Backpacking Checklist: All the Essentials for a Successful Trip

Creating a backpacking checklist is essential to a fun-filled adventure while working your way through nature. While there are many items that you may take with you but might not need, there are many others that are necessary for success.

Making a checklist will ensure that you have everything you need, whether you’re backpacking for a few days or a couple of months. Being prepared for what you may face will make your backpacking trip easier and more pleasurable.

You need to consider where you will be backpacking and the conditions you will be in. This includes consideration of the weather, climate, and supply areas. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time on the trail or your fiftieth; a solid list makes for a successful journey.

We will provide you with all of the critical elements you will require while backpacking. From equipment to clothing and personal items, you will have an excellent idea of what you will need after going through our guide. Each hike may require a few different items compared to others you have been on or plan to go on. However, the items here will be excellent additions to every backpacking journey you set out on.

13 Pieces of Must-Have Backpacking Equipment

The equipment inside your backpack will be the bulk of what you need to acquire before you start your journey. This investment, if you are a first-time backpacker, is significant. If you purchase quality pieces, you’re sure to have them for years to come.

When you’re getting ready to start purchasing equipment, you will want to pay attention to each item’s weight. If your backpack is too heavy, it will make your hike much more difficult. Finding lightweight options will allow you to travel farther and experience less fatigue.


Hiking backpacks on display

Packs for backpacking excursions come in all different shapes and sizes. Options range from those that are incredibly lightweight to models packed full of features. Many packs are designed to improve your comfort level, especially when carrying heavy loads. When you’re choosing a pack, you need to consider how long you will be hiking, the weight of your gear, and what type of organization options you prefer.

Osprey makes some great options, regardless of the features that are important to you. With all of the designs available and the nature of backpacking, you should pay attention to details like durability, comfort, and breathability.


Tent in mountains

Some trails you hike may offer shelter along the way, like the Appalachian Trail. Others will offer none at all. Regardless of where you’re backpacking, having a tent is advantageous. Tents protect you from the elements and give you a safe, bug-free place to sleep. You will want a three-season backpacking tent, and they are typically five pounds or less (2 person models).

While a 2-person model is one of the most popular, more and more people are using minimalist shelters because they are even lighter in weight. When you’re choosing a tent, you should look at its durability, interior space, and doors. The simplicity of the set up will also play a role. Recently, hikers have fallen in love with the Big Agnes Copper Spur tent because it weighs less than four pounds. Additionally, it offers a decent amount of space and is sturdy.


A backpacking stove is essential if you intend to eat anything that needs to be heated up. Whether you’re cooking full meals or just rehydrating them, a stove will make it possible. Some cheap options are quite compact and will take up almost no room in your pack. Expensive options offer more features like improved output, but also take up more space. You should check out the type of fuel the stove uses before purchasing it. More often than not, they will run off of isobutane or propane canisters.

The stove design will also play a role in your decision. Some are very simple and just screw on to your fuel source, while others will require you to put them together. If you’re looking for a quick system, the Jetboil Flash system is a great option. It’s a bit pricey. If you need something that works well but is more minimalistic, you can go with the MSR PocketRocket 2. Not only is it lightweight, but it’s also exceptionally affordable.

Sleeping Bag

Blue sleeping bags

Your sleeping bag is going to play a significant role in your comfort level each night you’re backpacking. After a long day of hiking, you want to know that you’re going to be warm and comfortable. When you’re trying to figure out which item to splurge on monetarily, this is probably the item. Realistically, you will spend more money on your sleeping bag than perhaps anything else. It will last for years to come. There are many options in the category of sleeping bags.

Some are lightweight, while others are heavy and down-filled. The bag you buy will depend on where you like to go backpacking. You will need to consider the climate before you decide which one to buy. If you intend on backpacking frequently, you may end up buying several different sleeping bags to suit all of your needs. Hummingbird makes some excellent sleeping bags, but you should be ready to invest if you look toward their options.

Sleeping Pad

Tent and rolled sleeping pads.

When you’re sleeping in a tent or under the stars, your comfort is key. Adding a pad to your sleeping bag will not only improve your comfort levels, but it will also help keep you warmer. When you’re buying your sleeping pad, pay attention to the R-value. This is the amount of insulation the pad offers, and the higher the number, the more insulation it provides. Backcountry hiking enthusiasts have trusted Therm-a-Rest pads for generations.

They are lightweight and built to last. The options from this brand are sought after, and consumers are rarely disappointed with their purchase. REI also has some decent options when it comes to sleeping pads. Pads from this brand are a bit more affordable but may not offer the same level of durability.

Utensils & Cookware

Camping cookware set

The cookware and utensils you require will depend on how you decide to eat while backpacking. There are a ton of dehydrated meals that can be prepared in the bag and will not require a pot or bowl. You will only require a spoon or a spork to consume them. If you use a screw-on stove, you will need a lightweight pot to cook in.

You may also want to carry a dish to eat your food from, but some people will just eat out of the pot that they carry. When you’re backpacking and sitting down to eat, you will likely want to bring a lightweight cup for your drinks. It doesn’t cost much to gather the utensils and cookware that you need. MSR, Snow Peak, and GSI Outdoors all make excellent lightweight options that will fit in most budgets.


Hikers food

When you’re backpacking, you will consume a lot of calories. Hiking burns many calories, and you will need to replace them to keep your energy levels up. Many backpackers prefer to carry dehydrated foods because they are lightweight and do not take up much space. Dehydrated foods have come a long way. They taste great and offer excellent nutrition levels. They are also straightforward to use. All you have to do is boil some water, let it sit, and consume your meal.

The Good To-Go brand offers options that taste and feel like regular food which backpackers love. When you’re trying to figure out food, it’s best to make a list for each day. This will ensure you have plenty to eat while on the trail. Make sure to bring an extra meal or two just in case you get stuck or are feeling extra hungry one day. You should also invest in protein bars, like Clif Bars. They are very nutritious and provide you with the energy you need to keep going.

Water Container

Hiking water bottle

Staying hydrated is critical while you’re on a backpacking adventure. You will need a water bottle or a reservoir to make sure that you are drinking enough as you move through your journey. Many people will simply carry standard water bottles. However, camel packs have become more and more popular. A camel pack will provide you with a hose for easy drinking while you are moving.

There are many extremely affordable options when it comes to water containers. So, whether you want one made of plastic, stainless steel, or one that collapses, know that you will be able to find whatever you prefer. If you invest in your bottle, it will be usable for years to come. This is better than buying a cheap bottle or container that will need replacing frequently.

Water Purifier or Filter

Couple using water filter

As you’re backpacking, you are going to need to refill your water supply frequently. Often, this will be from streams. You will need to make sure that you can filter the water so that you are not at risk of contracting Giardia. There are a variety of different purification methods. You can invest in pumps, gravity filters, tablets, and straws that are made to purify the water that you’re drinking.

When you’re trying to keep your pack as light as possible, a pump or drops may be the perfect filtration option. Regardless of what system you choose, make sure that it’s going to provide you with enough filtration uses to last your entire trip.

Headlamps or Flashlights

Black led headlamp

Most backpackers have switched from using flashlights to wearing headlamps. Headlamps are smaller and provide you with a decent amount of light. If you are climbing or like to hike after dark, you’ll want to invest in a high-performance headlamp. These are going to cost more than the average headlight, but they are quite a bit brighter. Black diamond makes a variety of headlamps that are not only durable and exceptionally bright, but they are also quite affordable.

You want to pay attention to your headlamp’s lumens and how long the batteries will last. When it comes to battery life, the information the manufacturer gives you will be the maximum number of hours the batteries will last. You should expect that they will not last quite that long and always make sure to carry some extra batteries with you.

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

Whether you’re backpacking for a day or a month, a first aid kit is an essential piece of equipment. You should plan on carrying basic medications, bandages, gauze, and electrical or duct tape. Many first aid kits will offer these exact things, and they are very affordable. You can spend a bit more and purchase a full-sized kit, but remember it will weigh a bit more and take up more space in your pack. REI offers lightweight and waterproof first aid kits that are incredibly affordable. They include everything you will need in a minor emergency, and it won’t break the bank when you decide to call it your own.

Compass, Map, & GPS

Map and compass

When it comes to navigation, you have a variety of options. It’s always best to have an actual map and a compass with you in case your GPS fails. GPS systems have become extremely popular. They provide good Peace of Mind and allow backpackers an easy way to navigate to their destination. However, relying solely on a GPS can leave you stranded.

They are more apt to break when compared to a compass. Additionally, you have to worry about satellite signals and battery life when you navigate using a GPS. You should always spend the time to familiarize yourself with the trip you’re about to take. Getting to know the landmarks and having a current map will ensure that you always know where you are and the direction you need to travel in.

Repair Kit

Multitool knife

Even if you want to travel light, you should make room for a repair kit. A repair kit will vary based on your traveling needs. It should contain a roll of electrical or duct tape, extra batteries, a lighter, waterproof matches, paracord, a few garbage bags, a knife, a multitool, and a stove repair kit. These things are something you should always travel with while you are backpacking.

If you are going on a long trip or are in extremely remote locations, you may want to include zip ties, safety pins, sewing kit, repair tape, and a seam sealer. This way, if you run into trouble with your clothing or your shelter, you will be able to repair it quickly as you continue along your journey.

7 Clothing & Footwear Options for your Backpacking Checklist

While the equipment that you carry along with you is vital, so are the clothing and footwear options that you choose. Knowing what to look for before you leave for your backpacking excursion will ensure that you stay comfortable, warm, and dry throughout your entire adventure.

Additionally, investing in the correct equipment will help you avoid issues such as blisters and chafing.

Shoes & Boots

Woman with hiking boots

When it comes to your gear, the boots or shoes that you choose may be the most critical piece. Keeping your feet supported and protected is one of the number one goals when going backpacking. Regardless of if you are going for a short or a long backpacking trip, investing in lightweight, comfortable shoes are imperative to your success. When you start to look at hiking footwear, you will commonly see the brand Salomon pop up. This brand offers excellent options at a variety of price points to suit everybody’s budget. If you’re looking for a stiffer pair of high top boots or a lightweight pair of hiking shoes, this brand will have what you need.

Additionally, they offer running and hiking shoes. You will need to take some time and consider how long you’ll be traveling to sort out how many pairs of shoes you need to buy. Additionally, think about the environment in which you will be hiking through to make sure that you buy a shoe that will be sturdy enough to handle it while keeping your feet comfortable and supported for long hours.


Woman puts on socks for hikes

To go along with your hiking boots, you’re going to need to invest in socks. Many hikers prefer to wear socks made from merino wool. This wool is very soft, and it is excellent at helping you regulate your temperature. The material is moisture-wicking and very lightweight. Not only that, but it’s also good at keeping unpleasant odors at bay. When it comes to your socks, you will have to think about individual preferences.

Some people prefer a bit more cushion, while others are merely looking for a certain height. When you’re investing in a pair of merino wool socks, you should look for those that come with a lifetime guarantee. The Darn Tough brand is one that will provide you with this. Merino wool is not the most durable fabric, and it’s also quite expensive, so a lifetime guarantee is going to save you time and money in the long run.


Traveling woman

When it comes to choosing the perfect shirt for backpacking, it comes down to your personal preference. There are a ton of options when it comes to hiking shirts. Many of them will be extremely lightweight but made with versatile materials like wool. Merino wool is comfortable, lightweight, breathable, and doesn’t an excellent job keeping you warm when in colder climates.

You will need to consider the weather situation before deciding the types of shirts that you’re going to pack. You should probably carry some long and short sleeve options. Extended sleeve options that are lightweight keep you a bit warmer, and they also protect you from bugs and the sun.


Hiking pants

The hiking pants that you choose should provide you with great freedom of movement. You will also need them to be comfortable – most people prefer them to stretch a bit. When you’re picking out your hiking pants, you need to consider your location. If you’re not going to be in thickets or heavily wooded areas, you can go with something lighter and breathable. If you’re bushwhacking, you will want to look for pants that offer more protection. The best hiking pant options will be weather resistant and made of materials that dry quickly. Additionally, you may find that the legs zip off, and they have a variety of pockets. These are very convenient features.

Rain Gear

Woman wearing rain jacket

When backpacking, you’re likely going to get rained on at one point or another. This is true even when there isn’t any rain being forecasted. Most people will want to invest in a rain jacket and waterproofing spray for their shoes. Additionally, they make waterproof pants, but many people find them to be a bit uncomfortable period.

You can purchase a full-on hard shell that will keep you dry in extremely wet conditions, but for the most part, backpackers can simply invest in a lightweight raincoat. Raincoats not only keep you dry, but they also protect you from the wind, all while providing a decent amount of breathability. Your rain jacket won’t take up much room in your pack. They are very lightweight, so there’s no reason to go on a hike without one.

Base Layers

Woman wearing base layer

When you need to stay warm, you should pay attention to your base layers. These are the clothing pieces that you wear under your clothes. They are lightweight and won’t take up much space in your pack if you need to get warm while you’re hiking or throughout the night. A base layer is one of the best ways to do it. Backpackers prefer base layers made from merino wool. This wool is exceptionally soft against the skin, and it resists odors.

Additionally, there are merino wool blends that work quite well. If you’re going to invest in merino wool pieces, be ready for the cost. It is pricey, but it’s worth the investment.

Coats or Jackets

Two backpackers hiking

Depending on where you’re backpacking will determine whether you need a heavy coat or a lightweight synthetic jacket. You may be wearing your coat at night if you need some extra warmth. Insulated jackets are not going to fit as well inside of your pack as they tend to be a bit bulky. However, they will give you the extra warmth you need on those cold nights and mornings.

Many people like Patagonia down jackets because they’re very durable and versatile. If you are backpacking in a warm climate, you may only need your raincoat to stay comfortable during your adventure. So, taking the time to consider what the weather conditions are supposed to be will ensure that you pack the right coat or jacket for the hike you are about to take.


This is a pretty good look at the essential items that you will need when you’re heading out on a backpacking adventure. There are a plethora of other backpacking items that many hikers feel are essential. This includes trekking poles, sunglasses, cameras, gloves, chairs, and other personal items. Each person is going to require different things to go on their backpacking checklist. Once you have your essentials down to a science, it will be easy to get them packed up as you head toward adventure.

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