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My bags are packed and I’m ready to go
This story appears in the May 2017 issue of School LIVE.
You have this amazing trip lined up and you’re raring to go! There’s going to be hills, trails, rivers, streams, woods, camps and even bonfires! There’s going to be a really cool bunch of kids, your family, or just random strangers. You just can’t wait to get on the road and get rolling! But wait! There is the one teensy weensy thing that just needs to be done before anything kicks off …. The packing! Our expert Nandita Saini helps you out!

Packing for an outdoor, adventure trip that’s got rivers, and mountains, and forests, and camps and bonfires can be fun, and a wee stressful maybe, and just a pain for some folks. How does one get that perfect blend of practical and cool? How does one remember everything that needs to be stuffed into that backpack? And if this is one of your first such trips, ye gads, how does one know what to carry? Or not to carry?

Well, here’s a life-saving list for you that will keep you safe, sane and travel worthy.


The all-important thing in a young person’s life – the right clothes. So here’s the dilemma. You’ll probably want one of everything for every possible insane occasion that you may encounter right? Well, take my word for it…. NO! Follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Silly). And keep it light. There’s one back-pack and loads of essentials and clothes are really near the bottom of the list. You will need

  • Trekking pants & T-shirts (breathable & quick dry, and warm for winter treks)
  • Let your proposed terrain define the length (shorts, half, full). Places with undergrowth or insects or too much sun will require greater skin coverage.
  • Take limited clothes, only enough to allow for a change in case of rain, slush or damage.
  • Take loads of undergarments and socks.
  • Keep some thermal inners and warm jackets for winter treks (limited numbers – they take space). Take jackets that are windproof and rainproof.
  • Always keep lightweight, easy to pack rain protection (top and bottom).
  • Keep a lightweight and easy to pack windcheater. You will be amazed at how warm you can get by simply protecting yourself from wind. Rainwear is also a great windcheater.


Now this one is the most important thing in your backpack (though there is a fair debate for that title). Invest in a good pair of trekking shoes. These are not running shoes, not tennis shoes, not football spikes! They are trekking shoes. Never travel with new shoes. Break them in for a few months before the trek. You do not want to deal with blisters.

You can keep a pair of comfortable sandals for walking in and around the camp. Don’t keep slippers, these will be a disaster in the rough campsite terrain.

Invest in a good pair of trekking shoes. These are not running shoes, not tennis shoes, not football spikes! They are trekking shoes. Never travel with new shoes.

Sun Protection

Sun protection is not just for beaches. Carry a good sunscreen and a well-fitted cap or a hat that won’t fly off. There’s no way you can roll down a hill to retrieve one that the wind takes away.

Day Bag Basics

Your day bag must have some essentials for day hikes and outings. These include wet wipes, a toilet paper roll, a hand sanitizer, band aid, dry power snacks (energy bars, cheese cubes, chocolates, dry fruits) and water. Avoid space consuming and salty snacks. Salty snacks with make you thirsty and uncomfortable on a trek.

Keep a headlight or torch (prefer headlight, keeps your hands free) in case you expect it to get dark on your way in. No trek should ever end with it getting dark on the way in, but be prepared. Headlights are also essential for nights at the camp.

Toiletries and Essentials

These should include –

  • A small towel (for day pack) and bath towel (Quick dry lightweight, like a gamcha or try the beach towels in Decathlon)
  • Insect repellent cream
  • Soap strips or small soaps. You can also carry liquid soap, but don’t carry the dispensers. No matter how careful you are, you will get liquid soap all over everything.
  • Medicines for fevers, tummy upsets, tummy aches, throat infections and any regular medication that you may need.
  • Basic First aid (antiseptic like betadine/savlon, cotton, band aid, crepe bandage)
  • Safety pins
  • Small plastic bags to organize things and for wet/dirty clothes
  • Toothbrush and paste

Optional, but often useful

Hydration pack/Water bladder (1l) are a great investment. They just sling on your back and therefore are easy to carry and drink from while walking.

Some people prefer trekking with a support. If you are one of them, do pick up a foldable trekking pole.

I prefer switching off from the world on a trek and putting technology aside for nature. However, if you have to be connected, make sure you have a battery backup. You may also need a phone for emergencies. In India, BSNL network is available in most places, even if other networks don’t work. You will not need a phone if you travel with a trekking company. They will have communication sorted out.

Carry a small camera so that it doesn’t add to your day pack weight and carry extra batteries.

Camping Basics





If you are travelling with a trekking company, they will provide you with tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mattresses and portable LED lamps. They will also organize your food, cutlery and camp chairs etc. If you are going on your own, you will need to invest in these items.

Some people prefer greater comfort while sleeping. You can invest in a good air mattress if you do. Do remember that it will take up precious space in your backpack. If you expect cold nights while camping, you may want to carry a warm shawl to augment the warmth of your sleeping bag. This helps because, sometimes, trekking companies invest in sleeping bags keeping a range of temperatures in mind and these may not be warm enough for very cold night.


  • The weight you pack is the weight that either you or someone else has to pack. Pack prudently.
  • Rule of thumb, every single thing must fit into a big backpack and a small day bag, leaving nothing in your hands.


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