Exploring Monument Valley

Ultimate Backpacking Checklist to Prepare for Your Next Hike [2020]

Backpacking is incredible and can lead you to some of the best views you’ll ever see in your lifetime. But, before you sling your pack over your shoulders to head off on your backpacking adventure, be sure you’re packing all that you need in the most conventional way possible. Read over the backpacking gear checklist below to make sure that you’re set with all the supplies you need!

Downloadable Backpacking Checklist

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Backpacking Essentials:

If you’re searching for the bare minimum to bring with you on your trip, here are the backpacking essentials listed below. However, be sure to read on past this list for extra recommendations to make your trip more comfortable or to accommodate for longer overnight trips.

  • Hiking backpack with raincover
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Emergency & First Aid Kit (read on to see what to include inside)
  • Food: For snacks, pack things like granola bars, nuts, or jerky so you can eat on the go. For mealtimes plan to eat something more substantial; with all the exercise you’re getting you should be eating about 2,500-3,500 calories a day. Also, don’t forget to pack an extra days worth of food! Do some research on lightweight meals to pack that will fill you but won’t weigh down your pack.
  • Water: While hiking, you should be drinking about a half liter of water per hour of activity to keep your body hydrated. Be sure to keep a thin water bottle or reservoir on you so you can hydrate as you go.
  • Water filter/purifier or chemical treatment
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • Lighter and/or matches
  • Map and compass: It’s good to have these on you in case your app or GPS device fails while you’re out on the trails. Also, be sure to have your map in a waterproof sleeve.
  • Permits: Some places might require you to have a permit to walk or camp so be sure to do your research and reserve in advance if possible.
  • Pocket knife
  • Sun protection: Even if you are hiking in the woods, you are going to want a hat, sunscreen, and/or sunglasses to keep you protected from the hot sun.
  • Personal Items: Be sure to carry your credit cards or cash, car keys, ID, cellphone, etc. It’s also a good idea to put them in a waterproof case or bag while trekking.

Camping Gear:

  • Backpacking tent or bivy with stakes and guylines for camping
  • Sleeping pad: The sleeping pad goes beneath your sleeping bag to add comfort while camping.
  • Packable lantern
  • Pillow or stuff sack
  • Bear Spray

Cooking Gear:

  • Backpacking stove
  • Fuel for stove
  • Cookpot and lid
  • Lighter to light stove
  • Dishes/bowls
  • Eating utensils
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Small quick-dry towel
  • Bear canister or food sack
  • Large Ziploc to use as a trash bag and pack out

Clothing & Footwear:

Check the forecast before your backpacking trip so you dress based on the conditions. Just in case, you should always bring an extra set of clothes! All clothing should be lightweight, moisture-wicking and quick-drying. Try to avoid cotton as it absorbs moisture and takes a long time to dry out which can lead to blisters and chafing. Also, be sure to treat clothing with Permethrin before you go to repel bugs while you hike. For footwear, determine what shoes you need to wear based on the terrain. For hikers walking on smooth trails, hiking shoes or trail runners are perfect. However, for treks on rocky terrain or rugged trails, hiking boots provide more support and grip. Read on for suggestions on what to bring:

  • Cold Weather Backpacking Trips:
    • Insulated jacket
    • Fleece jacket
    • Fleece pants
    • Warm gloves
    • Fleece hat
    • 1-2 Pairs of warm wool socks
    • Baselayer bottom
    • Baselayer top
  • Rainy Backpacking Trips:
    • Rain pants
    • Rain mittens
    • Rain jacket
    • Down jacket
    • 1-2 Pairs of warm wool socks
    • Baselayer bottom
    • Baselayer top
    • Gaiters (optional for if it gets muddy or snowy)
  • All Backpacking Trips:
    • Hiking pants
    • Running shorts
    • Long-sleeve shirt to protect from the sun and from bugs
    • Short-sleeve shirt
    • 1-2 Pairs of underwear
    • 2-4 Pairs of socks that are meant for hiking
    • Whichever shoes you deem fit for the trip (hiking shoes, trail runners, or hiking boots)
    • Sandals (optional for when you’re camping)


  • For remote locations it’s good to bring a satellite messenger or personal locator beacon
  • Watch
  • Hiking poles
  • 2 itineraries: one for you and one to leave with a friend just in case

Emergency Kit & First Aid Kit

  • Emergency
    • Whistle
    • Duct tape or tenacious tape for repairs
    • Stormproof matches and small fire starters
    • Backup water treatment pills
  • First Aid Kit
    • Band-aids of various sizes
    • Antibiotic ointment
    • Gauze pads
    • Medical tape
    • Latex gloves
    • Tweezers
    • Safety pins
    • Moleskin
    • Antihistamines
    • Antidiarrheal

Health & Hygiene

Customize these to whatever makes you feel comfortable!

  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper and sealable bag to pack it out
  • Digging trowel
  • Menstraul products
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Prescriptions
  • Contact lenses or glasses
  • Bug repellent
  • Small comb or brush
  • Hair ties

Entertainment Items (Optional):

  • Daypack for hikes/trips away from main campsite
  • Camera gear
  • Star chart or night-sky identifier
  • Journal with a pencil or pen
  • Book
  • Cards or other small games
  • Compact binoculars

General Tips to Think About:

  • Pack ultralight backpacking gear! When looking are buying items such as tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, clothing, and other backpacking essentials, make sure you buy lightweight options. Ultralight backpacking is easier on the body and makes for more room in your pack.
  • Double check your backpacking gear list before you go to be sure you have all that you need!
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Katee is a lover of language and is in awe of the power it holds. Read more articles from Katee on Thought Catalog.

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