• Jeannette McGill

Summit Steps: What is in your backpack . . . ??

Updated: Jun 22

There was an South African TV commercial for a milk powder that had the tagline: “It’s not inside . . . it’s onnnnn top!”


When it comes to filling your day pack or overnight backpack most importantly make sure you know where your stuff is and yes, make sure the things you will need all day long are close to the top. Efficiency is key in the outdoors. It means you can rest once stopped, can find things on the go, and also not waste energy through stress.


First off we have what is referred to world over as the “10 essentials”. Here they are, courtesy of REI:


1. Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger (e.g. SPOT or inReach) 2. Headlamp: plus extra batteries 3. Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen 4. First aid: including foot care and insect repellent (as needed) 5. Knife: plus a gear repair kit 6. Fire: matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove 7. Shelter: carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy) 8. Extra food: Beyond the minimum expectation 9. Extra water: Beyond the minimum expectation 10. Extra clothes: Beyond the minimum expectation


But know that the exact items from each group can be adjusted to the exact trip you are going on. For example, on a short day hike that’s easy to navigate you might choose to take a map, compass and PLB, but leave your GPS and altimeter behind. On an overnight or more complex outing, you might decide you want all those tools to help you find your way. When deciding what to bring, consider factors like weather, difficulty, duration, and distance from help.





Once you have the appropriate 10 essentials (making them as small and light as possible) then it’s time to add anything specific you need for a day hike or an overnight backpack.

Key is: the heaviest items should be as close to your back as possible, roughly in the middle of your bag. More importantly practice, develop a system, and often packing cells can be a great help. Once at your overnight stop, you can take out the packing cells and easily have order in the tent or around your sleeping pad in a cave.

What are you packing challenges and tips? Please pop in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!


Authors : Jeannette McGill and Saray Khumalo


Summit Steps: As part of Summits with a Purpose (check out the FB page) Saray Khumalo and Jeannette McGill are collaborating to share knowledge around hiking and mountaineering with the aim of making a positive and inclusive impact allowing more African woman to dream big and reach their outdoor goals.

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