Lately, we've had a lot of customers asking about how to prepare for longer treks out in the wilderness. It's easy enough to grab some gear and plan an overnight. But how do you think about preparing for a week-long backpacking trip?

Think about how far you intend to walk, how far away the place is, and what the climate has in store for you; you need to decide what you need to carry on a backpacking trip. Generally speaking, the longer the hike is, and the more inclement the environment, the more clothes, gear, food, and water you may want.

Things that should be in your checklist for backpacking:

 Backpack
Tent
Stove and fuel
Weather-appropriate clothing
Small repair kit
Cooking Supplies
Hiking boots or shoes
Emergency and hygiene supplies
Food for every day plus a little extra
Sleeping bag and sleeping pad
Water bottles and water-treatment supplies
The Ten Essentials


How to Use This Backpacking Checklist

Use this helpful backpacking checklist to make sure you don't forget to bring anything important.


Below are some notes on how to properly use this list: The Ten Essentials: An asterisk(*) marks the elements that are part of the Ten Essentials. You can customize the exact items you take to your trip based on factors such as weather, complexity, time, and distance from the aid.

This checklist is deliberately detailed and intended for backcountry trips, where self-sufficiency is vital to your well-being. Backpacking preparation requires a balance between keeping pack weight low and ensuring you have the supplies you need for your journey.


Backpacking Gear

A backpacking pack that can hold 30–50 liters is about right for overnight trips; if you're out for two or three nights, go with packs in the top end of that range. For a week or more, you'd probably want to consider a pack size of 60l-70l.

Essentials
  • Backpack with rain cover
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag (with stuff sack)
  • Headlamp or flashlight * (with extra batteries)
  • Backpacking tent
  • Food and water

Optional:

  • Packable lantern
  • Trekking poles
  • Pillow
  • Small quick-dry towel
  • Collapsible water container
  • Bear canister-food sack, or hang bag + 50' nylon cord
  • Tent footprint (for extra floor protection)
  • Cookset (with pot grabber)
  • Bear spray
  • Backcountry Kitchen
  • Backpacking stove
  • Fuel
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Dishes/bowls
  • Eating Utensils
  • Mug/cup
  • Paracord

In general, the longer you'll be out in the bush, the more you want to prioritize food over nice-to-haves. This is especially important if you plan to be in unfamiliar terrain, away from civilization and/or far from transportation.

Pack snacks such as energy bars, jerky, hard cheeses, and nuts for the trail that you can eat on the move quickly. Plan on a more active snack break for lunch. Make sure to bring enough food for long backpacking trips, so you don’t find yourself starving in the middle of your adventure. The longer your trip, the denser the calories should be. 

It is always nice to have a hot meal at the end of the day though. If you plan a route near running water that can be purified by boiling, dried cheese tortellini makes a great hot backpacking meal. 

Planning your hydration needs means that you look closely at available sources of water wherever you go. In moderate temperatures, a general recommendation is to drink around a half-liter of water per hour of moderate activity. Knowing the condition of local water sources and boiling extra water in the evening can greatly reduce the amount of water you'd need to bring with you on longer treks. 

  • Water filter/purifier or chemical treatment *
  • Water bottles and/or reservoir *

Meals

  • Week-long supply of food *
  • Energy food and drinks (chews, bars, gels, drink mix, trail mix)

Clothing and Footwear

Monitor the forecast and see to it that you dress for the conditions. To prepare for weather changes or an unexpected night out, pack spare clothes beyond those needed for the journey. It is also important to remember how much security your clothes provide against the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Determine what to wear for boots, depending on the environment. Hiking shoes or trail runners are enough on gentle hiking on smooth trails.

  • Boots will give additional protection and ankle support. A must if hiking with heavier loads
  • Moisture-wicking T-shirts
  • Moisture-wicking underwear
  • Lightweight fleece or jacket
  • Quick-drying pants/shorts
  • Long-sleeve shirt (for sun, bugs)
  • Socks (synthetic or wool. No cotton.)
  • Lightweight rain shell
  • Packable insulating layer (for cooler temperatures)

Additional items for cold and rainy and weather:

  • Warm, insulated jacket or vest
  • Long underwear
  • Warm hat
  • Additional rain gear
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Fleece pants

Optional:

  • Bandana or Buff
  • Gaiters (for rainy, snowy or muddy conditions)
  • Sandals (You'll enjoy having something to wear besides the boots at the end of the day.)

Navigation

One of the Ten Essentials is Navigation. The kind of trip you take and your personal preferences will decide the things you are going to bring. Take note that, even if you like using a GPS, this is not a replacement for a map and compass. Batteries run out, eventually.

  • Compass *
  • Map * (preferably inside a waterproof sleeve)

Optional:

  • Watch
  • GPS *
  • Personal locator beacon or a Satellite messenger *
  • Route description or guidebook

Sanitary & First Aid

An emergency shelter is One of the Ten Essentials. Even if you are bringing a tent with you, if you plan to take day-hikes away from your base camp, you should also have an emergency shelter.

  • First-aid supplies or First-aid kit * (see First-Aid Checklist)
  • Firestarter (for emergency survival fire) *
  • Whistle
  • Lighter/matches (in a waterproof container) *
  • Emergency shelter *
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Health & Hygiene products
  • Toilet paper, wipes, sealable bags (to pack it out)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Prescription glasses
  • Sanitation trowel
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine products

Sun protection:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses * (+ retainer leash)
  • Sun hat * (preferably one that shades your neck)
  • SPF-rated lip balm *

Optional:

  • Insect repellent *
  • Knife or Multi-tool *
  • Additional blister treatment supplies
  • Tools & Repair Items
  • Duct tape strips (you never know)
  • Gear repair kits (include mattress/stove supplies) *

Backpacking Extras

All of the following things are optional, and you will have to determine how much you are willing to carry if you decide to carry one or more of them with you.

  • Camera or action cam (with extra memory cards)
  • Daypack (for day trips away from camp)
  • Cards or games
  • An interpretive field guide(s)
  • Star chart/night-sky identifier
  • Outdoor journal with pen/pencil
  • Book/reading material
  • Personal Items
  • Two-way radios
  • Compact binoculars
  • Credit card and/or cash

Packing Your Backpack

A strict rule to follow when packing your camping and hiking backpack is to pack in four parts: bottom, middle, top, and exterior.


Always pack the bottom first, balancing the load by leaving heavy things in the middle and stuffing up your trail essentials. The stuff you need should be always within reach, so you do not need to take off your pack and search through the whole thing. This list of things may be a little different than yours, but when you're planning your next trip, it should be useful as a handy guide.

A breakdown of how to pack your camping and hiking backpack:

Learn how to pack for camping and hiking with these pros tips to match all of your gear and balance the load for maximum comfort and organization.

What goes in the bottom of the backpack?

This section is for things that you won't need until you get to camp. Something tall, bulky, and fairly "squishable" that can be crammed into your pack's bottom goes here. Think of it as the non-essentials whilst on the trail.

  • Loose Clothing
  • Items for camp
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Pillow (if you use one)
  • Sleeping Bag

PRO-TIP: If you're backpacking in the rain, just line your bag with a garbage bag and put all your things inside the liner to stay dry before you put anything in your pocket. A lightweight, waterproof compression sack is also a good idea to make sure the sleeping bag remains dry.

What goes in the middle of the backpack?

For heavyweight items, the middle section of your pack is ideal. By putting bulky items in the middle and as close as possible to your back, you are relieving unnecessary stress on your back. 

  • Stove and fuel
  • Food: frequently, the heaviest item in the pack.
  • Bear canister (center of your backpack) – stuffing clothes and other small items in your bear canister, it can stabilize an awkward-shaped canister and keep it centered.
  • Camp Mug
  • Camp shoes
  • Toiletries

PRO-TIP: If there is no need for a bear canister, you can carry your food in a stuff sack, so it is contained in one place.

What goes at the top of the backpack?

The top of your backpack is the easiest to reach, hence all the most important items should be put there. It is the main area to stash the following:

  • Rain Gear: You want your rain gear available at the top of your bag if there is any chance of rain. If its 100% sunshine and you know it won't rain, you should stuff it just right around your bear canister.
  • First aid (or near the top of the middle section, if it fits)
  • Trail Snacks: I usually take my food out of my bear canister for the day and place it at the top of my pack as long as I'm not in serious bear country, so it's easy to access.
  • Bathroom Kit (Toilet Paper, Hand sanitizer, Shovel, and a bag to pack out used toilet paper)
  • Electronics
  • Water filter

PRO-TIP: If you bring any electronics for your camera, tablet, or GPS, such as a battery pack and charging cords, store them in a thin, lightweight dry bag. This way, it keeps things organized, and in a storm, you won't have to worry about getting wet.

What goes in the brain/lid of the backpack?

  • Map or GPS
  • Quick snack
  • Travel-sized sunscreen
  • Travel-sized bug spray
  • Camera (Check my beloved photography gear for outdoor adventurers.)
  • Headlamp
  • Lighter
  • Multi-tool
  • Spork

Decide on other miscellaneous items if you need to use it throughout the day. If not, place them closer to the middle and fill in gaps. Place them closer to the top when you need them.

What goes on the exterior of the pack?

This depends on what you did or did not have room for inside, but generally includes bulkier items.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping pads
  • Cookware
  • Water bottle

PRO-TIP: Depending on the style of your pack, these can be lashed above the top lid, the bottom, or at the side using webbing or compression straps. Some packs even come stock with the proper straps for lashing on items.

Comments

Rich on

Great information! Just don’t forget us long haul backroad motorcyclists who pack very similar to backpacking. Pack lightweight and compact and prepare for safety and environmental conditions.
Thank you Hyke and Byke. Great Company

Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School on

Also I bought the down bag and it is excellent. Also glad it is manufactured with a conscience. That is a big deal to me and I commend you for it.

Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School on

This is a fabulous and well thought through list. I have been taking students on outdoor adventures in Maine and White Mts. for years and I really appreciate this compilation of really useful and necessary items.

I would love to use this for my students and will give you credit. Well done.

Forrest on

Excellent blog! I’ve read many blogs pertaining to the correct way to pack a pack, and hands down, yours is the best I’ve read, Simple, to the point, no nonsense. I like that. I disagree that the outside is the best place to attach a tent. With the light weight durable fabric available today on most all outdoie gear, a tent should squish up to a small volume that would fit inside with ease. Also if hiking during a torrential rainstorm with a tent exposed to the elements might not make a happy camper when the trails end arrives that day.

Paul Enriquez on

Could have used this email a couple weeks ago!! LOL. We survived.

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