Backpacking Essentials (Printable Checklist PDF)

Backpacking – getting into the great outdoors with everything you need to eat, drink, sleep in, shelter under, and survive with! Sounds like a hell of an adventure!

But being a bit of a newbie to these sorts of things, you’re not 100% sure what you will need to stay happy, healthy, dry, blister-free, and well-fed on your trip. Congratulations! You’ve come to the right place! We’ve got a checklist for backpackers thinking about Ultralight adventures that will get you started on what you’ll need to take with you when you venture into walking trails that you’re dreaming about tackling.

In general, the more remote the area you are traveling to and the more bad weather you are expecting, the more it will impact your backpack load. You will need more clothing and rainproof gear if things are going to get wet or cold. You’ll also need a lot more food and water, the longer you will be away for as well.

The key to a successful backpacking trip is to plan and use a checklist so you don’t forget any backpacking essentials. Use our editable and printable backpacking checklist to plan your next adventure!

Backpacking Tents And Shelter

  • Lightweight tent and rainfly
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  • Stakes/pegs
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  • Mallet (or a rock)
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  • Footprint (optional for ultralight crowd)
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A Hammock with a rain fly and bug net is a viable alternative to a tent when you are hiking. It’s often lighter and can be set up easily in bush camping areas. It’s not so good on open plains and tree-less environments though…

The standard tent footprint can be replaced with a thinner one cut from plastic sheeting or ditched entirely depending on the ground you will be putting your tent up on to reduce weight even further.

Are you facing analysis paralysis in choosing your tent and just want a fun few days of camping? Check our our guide to good small tents for 2 people.

Sleeping Bags, Pads And Other Gear

  • 15-20° Lightweight sleeping bag
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  • Sleeping bag liner
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  • Stuff sack to keep your sleeping bag dry
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  • Sleeping pad
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  • Inflatable pillow
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Backpacks and Walking Packing List

  • 40-65 liter internal frame backpack
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  • Hiking pole (Can double as a tent pole too)
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  • Guide book for your thru trail
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  • Boots and / or trail runners
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Cooking Gear

  • Canister camping stove
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  • Extra stove fuel, lighter
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  • Firestarter – just in case
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  • Cooking pot
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  • Spoon
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  • Multi-tool or Swiss Army 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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Eating And Drinking

  • Multi-use cup/bowl/mug/pot (One item to use for everything)
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  • Knife and spoon
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  • Water bottle
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  • Water bladder
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Wet weather protection To Stay Dry Backpacking

  • Rain and wind jacket
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  • Waterproof pack cover
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Outdoor Clothing

  • Wool or synthetic base layer – that you literally won’t take off
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  • Fleece or down mid-layer
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  • Insulating jacket, top layer, down or synthetic
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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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  • 2x underwear, 1x sports bra
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  • 3x Merino Wool Socks (one for camp, two for walking)
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  • Woolen gloves, if it will be cold
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  • Beanie. Merino or synthetic
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  • Plastic bag for dirty/wet clothes
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  • Stuff sack to keep camp clothes dry
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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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You might want to bring a spare pair of thick socks for cold nights.

Toiletries Packing List

  • Toothbrush
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  • Toothpaste
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  • Antibacterial soap
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  • Small quick-dry towel
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  • Hairbrush
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  • Toilet paper
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  • Toilet trowel
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  • Medications
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  • Waterless hand sanitizer
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  • Anti-chafe
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First Aid Kit

  • Antiseptic wipes
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  • Antibiotic cream
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  • Gauze pads
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  • Ibuprofen or preferred painkiller
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  • Anti-diarrhea tablets
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  • Antihistamine
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  • 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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Personal Protection

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

  • Headlamp
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  • Spare Batteries
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Luxuries

  • Smartphone/phone case and power bank
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  • Notebook and pencils (pencils write on wet-ish paper)
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  • Downloaded books, star charts, and field guides
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  • Camera
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  • Deck of cards
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Useful things For Backpacking

  • Watch
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  • Parachute cord
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  • Emergency beacon
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  • Tent pole repair
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  • Compass or navigation device
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  • Credit card/cash/Identification
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  • Bear Spray
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  • Head Net
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  • Whistle to attract attention
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Backpacker with laden backpack contemplating the view from a rocky crag on a mountain.
Always take a backpack that fits properly and is comfortable for your body type.

Backpacking Food ideas and suggestions

  • Breakfast: Pancakes, granola, dried fruits, protein bar, instant hot cereal, powdered scrambled eggs, tortillas, cereals, coffee
  • Lunch: Crackers, pouch tuna, salami, noodles, pita or tortillas
  • Dinner: Dehydrated dinners, instant mashed potato, instant noodles, falafel mix, instant rice, soups, dehydrated chicken or beef, mac and cheese, dehydrated risotto, pasta
  • Snacks: Energy bars, jerky, hard cheeses, nuts, dehydrated or freeze-dried fruit, pretzels, protein bar, peanut butter
  • Dessert: Chocolate bar, lollies, crumbles, pancakes, protein bars, marshmallows!

Suggested backpacking food list

MealDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5
BreakfastEat at the trailheadGranola and fruitPancakesScrambled eggs in a tortillaOats and dried fruit soaked over night
LunchFresh sandwichPita with tunaCrackers with cheese and SalamiInstant noodles & poached salmonInstant rice and dehydrated veggies
SnackFresh fruitNutsPretzelsDehydrated fruitJerky
DinnerOne pot mealOne pot mealOne pot mealOne pot mealAt home or on the road home
DessertChocolate barBoiled lolliesM&M’sGummy bearsIce cream from your freezer!

Tips, Hints, and Hacks for first-time backpackers

  • Aim for 2500-3500 calories a day in food. Lightweight but calorie-dense foods are what you’re looking to carry with you.
  • Bring food you actually like. Don’t try new food while you are tired and need the energy. Great time for breaking out your favorite comfort foods.
  • Plan your meals – don’t bring random food and try to make it last.
  • Bring a variety of foods to keep you interested and a balance of fresh, dried, salty, sweet as well as carbs, fats, and proteins.
  • Fresh and heavy foods are best eaten on the first few nights of your trip.
  • Shelf-stable foods are what you are looking to take with you. You might have to take them out of the box before you pack them though.
  • Always pack an extra day’s food – just in case.

And a few other things to think about before leaving home

It’s a good idea to make sure you have any permits, directions, and contact details printed before you leave just in case your phone is out of range when you get to the trailhead. A paper-based map of the trail or a downloaded copy is going to be handy if phone coverage is patchy where you are planning to walk.

Always check the weather forecast before you leave. And if it’s an area that’s new to you it’s a good idea to know what the fire ban status of the area is, and what dangerous animals or toxic plants you may encounter on your hike.

Always leave with a full tank of gas in the car, and remember to tell someone exactly where you are going and when you’ll be back. Leave an itinerary with a friend and one under the front seat in your car too!

Relax and enjoy the experience – you’ll remember the first time you went on a backpacking trip forever!

Stay safe! Happy Camping 😊

Next up: Looking for a specific length of trip? Check out our backpacking checklist 3 day trip.

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

James has been escaping to the outdoors for as long as he can remember. This first started in family camping trips but soon turned into adventure camps and hiking through the Scottish Hebrides. Now he has turned towards trying to make camping more comfortable and accessible.