How to Make A Backpacking Gear List That's Right For you – The Ultimate Guide

How to Make A Backpacking Gear List That’s Right For you – The Ultimate Guide


A backpacking trip is a great way to explore the world and stay active. The last thing you want to discover while you’re out on the trail backpacking is that you’ve left something important behind.

A checklist of the things you need to carry while you’re hiking is important and will help you remember all the little pieces of gear to pack before you go. Here are some considerations to keep in mind for your backpacking trip.

Backpacking packing list: Tips & tricks

You never know what you’ll run into on a backpacking trip; rain, snow, lightning, rockslides, dehydration, altitude sickness, and the aches and pains associated with hauling a 40-60-pound backpack along mountainous trails. Trekking into the wilderness should not be taken lightly because there are real dangers, but these can be mitigated with the following backpacking trip essentials.

  1. Knowledge

Knowledge is power. Learn how to read a map and compass or download an app; make a fire in the rain or snow, with and without matches. Learn basic first aid. Take a survival course. The point is the more you know before you ever step foot on the trail the better your chances of dealing with any emergency that occurs.

  1. Map/Compass

Getting lost is not an option. Learn to use a compass and read a map in tandem. These two items can get you out of the unfamiliar territory.

  1. Lighter, matches, and a fire starter

Waterproof matches and a lighter can come in handy but what happens if these don’t work. There are many sparking fire starters available at any number of outdoor stores. Get one, learn how to use it, and keep it in a safe place in your pack.

  1. First aid kit

Get one from your local outdoor store that is specific for backpackers. Make sure it contains pain relievers, bandages, antibiotic ointment, anti-septic spray or ointment, and some form of allergy medicine. An Epi-pen can also be a good investment because an allergic reaction to a bug bite 20 miles in the wilderness can be deadly.

  1. Foot care

Blisters can quickly bring any backpacking trip to a painful halt if you don’t have the necessary treatment options. Moleskin and a needle should both be included in your first aid kit to care for any blisters.

  1. Water

Dehydration is not something you want to experience. Make sure your filter is in working order before you hit the trailhead. Even then it may break or quit working so have iodine tablets as a backup because while dehydration is fun neither is giardia.

  1. Rain gear

No matter where you are going always carry reliable rain gear. Hypothermia sets in fast if you get wet and is one of the biggest causes of wilderness deaths.

  1. Shelter

Whether you use a tent, tarp, or bevy sack you need a way to get out of the elements. Learn how to use whichever shelter you do use so that you can set it up quickly.

  1. Sleeping bag

Where you are going and what time of year will help determine what kind of bag you need. Down sleeping bags are the warmest for what they weigh but lose their insulating ability if they get wet. For camping in wet nasty conditions, it may be best to have a synthetic bag.

  1. Tailor your gear for where and when you are going

Quite simply this means taking stock of where you are going, how long you will be gone, and the weather conditions you are likely to experience and customize your gear list to that.

Packing for a backpacking trip: List of what to pack

When planning any backpacking or hiking trip there are certain items that you really should include as part of your Backpacking Gear List.

There is a load of new gadgets on the market that are supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread, but you should not forget the traditional, tried, and tested essential items. The things that you really should not go without.

Backpacking essentials


One that covers the area that you will be traveling over, and is detailed enough to show all the minor tracks, trails, rivers, and streams as well as the main roads. Google maps are the best option that you can use.


Using a map only is not going to work very well without a decent compass. Knowing what direction, you are traveling in is vital. You can buy one that is accurate but rugged enough to stand up to some rough handling in the wilds if you prefer the old school or you can download an app such as Compass°, Compass Galaxy, or Compass for Android and in our opinion, it’s the best choice you can make.


not only useful for seeing where you are going, but a have to when you are looking for something in the midnight in a pitch-black tent. And very handy for signaling in the event of an emergency.


Possibly one of the most important items in your backpack. Accidents can happen at any time anywhere, from minor cuts and scratches to sprains and more serious injuries. You should always carry a first aid kit that is well stocked with a variety of supplies, plus any personal medication. And always replace anything that has been used as soon as possible.


Try to carry as much water as you possibly can, hiking is thirsty work. Also, if you can include a water purification kit (one that will filter and then sterilize the water,) this means that you can re-stock along the way.


Pack some spare clothes as well as some extra food. You never know what is going to happen on the trail, so always be prepared to expect the unexpected and carry enough for an extra day or two, in case of emergencies.


It doesn’t have to be a huge hunting knife, but a good pocket knife or multi-tool can be invaluable for many uses and should be included in your kit no matter how short your trip may be.


You have to bring spare lighter or waterproof matches, and hold them in a waterproof container. (consider not being able to cook your meals or have a brew up, just because you can’t light your stove).

These are just a few ideas of what to include in your Backpacking essentials List, you can of course add to them, but always think through what you are going to take. There is no need to pack your backpack full of items that you will never use, so try to stick to the essentials.

Backpacking gear

When making a backpacking gear list, try to break it down into individual sections. section 1 will be shelter and sleep, which would include a tent, your sleeping bag, kip mat, etc. This way every section can be made personal to you.

Every backpacking trip you take will be different from the previous one and will depend a lot on, where you are going, what type of terrain you will be traveling over, what time of year you will be going, and of course the weather you are likely to expect.

Whatever type of backpacking you intend to do, there will always be certain items of kit that will be standard, and these are the items to concentrate on first. Then you can add or take things out according to your personal needs and preference.

Below is a basic starting list.


  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag.
  • Bivi bag (for nights under the stars, or if you don’t want to put the tent up.)
  • Kip mat.
  • Groundsheet
  • Spare pegs and guy lines.


  • Cooking stove, (with spare gas and lighter.)
  • Cooking pots, (with a lid that doubles as a plate.)
  • Frying pan, (non-stick.)
  • Knife/fork/spoon/can opener, etc.
  • Food, (personal choice.)
  • Water, (enough for a day’s hike + cooking.


  • Strong walking boots or shoes
  • Light shoe or runners, for around camp.


  • 2 pairs of wool socks (merino wool if possible.)
  • 2 pairs of underpants or cycling shorts.
  • 1 long sleeve tee-shirt
  • 1 pair of lightweight trousers or shorts.
  • 1 fleece jacket or sweater
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers.
  • Warm fleecy hat and light sun cap.


  • Small elasticized bandage for sprains, + a small roll of bandage.
  • Blister kit.
  • Plasters (assorted sizes) + a roll of plaster.
  • Antiseptic wipes.
  • Safety pins.
  • Pain killers.
  • Any personal medication.


  • Soap/ shampoo/flannel/towel, etc.
  • Shaving gear/lightweight mirror.
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste.
  • Toilet paper.
  • Soap for washing clothes + small line with clothes pegs.


  • Hiking pole
  • Torch (with spare batteries)
  • Compass/maps. (Download apps)
  • Binoculars/camera.

All these items should be packed in waterproof bags or containers or inside a waterproof backpack liner. If backpacking with a partner or in a group, you can divide some of the heavier things between you, i.e. one carries the cooking gear while the other carries the food.

Backpacking food

Most backpackers are looking for great backpacking food ideas. because they will be carrying the whole thing in their backpack, they look for ways to reduce the weight they are going to carry without sacrificing the essentials. one of these essentials is food.

The following are insights on what food to carry for any backing journey. you may find them lightweight, however, they can be heavy enough to keep you nourished throughout your TRIP.

when it comes to convenience, nothing beats the usual dried and frozen food items you can get from the shop. besides being convenient, they may also be very tasty. those traditional backpacking foods might be expensive especially if they are branded. But if you are looking for cheap and easy to prepare foods, Ramen or noodles could be the best choice for you. In addition to that, they come in handy when you want a hot meal fast.

As a backpacker, you need to understand though that your health should be your priority when packing up your food. It would be very depressing if due to some health reasons, you would have to shorten your trips or go home earlier than expected. Thus, you have to consider the nutrients of the food you will bring along.

You will need foods that are high in calories. Surprisingly, most foods with high-calorie content get to be the lightest foods to pack as well. Those with pure fats, proteins, and low moisture carbohydrates tend to be high in calories. Nuts, granola bars, bread, fruits, and veggies can be counted under this category.

There are specific foods through which you should not miss placing in your backpack. First on the list is olive oil. Olive oil by far is the healthiest of the oils which you can use as a dip for your bread or any corn product. In fact, you can add a teaspoonful of it to any soup and it will magically keep you warm for hours should you be camping in a cool place. Fats naturally generate heat when digested.

Next are nuts and raisins. They are good sources of proteins, minerals, and vitamins. More so, they can keep you from getting famished while very convenient hiking. Should you need extra energy to walk the extra mile, be sure that you have dried beans in your knapsack. They surely are energy boosters to a weary traveler. Pair your beans with an instant coffee mix and you will have all your senses awake and ready for any emergency.

Finally, along with your generous supply of clean drinking water, pack away instant energy drinks. They are best for restoring the lost electrolytes to your system.

Taking into consideration the climate in the place you’ll be visiting is also part of the best backpacking food ideas. Perhaps, the country you have decided to explore has cool weather. Then, you would have to pack foods that will keep you not only full but also warm as you stroll along.

Backpacking sleeping bag

Backpacking sleeping bags are one of the most important requisites when you are setting out on outdoor hiking or camping. The obvious advantage of having a great sleeping bag is that you can sleep comfortably at night and wake up fresh the next morning. No one would want to remain awake at night and be sleepy the next day ruining the enjoyment for you and the others. An ideal bag for sleeping should be one that is durable, versatile, and comfortable to carry around. The fact that in most of your outdoor trips, you would be either accompanied by your family or your friends calls in for the need to purchase bags for sleeping for people of different age groups and likings.

They should be easy to carry around and should not cause any kind of nuisance while trying to pack or unpack. There are a wide variety of backpacking sleeping bags available in the market. There is something to suit everyone’s taste and hence it will not be very difficult to choose the one that you like. Also, one can do a detailed search on the internet to see which dealer offers the best quality sleeping bags at an affordable price. You can also read various forums on these products where users who have actually used these products might have left valuable comments. These would help you to decide on which brand to go with.

There are various qualities that an ideal bag for sleeping should possess. One of the most important factors to look out for is the waterproof ability of the bag. Fact that your outdoor activity might include getting wet, you need to ensure that your sleeping bag is water proof so that you won’t have to spend valuable time at night trying to dry it out. Also, you can carry various things in your waterproof sleeping bag. When you are making the purchase, try wearing them, and evaluate how comfortable they are to you. Check the bag thoroughly for any kind of manufacturing defects and also check the strength of the material used.

Understand that the cheapest product is not always the best. If one dealer is offering you a big discount, ensure that you are not compromising on the quality factor. Since the backpacking sleeping bags are a one-time purchase, it is recommended that you purchase something of good quality.

How to pack light or a backpacking trip?

If you are planning to travel for some time with a backpack and stay at hostels around the world, you will be amazed at how little you actually need and how liberating it can be to be carrying a minimalist number of possessions. Some people are tempted to buy huge backpacks and stuff them full to the point that they are difficult to carry. Indeed, it’s commonly seen at hostels to see people stumbling in and nearly collapsing under the weight of their bags. In a situation where you are literally carrying your possessions on your back, even a couple of pounds of gear left at home can be helpful. To successfully pack the lightest possible bag but ensure that you don’t forget anything critical, a strategy and a packing list are essential and it isn’t something you should start the night before leaving on your trip.

Though you will find hundreds of packing lists online, there are no absolutes in what to bring. What is critical and what is not will depend on your destination, your personal level of comfort, and your level of risk aversion. Many people need to tradeoff between carrying anything they could need versus bringing only the basics and devoting part of their budget to purchasing things as they are needed. For example, should you pack an umbrella if you are headed to a dry and hot part of the world? Probably not. Will it be easy to buy an umbrella if a sudden rainstorm does arise? Almost certainly yes. Even if you are forced to purchase an overpriced one, a 20% chance of spending $20 is probably better than a 100% chance of spending $10 and carrying a 2-pound umbrella with you every day. Once you begin traveling, it’s only natural to realize how many of the things you deemed essential could have easily been left behind.

Final Thoughts

Backpacking is an amazing hobby and is loved by many people. It gets you out into the great outdoors so you can enjoy breathtaking scenery or venture to new lands.

Planning will keep surprises on the trail to a minimum. You don’t want to be 10 miles down the trail and find out you forgot something that you will really need.

Backpacking packing list FAQs

What should you not take backpacking?

Leave your cotton clothes at home. When cotton clothes get wet, they are impossible to fully dry out. This also includes jeans, which can be uncomfortable to hike in but are absolutely not what you want for an overnight backpacking trip. Also, avoid carrying white colored clothes.

What are the 10 essentials for backpacking?

  • Navigation: Map and compass.
  • Sun protection: Sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Illumination: Headlamp or flashlight.
  • First-aid: Kit or supplies.
  • Fire: Waterproof matches or lighter.
  • Nutrition: Extra food.
  • Clothes
  • Phone & charger
  • Sleeping bag & tent if necessary
  • Hydration: Extra water or filter

What to pack for 3 months backpacking?

  • 1 rain jacket.
  • 2 pairs of jeans/pants.
  • 1 pair of comfy yoga pants.
  • 1 pair of black leggings.
  • 5 shorts.
  • 3 tank top shirts.
  • 1 dress tank top.
  • 1 nice t-shirt.
  • Water
  • Food & snacks
  • Personal care products
  • First aid kit
  • Sleeping bag if necessary
  • Flashlight
  • Sunscreen & sunglasses.

How much water should I carry backpacking?

On an average day, we should be drinking at least 2 liters of water. Physical activity boosts our energy, delivers nutrients to muscle cells, and postpones muscle fatigue. When physical activity increases, water intake needs to increase too.


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