Things That People Tell You About Backpacking Gear (That Aren’t Really True)

With more people wanting to get fit or enjoying the beauty of Mother Nature, it’s not surprising that backpacking has become more popular than before.

Businesses are also in on the trend; according to a report on CNBC, businesses catered to backpacking has seen significant growth in just a few years.

Just like with any other hobby, there’s bound to have a few misconceptions regarding backpacking.

Since there are so many people new to the hobby, they’re more likely to go overboard when it comes to getting new gear.

This is why we’ll talk about misconceptions about backpacking gear and why you shouldn’t believe them.

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“You’re backpacking, so you need a good pair of hiking boots!”

This is one of the most common misconceptions that both newcomers and veterans hear all the time.

You’ll hear about how they provide good ankle support, very durable, and waterproof.

Some people get discouraged from even trying out backpacking because they can’t afford a good set of hiking boots.

It’s a good thing that running shoes are just as good, if not a better alternative.

Experienced hiker backpacker Dave Collins from says switching from a 3-pound pair of hiking boots to a 1-pound pair of running shoes can save you as much energy as removing 8-12 pounds of luggage from your backpack.

Also, running shoes are softer and allow your feet to breathe, reducing the risks of fungal infections and blistering.

“GPS is good enough!”

GPS can give you a quick and easy way to figure out your location. Feel like you went a bit off the trail?

Whip out your phone and fire up your GPS and you’ll get your bearings straight in no time.

You have your phone in case of emergency anyway, so why not use it for navigation while you’re at it?

This would definitely be true, if not for one big problem: limited battery power. GPS can use up a lot of your smartphone’s energy, which limits its use during long trips, and having multiple power banks means you add a lot of weight to carry around.

It’s still better to learn how to read maps the old way and bring a map and compass.

monument valley

“Backpack rain covers are a must have!”

While you can always schedule your backpacking trips during days with pleasant weather, there’s always the chance that it will rain while you’re out there. If you want to keep your stuff safe, you should buy a rain cover for your bag.

Some even go so far as to say that you shouldn’t go backpacking without one!

However, you can also find a good alternative in your kitchen: trash compactor bags. Just line up the inside of your bag with one and keep it sealed afterward.

In fact, according to backpacking and hiking expert Phillip Werner from Section Hiker, most experienced backpackers prefer this option!

“It’s safe to use biodegradable soap in streams or ponds”

Biodegradable soaps are very popular among campers because they are made of natural plant oils. Unlike ordinary soaps with synthetic chemicals that can last for a long time, biodegradable soaps are considered more earth-friendly because they break down into proteins.

However, you should still avoid pouring soapy water directly into streams or ponds. According to Backcountry Attitude, even biodegradable soaps has a potential to contaminate freshwater sources.

This is because biodegradable soap only starts breaking down once it ends up in the soil. This means you’re still better off washing with it and pouring the suds down a hole far away from any water source.


“Keep your tent safe with a tent footprint.”

A tent footprint is a thick layer of cloth, rubber or synthetic material designed that is designed to keep the bottom layer of a tent from getting worn out.

You spread it out on the ground before you set your tent directly on it.

Aside from prolonging you tent’s lifespan, it can also keep water from wet soil from soaking your tent.

You’re probably thinking that a tent footprint is a must-have, but you don’t need to have one every time you need to set up camp. Most tents available today feature bottom layers designed to do the same things a tent footprint is supposed to do.

Unless you’re planning to use your tent a lot every year, a tent footprint is just extra (and sometimes expensive) weight.

“Don’t go camping in winter without a 4-season tent”

Backpacking during the colder months can be quite a challenge, but winter camping can be a fun experience.

This is why some people get 4-season tents to help keep themselves warm outdoors. A 4-season tent has a more rigid frame and better insulation against snow, water, and the freezing temperature.

However, you can still go winter camping with a 3-season tent. If you can, get a tent with steep walls to prevent snow from building up on top of it; other than that, just make sure you have a good sleeping bag rated for low-temperature conditions.

And speaking of sleeping bags…

“You can stay warmer if you sleep naked in a sleeping bag”

Sleeping bags are designed to help keep your body heat when sleeping in cold conditions. Some are thicker and rated for colder conditions, while some are just good enough to keep you comfortable during mildly chilly weather.

Some say that sleeping naked in a sleeping bag is warmer since your body heat goes straight to the bag, forming a warm “bubble” all over you.


If you want more warmth, wearing one or two layers of extra clothing is a much safer option. Sleeping naked out there while it’s called is just putting yourself at great risk of hypothermia.

This is especially true for beginners since they are more likely to buy sleeping bags that are not properly rated for very cold weather.

That wraps up this entry about common backpacking gear myths.

Have you heard about other misconceptions about backpacking gear?

Feel free to share it with us!

Karlis Kikuts

Karlis Kikuts

Coffee addict. Digital nomad. Solo traveler and blogger. Camping and hammocking enthusiast. Tiny book worm. In other words, the guy behind