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Backpacking is one of the most exciting activities for those looking to get away from the madness, even if only for a day or two. However, what you bring along will vary from location to location so it is wise to do a little research before stepping off into new and unusual places. Whether trekking up a path or stepping into the unknown, there are some things you should always bring. Following is a list of must-have gear for backpacking in the high desert, but keep in mind that this is by no means inclusive of everything you should carry with you. These are just some of the essential ‘survival’ items that every backpacker should always have.

First Aid Kit

Even experienced hikers who enjoy regular backpacking trips understand the need to have a few basic first aid supplies in their pack. You will want to carry some form of antihistamine to safeguard against allergens you may encounter plus a good supply of aspirins, bandages, antiseptics and a good antibiotic cream.

"Backpacking at Strawberry"


Cell Phone with Extra Batteries and/or Solar Charger

In days gone by it was always suggested that you carry an extra charged battery for your cell phone when backpacking but recent technology has produced small solar powered battery chargers that can eliminate the need to carry extra batteries. In any event, make sure to have a cell phone in case emergency communications are needed and don’t forget that most smart phones have amazing GPS functions as well. If you get a bit lost off the beaten path, your cell phone will undoubtedly be your best friend.

Hunting/Camping Knife

Sometimes backpackers need to literally cut a new path as they walk through brambles and brush. Backpacking in the high desert may call for a bit of cutting along the way and you never know when you might need to cut a bit of twine to set up camp overnight or for little emergency ‘repairs’ along the way. When buying knives online, make sure to purchase a hunting/camping knife that is sharp enough for a wide array of cutting tasks but also with safety features to ensure it doesn’t inadvertently open up, causing injury to you or buddies as you trek your way along what could be a very steep mountainous trail.

Mess Kit

Are you going to do a bit of hunting or go foraging for food? There may be times you will need to start an open fire to cook your meals, so a small, portable mess kit would be ideal for a backpacking trip. Include at least one metal pot, a couple of small eating utensils and don’t forget to bring matches and/or a lighter to get the fire going! Not everyone was a scout who learned to kindle a fire by rubbing two sticks together so matches are a must-have if you intend to spend more than a single afternoon on the trail.

Drinking Water and/or Water Purifying Tablets

Water is probably going to be your heaviest item but also one of the most important. You can quickly dehydrate without an adequate supply of fresh drinking water and just in case there is a stream or river where you can dip out a bit to drink, bring along some iodine or other types of sanitizing tablets to ensure the water you drink is safe.

"Shadow of the Mi-Wok Backpacking"


Space Blankets for Warmth

While days in the high desert can be quite warm, hot in fact, nights are often extremely cold and windy. A lightweight and ultra-compact space blanket is a must-have if you intend to spend the night out in the open under the stars. Keeping your backpack light is extremely important so a heavy blanket wouldn’t be something you’d want to carry. However, for warmth you’ll need some sort of cover and today’s space blankets are the perfect solution.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of must-have items to bring on a backpacking trip in the high desert, but a good place to start when making a list of what you absolutely need to carry. Just remember that safety is always a priority so whatever you do, pack first aid and survival items before anything else. You just might be glad you did!