The difference between a great backpacking trip and a bad one often comes down to tiny details. There’s a ton of things to remember to pack and look up before you set out. Forgetting one little thing can have big consequences in the backcountry.

After making dozens of different lists over the years, I’ve compiled them all together to create the ultimate backpacking checklist. Use it to make sure you don’t forget to pack the stove, or check the latest weather forecast before you head out.

There are over 100 pieces of gear listed and dozens of different things to research and double check. Note that I’ve erred on the side of including more gear on the list so I don’t leave anything out, but you may choose to omit some things depending on the specifics of your trip.

Here’s a handy Table of Contents:

Personal Essentials

  1. Backpack with Hipbelt (30-50L for weekend trips, 50-70L for week-long)
    • Pack Cover that fits over backpack
    • Trash Bag to line inside of backpack
  2. Sleeping Bag
    • Compression Sack
  3. Sleeping Pad
    • Patch Kit
    • Strap (if necessary)
  4. Stuff Sacks or Ziplock to keep things organized and dry
  5. Trekking Poles
  6. Headlamp or flashlight
    • extra batteries
  7. Hat with a brim (for sun and rain protection)
  8. Sunglasses
  9. Sunscreen
  10. Bug Repellent
    • Mosquito Head Net
  11. Toiletries & Medicine
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Prescriptions
    • Epipen
    • Rescue Inhaler
  12. Ear Plugs
  13. Sleep Mask

Survival Essentials

  1. Whistle
  2. Knife or Multi-tool
  3. Matches
  4. Firestarter (bic lighters work great)
  5. Emergency Kindling or fire starting material
  6. Repair Kit
  7. Duct Tape
  8. Space Blanket

Trail Clothing

You should be sure everyone in your group is dressed for the weather. Remember, “cotton kills” (that includes denim and most flannel) so all layers should be synthetic or wool.

  1. 2-3x pairs of clean underwear
  2. 2-3x pairs of wool hiking socks
  3. 1-2x pairs of thin, synthetic liner socks
  4. synthetic hiking pants
  5. wicking t-shirt
  6. hiking boots or trail shoes
  7. warm hat
  8. lightweight jacket (fleece or synthetic)
  9. light, durable gloves
  10. rain jacket

If temperatures will be near freezing, check out my article on winter hiking and also be sure to include

  1. a puffy, synthetic jacket
  2. warm mittens that fit over your gloves
  3. an extra warm hat
  4. synthetic long underwear (top and bottom)
  5. balaclava or neck gaiter
  6. chemical hand warmer packs

If you’re hiking in an area where there might be unwanted animal encounters, also consider packing:

  1. Bear Spray
  2. Bear Bell
  3. Tick removal key

Cook Kit & Food

Each person doesn’t need to bring a stove, so you should think about dividing up the cooking supplies so that everyone is carrying an equal weight. Make sure your group has all of the following:

  1. Stove
  2. Windscreen
  3. Fuel canisters
  4. Pot
  5. Pot holder
  6. Pot Scrubber (Sponge or Steel Wool)
  7. Spatula
  8. Ladle
  9. Water Purification (2-3 methods for redundancy):
    • Filter (pump or inline)
    • Iodine Tablets or Drops
    • UV Filter

Individuals might also want to carry their own personal eating supplies:

  1. Aluminum Bowl
  2. Fork & Spoon (or Spork!)
  3. Insulated Mug
  4. 2-3x 1L (32oz) Water Bottles
  5. Water Bladder

Food selection and meal planning is a highly subjective process which is heavily dependent on your group and trip. At a high level, you want to make sure you have:

  1. Sugary Trail Snacks
  2. Protein- and Fat-Rich Dinners for each night
  3. High-Carb Breakfasts for each morning
  4. Powedered Drink Mixes
  5. Spice Kit (Salt and Garlic Powder will get you far 😋)
  6. An extra dinner and breakfast in case you can’t keep your schedule

Figure you’ll be carrying 2lbs of food per person, per day.

Group Gear

Make sure at least one person in the group is carrying all of the following.

  1. Tent
    • stakes
    • poles
    • rain fly
    • guylines
  2. Topographic Map with your trail marked
  3. Compass or GPS
  4. First Aid Kit and basic first aid knowledge
  5. 30-50’ Cord or Rope for repairs and hanging food bag
  6. Bathroom supplies
    • Toilet Paper
    • Shovel for digging a cathole
    • Hand sanitizer
  7. Biodegradeable soap for washing dishes or bathing in lakes
  8. 2-Way Radio in case your group wants to split up
  9. Emergency GPS Beacon (PLB or Satellite Messenger)

Recreational Gear

  1. Binoculars
  2. Photography Gear
  3. Camp Shoes or Sandals
  4. Camp Chair
  5. Hammock
    • straps
    • carabiners
  6. Book or eReader
  7. Playing Cards
  8. Flask with your favorite poison
  9. Fishing Kit
  10. Frisbee
  11. Hacky Sack
  12. Harmonica
  13. Backup USB Battery for your smartphone

Before You Go

Besides gear, there are a number of planning and logistics steps to make sure your hiking trip goes smoothly. I’ve written more about those here, but at the very least, make sure you check the following things before you head out on your trip.

Research environmental & route conditions that you’re likely to encounter:

  1. forecasted temperatures
  2. forecasted precipitation
  3. wildlife
  4. water availability
  5. biting insects hazards (mosquitoes, ticks, etc)
  6. natural hazards like river fords, avalanches, rock or mud slides, wildfire
  7. sun exposure
  8. footing
  9. campsite conditions and crowding

Some of these things can be looked up online, while others might require that you call and talk to local rangers or land managers to get the latest reports.

Knowing the conditions you’re heading out into will inform what gear to take with you, and also what skills you may want to brush up on before you set out.

Final gear prep:

  1. Clear your camera’s memory card
  2. Make sure phone and camera batteries are fully charged
  3. Check the fuel levels in your stove and lighters
  4. Pack your entire bag up, make sure everything fits inside, doesn’t rip or need extra straps, etc
  5. Adjust your backpack to make sure shoulder straps and hipbelt are properly spaced for your torso length

With that, you should be all set for a well-planned, well-stocked backpacking adventure!

After You Return

After the trip is done, don’t just throw your dirty gear straight into the closet. Take a few minute to give it some TLC and it will last much longer and won’t have a funky small

  1. Hang up and air out your sleeping bag overnight
  2. Setup and dry off your tent in the backyard
  3. Wash your pots and utensils
  4. Catalog and replenish any first aid supplies you used
  5. Backup your any photos and video you took, and get to work on your awesome trip video

If you’re having trouble getting campfire smoke or other smells out of your gear, febreeze works great. Be sure to store your sleeping bags somewhere with plenty of space – not stuffed or compressed – to help preserve the insulation.

Well, that’s over 120 items to check and double-check to make sure you have everything you need on your next backpacking adventure. Be sure to share this list with everyone in your group so that they’re as prepared as you are!