It doesn’t matter if you are a new backpacker, or you have been hitting the trails for years, everyone faces the same thing before heading off into the wilderness. There is a need for a backpacking gear checklist.
There are so many items you need to cram into your backpack, it’s easy to forget something. Most times, it is the smaller items that are the more important for your backpacking trip.
You can split these lists by section so they cover all areas of your gear, and if you have the means, you can weigh each item so you can quickly see the items which are weighing you down when you wish to travel as light as possible.
Here, we will give you a rundown of each section and list items you may wish to take to make your packing list easier to deal with.
Backpacking Hiking Essentials
This section is small, but it includes items you may not think are as crucial as others.
Backpack – Without a good backpack, there is no way you can fit all your other things. These should be comfortable and adjustable so you can sit them in the best position to avoid strain.
Many overnight backpacks are in the 40 – 75 liters range, but for most backpackers, a backpack between 60 – 70 liters is ideal. This allows you to fit all your gear without leaving an empty space, or not being able to fit all you need.
Backpacking pack cover is the next on the list. While some backpacks may be waterproof, this doesn’t mean they will stay that way.
Many are water resistant, but they let water seep in through the zipper areas. One of these covers will protect all your gear from the elements in the case of a sudden downpour.
Last in this section is trekking poles. It may appear to be optional, but using these can make things less stressful when trekking up rough or sloped terrain.
One other use for these is if you need to quickly erect a tarp for a quick shelter and you have limited tying points. You can wedge a trekking pole between branches and tie your rope to these.
Many of these can be optional items such as a cellphone, portable charger, GPS, however, the least you need to take for navigation is a good map of the area and a compass.
Not only these, but depending on the trek you are heading down, you can use a route description because this will deliver information on watering points or any areas that may not be safe.
Some locations require permits, so be sure to check your destination, and make sure you highlight this on your backpacking list.
Backpacking Shelter Essential Gear
You can see this as the more crucial gear you need to carry. This can be the case because it will be what delivers comfort and shelter overnight. It is also the section that will deliver the most pack weight to what you will be carrying.
Tents – if there are over two, you will use a tent in most cases. It is advisable to purchase one that is suitable for double the number of people who will use it. This gives space to move around and stash all your gear.
The crucial things to watch out for are doors, vestibules and durability. Many lightweight tents are not waterproof, and this you can accomplish by using a tarp.
This allows you to use them in all climates as you can still receive plenty of ventilation when in warmer climates.
Easy setup is also a crucial element as the last thing any backpacker needs is to spend ages erecting their tent, or struggling if the weather turns for the worst.
If you don’t have a tarp made for your tent, then a good quality one that easily covers your tent is recommended.
Ground cloths sound like an optional accessory, but many tents come with lightweight ground sheets.
They recommend a more durable one because this makes things safer for your tent, and you can use this as your temporary shelter should it rain.
A good sleeping bag that will keep you warm enough for the climate you are trekking in is essential.
As well as this, you need to make sure the filling is a quick dry option. While down or cotton may give comfort and warmth, once these are wet, they are hard to dry and clean when the time comes to washing them.
Added to this, you should be making sure you have a sleeping pad on your gear checklist. You never know where you will sleep, or what the ground will be like.
These not only make it more comfortable, but they also deliver insulation from cold rising upward.
Pillows are optional. If you have large jackets, you can easily take a pillow case and stuff them inside to make a pillow. Some sleeping bags include travel sized pillows.
Cooking Checklist for Backpacking
This can be a comprehensive list depending how long you are on the trails for. But, for a minimal set of cooking equipment you will need a backpacking stove. There are many types which can be reduced in size and are light.
Extra fuel if you are using a gas stove, or you can use one of the cleverly designed ones which use dead branches or wood.
These though may not be ideal if you are in an area where you can’t find sufficient scatterings or it has been raining.
Fire starting kits are crucial. These will be stormproof matches, lighters or flint fire-starting kits.
When things get wet, these can make the difference of eating hot food or not having any heat at all. Extra items should be taken and stored in Ziploc bags to keep them dry.
You will also need a pot that is sufficient and also a mug for the mornings hot drinks. You will require a knife, fork or spoon as well a means of washing your utensils and pots once you have used them.
With cooking, you need a way to store your food. You will need a food bag, and possible a stuff sack for hanging, you can use your tent stuff sack if it comes with one.
If your location may encounter bears, then a bear canister or bag may be a good optional extra.
Water bottles when full will be one of the heaviest things to carry. To keep things small, you can get soft sided bottles that pack to next to nothing.
Adding to this, you should be only carrying enough to reach the next watering point. This conserves your energy because you are not carrying excess weight.
You should be including water purification drops or tablets for the times when you don’t know when you will come across clean water.
Backpacking Clothing Essentials
Once you have started to pack all your clothing, you may think there isn’t room for anything else.
Because of this, you need to limit what you take. A lot will depend on the terrain and climate, and also your camp clothing will be different to your daily trekking gear.
Hiking boots are preferable for rough terrain because they deliver support to the ankles. If you are on a low level trekking paths, you can use hiking shoes instead.
When you choose your socks, you need to make sure these are either wool or synthetic. Hiking socks will get wet from sweat and need to wick this away from your feet. Also, you need them to dry quickly if you wash them.
You should only need one pair of hiking pants. These need to be comfortable and along for plenty of movement and being able to wick moisture away from you when it gets hot.
They should also come with plenty of pocket storage as it makes it easier for carrying smaller items than stuffing everything in your backpack.
Pants which convert into shorts can be ideal for some areas, although this isn’t crucial.
Aside from this, you need synthetic t-shirts, good underwear and head protection while trekking.
You also need to make sure you have a good rain jacket and rain pants for when you face a deluge. These are light, and you need one that can let moisture escape while being fully waterproof.
Around camp, you need insulated vests or a heated jacket, sleeping socks, long underwear tops and bottoms for sleeping and sandals or something similar for walking around.
First Aid Kits for Backpacking
There are plenty of items you can place on your miscellaneous gear list, but they do full in this section.
You can purchase backpacking first aid kits, or you can create your own. A good first aid kit will have bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, blister pads and plasters as a bare minimum.
Any medication anyone is using should be included as can the following: Sunscreen, bug and mosquito repellant, and lip balm. Once you have a good kit, you need to make sure all the contents remain dry and accessible.
Miscellaneous and Repair Essentials for Backpacking
This can have a multitude of items you need to add to your backpacking essentials list. Here are the items which are most frequently forgotten and make a difference when you realize they are not there.
Lighting is vital for either finding your way to camp in the dark, or when you are tucking up in your tent or trying to cook.
Headlamps are ideal as they keep your hands free. Backpackers should take flashlights, and preferably LED as these are more durable, smaller and have longer battery life.
Spare batteries should be taken and don’t just rely on one lighting source. Take a spare.
Sunglasses, safety whistles (especially if you have children with you). Gaiters can be a good option if you are encountering muddy ground as these keep mud from splashing up your legs and pants.
You will need a good knife which is suitable for cutting larger things. A small amount of cash, and a credit card should be stashed somewhere safe. You never know where you will end up, or what you face unexpectedly.
Sewing materials are worth taking for hasty repairs on clothing, but for anything else, there is nothing more suitable than duct tape.
This has a thousand and one uses. It can repair groundsheets or tents and it is durable enough to withstand the worst of the weather.
This tape can fix split boots, or even used to fasten a splint if there is ever a broken limb.
Health, Hygiene and Food
Personal hygiene items need to be taken, because you will need to stay clean. These items take little introduction as long as you don’t forget to take them.
One final thing you can go through is your food, and this can take up pages by itself. The suggestions here are easy to prepare, lightweight and deliver plenty of calories and carbs for your fun days hitting the trails.
All of this might sound like a lot, but a lot of it can be purpose made for backpacking. Your gear list does need to be comprehensive because you need to cover all eventualities. In some occasions, it may change because of the destinations you visit, and how long you will be on the trails.
If you are new to backpacking, you can check the Rei Co-op because they specialize in this type of outdoor gear.
The only problem being, these can be more expensive but they are a good place to look for ideas on your backpacking gear.
When you first start, you may find you are not looking at the best gear for your trip, and can quickly weigh you down, however, you can learn all this and change the items from your trekking essentials list.
You can quickly learn how to travel light and sacrificing no comfort or protection.