Beginners guide to packing a rucksack”.

About the writer...

Joined back in December, 2011

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