Backpacking Checklist 3 Day (Printable PDF & Editable)

You want to head off on your first weekend backpacking trip where you live off the items you can carry for a couple of days. What a great adventure to be planning!

If you’ve done a bit of car camping, then the transition won’t be too hard, it’s a case of cutting down on gear and equipment that you won’t need or can’t carry. Which brings us to the point, what do I actually need and what can I live without for a weekend?

That’s where we come in. We’ve compiled a list of items that you will need for a long weekend away backpacking so that you can look over your current gear list and see what you have already and what you might need to get or replace.

A backpacking trip requires a lot less stuff than a car camping trip and the entertainment is all about getting from point A to Point B and setting up camp each day. It’s totally doable, you just need to be prepared. Really prepared.

Here’s our backpacking checklist 3 day packing list of things we think you’ll need for a weekend’s backpacking along with hints, tips & hacks for the first-timer who might need a bit of guidance as they ask for the first time – “Do I really need that?” in their quest to lighten their load and maximize the fun!

Backpacking Shelter

  • Lightweight tent, tent poles and rainfly
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  • Mallet (or rock)
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  • Stakes/pegs
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  • Footprint
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Are you facing analysis paralysis in choosing your tent and just want a fun few days of camping? Check our our guide to the best small two person tents.

Backpacking Sleeping Gear

  • Inflatable sleeping pad
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  • 15-20° Lightest sleeping bag
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  • Stuff sack to keep your sleeping bag dry
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Walking Gear

  • Hiking or trekking pole
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  • 40-65 liter internal frame backpack
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  • Boots and / or trail runners
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  • Permits
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Cooking & Eating Backpacker Checklist

  • Canister camping stove
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  • Extra stove fuel, lighter
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  • 2x firestarters – just in case
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  • 1x Cooking pot
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  • 1x Spoon or spork
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  • Multi-Tool incl knife
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  • Dishcloth
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  • Water purification system
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  • Resealable plastic bags for food storage
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  • Stuff sack for food
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  • Water bottle or bladder (personal preference)
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  • Bear bag/canister (if required by park regulations)
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Wet weather protection

  • Waterproof pack cover
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  • Rain and wind jacket
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Hiking Clothing

  • Wool or synthetic base layer – that you literally won’t take off
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  • 2x underwear, 1x sports bra
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  • 3x Merino wool socks
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  • Long-sleeved mid-layer.
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  • 1x Hiking bottoms. Synthetic
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  • 1x Rain and wind jacket
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  • 1x Rain pants – check your guide to see if you’ll need them on your trail
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  • Insulating jacket, top layer, down or synthetic
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  • Beanie. Merino or synthetic
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  • Woolen gloves, if it will be cold
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  • Plastic bag for dirty/wet clothes
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  • Camp clothes: Wool polyester or synthetic leggings and a spare top
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  • Camp shoes/sandals to give your feet a break
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  • Stuff sack to keep camp clothes dry
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Take three pairs of socks – one for camp, two for walking and maybe an additional thick pair for cold nights.

Backpacking Toiletries Checklist

  • Antibacterial soap
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  • Small quick-dry towel
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  • Hairbrush
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  • Fold-up toothbrush
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  • Sample size toothpaste
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  • Toilet paper and ziplock to carry out used paper
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  • Toilet trowel
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  • Waterless hand sanitizer
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  • Medications
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  • Anti-chafe
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Backpacking First Aid Kit

  • Sewing needle with dental floss for thread
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  • Blister tape
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  • Duct tape (works as a bandage, splint, covering)
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  • Antibiotic cream
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  • Gauze pads
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  • Painkiller
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  • Anti-diarrhea tablets
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  • Antihistamine
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Personal Protection Checklist

  • Insect repellent
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  • Sunscreen
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  • Sunglasses
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  • Chapstick or lip balm
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  • GPS subscription
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Lighting

  • Headlamp
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  • Spare Battery
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Luxury Backpacking gear

  • Downloaded guide to your walking area
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  • Downloaded books, star charts, and field guides
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  • Camera
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  • Smartphone in a protective phone case and power bank
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  • Notebook and pencils (pencils write on wet-ish paper)
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Other Useful Backpacking Gear

  • Emergency beacon
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  • Parachute cord
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  • Tent pole repair
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  • Compass or navigation device
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  • Watch
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  • Credit card/cash/Identification
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Backpacker with a full backpack trekking across a stream while hiking in the forest.

Hints, Hack, and Tips for the first-time 3 day backpacker!

General backpacking tips for 3 day trips

  • Plan the trip. Know you can do the miles each day and build in a lot of rest stops. You don’t want to be miserable, in pain, or get into camp in the dark on your first trip. 
  • If you’ll be out of phone range and you’re by yourself. Consider a GPS device so that you and your family know where you are at all times. 
  • Take a First Aid Kit and a water sterilizing system. Don’t skimp on your health. 
  • Some places have mandatory rules about bear canisters. Make sure you know if you need one or not BEFORE the bear comes to visit!  

Tips for picking backpacking gear for the checklist

  • Your four heaviest items will be your tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and the backpack you will have to carry. Make sure these are the lightest ones you can find and afford. There can be a 10-pound difference on your back when you lighten up these pieces of essential equipment. 
  • Make sure the pack you use is comfortable. It’s going to ruin the trip if you are in pain or uncomfortable all day. Borrow one if you don’t want to buy one and test it out full of gear well before you leave. 
  • A hammock with a rain fly and bug net or a Bivy or Tarp setup are all viable and light alternatives to a tent.
  • If you are needing to save weight, a lighter footprint under your tent is an option, or maybe forgo it entirely if you think the ground will be ok on your trip. 
  • Take moleskin or its equivalent for the blisters that you are very likely to get even in your favorite shoes. The weight of the backpack can make even old shoes rub in new places. 
  • Even if you are by yourself, get a two-person tent. You can store all your gear inside with you and there’s more room if it rains or you need to spend more time than planned inside it. 
  • Use a trekking pole. It helps with balance, weight distribution and takes the pressure off knees and ankles, especially if you aren’t used to walking with a load. 
  • Take a headlamp instead of a torch. You’ll appreciate being able to use both hands all the time. 

Wrapping up our three day backpacking packing list

Getting out into the bush for the night or the weekend hiking and camping is a fantastic experience, especially when you are living off just the items you bought with you. It’s fun, exhilarating, and probably the beginning of a lifetime adventure!

Make sure you are prepared and have thought carefully about each item you have bought and aren’t skimping on the essentials. It can take a while to pare things down to a minimum and to be comfortable with only bringing the things on this list.

You won’t start out as a super mega ultralight backpacker but given enough time, it can quickly become addictive to spend a week, a month, or more out in the great outdoors. You just need to keep asking “Do I really need this?” and soon enough you will have a kit that’s light enough and has enough essential gear for you to feel comfortable in the backcountry for longer periods of time than you thought possible.

Practice makes perfect and weekend backpacking trips are the perfect place to practice your backpacking skills on.

Stay safe. Happy backpacking! 😊

Back one: Going backpacking but don’t know how many days you’ll be away yet? Check out our backpacking checklist.

Next up: Fancy a longer trip? Check out our 7 day backpacking checklist.

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

Kara grew up in New Zealand where camping in the backyard as a child turned into multi-night trips in the National Parks as a teenager and then a full blown backpacking adventure for a year in Asia, by herself in her early 20's. Camping, bush walking, car camping and road trips still feature heavily in her current life style. She lives right next door to a World Heritage National Park on Springbrook Mountain and highly recommends having them as next door neighbours!