How to Pack Light for Your Minnesota Northwoods Hiking Trip

Hiking “lightly,” and by that we mean packing lightly, doesn’t mean venturing out into the woods unprepared. It means only bringing precisely what you need to get you out and back again safely and enjoyably. For those who prefer to navigate the trails lightly, mastering the craft of minimalist packing is the best thing you can do. What exactly should you bring? That depends on the hike you are looking to take. At Sugar Lake Lodge, we have a lot of hikers looking to explore the Minnesota Northwoods, so we’ve seen a lot of people pack a lot of different things. Some are necessary, some are wholly unneeded. 

If you’re planning to hike the Minnesota Northwoods lightly, use the knowledge we’ve gained over the years as a northern Minnesota resort many hikers use as their basecamp! 

Pack Light for the Hike: What to Bring

When you’re using a resort as a basecamp for a day of hiking, it’s easy to pack only the essentials for your day of hiking. What exactly will you need? That depends on where you are going and for how long. Some combination of these essentials will help you pack minimally while being maximally prepared: 

  • Water: hydration bladders can hold up to three liters of water while not being as heavy or cumbersome as a standard water bottle. They are the most efficient way to haul water on a hike. 
  • Moisture wicking clothes: synthetic materials do not absorb and hold onto moisture like cotton. They will feel significantly lighter when you start to sweat. If you are heading out during the cooler months, stick to wool as it will help wick moisture while trapping heat inside the fibers. This will help you stay warm even when you get wet. If you expect it to rain, bring some type of rain gear. 
  • A compass: if you’re sticking to well-marked trails, you may be able to forgo having a compass, but if you want to head off the beaten path, this is an invaluable tool to keep you safe and headed in the right direction. 
  • Lights: if you plan on being out before sunrise or after sunset, having a headlamp, flashlight, or lantern are must haves. Headlamps are recommended as they will help you keep your hands free. This is especially important if you are using hiking poles. 
  • Sun protection: take into account the temperature, sunlight, and UV index for the day. If you’re heading out during the summer, sun protection is absolutely required. This can include sunglasses, sunscreen, and a sunhat or other type of head covering. Covering your head not only protects you from the sun, but it will also help you stay cool. 
  • Socks: wet feet while hiking are not only uncomfortable, but they can also lead to blisters and other health problems. Never underestimate the power of a clean, dry pair of socks while on a hike! 
  • Multitool: there are countless multitools on the market that feature everything from blades to saws, scissors, and anything else you may need in a pinch while on the trail. If you’re old fashioned, a good Swiss army knife is always an excellent choice. 
  • A lighter or stormproof matches: both of these are ideal for when you need to start a campfire. If you can’t get stormproof matches, which work even when wet, get a small waterproof case to store some matches in. 
  • First aid kit: basic first aid kits are small, lightweight and contain things like bandages, gauze, tape, ointment, etc. You can either make your own or buy one that is premade. 
  • Food: can’t forget to fuel while you’re on your hike! Space-saving foods will be small, lightweight, but calorically dense. In other words, you want to get the most nourishment out of the least amount of food possible. Good ideas for hiking food include nuts, jerky, protein or energy bars, granola, and dehydrated or freeze-dried foods. You can also carry some packets of electrolytes to mix with your water. 
  • Waterproof bag: it’s a good idea to have some type of sealed, waterproof bag to store electronics, maps, or anything else you want to keep dry. 
  • Insect repellant: we’re in Minnesota, enough said. 
  • Whistle: if you become lost or separated from your group, you’ll want something powerful to alert others of your location. 

What to Leave Behind

It’s natural to want to overpack for a hike. You never know what can happen, right? This leads to overpacking, and it will lead to you overburdening yourself with things you won’t or are highly unlikely to need: 

  • Excess clothing: you’re not packing for a vacation, so leave as many extra clothes behind as you can. Don’t forget that extra pair of socks! 
  • Excess food: most people load their packs with food they will never use. You don’t need options, you need sustenance. 
  • Camera equipment: in most cases, your phone will do.  
  • Jewelry: it’s best to leave it behind in your room at the lodge. This includes a wedding ring and band. There are sports bands you can invest in if you want to let nature know that you’re taken. 
  • Books: unless it’s a map, leave it behind. Many books are heavy! 
  • An oversized backpack: you only need as much space as you need to fit the essentials. Empty space in your pack means you are lugging around too large of a bag. 

Don’t Overpack

It’s easy to overpack for a hike. It’s also easy to write off those few extra pounds of gear when you are getting ready. Sure, 5 extra pounds doesn’t feel like much when you lift your pack in your resort room, but it will feel like a whole lot when you’ve been lugging it around for 5-8 hours. 

If you are uncertain whether you’ll need it, a good rule of thumb is to leave it behind. Worst case scenario, you’ll know for next time that it’s something you definitely want to bring. 

Set Up Basecamp at Sugar Lake Lodge

We’re located right in the heart of northern Minnesota. With so many places to hike in the surrounding areas, Sugar Lake Lodge is the perfect place to set up a basecamp. Plus, on days that you’re not hiking, you’ll have plenty of places to kick back and relax while you enjoy the views of Sugar Lake. 

Ready to hike? Book a room at Sugar Lake Lodge today!