Backpacking Checklist

Backpacking Checklist

(Last Updated On: June 28, 2021)

The classic outdoor experience is backpacking, taking the road with no other than life’s needs on your back. Think of how long you want to hike, how remote the place is and what the weather forecast has in store to decide what you need to carry on a backpacking trip. Though generally, the longer and/or more distant the hike, the more clothes, supplies, food, and water you’re going to want, and the more challenging the weather is.

Everyone loves a great backpacking list, whether you are a first-time backpacker or a veteran. From vital backpacking supplies (tent, suitcase, sleeping bag, etc.) to hiking footwear and clothes, personal and optional items, our comprehensive checklist below includes everything. So check out our backpacking list whether you’re on a 3-day hike or more than that.

Backpacking GearClothingPersonal ItemsOptional Items
1. Backpack
2. Tent
3. Sleeping Bag
4. Sleeping Pad
5. Stove and Fuel
6. Lighter
7. Headlamp
8. Navigation
9. First Aid Kit
10. Repair Kit
11. Water Bottle
1. Hiking Boots
2. Hiking Socks
3. Rain Jacket
4. Underwear
5. Base Layers
6. Extra Shirts
7. Down Jacket
1. Sunscreen
2. Lip Balm
3. Toothpaste & Toothbrush
4. Toilet Paper
5. Towel
6. Whistle
7. Bug Spray
1. Trekking Poles
2. Deodorant
3. Camera Gear
4. Wet Wipes
5. Pillow
6. Bear Canister

Backpacking Gear

1. Backpack

One of the most significant items of gear is your backpack. Making sure that a pack weighing less than 2 lbs is picked, sits securely on the pack, and is made of a breathable material such as Dyneema or nylon. As for capacity, we suggest 40L to 65L, depending on the length and duration of your trip. And note, the larger the bag, the more people try to stuff items in it, and the heavier they end up getting in their pack. A backpack rain cover helps shield the rain from your bag and its contents. You should use a garbage compactor bag instead if you don’t own a liner. It’s just an efficient one. Listed below are some of our guides to the best backpacking backpacks.

2. Tent

When backpacking in the backcountry, the tent acts both as protection from external elements and a shelter. In terms of weight, for a two-person model (the most common size), most 3-season backpacking tents vary from 2 to 5 pounds, but there are a variety of lightweight shelters that are much smaller than that. And keep an eye on stuff like space, longevity, interior space, doors and vestibules.

Tent

3. Sleeping Bag

Although we are three-season backpackers, and nothing is worse than shivering through a night in the backcountry, we prefer heated sleeping bags. When it comes to temperature ratings, the rule of thumb is that the stated rating is what you can withstand, however you may want to add ~15F to be comfortable. Make sure you also check our selection of the best backpacking sleeping bags.

4. Sleeping Pad

Sleeping pads help insulate the body from the cold ground, in addition to warmth considerations (the higher the R-value, the more insulation a pad offers). In terms of pad models, Therm-a-Rest has been leading the charge for decades, and a common alternative for backcountry travelers is their lightweight and well-built NeoAir Ultralight.

5. Stove and Fuel

You would need a way to heat it all up, whether you are preparing gourmet dinners or consuming pre-packaged dehydrated meals. Backpacking stoves vary from inexpensive and lightweight to sturdy and efficient (some weigh less than 2 ounces). Fuel style (options vary from isobutane/propane canisters to multi-fuel stoves) and stove configuration are main considerations (simple screw-on stoves that require a pot to all-in-one stove systems). The Jetboil Jetpower Fuel is our top pick for your fuel and the Jetboil Flash Camping Stove for your stove.

6. Lighter

Even if an auto-ignite switch is in your backpacking burner, don’t depend on it all the time. Pack a lighter just in case it craps out.

lighter

7. Headlamp

The most popular option for lighting is headlamps, as they encourage hikers to go hands-free and are multipurpose (many have floodlights, red beams, distress signals, adjustable lighting). You can also choose from rechargeable headlamps. However, there are still hikers out there who choose, instead, the good old flashlight, lantern, or tent lamp. Because lighting solutions come in all various shapes and sizes, some starting steps are to consider the desired light intensity level and time estimation (lumen count), beamwidth, battery type, water-resistance rating, and operation with which you will be using the light. The Cobiz Headlamp is our top pick as it has a balance of brightness, durability, and cost.

8. Navigation

Paper maps are the classic navigation option, whereas, among those who want extra peace of mind, GPS (via watch or handheld device) has become popular. Furthermore, several smartphones now have hiking applications that can fulfill essentially the same GPS function (make sure to check on connectivity requirements beforehand). Nevertheless, staying focused on your journey is really important and you should always have a clear sense of where you are on the trail.

Navigation

9. First Aid Kit

You never know what could be going on the trail. A complete first aid kit will take the stress out of your outdoor experiences, from cuts and blisters to fever. No reason to overdo it, though. It is easy to go a long way with a pair of tweezers, some gauze pads, antiseptic, band-aids and a handful of pain killers. To prevent extra weight, repackage everything and stick to supplies worth roughly a week. Stock up at the next trail town if you find yourself running low.

first aid kit

10. Repair Kit

We still advocate keeping a repair kit on board, no matter how light you choose to fly. Our repair package typically includes a small roll of duct tape (often wrapped around a tent pole repair splint), any utility wire, spare batteries, extra lighter or waterproof matches, a small stove repair kit, an extra garbage bag, or big Ziploc, and a knife or multi-tool. You should swap items depending on your needs. The GEAR AID repair kit is a great choice for repairing holes and tears in jackets, tents, rain gear, and other outdoor gear.

11. Water Bottle

For hydration on the trail, water storage is vital. Some individuals choose regular bottles, while others hold a reservoir with a hose in their pack for easy drinking while on the go. From BPA-free plastic and stainless steel to soft-sided collapsible tubes, water bottles come in a number of types. The Classic Wide Mouth Nalgene remains one of our favorites if you are looking for a lightweight and inexpensive alternative.

Clothing

1. Hiking Boots

One of the most critical pieces of backpacking gear might be boots! If your feet are in agony or coated in blisters, it does not matter how lightweight the rest of your gear is. When you pick hiking boots or mountain shoes, spend some time just feeling it out. In general, the industry is shifting away from stiff, high-top styles to light and convenient, more agile hiking boots and shoes. We believe that Salomon is the best it in almost all types of hiking footwear: the fast and lightweight X Ultra 3 Mid GTX is, in our view, the top hiking boot on the market.

Hiking Boots

2. Deodorant

If you don’t have a decent pair of socks to match it, it doesn’t matter what hiking boot or shoe you pick. Many of our favorite socks are made of merino wool, an exceptionally soft material that provides premium temperature stability, wicking moisture, and tolerance to odor. Your sock height and cushion level can differ, but we like the MIRMARU Men’s Socks and FEIDEER Women’s Socks for hiking trips.

3. Rain Jacket

Even if there is no rain in the forecast, having a waterproof shell on a backpacking trip is still a smart idea. Rain jackets (the most common and inexpensive choice) or full-on hard shells are the two main types, which are constructed in rugged environments for extended forays.

rain jacket

4. Underwear

Quick-drying underwear and sports bra: Standard cotton underwear gathers moisture, which can be uncomfortable and chafe. It also takes a very long time for cotton underwear to dry.

5. Baselayers

Baselayers sometimes get ignored, but when hiking or in your tent, they are a simple and lightweight way to add comfort. Most base layers are made of either ultra-soft, odor-resistant merino wool, or polyester that is durable but less convenient (and less expensive).

6. Extra Shirts

Look for one that’s breathable and moisture-wicking. Avoid cotton because it hangs on to moisture; instead, opt for fast drying material.

Extra Shirts

7. Down Jacket

Your insulation part is important for early mornings or when you’re done backpacking for the day (and we often sleep in ours for extra warmth). In terms of warmth-to-weight ratio and packability, a lightweight down jacket is the ultimate, whereas synthetic-insulated jackets are not small nor better insulated when wet.

Personal Items

1. Sunscreen

You will burn way more than you expect at high elevations, and all the hours of hiking in the sun add up. Try to find sunscreen lotions that give SPF above 50.

sunscreen

2. Lip Balm

The mountains will suck the moisture right out of those perfect lips leaving them broken and dry. Plus, your lips are as sensitive as your face to sunburn, so SPF is important. Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Lip Balm is one good option.

3. Camera Gear

When backpacking, it is all about those travel-size toiletries. We prefer folding toothbrushes for backpacking. They take up less space and protect the bristles in your bathroom bag from hitting something else. For backpacking trips, travel-size toothpaste tubes are great as well.

4. Toilet Paper

In order to comply with laws, you must dig a cathole that is at least 6-8 inches deep when you go to #2. This Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel is so inexpensive and compact that there is no reason not to bring it with you. Often, when you go #2, to maintain campsite and trail conditions for potential campers, you need to pack out your dirty toilet paper. There’s nothing grosser than when you’re hiking, discovering a lot of used filthy TP.

toilet paper

5. Towel

It is still nice to have a lightweight quick-dry towel. You do not require a pee rag, but for drying your hands or face or preparing dishes, these also come in handy. If you think you’ll be doing some fishing or sunbathing on your holiday, they even come in larger sizes.

6. Whistle

This will usually come in a backpacking backpack.

7. Bug Spray

Keep away the mosquitos and the black flies. This may be an extra item for certain users, depending on where you are hiking and how susceptible you are to bugs.

Optional Items

1. Trekking Poles

On the trail, we see more and more trekking poles, and there’s no secret why. This quick addition to your backpacking package takes your knees and feet away from a lot of discomforts and makes hiking easier overall. Choose between the options of folding and telescoping, aluminum and fossil, and foam and cork grips. Our top choice is the Casdase Trekking Poles which combines durability and affordability in one.

Trekking Poles

2. Deodorant

If you decide to bring this, make sure they are travel-friendly in size.

3. Camera Gear

It’s enjoyable and satisfying to be able to take pictures of your journey, whether you’re bringing just your smartphone or planning to bring a dedicated camera. All the time, we are asked about hiking cameras and there is no clear answer: professional-grade cameras are bulky and pricey, but they still take much better pictures than point-and-shoots and other small cameras. In recent years, in particular, mirrorless interchangeable cameras have become increasingly common due to their portability. No matter your choice of camera, have fun and take plenty of pictures.

Camera Gear

4. Wet Wipes

We allocate 2-3 of these wipes a day to clear off all the sweat and grime. Literally, the ingredients in these wipes are all water and grapefruit seed extract, but we find that they don’t leave an odd feeling of residue behind.

5. Pillow

A pillow is absolutely optional and is a personal choice altogether.

6. Bear Canister

Depending on where you are camping, you may or may not require a bear canister. They are required by law in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, locations in Alaska, Washington, and Wyoming, and they may be eligible for rent in some areas, but be sure to search before setting out.