We have already covered what to pack for a day hike. Click HERE to read that post. Packing for an overnight hike is very similar to packing for a day hike, except you will need a little more gear and more of some of the stuff you already packed. The most obvious thing you need to add to your daypack items is someplace to sleep. There are no hotels in the national park, so you need a bed and a roof over your head.
Lets start with your “bed.” The overwhelming choice for your bedding is a sleeping bag. What you will need will depend on the temperature when you go, your size, and your budget. Sleeping bags are rated to a temperature. I have a zero degree bag and a 40 degree bag. I would not want to take the 40 degree bag if i’m sleeping outside in the winter. That bag would not keep me warm. You also can choose between synthetics and down, traditional and mummy bags, and more. There are a lot of choices, but you will want a sleeping bag.
Sleeping bags will help keep you warm, but the ground is hard. A mattress pad will help that. You can get them in closed cell foam or in a blow up or self inflating pad like a Therm-a-rest. Whatever you choose, you will want a mattress pad.
If you want to have a hot meal, you will need to bring a stove, fuel, food, and a pot or pots. Backpacking stoves tend to be pretty light and easy to operate. Even if you can’t cook a single thing a home (like me), you will still be able to make some macaroni and cheese here. You can buy canister stoves that take isobutane or another fuel or use a homemade alcohol stove. There are a million of how to’s about these online. Use what works best for you.
Obviously you will need more food if you are staying overnight than if you are doing a day hike. Be sure to bring a little more than you might think you need, just in case something happens when you are out. Its better to carry a little extra weight than to be starving on a mountain.
Obviously you will need more water as well. When staying overnight, I do not like to simply add or double the amount of water I carry. Water is very heavy to lug up and down a mountain. Instead, I make sure the place I am going will have a water source along the way and filter and fill up my bottles as I need them. You will need to carry the extra weight of a water filter or iodine tablets, but it beats the weight of a ton of water. You can find more information about water filters and tablets HERE.
If you are staying in a shelter, the roof over your head will be waiting for you. Otherwise, you will need to bring a shelter. This means a tent or in some cases, a hammock. Tents come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. The better and lighter the materials, the more expensive the tent. If you are simply going a couple times a year, just about any tent will do (even the Walmart tents). The difference is that over time the tent seams may not hold up, the zippers can fail, and the poles could weaken. But if you are only going once in a great while, a basic tent will work. You just need to decide if you need a one, two, three, four man tent.
After this, if you bring other things, it is simply about your preference. Perhaps you want to be able to brush your teeth when you wake up. People you talk to will thank you. Pack it. Do you want to change clothes, or bring extra clothes for when the temperature drops during the evening? Pack it. A book to read or a journal to write in? Up to you. Again, hike your own hike. There is no wrong way to do it unless you are unprepared.