Categories: CampingChecklists

The Ultimate Backpacking Checklist

Because checklists make packing 100% easier.

Necessary Gear

Hiking Boots
Buy your hiking boots at least 1 month before your trip and break them in (walk about 2-3 miles at least) before your big hike. I recommend getting a professional fitting. At the very least, know that hiking boots are not something you should order online.

For overnights, a 20-30 liter pack is okay. If you’re trekking for a week or longer, a 60-70 liter pack is better. Get a gender specific bag—there are small, but important differences to each. Like your boots, it’s best to be professionally fitted at your local outdoor gear store. They will know how to load and adjust the straps for you.

Water bladder with sipping hose
Camelbak and Platypus make great versions of these.

1-2 wide mouth 1L water bottles or canteens
Frequency of water sources, heat and distance factor into how many water bottles you’ll want on hand.

Sleeping bag
Get a sleeping bag rated for ~10 degrees warmer than forecasted.

Sleeping mat/pad
This is more for insulation than padding from the ground. Even if you’re planning on hammock tenting (which is fun!) having the insulation is really, really important if you want to sleep comfortably (or sleep at all).

Separate stuff sacks for food, toiletries and clothing
Organization is more important than ever when you’re working with limited space!

Rain cover for pack

Rain cover for self
Ponchos seem like great ideas. They aren’t.

Lighter than a flashlight, hands-free, and fashionable. Bring extra batteries!

Small pocket knife
Preferably with scissors and tweezers for first-aid.

Lightweight Crocs, sandals, Chacos, etc.
These are your shower shoes at campgrounds, wading through stream shoes, and your boots-off camp shoes. Leave the flip-flops at home.


Prep for ticks: I pre-treat penta-5 on my boots, pack, tent, rainfly, and pant legs for tickets. It lasts about 10 good soakings, so 1 time a summer, usually.

Prep for rain with camp-dry: A lot of gear needs to be re-coated with plastic. I do this before the penta to my tent, backpack, rain cover, rain jacket and boots.



Map and/or GPS
Always have an actual, physical map on hand.

Hand sanitizers

Toilet paper

Small Toothbrush & travel tooth paste



Biodegradable camp soap

Wicking, quick-dry camp towel
A tea towel size is plenty


Thick hiking socks
You can re-wear socks at least 2 times depending on what type of feet you got, how wet your hike is, etc. I like having a least one pair of socks I wear only at camp for extra comfort. Don’t get trench foot—dry out your socks!

Lightweight sock liners
Change these daily, especially if you’re prone to blisters.

Wicky shirts, shorts and pants
Cotton is rotten! Avoid it all costs. And please, NO JEANS!

A fleece or wicking jacket

This is personal preference stuff. Again, I like to avoid cotton when I’m backpacking.

A warm hat
Especially for cooler mornings and nights!


Breakfast: oatmeal is the standard. I like to add protein powder and dehydrated fruit to mine.
Go heavy on the fiber in the AM.

Electrolyte and glucose replacements
Shot blocs gels, goo—whatever. These can help keep you replenished and energized.

Lunches: PBJ is a classic, jerky & fruit, or cheese and fruit.
Babybel cheese in wax lasts up to a week, hard cheese will also last a weekend or so.

Snacks: trail mix, salty nuts, dried fruit

Dinners: If you’re going long distances, lightweight backpacker meals are okay, but I usually do tuna or chicken and instant rice, polenta, couscous, instant potatoes, dehydrated veggies.
A mix of protein and carbs, go easy on the fiber.

Spices: do not underestimate the power of a spice kit and/or hot sauce when you’re cooking on trail.

Group Gear

Water Filtration System and Water Bag

First Aid Kit (moleskin, bandaids, benadryl, ace bandage, Immodium, etc.)

Stove, fuel, matches/lighter

For…you know.

Wet wipes
Essential. Get backpacker wipes and bury responsibly.

Trash bag
Pack it out, leave it better

Tent or tarp
If you’re trying to save some weight, consider buying a lightweight backpacking-specific tent. Tarps are a cheap alternative to this, but remember you must bring hiking poles to support it and be prepared to be a little more exposed to the elements.

Bear protection gear: canisters or rope for bagging
If you’re going to be in bear country, don’t skimp out on this gear!

Laundry line
Useful for week-long trips

Optional Gear

Hiking Poles
These are your 4-wheel drive. Depending upon the terrain and weight of your pack, these might move to the “necessary” section.

Ear plugs
The woods are noisy. So are your campmates sometimes.

Silk sleeping bag liner
These increase the bag rating by 10 degrees, and also doubles as a bug net.

Prescriptions medicines, vitamins

2 ponytail holders
Braids are my friend

Tiny journal and pen

Pack of cards


Camera and/or phone on airplane mode

Instant coffee for breakfast
Not optional for everyone, I know.

Weird food treats to make it fun
Snickers? Hot cocoa? Popcorn?

Body glide or anti-chafing stick

Duck tape
Useful for repairs, emergencies, etc. I wrap it 1-2x around my water bottle instead of bringing the whole (heavy) roll.

Menstrual cup and/or tampons (if needed)

Chamomile tea bags
Great if you have trouble falling asleep

Bandana or a buff

Inflatable pillow
Many people just use a stuff sack and clean clothes

Stuff I don’t pack anymore

Fighting against a losing battle

Gatoraid liquid or powder
Adding these to your water bottle makes that water not usable for dinner. Also liquid = heavy.

Comb, brush or mirror

Dishes or bowls
You can eat right out of ziplocks, packets or can use the cook pot

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