The Ultimate Backpacking Gear Checklist

Woman hiking outdoors
Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

So you want to learn how to pack a backpack for camping? Whether you are new to backcountry camping or just want a backpacking checklist to help you get on the trail, you'll want to consider this list of gear for your big adventure. This checklist list is intended to be more than complete—you will not need everything. In fact, it is best to pack a minimal amount of backpacking gear and luxury items at home. The lighter your pack, the better you'll feel, but don't leave out the essentials.

Be sure to research the weather and climate of your destination and adjust your packing accordingly. If you'll be hiking in a cold or rainy region, pay special attention to waterproof equipment. If it's going to be cold, plan to carry extra layers of clothing. If you are lucky enough to hike and camp in warm weather, you might not need as much gear.

01 of 09

Backpacking Essentials

Tent and camping equipment at lakeside forest campsite, Alberta, Canada
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Whether you are expecting warm, cold, sunny, or rainy weather, there are basic backpacking items that you'll need to take. Shelter, bedding, cooking equipment, and minimal clothing are required for any overnight trip. Here's what you should pack.

  • A backpack
  • Tent or tarp with poles or guy lines
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camp Stove and lighter
  • Food
  • Water bottle and water purification system
  • Headlamp
  • Sun protection
  • Extra layers of clothing
02 of 09

Camping Shelter

Tent Campsite on Lake Marjorie, Californian Sierra Nevada
Greg Jaggears / Getty Images

To be safe and comfortable you will want a good camping shelter for your backpacking trip. Here are the basics for a good night's rest in the wild.

  • Tent or tarp
  • Tent poles, stakes, and/or guy lines
  • Ground cloth or tarp
  • Sleeping bag
  • Waterproof stuff sack for sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camp pillow
  • Mosquito netting
03 of 09

Clothing for Backpacking

Austria, Tyrol, couple hiking at Unterberghorn at sunrise
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Backpacking clothing is just like hiking except you'll be spending the night. Carefully consider the weather, expect for the worst, and be prepared.

  • Hiking boots
  • Sandals (select a pair that will work for wading streams)
  • Zip-off convertible pants/shorts
  • Thermal underwear top and bottom
  • Lightweight down or synthetic jacket
  • Fleece jacket or vest
  • Fleece pants
  • Raincoat and pants - fully waterproof
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Moisture-wicking t-shirt
  • Hiking socks (an extra pair is recommended)
  • Camp socks
  • Down booties
04 of 09

Backcountry Kitchen

Camping stove
HansChris / Getty Images

It's true—food tastes better in the great outdoors and especially when you carried it to a beautiful destination. Here's what you'll need to cook. If you like to cook on a fire, be sure to check area regulations.

  • Food (dehydrated or quick cook food items are recommended)
  • Stove
  • Fuel
  • Pots
  • Pot grabber
  • Utensils
  • Utility knife or multi-tool
  • Lighter and/or matches
  • Water bottle (an extra water bottle is recommended)
  • Water filter or other purification system
  • Biodegradable soap
  • French press
  • Coffee cup
  • Dishes or bowls
  • Bear canister or hang bags and ropes for food storage
Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09

First-Aid and Safety

First aid kit and lantern on a table
Lebazele/Getty Images

Your trip will most likely be safe and free of accidents, but if you have a wilderness emergency you'll want a few basic supplies to help the injured be more comfortable before getting them back to civilization.

  • Wilderness First Aid Kit
  • Cell-phone, two-way radio or satellite phone
  • Emergency tarp (reflective blanket)
  • Whistle
  • Watch (with altimeter and barometer)
  • Duct tape
06 of 09


Male hiker holding compass and map
Cultura/Ross Woodhall/Getty Images

Know your route, have a map, and carry a compass.

  • Map
  • Compass
  • GPS (optional)
  • Wilderness permit
  • Field guide
  • Guidebook
07 of 09

Sun and Weather Protection

A man sitting next to a stream, Kenai Fjords National Park, Kenai Penninsula, Southcentral Alaska
Michael Jones / Getty Images

Since you'll be outdoors all day long while backpacking, you really need to protect yourself from the sun. Here's what you'll need.

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Lip balm
  • Hat
  • Mosquito head net
  • Insect repellant
  • Bandana or neck gaiter
08 of 09

Personal Items

Mountain Solitude
stockstudioX / Getty Images

You don't necessarily need personal items, but if it makes you comfortable and you don't mind the extra weight, some of this stuff is nice to have.

  • Camp towel
  • Toilet paper
  • Small shovel
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Headlamp
  • Vitamins
  • Prescription medicines
  • Prescription glasses
Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09

Other Optional Backpacking Gear

Hiking poles on top of a mountain ridge
Maya Karkalicheva / Getty Images

These luxuries are not necessary, but to make your trip extra awesome consider packing a few of these optional items.

  • Trekking poles
  • Energy food (bars and drink mixes)
  • Bandana
  • Gaiters
  • Binoculars
  • Digital camera
  • Waterproof pack cover
  • Journal
  • Book
  • Backpacker guitar or other instrument
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Rope