** This is my FIRST EVER Instructable! Many people keep asking me to write up about backpacking and what I use, so here we go! It's not finished yet, but I'm working on it! All constructive feedback is more the welcome... in fact, its encouraged! :) **
In this Instructable I shall try to give a run down of equipment, the pros and cons, the do's and donts of backpacking. I travelled from the England to New Zealand on a whim after suffering from heavy depression and it was in NZ that I discovered the peace of nature away from the big city and its demands. Here, I learnt what true wilderness is. Landscapes of the most stunning flora and fauna imaginable to man. However, without the right respect and precautions, things can quickly deteriorate into a fight for life (I learnt the hard way!). Here, I aim to help everyone enjoy nature by properly equipping themselves with the knowledge and equipment to aid in most scenarios and help you to find the peace and calm that I have away from the hustle and bustle of the rat race.
6. Walking Poles
7. Sleeping Bag
8. Water Filtration/Transport
Step 1: Equipment (Bag)
Obviously, those who are walking for a day have little use for an extremely large pack full of food for multiple days and it's extremely important that you carefully consider your options. If you are travelling solo for a day, then you'll be pretty good with some basic equipment such as knife, water, food and waterproof clothing. In all honesty, for a day way, you could get by with just you and your health but if anything goes wrong and you are seriously delayed, you'll quickly be in trouble. So pack for emergencies at least. A small backpack will do the job fine!
For those of us who prefer the longer trails, this is where things can get a bit more complicated. The bag is extremely important and every item packed should be very carefully considered. First consideration is the pack size. How long will you go for? Days? Weeks? Will a 50, 60, 70 litre bag be big enough? Will you be travelling alone or with a friend? Can you share equipment? All these things can ensure that you pack the minimal weight for maximum comfort and use. Personally, I own an Osprey Aesther 60L and it's proved it's money's worth many times over!
So carefully choose the pack size to ensure that you have the best possible comfort and size for your journey. Try not to carry any excess, as excess = extra weight, extra weight = wasted energy.
Step 2: Equipment (Shelter)
Hammock (my choice):
Personally, I love my hammock. Theirs nothing like ending a days hard walk in the comfort of a hammock, however, this is not without drawbacks.
First of all, a hammock obviously needs to be supported by 2 solid posts on each end. This can sometimes be a big issue when beach walking or in an area of low shrubs and weak trees. Not much you can do with a hammock when you've nowhere to hang it. It's also limited on people capacity. I'm only aware of single person hammocks. Another large drawback is the fact that you are indeed suspended in air and when the temperature drops in the night and the breeze picks up, you'll feel the chill! Heavy rain can also be a pain in a hammock as sometimes you may find the stray raindrop find its way to you or, as I found out, the rain causes puddles and if you don't consider how low your lying, you might find that the puddle has risen to meet with your butt and start to seep in. I can tell you from experience that this is ridiculously frustrating. Also, hammocks are generally not bag or cooking friendly.
The pros of a hammock, for me, out shine the cons and hence why I travel with one. As already said, comfort is beautiful. Laying under a starry clear sky on a warm night gently swaying in the breeze is... Simply put... Wonderful. A hammock is also SUPER fast to set up when you have many trees to choose from. It takes me about 5 mins to have it all set and 5 mins to pack away. You can eliminate the need for bulky sleeping mats on warmer hikes (although a mat is great to stop the chill in colder climates) and save some weight and storage space. You can also TRULY vanish with a hammock! In times where flat spaces for a ground based shelter are just not present, the hammock shines through. I've even slept like a baby in steep slopping gorges when I've wanted to be sure I'm not found. For me, on a 3000km hike, the option to not be found is necessity.
The tried and tested! Everyone has slept in a tent or knows someone who has slept in a tent. Tents are great! The space a tent allows means when the weather's to crazy outside to cook in, you can always cook in a tent! You can store your bag safely in a tent and out of site of curious animals and people. The advantages of a tent is also that the ground acts as a basic form of insulation. If you have no mat and a flat, clear ground, you can get a pretty good sleep still! Some tents also weigh less then my 1.0kg hammock and can take 2 people, which is a big advantage for those travelling with others.
The down side, however, is that a tent can flood If not correctly pitched. They are also a lot more expensive when it comes to the weight, quality, and capacity. You can spend the best part of a grand on an all season, super lightweight, quick to erect compact tent with a good brand name attached. They need clear, open and ideally flat space with no large rocks or tree roots to avoid damage to both user and tent. A mat can rectify some of the issue, but not completely. If pitched on a slight slope, it's also a bit of a pain that when you try to sleep in your bag, you find yourself sliding slightly downhill with every small move.
Tarps and bivvies...
If the comfort of a tent or hammock means extra weight and hassle, then these are the 2 alternatives to go for. A tarp is nothing but a sheet of water proof material that can be tied, pegged, hung, off trees or walking poles and provides next to no weight or comforts. Bug screens dont generally exist in a tarp, so be prepared to get bitten or find creepy crawlies sharing your shelter! You can do much the same as a tent in a tarp but sacrificing a few comforts for weight. This always seems to be the super lightweight choice for those who consider every gram. Tarps are super versatile and the skies the limit. They can also be picked up for very little money compared to tents and even a $20 Tarp from your local DIY shop will still provide some basic form of tarp shelter!
Bivvies are nothing more then enlarged, glorified sleeping bags. Excellent for a shelter when nothing else works. I've used these on beaches with ease and comfort. You just put it on over your sleeping bag and done! Seconds! These seem to be a popular Alpine shelter. I carry a bivvy as well as a hammock, as when I cant erect my hammock, I can always find the floor to sleep on as they are so small. I also use one of these in my hammock when the breeze is a bit chilly and theirs possibility of rain. I personally think everyone should take 1 basic lightweight bivvy, no matter what your preferences on shelter. If you don't actually end up using it as shelter, it's good for retaining warmth on those colder nights.
There is no straight forward answer when it comes to shelter. This depends entirely on your preferences. It's taken me many hours of research to decide on a hammock and still I have moments where I seriously consider other shelters.
Step 3: Equipment (Cooking)
There is more cooking equipment then you can shake a stick at! We have everything from expensive Alpine pots to just good old wood and fire. Again, this falls heavily on many factors but you are definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to what cooking equipment to take.
As stated above, the skies pretty much the limit here. You can have everything from lightweight, alcohol stoves that fit into the palm of your hand and are made from brass, to a simple attachment that screws into the top of your gas bottle. I feel that bought stuff is best when you want results and you want them now. You can get water boiling in next to no time with a good Kovea Alpine pot but it really comes into its own when you are at high altitudes where airs a bit thin or its windy. They are also safer, harder, more durable options and the cost is usually down to quality materials used. The Alp Pot is what I have, however, I am currently looking at other ways to cook food which are lighter and more budget friendly. I feel that my pot is overkill. If I was travelling with others, it would be the perfect solution and I wouldn't dream of storing it away, but I just don't need that much... Oomph... In my pot, as a solo traveller who only really requires boiling water.
Alcohol stoves are also popular and are much more economical, long lasting, and cheap then the more expensive Alp pot counterparts. Alcohol (or its substitutes) can be found everywhere. They often don't have stands for pots and can tip quite easily and if not careful, leak burning alcohol onto surrounding ground! Wind is always an issue with alcohol stoves and sometimes even lighting them can prove a little problematic.
The next popular alternative would be gas bottle attachments. They are common as muck and can range from the cheap to the expensive. Just screw on the gas bottle and light. Easy. The simplicity is the beauty of these, much like the alcohol stoves. They do suffer when wind is involved, but as the gas is pressurised, it's not going to extinguish very easily and instead will just increase cooking times and temperatures.
All of the above can be lit using Firesteel or a lighter and will take a bit more of a beating then cheaper stoves.
For the budget backpacker, we have a lot of options here which bring me into the next part...
Home Made Stoves:
These little guys are cheap. Cheap of the cheap. Many choices and all super cheap compared to the bought. You can make a simple stove with a coke can and some basic cutting equipment (penny stove) or for the super basic, a tuna tin and alcohol (super cat). Seriously budget stuff. These are things I'm spending many hours researching at the moment to try get a more lightweight and cheap solution to my cooking requirements. People around the world use MANY designs and variations of the stoves and each seem to be loved or hated. You look up penny stoves on here or Google and you'll be spoilt for choice I'm terms of options. I have recently discovered Buddy Burners and have made and tested those. The beauty of a buddy burner is that alcohol is not required as it's basically a glorified candle, so you have an attached and integrated fuel source! I'll quickly list the pros and cons of each...
Super cheap, super easy to make. A bit volatile. Doesn't like low temps, sometimes weak flame, needs priming, cheap and easy to find fuel. Danger of spilling. Made of aluminium cans so can be crushed if not careful. Invisible flame. Also the most adaptable and open to tweaking! People have millions of ideas when it comes to creating these and ironing out the faults. Better fuel economy.
Same as above, apart from its made from tin and not adaptable at all, really. Only really 1 Super Cat design and that's the limit unless you Wick it. Extremely simple design. No priming required but just as volatile and delicate when wind is present. Invisible flame! Bad fuel economy.
Probably the more expensive of the home made. It's a tuna can, corrugated card and wax to form a long burning candle. These are a pain to light but when they do light, they will burn for hours. Fuel is wax, so some tea candles (crayons apparently work too) is all that required. You can refuel these even whilst alight. Extinguishing can sometimes be a bit tricky. They also love to soot up your pots (avoided with a layer of thin mud around your pot). Takes some time for wax to harden once used. Doubles as a tent/cabin heater. Excellent for drying and lighting fire wood!
Then, of course, we have...
Tin Can Stove:
Kindling and wooden sticks put into a can and lit. Simple as simple can be... If the wood is dry. Buddy Burners are good to start or dry firewood. It's also worth preparing a little before hand if you wish to use this as you can make simple kindling Burners with Cotton buds and Vaseline or Cotton buds, alcohol and wax. A must for those wetter or high wind areas.
My personal opinion is to take options. I've decided that I will ditch a pressurised gas bottle and the attachments in favour of a Super Cat and Buddy Burner. Super cat will get to a boil quickly but fuel dies fast and a Burner will take longer to boil but burns for hours. I can take a Buddy Burner, Penny Stove and Tin Can Stove and still weigh less then my 1 Alpine pot. Bottled alcohol or tea candles are the weights here. I, personally, just boil water so these are perfect. Anything more then boiling water for 1 person and I suggest getting a better, more durable bought stove. After much research I also discovered that they all boil water in roughly the same time. Anything from 5-10 mins in ideal conditions.
Step 4: Equipment (Electronics)
Here I will discuss my electronics...
You need it. Sadly, as many times as I feel like throwing my stupid phone into the sea, fact of the matter is that I need it more then it needs me. The mobile should ideally be the box standard, basic, old skool variety as you won't shed many tears for breaking one of those, the batteries are superior and they take more of a beating. Failing that, your smartphone will do the trick but need slight tweaking. It's best to make sure that before you go on your long journey that you switch your phone to Plane Mode! This saves you a ton of battery and can easily be switched on and off. Plane Mode, I found, is best when your travelling and want to send the odd text or look at the odd website throughout the day, otherwise, if you know you won't use your phone for a day or 2 then just switch it off. You'll be surprised how much battery gets consumed just by turning your phone on and off every time you want it. I will touch on other features a little later in this section.
It's a no brainer! You should have a torch. A basic torch at very least but I can't stress enough how much difference cost means on a torch. I currently own a LED Lenser and that torches beam could cut through time. Thoroughly impressed, water resistant and hard wearing! I personally think head torches are best as they free up your hands. It's also good to have a 'rechargeable battery that can be switched to AA batteries' torch. I also recommend Red Light, but it's not necessary just good for battery consumption and night vision. Biggest draw back of a powerful torch is that people want to borrow it ALL the time.
This one seems to be a 'unique to me' item. The tablet... Extremely versatile, overlooked, and multi purpose! I've walked 600km and seen no one with a tablet and always get odd looks. Why a tablet, do I hear you ask? Well, my tablet is my GPS, Camera, Internet, books, music and films and the battery can last me about 3-4 days without charge. The camera on my tablet is not junk either. I can take panoramic, spherical, standard landscape and portrait shots and the photos still blow me away when I look at them. I've not seen people with professional backpacking camera equipment take the variety of shots I can. The GPS is managed via Apps (in my case, Topo Maps NZ) and has proven ridiculously good. Seriously I cannot praise it enough. I've been unfortunate to lose the track on a couple occasions and when I've had that gut feeling that somethings not right, I just switch on my GPS, wait a few minutes and wait for my location before deciding weather to progress or return. Another beautiful thing about the tablet GPS is that I am able to get my coordinates. Should I ever require emergency attention whilst in the bush, I feel a lot safer knowing I have the coordinates to be rescued. The draw back is obviously cost, here. Should it become damaged in rain or whatever, then it will set me back a lot of money! The benefits far outweigh the risk to me. In order to increase battery life on my tablet, I often use the GPS map as a standard map and only switch GPS locator on when the trail goes cold or I want to find out rough walking times and distances. I've also used the tablet as a car Satnav when I've hitch hiked and been picked up by someone whose not familiar with the area.
Mobile and tablet:
We all know that a phone is now just as capable of doing pretty much everything that a tablet can, nowadays. New smart phones bring about a more condensed form of tablet and therefore a more condensed GPS, Camera, etc. If you are going to take a phone and can't afford a tablet then set your phone up for super compact GPS and camera! The drawback of this set up is that when your phone dies, you may have no contact with the outside world. I prefer to keep tablet and phone separate. One is for pleasure, another for emergencies. Both will run out eventually but the tablet will last much longer.
Not used one but we all know that they truly shine when in emergencies. Stupidly expensive but what's the price of getting out of a bad situation with your life intact? If you can afford one and your embarking on a hardcore trail, then I strongly encourage you to purchase one.
That's all the electricals I need or want on my travels. These obviously require charging and if you are on long hikes such as myself, it maybe worth considering a solar charger. They are heavy and slow charging, however. If you are able, I would recommend extra batteries. I don't carry any batteries and instead stop in cafes and the odd hostel to recharge every few days.
Step 5: Equipment (Clothing)
So, here is where I will discuss clothing a little...
Clothing is the most important part of your hike and can mean the difference between an incredibly pleasurable and unpleasurable hike.
As discussed above, cotton is to be avoided. Cotton also has the habit of smelling... Real bad! Denim is also a horrible material to take to nature in. Weighs a ton when wet, real hard to dry and heavy when wet. The saving grace of the denim material is the ruggedness and ability to last but still a material to be avoided at all costs. Marino wool is a good hiking material. It very rarely smells and dries quicker then other wool counterparts whilst providing excellent insulation.
Quick drying clothing will always make your walk comfortable whilst providing enough ventilation for heat and warmth in cold. Unless you are doing day hikes, you may want to invest in some decent, quick drying clothes. My clothing is Craghopper and this also has an anti-bug repellent that seems to work a charm where sand flies and mozzies are concerned. My trousers unzip at the bottoms to make shorts and my sleeves have stitched buttons so I can roll them up and fasten to keep cooler on the hotter days. My shirt also has an extra long collar for UV protection and has a large front zip for extra ventilation. Together, my trousers and shirt have a million pockets. I often lose my smaller objects in one of the many pockets.
It's also very important to carry weatherproof clothing. Again, this makes the difference on your hiking experience. If you get wet, your hike will quickly become a chore. Money goes further here. Cheap waterproofs will leak or tear and allow water onto your clothing, whereas the more expensive stuff does its job and does it well.
A hat! Hats for UV protection, rain protection and to help keep warm. A hat also helps to keep rain and sweat off your glasses if you have 4 eyes like myself (A $1 bandana also works super well). On cold nights, me and my big padded hat are unseperable. I often sleep in it and as it's large and padded, it serves as a small, warm, non-adjustable pillow!
Footwear. So many factors and all down to preference. I have some expensive Zamberlan boots that work a real treat but are heavier then the alternatives. They have had a real hard life already in 2-3 months and are still going strong. The downside of boots is that they aren't always the most comfy option. I've heard of people hike in decent sandles or even running shoes, opting to just brave the rain, wet and mud for comfort and cleaning at the end of the day. Boots will surely give you more protection from rocks, roots, slips, trips and falls and provide good ankle support but aren't so easy to dry. I suggest taking a small, cheap pair of plimsolls for changing into in the evening and to help give your feet a break/air from the clumpy boots. They are also super comfortable compared to boots on beaches.
This brings me to gaitors. Not a necessity but I think they help to save time and energy cleaning muddy trousers and socks. They also help keep sand and stones out of your boots and do provide a basic form of water protection just past the ankle of the boots and if not standing in water for any length of time.
Another important clothing for hiking is thermal underwear. You may not use these during the day but they are good for night time! They help keep you warm in your bag and warm when nature calls! It's also very nice to finish the day in dirty hiking gear, take off all the dirties and put on clean for the evening.
That covers the basics of clothing. I never try pack anything twice (apart from underwear) when it comes to clothing and learnt that the best way to pack clothing is by layers. For example, a base layer for me is vest, boxers, socks. Long John's for warmth. Hiking shirt and trousers and if with weather get worse, I have a lightweight warm jacket, a raincoat and rain trousers. When I'm real cold, everything goes on and I'm snug!
Step 6: Equipment (Walking Poles)
I've travelled many mountains, forests and beaches and one thing I find most useful is sticks. I've seen first hand the difference sticks can make to a slow walkers pace and am firmly stuck on the belief that they are worth their weight in gold. They save time, energy, aches, pains and are multipurpose (good for tarp camping).
I have a friend who works in Search and Rescue and is a hardened hiker, often hiking barefoot in any terrain. He was always anti-pole but was converted when he had to rescue an older male with a leg injury from the mountains and got to see first hand how much the walking poles aided him and his injury.
I also spent a few days with a backpacker couple who also didn't believe in walking poles. The female really struggled to keep up at times and this went on for a good day or 2. Constantly stop, rest, start, stop, rest, start. Eventually I insisted she take my walking poles and the difference to her pace was incredible! She began racing ahead past both me and her other half! The same couple also struggled with river crossing on the slippery rocks which was remedied by poles again. Same for muddy tracks, rocky climbs, etc, etc. Needless to say, when we went our separate ways, they both wanted to invest in poles.
I have a pair of Kopperdell poles that have been fantastic! I owned some steel ones but they both bent within an hour of each other whilst trying to negotiate a flooded mountain pass, then I decided to splash out and get some branded ones and the difference in ease of use and strength has been noticeable.
There is no reason to spend any money on poles if you don't want to. You can, of course, get a branch and just use that. 1 is better then none. The reason I spent money on these poles was because my bag has a pole attachment, they are super light, telescopic and easily adjustable for the up and down hill climbs.
When climbing uphill with poles, I suggest shortening poles to go uphill and extending when going down. The top of the pole handle should be in line with the top of your hip bone for a general, all round usage. Rubber attachable tips are good for roads and rock hard surfaces and hard tips best for soft terrain. You can also get some... Circular attachments that stop the poles from sinking in mud and sand and sit just about the end of the poles, but they are best removed in dense bush as they get caught on vegetation.
Instructables has many tutorials for some excellent home made poles that double as storage and all sorts!
Step 7: Equipment (Sleeping Bag)
These are cheap. They start low and stay low. Synthetic bags aren't all bad, regardless of price. When it comes to a more... Emergency situation (ie, when equipments soaked) synthetics win hands down over any kind of down. They are generally heavier than the down counterparts but when they are wet, you can still keep warm. For the money, synthetics are strong competition as long as you are content to trade off weight and warmth. These really shine in hammocks or other sleeping arrangements where you maybe exposed to the cool night wind on your underside. Synthetics will work when squashed together and basically form as a thick blanket around your body.
They are a lot more expensive, take a bit more care and consideration and feel completely different. Down bags lose all warmth when wet and are pretty much useless. They are also rendered less effective when the down is crushed between you and the surface your laying on (this is why they can be a problem in hammocks). They need to be fluffy and dry to be warm. They act more as a vacuum bag, kind of losing air inside the bag and gently moulding to your body. They are super warm and a fair bit lighter. They dry quicker then synthetics but lose all thermal properties. I always keep mine wrapped in a waterproof bag so it's ready as soon as I pull it out.
If you are doing a short hike or are in warm conditions, you can, of course, take a light blanket. You can also make your own sleeping bags when on a budget or even beef up your old synthetic with some down and vice versa.
It's down to preference. I suggest Down bags but if your in a hammock, be sure to have a mat to keep your back warm otherwise they aren't so effective. Synthetic is good solo in a hammock. Down would keep you warmest when sleeping on the ground and with a basic mat a lot more so then synthetics. The cost of down is not to everyone's budget, for sure, but you'll get the lightest and warmest bag. Synthetics are cheap but not as warm and weigh about a quarter more then Down. You won't feel so guilty getting your synthetics dirty as you will expensive Down, for sure.
Step 8: Equipment (Water Filtration/transport)
I have seen or learnt of many different ways to filter water dirt or at very least, kill the nasty bugs that may make you ill.
I spent many hours researching into this and still stick with a standard water filtration system but my water filtration, although adequate, has room for improvement. So let's cover a few options...
Cheap, super light, compact and effective! They cost about $40 (NZD) / £20 and are tried and tested in places like Africa for Malaria filtration. They have a long life of about 1000L and have won awards for innovation. I have one of these as an emergency backup but I find myself using it at many streams I come across just to save the water in my Water Bladder for cooking and tea in the evening and when water isn't within straw distance. They are kind of hard to drink with and it's like drinking a thick McDs milkshake. If you don't have a cup to put the water in, you should also expect to get muddy and wet knee caps as you drink from the water source. You can't fill a Water Bladder with clean water using one of these which, for me, is the biggest drawback.
I've seen these and been thoroughly impressed with the results. They are basically hand pumps that you put one piece of pipe into the water and the other piece of pipe into your Water Bladder or whatever. They can filter 9 litres of water in about 10 minutes. These are expensive and weigh quite a bit compared to other alternatives. The only draw back I have encountered with these is making sure you have 1 pipe constantly used in the dirty water and the clean pipe into your Water Bladder. Getting these 2 pipes mixed up or dripping dirty water over the pump and clean pipe can mean contamination. A small issue worth keeping mindful of.
Exactly what it says on the tin. A pen with a UV light on the end. You dip the UV end into the water, light, mix the water and within seconds you have germ free water! They are costly and delicate but super lightweight and fast. They also don't filter dirt but you could filter a Water Bladder of any nasties using this method. Super simple.
Good for emergencies. Kills germs but doesn't filter water. Not really the first port of call for water filtration but in emergencies they could save your life. Some also taint the taint of the water with a chlorine/iodine taste.
Easy, cheap and effective. Place the water in a pot, place on stove and boil for about 3 minutes to ensure maximum filtration! Again, this is germ filtration rather then dirt. Does the job beautifully and if you have time and fuel, you can heat litre pots, allow to cool and empty into your Water Bladder for fresh water transport! Very time consuming but still a viable option if time is on your side.
Home Made Filters:
Never made home made filters but I've seen a couple in use. They seem to be a bit cruder but clean water is clean water! Many different designs can be found on Instructables or Google and all have pros and cons.
Water Bladders and Bottles:
Personally, I travel with a Water Bladder. My pack has a special pocket to fit the Bladder and tucks away beautifully. They hold a lot of water and are easy to carry. Once used, they can usually be folded up and tucked away in your pack and pulled out when refilling is required. They do require a bit more TLC. The Bladders can become punctured and if you've not water proofed your equipment then you may find clothes, sleeping bag, tent, etc, soaked or worst case, when you turn to the bladder for refreshment/cooking, it may be dry! Bottles are good, harder to penetrate but don't fold away when empty and can become 'dead space' in your pack until refilled. Easily refillable in streams whereas a Water Bladder tends to be hard work to fill without a falling Water source like a waterfall. Water Bladders seem to just collapse when dunked in water. For this reason I suggest a Water Bladder you can fit your whole hand into. Bottles also come in many shapes and sizes and some water filters can be attached to a bottle for direct drinking!
Step 9: Equipment (Waterproofing)
Waterproofing is extremely important for yourself and your equipment. There are a few options at hand for waterproofing yourself and equipment. Already I covered waterproof clothing in the 'clothing' section and in this section I aim to discuss the need to waterproof ones equipment.
First of all, your backpack. Your backpack can sometimes help protect against the elements but only to a certain degree. No backpack (That im aware of, at least) is waterproof as is and therefor will soak up water, soaking whatever unprotected clothes, food, and equipment you have inside your pack. Some packs are better then others, for example, my Osprey pack can take a fair bit of rain before the water starts to reach the insides and certain pockets and materials on the pack are waterproof whilst others are not. Obviously, a cheaper pack will have next to no water resistance.
Due to the fact that no pack is truly watertight, it will be very beneficial to take extra precautions. Some are super cheap, some a little less so. One way of protecting clothing items is to place them into zip lock bags. Zip lock bags are easy to find, cheap, and have many many purposes whist hiking! You can buy many varieties of zip lock bags and all have different sizes, zip locks, strength. I made the mistake of buying cheap in the past and found that these bags split when trying to be pushed into the deepest gaps of your backpack, therefor compromising the water protection. So I encourage you to invest in some of the more heavy duty, hard wearing bags.
Another way to protect your equipment is with Waterproof sacks. These vary in function, prices and sized but do the job wonderfully and can be purchased at most camping shops. You can buy vacuum sealed bags to normal plain bags and ive never had any problems with regards to water whilst using these packs. In fact, when it comes to toiletries, these have saved my pack a couple times! Not only are they good for keeping water out, but they also do a great job of keeping leaking toiletries in! They are generally hard wearing and pretty heavy duty and can be push into the crevices of your pack without fear of ripping. Mine also have clips on and can be clipped onto branches to keep them clean and off the ground. Like all bags like this, it always pays to be mindful of sharp objects that could tear the material and its also worth just a quick check every couple days when you pull them out your pack.
The most expensive, easiest and quick way of protecting your gear is a simple bag cover. These fold up tiny so they can be stored in your pack without getting in the way and can be pulled out and put over your pack in a space of a couple minutes. They are nothing more then huge waterproof materials that clip, tie or stretch around the whole of your pack, covering everything in one go. They work really well! I have a pretty cheap one but it does the job very well and ive never had any problems with water. It is a bit delicate and care should be taken when placing onto the ground incase they get split or torn, compromising the water protection.
Generally, I would use all of the above at the same time. I have a mixture of waterproof bags, ziplocks and a bag cover. I place items into the zip locks, then into the waterproof bags and then when it starts to rain heavy, i put the cover on. Ive never had any soaked equipment since ive adopted this way of waterproofing. Its also worth baring in mind that waterproofing could also help save your life should you find yourself being swept away by a strong river current! They help to keep the water out and thus creates good bouyance and if you were savvy enough to unclip yourself from your pack before crossing a river, youll quickly be able to release yourself from the pack and hang onto the top of it, helping you to stay afloat.