Backpacking Gear Checklist
Backpacking through the wilderness is one of the most fulfilling outdoor activities that you can do. But, without the right gear in your pack, a great journey can quickly become a frustration-filled trek. It’s important to consider all aspects of your trip as you pack your gear, including the weather forecast, the length of the trip, and the trail’s terrain. As a rule of thumb, the longer your hike will be, the more you’ll need to pack. But, it’s important to know what items are absolute essentials. When backpacking, proper preparation is critically important.
Below you will find a comprehensive list of all the gear you may want to bring on your next backpacking outing. You may not need everything on this list, but you should review each item and determine your exact needs.Printable PDF
Your backpack should have between 30 and 80 liters of carrying capacity. The longer your trip will be, the larger your pack should be. For day hikes, day packs and hydration packs are a great alternative to larger hiking backpacks.
Anytime you are in the wilderness, having some form of safe shelter is vitally important.
Getting 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep is very important when backpacking. Sleep deprivation can be very dangerous, especially in wilderness survival situations.
Some people enjoy cooking as part of their camping experience. Others would rather spend time hiking than cooking. Consider how much cooking you want to do as you go through this list of cooking supplies.
You should plan on bringing snack foods and meal foods. High-calorie, high-protein snacks like almonds, beef jerky, and protein bars are ideal for eating on the trail. Your meals should consist of items that can be cooked with limited prep and kitchen supplies.
Staying hydrated is critically important on the trail. When planning your water supply needs, determine if there is a source of water near your trail. It is also important to drink water before you feel thirsty. As a rule of thumb, you should be drinking a half-liter of water per hour of activity. When backpacking for a few hours up to a day, a hydration pack is one of the most practical ways to stay hydrated.
The weather forecast is going to determine what type of clothing you should bring. But, be prepared for unexpected changes in weather. When deciding on footwear, you should look at the terrain of the area you’ll be hiking.
Although modern GPS systems are generally very reliable, it is important to pack back-up methods of navigation. Familiarize yourself with these methods before beginning your trip.
It is important to be prepared if you are in an emergency survival situation. These items will keep you safe if such a situation does occur.
Although ‘roughing it’ is part of the camping experience for many, maintaining basic hygiene on the trail is an important part of safe backpacking.
It’s important to pack a basic toolkit to fix any equipment malfunctions.
Below are some additional odds-and-ends that some backpackers may find useful (or entertaining) to bring with them. You won’t want to bring all of these as they’ll add significant weight to your pack, but your favorite item or two can greatly enhance your backpacking experience!
The National Parks Service has published a list of the “Ten Essentials” for backpacking and wilderness exploring. The Ten Essentials is a collection of first aid and emergency items that will help you deal with unexpected events (including minor injuries, weather changes, and delays). Depending on where you’re camping, you may or may not need all of the Ten Essentials, but it is a good idea to review this list before packing. Consider pairing this list with the above checklist.
Pack Appropriate Food -- Food can take up a lot of weight and space in your pack, so it’s important to carefully consider what kinds of foods you want to bring. We suggest healthy, calorie-dense foods like nuts, seeds, and animal proteins. Avoid sugary and excessively salty foods -- they taste great, but these types of foods can take a toll on your performance. Many backpackers make meal plans before packing. Structuring your meals can be very helpful in portioning and packing your food.
Keep It Light -- Eliminating a few ounces here and there can save a lot of weight in your pack. While it’s important to be well-prepared, you should not carry things that you don’t need. Additionally, look for lightweight alternatives wherever possible. By switching to a lightweight shelter and sleeping bag, for example, you can save a lot of weight in your backpacking setup.
Pay Attention to Fabrics -- Depending on where you’re backpacking, you’ll need to pack different clothing. But, try to find fabrics that help your body thermoregulate in both hot and cold conditions. If backpacking in cold conditions, pay careful attention to your clothes’ warmth-to-weight ratio. While you want to be as warm as possible, avoid heavyweight fabrics like cotton and duck canvas.