backpacking gear
Photo by Holly Mandarich

Planning for Yosemite: My Backpacking Essentials

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With winter nearly at its end, I am already several giant steps into spring. Perhaps it was the especially wet and cold winter or just my sheer excitement, but I’m already planning ahead for a mid-May backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park.

I tend to obsess over the details of packing — driven crazy by the thought of forgetting something important. But what can often be an irritating trait on any normal day is not necessarily a bad thing in backpacking. Another reason I’m creating my list and checking it twice now.

Some of those most “important” items include:

An extra pair of socks. Anything can happen out there, even in waterproof boots. Mother Nature is unpredictable, and you never know what condition a trail will be in — wet, snowy, icy, muddy. So, I always come prepared with an extra pair of socks. Smartwool Hike Crew Socks are my go-to as they keep my feet warm, comfortable and dry.



Hearty snacks. It’s easy to let hunger sneak up on you on the trail. I always bring easy-to-carry, easy-to-eat protein-packed snacks that will tide me over till we stop for the night. CLIF Builder’s Protein Bars are that for me — specifically, the chocolate peanut butter flavor. When I get “hangry,” they are my cure, giving me the burst of energy I need to make it to dinner — which brings me to the next item on my list …

There is nothing like having a warm meal to look forward to after a long day on the trail, particularly if it’s a chilly day. Thanks to the scientists who created freeze-dried foods, doing so is simple.

A warm, delicious dinner (made possible by products like the MSR Windburner Personal Stove System). There is nothing like having a warm meal to look forward to after a long day on the trail, particularly if it’s a chilly day. Thanks to the scientists who created freeze-dried foods, doing so is simple — of course, you’ll need a stove system to make it happen. My personal favorite meal is Mountain House Beef Stew, which is surprisingly delicious — way better than a lot of non-freeze-dried beef stew I’ve eaten. Of course, to eat this, you’ll need …

A particularly long spoon. Without this, eating that warm, delicious beef stew might be a little tricky as it comes in a deep pouch. I chose the reliable 8.5-inch long TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon, which conveniently comes with its own storage bag.

And last, but definitely not least — especially if you are backpacking (or just hiking) at high altitudes or in overall chilly weather …

A well-insulated fleece. As a second layer, a good fleece is key. These can sometimes be a bit pricey, but I found a great deal on Amazon: For $25 to about $45, you can grab a Columbia Benton Springs Full Zip Fleece Jacket. Besides being incredibly reasonably priced and one of the softest things I’ve ever felt, it has cord locks around the bottom, allowing you to tighten the jacket to your preference.

With these items checked off my list, I only have a few things left before I am ready to go: sleeping bag and pad, backpack, hiking boots, pants, base layer, coat, gloves, hat, breakfast, coffee, bladder, GPS, flashlight and headlamp, knife, toilet paper, tarp, firestarter …

Purchase these items for your next backpacking trip at the links below:

Smartwool Hike Crew Socks

CLIF Builder’s Protein Bars

Mountain House Beef Stew

TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon

Columbia Benton Springs Full Zip Fleece Jacket

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Alexandra Vollman
Alexandra Vollman is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for the outdoors — especially hiking. As the co-founder and editor of Modern Conservationist, she oversees editorial management for the site. She has a bachelor’s degree in media communications and a master’s degree in writing and publishing. Alexandra enjoys using her knack for reporting and storytelling to instill in others a better understanding of and appreciation for nature.

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