Last Updated on January 22, 2023
This is the most common type of pack your character can be kitted out with at character creation.
All but three classes have the option to choose an explorer’s pack, and those are the Artificer, the Rogue, and the Warlock – probably because those three are considered to have specialized training and experience.
So, since you will more than likely have to decide between an explorer’s pack or something more class specific, we decided to give you a rundown of what the pack is, how it is used, and whether you actually need one.
What Is an Explorer’s Pack in DnD 5e?
From the Basic Rules: The explorer’s pack comes with a backpack, a bedroll, a mess kit, a tinderbox, 10 torches, 10 days of rations, and a waterskin. The pack also has 50 feet of hempen rope strapped to the side of it. It costs 10gp and weighs 59 lbs.
This is enough gear to act like your characters have what they need to travel and adventure because, let’s face it, not every game or story cares about how you camp.
Before the campaign starts, it is important to ask your DM how they feel about camping and hiking. If the DM says, “Just get an explorer’s kit and we’ll call it good,” then you are good to go, and you shouldn’t worry too much.
This is a totally acceptable way to play. If you are in a game that is of mystery, paranormal, romance, high-adventure, or any of a dozen genres, then no one really cares how you handle your personal hygiene and comfort while on the road.
But if you are playing in a travelog genre or a post-apocalyptic genre or you are simply playing a ranger who cares about your party, then an explorer’s pack probably won’t be enough.
Consider this list of hiking supplies the professionals think you should carry if you are just a regular person deciding to do a multi-night or week hike through the countryside.
This goes far beyond what an explorer’s pack can cover, and they aren’t even considering the possibility of random encounters from violent dinosaurs or raiding parties! Pfft, amateurs.
The following is a basic rundown of some fundamental outdoor-survival needs and how the explorer’s pack plays a part.
Traveling in Comfort vs. Survival: Water, Shelter, Fire, Food
Experienced hikers and campers will tell you that “roughing it” doesn’t have to be all bad.
With enough preparation and consideration, bread and water become toast and tea, after all. Even on the road.
There are four categories of needs to be considered when exploring. They are water, shelter, fire, and food; and you need to consider them in that order.
The following suggestions are assuming you are traveling in mild weather through an idyllic foraging ground.
Any extreme weather conditions will require special gear, and if food and water aren’t easily available, you will need more specialized gear and knowledge.
Without water, you will die in three days. This is why water is the highest priority. Generally, a person needs at least a gallon of water per day to be comfortable if you combine drinking, food, and hygiene.
A waterskin holds 4 pints of water, which equals ½ a gallon. If you want to stay hydrated, you’ll need to drink all of that during a day of hiking and fighting.
So, sadly, if all you pack is a waterskin, we will all be smelly adventurers. Hygiene is the first to go when the chips are down.
Assuming you are finding water as you go, you can’t solve this problem with a waterskin alone.
You won’t die if you sleep under the open stars in most geographic locations, but you may not sleep as well as if you had a tent.
An Explorer’s pack does not have a tent, so if it rains, expect to be woken up and soggy which, if your DM is as evil as I am, means you will gain levels of exhaustion.
You do have a bedroll, however, so as long as you can manage to start a fire and dry it out, you will have advantage on that saving throw against exhaustion.
You can also use your cloak, your backpack, or your fellow party members as a pillow, if you like. Assuming the fighter ever takes his armor off or the barbarian saves some water to wash up.
The rope contained in an explorer’s pack also makes for great shelter-making! You can tie up a tarp (if you have one) to create a tent, you can weave a quick hammock, or you can tie your gear up into a tree to thwart the curious bears.
With fire comes food preparation, warmth to keep you and your stuff dry, hot water for sanitation, and a way to smoke yourself to keep the little horrible flying vampire spawn away.
Some people call them mosquitos, but we all know what they really are.
An explorer’s pack comes with a tinderbox and 10 torches. Don’t ask me where they put 10 improvised clubs in a backpack, but oh well. There they are.
Torches equal light, and they can be posted around camp to create a smoke screen if necessary. But make sure to keep one or two just in case someone doesn’t have darkvision. It does happen.
Rations are horrible. They just are. No way around that. If you doubt this, get online and order some real life rations (MRE’s) from Amazon.
Not only do they taste foul, but they are unhealthy, and a few days of only eating rations will make you feel like your insides are coated with crud and boot leather.
Even if the ranger, druid, or cleric can forage or magic up a meal to make the whole experience better, the ration itself will not give you the happiness needed to sustain morale on a prolonged violent hike.
So, yeah, you can live on them. You could even eat only half a ration to extend how long they last, but then you will be risking more exhaustion levels.
Adventuring, or “murder-hiking” as we like to call it, is hard.
If you are on a prolonged trek, an explorer’s pack is a great place to start, but by no means is it the end of your concerns unless the DM would rather focus on other parts of the adventure and tell the party not to worry about the camp situation.
In most situations, this is the preferred way to play, but if you are playing in a special genre where the trials and travails of traveling are a factor, you will definitely need more than an explorer’s pack.
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.