Inside the Soul…of My Hiking BackPack

Me Hiking Eagle LakeI have been hiking for almost 20 years now. I still manage to forget to pack something every now and then – especially when I am getting back into the swing of things at the beginning of the season. For example, I know better but have been leaving the bug spray at home because we haven’t rain into any major bugs in a while….until our hike to Eagle Lake. The mosquitoes were thick there and left me cursing my complacency.

Hiking is a soul-nourishing activity for me. It either gives me time to think by myself and go at my own pace (or Gretel’s fast pace actually) or to step away from the business of life and connect with the person I am hiking with. It gives me the opportunity to get more in-tune with Chester and Gretel and build our bond. The challenges also make me mentally and physically stronger.

I feel like my backpack is the soul of my hiking experience. It gives me the support and confidence I need to push upward and reach my goal. Over the years I have learned what I need to put in there to make my day relaxing, comfortable and take care of any minor mishaps. I thought I would give you a glimpse inside my pack.


Let’s start with the foundation – the actual backpack. The minimum size pack that I use for a day hike is 15 liters and the maximum is about 40 liters. Liters are the volume of stuff you can put into the entire bag, including all of the small pockets.

The 15 liter pack is pretty small but this one is special. In a regular pack you need to take into account space for all of the water you will be carrying to stay hydrated. My little pack comes fitted with a hydration bladder – a big plastic bag that goes inside and has a drinking tube to drink from. The volume and space for that hydration bladder is not included in the overall bag volume calculation…so really by bag carries 15 liters PLUS my water.


What do I put inside my backpack when heading out for a hike?

For little emergencies

  • Small First Aid Kit
  • Ultra-light Flash 18 pack (for carrying a small dog out of the woods in an emergency)
  • Bug Repellant (not pictured…because I forgot it)
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamp (in case you get stuck out after dark)
  • Cell Phone (turned off. Note: This is for the off-chance that I could actually get reception. Most places you can’t)

For the dogs comfort

  • Poo Bags
  • Gallon Freezer Ziplock Bag (to put the poo bag in so it doesn’t stink while you carry it out)
  • Collapsible Silicone Dish
  • Water Bottle (with their special water in it)
  • Water flavoring (to encourage them to drink – actually added to the water before we leave)
  • Snacks/Treats

For my comfort

  • Water (if I am not using my hydration pack)
  • Long-sleeved Shirt for Layering
  • Plenty of Water (in my hydration bladder or an extra bottle)
  • Handkerchief (for mopping up the sweat)
  • Sunglasses
  • Snack/Food
  • Extra Socks (if I am going somewhere were I might get wet)
  • Camera

If you are new to hiking, hopefully this little list will help you be prepared and have a great experience out on the trail. It will also serve as a great reminder for me at the beginning of each hiking season.

If you are a seasoned hiker, please leave a comment telling us about your must-haves.

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    • Jessica Rhae says

      Yes, the backpack I am currently using is SMALL. I can tend to over pack but I can barely fit all of the stuff on this list in it. Self limiting :)

  1. says

    Great list! The cell phone is a must. I had a friend whose dog was injured and she did not have her phone. She had to carry her 50 pound dog several miles before she found someone to help her. Also, if you have reception, turn it off, turn off the ear buds and just enjoy nature, the dogs and the person(s) you are with. Getting in tune with nature not your “tunes” is so wonderful!
    emma recently posted…A Snoopy Lesson | GBGVMy Profile

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Yes, the cell phone should be off and tucked away just in case. However, the other day the battery ran out on my camera so I used my cell phone to take photos. If I have my phone on for reasons such as that and there is no cell reception, I am sure to turn it to airplane mode as to not drain the battery. Dead battery on the cell phone is no good in an emergency :/

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Yeah, I forgot camera on the list. I’m going to add it. I don’t go anywhere without my camera…especially as a blogger :) I did go kayaking with a friend the other day and took NO PHOTOS. It was nice to not have to thing about that and just enjoy the frogs, turtles and birds.

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Oh, I take this on every hike that we do if it is actually in the woods. I don’t bring all of this if we are hiking trails in city parks but if we are away from civilization it all goes, even if our hike is only a couple of miles. This is my list for smaller hikes! If I was going all day or overnight the list would be longer. Once we actually get out to camp overnight, the longer list of what goes in that backpack will come.

  2. GizmoGeodog says

    You’ve got a good foundation list there…Not surprisingly a handheld GPS (I’m still using my relaible Old Faithful, a Garmin 60 csx)is a must carry for me…We visit many unmarked trails and I wouldn’t feel comfortable without it
    GizmoGeodog recently posted…Thankful for a HaikuMy Profile

  3. says

    Great article. I know cell phone reception is usually a no go but they also have cell chargers that are solar operated. These are good for emergencies if you end up stranded for a bit. You never know if you may get that glimpse of service for a moment, you want a charged battery. Love the info on the flash 18 pack, although my guy would NEVER fit. lol Makes me think-going to look around and see if they have anything out to help with the big guys incase something happens.
    Thanks so much, sharing. :)

    • Jessica Rhae says

      They do have sling-type carriers…similar to the kind parents carry babies in. They’re maybe not the most comfortable (neither is the flash 18 pack) but we are talking about emergencies here. Still, I imagine they only work to about 20 lbs max. For heavier dogs I suggest a bed sheet that you and your hiking friend could carry like a cot.

  4. says

    I like “hiking” but since I pretty much live in a flat area…it is nothing like your hiking. I also have lived in more urban areas. Most of the time it is well marked and well traveled paths in county or state parks.

    I have a bladder but the straw part got mold in it despite my best efforts. I guess I’m not seasoned enough to know how to dry out the tiny tube? LOL
    The Lady recently posted…Coondog Day 2013My Profile

    • Jessica Rhae says

      I hardly ever need them so I didn’t bring them on our hike to Eagle Lake….THEN there was the part where I had to walk in a foot of water! Luckily my socks were wool so the squishy hike out wasn’t too miserable. I would have rather had dry socks though :)

  5. says

    It was interesting to see what’s inside your pack! There’s no way that I could ever carry a Lab out of the wilderness so I carry a Spot (emergency beacon) so I can get people to come help me if it comes to that. You sure are thorough! I’m going to take a few of your ideas.
    KB recently posted…Why I love the mountainsMy Profile

    • Jessica Rhae says

      Yeah, a Spot is a great idea for larger dogs. If we are hiking for several days, or deeper into the wilderness than we can carry the dogs out, we bring a Spot. I will try to remember to include that when I make my “overnight backpacking” list.

  6. says

    Wow! That’s pretty impressive. I almost purchased a backpack like that at Costco, but we haven’t gone on our first hike yet so I thought I might be jumping the gun. I’m so glad that I read this, because I was planning on heading out next week and I would have treated it like a regular walk and I should know better.

    Thanks for this post.
    Kimberly, The Fur Mom recently posted…No Pet Store Puppies Day | 9 Things I’ve Learned About Puppy Mills #ASPCAMy Profile

    • Jessica Rhae says

      That’s a great idea Jodi. I guess I just figure 1) the trails are so established and well-traveled that I won’t get lost and 2) I can create a shelter MacGyver- style out of branches and stuff. One shouldn’t be too confident though. What if you are too injured to gather branches?

      I will tell you though – those emergency blankets ARE NOT good to sleep in. They are literally just meant to keep you from dying….primarily from letting you remain so cold that you have no choice but to stay conscious and move about to stay warm. Ha, ha. I know because I tried sleeping overnight under one on a mountain top when I used to fight wildfires. Now I know :)

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