Backpacking Checklist: Everything You Need for Your Next Backpacking Adventure

Are you planning a backpacking adventure?

If so, you’re in the right place.

Whether you’ve been backpacking for years or looking to give the adventure a first-time try, there’s nothing else quite like it. Check out some great backpacking destinations and descriptions of routes on the Hiking Project website for a fun backpacking experience.

What Do You Need to Take on a Backpacking Trip?

Once you have an idea of where you want to go, you might be wondering what to take with you on a backpacking trip. The distance to your backpacking or hiking destination determines what you should bring with you. 

The farther your backpacking destination, the more gear and essentials you need to bring along. For instance, a remote location calls for a more detailed backpacking checklist. 

You should make a list no matter your destination, whether you’ll be visiting a national park, exploring a forest, hiking deep into the mountains, or walking on nature trails. You should also have a backpacking checklist whether you’re backpacking for a day or multiple days with friends, family, or alone.

Ranging from hiking clothing and footwear to backpacking equipment (sleeping bag, tent, etc.) and personal items, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of everything you need for your outdoor adventure.

Creating Your Backpacking Checklist

You’ll find this backpacking checklist handy when packing for your outdoor adventure. It’ll ensure that you don’t forget any outdoor essential item you’ll need while hiking or camping in the wild. 

Based on your trip duration, difficulty, availability and distance from help, and weather, you can tailor the ten necessities to your specific needs.

Just remember, when planning a backpacking trip, strive to strike a balance between packing all of the things you need and keeping the weight of your pack low.

In addition, be sure to print your backpacking checklist for a hard copy version you can easily refer to when packing. It will be helpful to have this with you while you’re away.

Backpacking and Related Gear

If you’re going to go backpacking, you definitely need a good backpack! When choosing a backpack, consider your ideal backpack capacity, fit, and available features.

Backpack Type and Capacity

The bulk and weight of what you want to carry and the length of your trip determines the size of your backpack.

Weekend backpacks range in capacity from 30 to 50 liters to last for a 1 to 3 day trip. They’re ideal for light gear. Multi-day backpacks last for 3 to 5 days and range in capacity from 50 to 80 liters. The packs are versatile for day and night trips in warm weather, and for backcountry skiing, which explains their popularity. 

Extended trip packs last for at least 5 days and have a capacity of 70+ liters. These extended trip packs are ideal for adults backpacking with kids and winter treks that go for more than a night to accommodate extra gear and clothing. 

Features of Your Backpack

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Different features will influence the functionality of your backpack. For example, consider frameless backpacks versus those with external or internal frames. 

Other features include:

  • Ventilation
  • Pockets
  • Pack access
  • Sleeping bag compartment
  • Top lid or removable day pack
  • Attachment points
  • Padding
  • Rain cover
  • Hydration reservoir 

Backpack Fit

Consider your torso length, not height. Your waist size and torso length determine the right backpacking fit. Also consider youth- and women-specific backpacks. Sternum strap and load lifter straps are also key considerations for backpack fit adjustments.

The backpacking gear to add to your checklist should include:

  • Backpacking tent with guy lines and stakes
  • Sleeping pad
  • Backpack with rain cover
  • Sleeping bag with stuff sack
  • Flashlight or headlamp with additional batteries 

Optional backpacking gear includes:

  • Packable lantern
  • Trekking poles
  • Bear spray
  • Pillow
  • Tent footprint for added floor protection

Clothing and Footwear

What’s the weather forecast for your hiking destination? Check the forecast for your trip and choose the right clothing and footwear for the predicted conditions. 

Pack extra clothes to prepare for unplanned nights and changes in weather. Choose clothes with protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Your terrain determines the right shoes to wear for your backpacking trip.

Trail runners or hiking shoes are ideal for smooth, gentle terrains. However, boots offer more support for treks on rugged, rocky trails. 

Hiking Clothes

When choosing the right clothing for your trip, consider:

  • A breathable or waterproof rain jacket for protection from wind and rain. Include rain pants for extremely soggy weather.
  • A warm polyester fleece jacket or a puffy jacket with water-resistant down or polyester fill for colder conditions.
  • Comfortable and durable pants for easy movement without tears.
  • Nylon, polyester, or merino wool undies – avoid cotton and denim clothes.
  • Supportive and protective sturdy shoes with good traction. 
  • Consider functionality, comfort, durability, price, and weight when buying clothes and shoes for your backpacking trip.
  • Consider layering your clothes, adding or subtracting the layer to adapt to changing weather conditions. 

The properties of hiking clothing to watch for include:

  • Breathable
  • Insulating
  • Wicking
  • Waterproof
  • Sun protection 

Popular fabric options for your backpacking trip include:

  • Fleece
  • Wool
  • Polyester
  • Treated silk
  • Nylon

When layering in cool weather, the base undergarment options include:

  • Bra
  • Underwear
  • Camisole or tank top
  • Long underwear – top and bottoms
  • Undies beneath long underwear

Clothing options to wear on the trail from your head to toe include:

  • Shirts
  • Hats
  • Pants, shorts and convertible pants
  • Socks and gloves
  • Hiking dress, skirt, or skort
  • Yoga tights and pants
  • Gaiters for hike boots protection 

Fleece pants and jackets, and a puffy vest or jacket with enough insulation is ideal for mid-layering. 

Waterproof/breathable pants and a rain jacket for outer layering offer protection from rain, wind chill and hypothermia. 

Waterproof gaiters, tall leather hiking boots, and bug-protective clothing offer protection from environmental conditions.

Hiking Boots

The right hiking boots match your hiking destination and how you hike. When selecting footwear or hiking boots, consider mountaineering boots, ultralight trail shoes, hiking shoes, backpacking boots, and day hiking boots.

The parts of hiking boots include the lowers, uppers, outsoles, midsoles. The hiking boot upper materials include: 

  • Split-grain leather
  • Full-grain leather
  • Synthetics
  • Nubuck leather
  • Waterproof membranes 
  • Insulation
  • Vegan

The upper materials influence your boot’s breathability, weight, water resistance, and durability. The midsole cushions your feet for comfort and durable. The most popular midsole materials include EVA and polyurethane. 

Plates and shanks make up the internal support for your hiking shoes. Boot outsoles are usually made from rubber and hardened with carbon. Lug patterns improve traction and grip while heel brake minimizes slides on steep terrains. 

Make sure your crampons are compatible with your boots for better safety outdoors, especially when winter backpacking or mountaineering.

In terms of fit, determine your foot size, include orthotics, try on your boots at the end of the day, walk in the boots for a while, wear proper socks, find the right boot volume, and opt for a familiar brand.

Footbeds or aftermarket insoles and change your knot type for a better fit. Your clothing and footwear checklist include:

  • Wicking T-shirt
  • Wicking underwear
  • Fast-drying shorts/pants
  • Lightweight jacket/fleece
  • Wool or synthetic socks
  • Long-sleeve shirt for bug and sun protection 
  • Terrain-suited shoes or boots 
  • Additional clothes

Clothing for cold or rainy weather

  • Long underwear
  • Fleece pant
  • Warm hat
  • Rainwear (pants and jacket)
  • Warm, insulated vest or jacket 
  • Gloves or mittens

Optional Items

  • Buff, bandana or headgear
  • Sandals or camping shoes
  • Gaiters for muddy, snowy or rainy weather

Food and Water

Tasty food will nourish and strengthen you during an overnight or multiple-day backpacking trip. Every person embarking on a trip needs 2,500 to 4,500 calories of food daily. 

How do you know how much food to carry? You have to consider your body size, your body weight, the expected intensity of activities you’ll engage in, the duration of your trip, and the number of calories you burn daily. Opt for lightweight portable foods – and remember that if you intend to cover long miles and the size of your backpacking group is large, you’ll need more food. The converse is also true.

Create a backpacking meal plan to ensure you bring enough food with you for all the backpacking days. Consider the days you won’t be cooking in the plan and carry extra food and fuel (without overdoing it) to ensure you don’t get a shortage. 

Also consider your ultralight backpacking needs and how to store and handle your food outdoors. Pack a variety of foods, including proteins, carbs, and fats. Vary the textures (crunchy, soft, crispy, crumbly, etc.) and flavors (sour, salty, spicy, and sweet).

When planning a backpacking trip, it’s wise to pack snacks like jerky, energy bars, nuts, and hard cheese to crunch on the trail. However, you need a heavier meal for lunch.

Nuts, seeds, and baguettes are some fresh foods to pack. Fresh produce such as broccoli, carrots, onions, bell peppers, apples, kale, oranges, and snap peas can last a day or two depending on the prevailing climatic conditions. 

Add spices, flavored beverages, and lightweight food options. Dehydrate your meals and freeze them as necessary. Plan your meals well and carry enough food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t forget to pack enough snacks.

As for staying hydrated, think about total activity and intensity level, weather, trip duration, age, body type, and rate of sweating. You need about half a liter of water to drink each hour in moderate temperature and when engaging in moderate activity. 

Make sure there’s enough water within reach and drink it often. Your food and water checklist include:

  • Energy-boosting foods and drinks (gels, bars, chews, drink mix, trail mix)
  • Water reservoir or water bottles
  • Meals
  • Extra food supply for a day
  • Purifier, water filter, or chemical treatment for safe drinking water

Kitchen Supplies

Kitchen supplies help with food preparation and eating while backpacking. Your kitchen supplies checklist includes:

  • Cookset with a pot grabber
  • Eating utensils such as fork and knife
  • Cup or mug
  • Fuel
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Collapsible water container
  • A small towel that dries fast
  • A backpacking stove
  • Food sack or bear canister
  • 50’ nylon cord and hanging bag

First Aid Kit

Disasters or medical emergencies may arise anytime, which means you need to be prepared. A first aid kit can help you attend to an emergency medical need outdoors. You’ll need:

  • A whistle
  • Matches or a lighter stored in a watertight container
  • Emergency shelter
  • Fire starter for emergency survival fire in extremely cold weather
  • Itineraries – one placed under your car seat and one left with a friend
  • Fully stocked first aid kit

Your first aid kit checklist include:

  • Medical supplies such as treatment and medication 
  • First aid basic care items such as pain killers and safety pins
  • Splints, wraps, and wound treatment supplies such as liquid bandage
  • Tools and supplies such as a medical waste bag and cotton-tipped swabs

You can buy a basic first aid kit or an advanced emergency medical kit to cater for your emergency needs when hiking or camping outdoors. You can also customize an existing kit to accommodate your unique needs or even build a first aid kit from scratch for custom use.

Navigation

Navigation is key when backpacking. The right navigation gear helps you find your way during a hike or trek. Navigation tools are essential in pinpointing your direction and finding your way back on-route in case you get lost.

The right navigation gear depends on your personal preferences, budget, type of trip, and intended destination. Your checklist includes the following:

  • A compass
  • A map
  • A GPS

Whether you opt for the GPS or not, you can’t substitute it for a compass and map – those two items are a must-have when backpacking. 

Why? Because a compass and map help you navigate your way across any backpacking location. Make sure your map is enclosed in a waterproof sleeve for protection from water or moisture. 

Health and Hygiene

Your health and hygiene are still important even when backpacking. You need to keep your body clean, especially your hands. Your checklist should include the following:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste to keep your teeth and mouth clean and smelling fresh
  • Hand sanitizers to kill harmful germs (bacteria and other microorganisms)
  • A sanitation trowel
  • Menstrual products for female backpackers
  • Wipes or toilet paper kept in a sealable bag to keep off moisture 
  • Prescription eyeglasses
  • Prescription medications (often included in the first aid kit)

Optional health and hygiene items include:

  • Urinary products 
  • Insect repellent for protection from insect bites 
  • Extra supplies for blister treatment such as blister and dressing kits 

Sun Protection

The sun’s ultraviolet rays are harmful to the skin and can cause skin cancer after prolonged exposure. When planning a backpacking trip to a destination with hot weather or a great deal of sunlight, you need something to protect your skin from the harsh sun rays. 

It’s even recommended to protect your skin on a cloudy day. Your sun protection checklist includes:

  • Sunscreen for your skin
  • Sunglasses and a retainer leash
  • Sun hat
  • SPF-rated lip balm to keep your lips hydrated
  • Long-sleeved clothes to cover your arms

Tools and Repair Kits

Your repair tools should include:

  • A multi-tool or knife
  • Duct tape strips
  • A repair kit, including stove and mattress repair supplies 

Backpacking Additions

Other optional things you may need to bring with you to a backpacking trip include:

  • An action cam or camera with additional memory cards to capture special moments and bring photos home
  • Interpretive field guides specific to your backpacking location to help plan your itinerary
  • Daypack for planned day trips far from your camp
  • Reading materials like books to keep you busy during your free time
  • Outdoor journal and a pencil or pen for your journaling needs
  • Games such as cards to play with your backpacking group
  • Two-way radios for communications purposes
  • Night-sky or star chart identifier for stargazing
  • Compact binoculars for object viewing in the day or night – you’ll enjoy stargazing at night

Personal Necessities

Some personal items to include in your backpack are as follows:

  • Cash or credit cards
  • Permits if you’ll need them
  • Car keys
  • Identification cards (ID)
  • Mobile phones

10 Must-Have Backpacking Necessities

We’ve covered a large list of items already, which may be overwhelming as you plan your trip. Let’s narrow it down to the most important ones.

Whichever items you decide to include in your backpacking checklist, the following are a must-pack for your next hiking adventure:

  • Tent
  • Backpack
  • Fuel and stove
  • Sleeping pad and sleeping bag
  • Hiking shoes or boots
  • Clothing appropriate for expected weather conditions in your destination
  • Enough food and kitchen supplies 
  • Hygiene and emergency supplies
  • Water treatment supplies and water bottles
  • A small repair kit

Recommended Backpacking Brands for Beginners 

Whereas the market is flooded with hundreds of brands that manufacture high quality backpacking gear, beginners may be spoiled for choice. 

If you’re new and not sure about where to begin looking for your preferred gear, consider the following two brands for most backpacking gear you may need. 

Although only two brands are mentioned, the list of top backpacking brands is endless. These two are meant to help you get started. 

Gossamer Gear 

Founded by Glen Van Peski, Gossamer Gear is a pioneer manufacturer of ultralight backpacking gear. The founder was hiking with his son’s Boy Scout group in the mountains when he was inspired to design a lightweight backpack.

The writings of a popular ultralight backpacking pioneer and rock climber, Ray Jardine, also encouraged Glen to begin sewing his own backpacks. His craft improved so much that other hikers began making backpack orders from him.

Today, the company manufactures shelters, cooking equipment, trekking poles, and related accessories. Gossamer Gear backpacks are popular. They’re made from Robic nylon to balance durability, weight, and cost metrics. 

The backpacks are also highly functional and comfortable for prolonged carrying on your back during long treks. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack supports multi-day backpacking trips, making it one of the best backpacks for you.

Based in Austin, Texas, the company manufactures ultralight backpacking gear for lightweight travels.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is a leading backpacking manufacturer. It designs and manufactures tents and shelters, ultralight backpacks, and related accessories. 

The company was founded in 2000 by Mike St. Pierre. The lack of long-lasting, design-driven, and ultralight backpacking gear drove him to start his own backpacking company. 

He focused on designing minimalist product designs using ultralight materials. The products are only made with critical features to reduce them to the minimum basics required to get tasks done. 

Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF), also referred to as Cuben Fibers, are used to make the backpacks. The material is strong, waterproof, and ultralight. However, it’s a bit costly. 

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpacks are popular among lightweight backpackers and true hikers. They’re bomb-proof, comfy, and ultralight. The company also manufactures pillow stuff sacks, tents, and tarps.

Feel free to explore other brands when creating your backpacking checklist.

Maintenance and Cleaning

When backpacking, opt for essentials that are easy to clean and maintain. Make sure they’re strong, durable and made from dirt-resistant materials.

Conclusion

As mentioned before, you need a backpacking checklist when planning for an adventure outdoors, be it hiking, mountaineering, or camping. The right list ensures you pack all the necessities you’ll need for the number of days you intend to trek or hike.

Whether you’re backpacking for an overnight, two day, three day, or multi-day outdoor adventure trip, you have to pack enough essentials to bring with you. With a complete first aid kit with medical supplies and sufficient food for everyone in your group, you’ll be in for endless adventures!

Visit Amazon today for any of the items in your backpacking checklist to prepare for your upcoming backcountry adventure.

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