The author's husband with their dogs during their backpacking trip in Wyoming

Your Ultimate Backpacking Checklist (38 Things to Bring)

👉 Jump to: Backpacking Checklist | Backpacking Gear | Summer Clothing| Winter-Clothing | Tips | FAQ

I’m an avid backpacker based in Colorado and after years of trial and error, I’ve pieced together the ultimate backpacking checklist! 

This guide first overviews backpacking essentials — gear that’s crucial for survival in the wilderness. Then, I share gear specific to certain situations, like backpacking in winter and in bear country, plus a few luxury items often seen in a car camping kit.  

I also suggest what clothing to pack depending on the season, and provide tips to ensure a safe, enjoyable experience. You won’t find a more comprehensive resource than this! 

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. See our Advertising Policy for further explanation. Thank you!

Essential Backpacking Checklist

Backpacking Pack

Our Pick
Osprey Eja

I ranked this as 2023’s “best overall” backpacking backpack after extensive testing. It scored highly for its custom-like fit and lightweight, eco-friendly design.

A comfortable, lightweight backpack is one of the most important backpacking essentials. I determined this year’s best backpacking backpacks through 100+ hours of research and real-world testing.

The Osprey Eja and its men’s version, the Osprey Exos, ranked #1. See my full Osprey Eja review for more.

The backpack’s gender-specific models and various sizes result in a near-custom fit. Even its heaviest version weighs under 3 lbs., yet it’s highly durable. Plus, the pack is 100% constructed with recycled materials and a PFC/PFAS-free durable water repellent. 

🎒 Backpack Options: There are many personal factors to consider when selecting a backpack. Read my guide on how to choose a backpacking pack for more info! 

Backpack Rain Cover

Our Pick
Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium

Keep your backpacking set-up protected with this crucial piece of rain gear. 

Some backpacking packs come with a rain cover, like the Gregory Maven — which I also tested and reviewed. But this isn’t the case for all makes and models, including the Osprey Eja / Exos, my “best overall” backpack pick. Be sure to purchase a rain cover separately. They’re compact, lightweight, and available in several sizes. 

Backpacking Tent and Footprint

Our Pick
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent

This 2-person, 3-season ultralight tent is waterproof, durable, and has tons of features. 

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent is well worth the investment. At 3 lbs. 2 ounces, it’s one of the lightest tents on the market, yet highly durable with its double ripstop nylon construction. It’s also waterproof with PVC and VOC-free tape lining its seams. Storage features, awning vestibules, and two dual-zipper doors add to its design. 

Eight Big Agnes Dirt Dagger UL stakes and four awning guylines are included, as is a rain fly. However, the matching tent footprint is sold separately. I highly recommend this additional purchase to extend the life of your backpacking tent. 

Sleeping Bag

Our Pick
Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20 Sleeping Bag

Stay warm even in 20-degree weather with this lightweight, eco-conscious sleeping bag. 

The Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20 Sleeping Bag is available in both women’s and men’s versions. Experts agree that it’s one of the best synthetic sleeping bags available.  

The sleeping bag is durable and has a great warmth-to-weight ratio, being as little as 2 lbs. 6 oz. It’s also reasonably compact thanks to its included compression stuff sack. Plus, the sleeping bag is highly eco-friendly, being down-free and made with recycled materials.  

Sleeping Pad

Our Pick
Big Agnes Divide Insulated Sleeping Pad

Easily inflate this compact, comfortable sleeping pad which comes in many sizes. 

I credit my Big Agnes insulated sleeping pad to many a good night’s sleep in the outdoors. Its design traps body heat and inflates to 3.5 inches, creating space between you and the cold, hard earth. 

It’s made with recycled materials and is available in several sizes, ranging from petite to double (which is what my husband and I use). All models are durable, lightweight, and compact. The sleeping pad comes with a stuff sack, as well as an easy-to-use inflation sack. 

Backpacking Stove

Our Pick
Jetboil Flash Cooking System

Eat well in the wilderness with this small, convenient system that can boil water in just minutes. 

The Jetboil flash cooking system is an absolute necessity on your backpacking checklist. It’s very compact with dimensions similar to a Nalgene wide-mouth water bottle. It also weighs just 13.1 oz. and on average, it boils 1L of water in 3 min. 20 sec. Making coffee and rehydrating freeze-dried meals has never been easier. 

Cooking Fuel

Our Pick
Jetboil Jetpower Fuel - 3.53 oz. / 100g

Don’t forget this essential, which is sold separately from the Jetboil stove. 

Note that the Jetboil flash cooking system does not come with fuel. Be sure to purchase a compatible Jetboil Jetpower fuel canister separately. I recommend the 3.53 fl. oz. size as it’s compact and weighs just 7 oz.

Cook Set

Our Pick
Sea to Summit X-Set 21 Cook Set

Save weight and space with this nesting cook set that unfolds into a heat-resistant pot, bowl, and mug. 

This collapsible cook set by Sea to Summit is a lightweight backpacking checklist essential. The nesting set weighs only 14.5 oz. and features a 1.4L pot, bowl, and mug made with food-grade, heat-resistant silicone. Those who rely strictly on pre-packed freeze-dried meals may not need the pot. But it’s a great tool for those who dehydrate their own backpacking food. 


Our Pick
Sea to Summit Alpha Light Long Spork

This extra-long, dual-purpose utensil makes it easy to eat from freeze-dried meal bags.

Seasoned backpackers likely know the struggle of scooping into freeze-dried food bags. But there’s no need to roll up your sleeves with this light, long spork by Sea to Summit. It’s made with durable, heat-resistant aluminum alloy, weighs just 0.4 oz., and measures 8.5 in. in length. 

Freeze-Dried Meals

Our Pick
Firepot Plant-Based Meals

Satisfy your cravings and calorie needs with these quick-cooking, lightweight mains.

I swear by these nutrient-dense, freeze-dried meals by Firepot. The brand creates delicious vegan options like smoky tomato paella, chili non carne with rice, Tuscan stew, and mac n’ greens. Each pouch serves two — but they’re so tasty, that I often eat one myself! 

Water Bottle

Our Pick
32 oz. Nalgene Wide-Mouth Water Bottle

Easily fill this eco-friendly, lightweight vessel with ice cubes and filtered water. 

A 32-oz. Nalgene wide-mouth water bottle is a classic piece of backpacking gear. These eco-conscious bottles are made with 50% recycled plastic and are BPA-, BPS- and phthalate-free. The wide-mouth design makes filling it with ice cubes and filtered water easy. Plus, this style of Nalgene bottle weighs only 6.25 oz.  

Water Filter

Our Pick
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System

Stay hydrated with this reliable filter that purifies water with ease. 

I love my Sawyer Squeeze water filter system and can’t recommend it enough. The kit includes two 32 fl. oz. water pouches, a cleaning tool, accessories for gravity and inline use, and the filter, which removes 99.99999% of bacteria and protozoa.

The system is incredibly user-friendly and requires little effort. Simply fill one of the pouches at a freshwater source. Then screw on the filter and squeeze the purified water into the other included pouch or your Nalgene bottle. This essential tool weighs just 3 oz. 

Water Purification Tablets

Our Pick
Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets

These individually wrapped tablets are an important backup to have on backpacking trips. 

I’ve never had an issue with my Sawyer Squeeze water filter system, but clogging can happen. Be prepared by carrying individually wrapped Katadyn Micropur tablets in your first aid kit. One tablet purifies 1L of water, removing microorganisms, bacteria, protozoa, cysts, and viruses. Note that these tablets take four hours to achieve maximum efficacy. 

Biodegradable Soap

Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash liquid soap is concentrated and versatile. Use it to clean dishes and sweaty hiking clothes, and for personal hygiene. 

It’s biodegradable, phosphate-free, and pH neutral. However, be sure to leave no trace! Transport water at least 200 feet from natural sources, then pour wastewater into an 8-inch hole. This practice will help protect the environment, native species, and yourself when out in the wilderness.  

Waterproof Stuff Sacks

Our Pick
Outdoor Products Ultimate Dry Sack 3-Pack

Serve several purposes with these lightweight, waterproof, and affordable dry sacks.

In my opinion, this piece of lightweight backpacking gear doesn’t have to be fancy. Outdoor Products 3-pack of dry sacks is very affordable and gets the job done. Use the varying sizes to organize and further waterproof your backpacking kit. 

I also use these when in bear country. Simply store your food in a waterproof bag, then hang it from a tree using a 50-ft. nylon cord and carabiner. Be sure to select a tree that’s at least 200 ft. from your campsite. The bag should also hang at least 10 ft. from the tree trunk and 15 ft. from the ground. 

First Aid Kit

Our Pick
AMK Ultralight/Watertight .7 Medical Kit

This waterproof first aid kit includes sterilizing tools, bandages, medications, and more items necessary for backpacking adventures.  

A first aid kit is one of the Ten Essentials that most remember to pack on their backpacking trips. But will you remember to double-check its contents? Take that off your to-do list with this well-stocked kit by Adventure Medical Kits.

This thoughtfully designed product includes wound-care items like antibiotic ointments, antiseptic wipes, and several styles of bandages. There’s also moleskin for blisters, OTC medications, and tools like tweezers, safety pins, and even duct tape.  

SPF Lip Balm

Our Pick
Sun Bum SPF 30 Sunscreen Lip Balm
Trust me, you’ll be thankful you packed this small, sun-protective product.

Protect your lips from harmful rays and dry conditions with this sunscreen lip balm by Sun Bum. The three-pack comes in several tropical flavors, all of which feature SPF 30, aloe, and vitamin E. 


Our Pick
Sun Bum SPF 30 Sunscreen Face Stick

Given its benefits, consider this roll-on sunscreen over a traditional lotion when backpacking.

You could always buy a travel-size sunscreen bottle for backpacking. Sun Bum makes a 3-oz. bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen lotion that’s oil-free, water-resistant, and eco-friendly. 

However, I recommend purchasing Sun Bum’s SPF 30 sunscreen face stick. It weighs less, is more compact (about the size of a lighter), doesn’t run the risk of leaking, and grants more uses. Apply the roll-on product to your face and any other exposed part of your body.   


Our Pick
TheTentLab The Deuce #2 UL Trowel

Use this durable, lightweight tool when nature calls, and when disposing of greywater.

Wag bags are an option for packing out your waste, and may be necessary if traversing rocky terrain. But in general, a trowel for digging cat holes is preferred. I recommend The Deuce #2 by TheTentLab for its ultralight weight of just 0.6 oz. It’s also constructed with durable aluminum and can even be recycled via a standard aluminum recycling bin. 


Our Pick
Leatherman Wingman Multi-Tool

Be prepared for a variety of circumstances with this handy device that converts into 14 sturdy tools.

The Leatherman Wingman multi-tool is a must on your backpacking checklist. It converts into 14 tools that can help repair gear, support first aid efforts, and serve other purposes in the great outdoors. Tools include pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, scissors, a bottle and can opener, and a partially-serrated pocket knife. 


Our Pick
Black Diamond Astro 300 Headlamp

Navigate and set up camping gear in the dark with this versatile, battery-operated headlamp.

The Black Diamond Astro 300 Headlamp is affordable, effective, and versatile. Its singular switch toggles between three settings. These include its max output at 300 lumens, medium at 150 lumens, and low at 6 lumens. This headlamp is also stormproof, and reliable even in heavy rain and sleet. 


Our Pick
Suunto A-10 Compass

This small, precise navigation tool is essential, even if carried as a backup. 

Many rely on GPS navigation when on a wilderness trail. But like water purification, it’s important to have a backup for something so crucial. Always carry a printed map and a precise compass, like the Suunto A-10. This baseplate compass is accurate, easy to use, and weighs just 1.06 oz. 

Satellite Messenger

Our Pick
Garmin inReach Mini 2

It’s a hefty investment, but this communication and tracking device could save your life.

The Garmin inReach Mini 2 is one of the more costly items on this ultimate backpacking checklist. But you’ll be glad you invested in the device should you ever need it. 

It works as a tracker, helping to prevent confusion when route-finding or off-trail. It also grants two-way communication with loved ones back home. There are also interactive SOS capabilities 24/7 (with an active satellite subscription). Plus, the device is impact and water-resistant, and its internal lithium-ion battery holds a charge for up to 14 days.

Other Backpacking Essentials to Pack

  • Emergency whistle (built into the Osprey Eja and Exos backpacking packs)
  • Waterproof matches or lighter 
  • Firestarter
  • Emergency blanket 
  • Repair kit (super glue, needle, and thread; duct tape may suffice depending on trip length)
  • Hydration reservoir 
  • Instant coffee packets
  • Energy chews 
  • Spice and sauce packets (collect these flavor boosters when dining out!) 
  • Small quick-dry towel 
  • Ziplock bags (for garbage, waterproofing, etc.)  
  • Toilet paper 
  • Menstrual cup 
  • Comb
  • Hair ties
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste 
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Prescription meds
  • Prescription glasses
  • Sunglasses 
  • AAA batteries (extra for headlamp) 
  • Paper map + route description (print two copies — leave one itinerary under your car seat and take the other with you, stored in a ziplock bag) 
  • Permit 
  • Cards / cash
  • Personal ID 
  • Insurance card 
  • Car keys
  • Cell phone in a waterproof phone case (take screenshots of driving directions and photos of guidebook pages. Also, download a GPS map — I recommend using AllTrails+)

Additional Backpacking Gear

Trekking Poles

Our Pick
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles

These ultralight, compact poles are sturdy and help stabilize.

Trekking poles may not be an essential item on your backpacking checklist. But they might be worth including depending on one’s abilities or preferences, as well as the terrain. Fortunately, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles add very little pack weight, being just 9.8 oz. They’re durable, fold into a compact size, and are even made with recycled materials.   

Backpacking Chair

Our Pick
Helinox Chair Zero

This compact, lightweight chair makes camp more homey and comfortable.

Ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers might forgo a backpacking chair. But those who prioritize comfort won’t at all mind carrying the Helinox Chair Zero. It weighs just 1 lb. and when folded, it’s about the size of a 48-oz. Nalgene water bottle. Store it on the outside of your backpacking pack and enjoy lounging at camp.   


Our Pick
Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow

Though a luxury item, this inflatable backpacking pillow might be worth its minimal weight.

Some might consider the Sea to Summit Aeros pillow to be unnecessary weight. But for others, 2.1 oz. is a fair trade-off for a solid night’s sleep! Plus, the inflatable folds down into a very compact size, with dimensions measuring roughly half the size of a water bottle.    

Bear Spray

Our Pick
Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray

Be prepared for aggressive bear encounters with this important safety device.

For many, this item can be overlooked. But don’t skip purchasing bear deterrent spray if hiking in certain regions, especially those home to grizzlies. Canisters are effective and leak-proof — but be conscious of where you store them. 

Don’t make the mistake my husband and I made on our first backpacking trip when we accidentally slammed our truck bed cover on the can! 

Action Camera

Our Pick
GoPro HERO9 Waterproof Action Camera Kit
Capture your memories with this portable, high-quality camera that’s built for tough terrain.

Share your adventures with the GoPro HERO9 kit! It comes with a lightweight, waterproof action camera that captures stellar images and 5K videos. It weighs just 11.2 oz. and fits in the palm of your hand. 

For greater stability, attach it to one of the included mounts. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery is also included, but I recommend purchasing an extra battery to capture even more content. An additional memory card may also come in handy. 

Travel Tripod

Our Pick
Benro Tablepod Flex Tripod Kit

Complete your camera kit with this top-rated versatile tripod that weighs only 1.39 lbs.

You might as well go all-in if you plan to pack an action camera! The Benro Tablepod Flex Tripod Kit is one of this year’s best travel tripods — and the top pick for backpacking. 

It weighs just 1.39 lbs. and folds into a compact size. Rigid and flexible legs allow for various configurations. For example, you can wrap the tripod around a tree, pole, or other objects in your environment. Other features include a well-functioning ball head and a rotating base for panoramic shots.  

Other Additional Backpacking Gear

Clothing for a Summer Backpacking Trip

The author's husband with their dog walking during their backpacking trip in June
My husband dressed in a UPF long-sleeve shirt in June
The author's husband during their backpacking trip in September
He wore a t-shirt when backpacking in September

The weather will very much dictate what clothing to include on your backpacking checklist. Obviously, this is influenced by season and region. 

In my home state of Colorado, summers see a great range of temperatures. Even in July, my clothing often needs to accommodate 30-80°F when backpacking in the mountains. 

Consider your destination, research the predicted weather, and pack accordingly. Pack weight is a factor, but in my opinion, more layers are better than being cold. However, don’t pack changes of clothing except for extra underwear and maybe a t-shirt. Do laundry on multi-day backpacking trips instead! 

Now, here’s a quick clothing checklist for summer backpacking trips: 

  • Moisture-wicking underwear 
  • Moisture-wicking t-shirt 
  • Quick-drying, water-resistant pants/shorts 
  • Long sleeve shirt (for sun + bug protection) 
  • Lightweight fleece
  • Rain jacket 
  • Boots/hiking shoes suited for the terrain 
  • Comfortable camp shoes (e.g. flip flops, slip-ons; optional)
  • Synthetic/wool hiking socks
  • Sun buff/sun hat  

Don’t yet have all this gear or want to upgrade? See my product recommendations below: 

Convertible Hiking Pants

Our Pick
Columbia Saturday Trail II Convertible Pants

Easily transition from long pants to shorts and enjoy features like UPF 50 protection and water resistance.

Columbia’s convertible hiking pants are available in many sizes and both women’s and men’s styles. Having zip-off legs, I love my pair for their versatility. These pants also feature UPF 50 and are stain and water-resistant.   

UPF Long Sleeve Shirt

Further protect yourself from the sun with the women’s and men’s REI Co-op Sahara Shade hoodie. This moisture-wicking long sleeve is made with lightweight, UPF 50+ fabric. I especially like that this garment features a hood, providing UV protection to one’s head and neck.   

Rain Jacket

I bought the women’s REI Co-op Rainier rain jacket years ago and to this day, it’s one of my favorite pieces of backpacking gear. The lightweight rain jacket is also available in a men’s version

Both feature a recycled ripstop nylon shell, which provides protection from rain and wind up to 60 mph. Its interior is breathable and pit zips allow for even greater ventilation. Plus, the jacket folds up into its pocket and can be easily stowed in any backpack. 

Clothing for a Winter Backpacking Trip

The author's bestfriend during their backpacking trip at Utah in February
My best friend when we went on a Utah backpacking trip in February

In most regions, winter backpacking will require significantly more clothing. Pack insulated, water-resistant layers and accessories from quality brands within the outdoor industry. These companies consider performance at a much higher level than those that prioritize fashion. 

Here’s a general clothing checklist for backpacking in winter: 

  • Moisture-wicking underwear 
  • Base layer bottoms  
  • Fleece pants 
  • Snow pants 
  • Base layer long-sleeve shirt 
  • Insulated, water-resistant winter jacket 
  • Insulated, waterproof hiking boots 
  • Comfortable camp shoes (optional) 
  • Synthetic/wool socks
  • Gloves/mittens
  • Warm hat
  • Warm buff
  • Gaiters
  • Traction device 

Below, I share some personal winter clothing recommendations. These items will keep you comfortable and safe in cold weather conditions:    

Base Layer Bottoms

Our Pick
Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottoms

Experience superior warmth with these sustainably crafted merino wool bottoms.

Stay warm with these merino wool bottoms by Smartwool, available in women’s and men’s styles. Trust me, these aren’t your average leggings or long underwear. They feature an interlock knit that improves warmth and breathability. Plus, Smartwool prioritizes sustainability. It recycles products and sources from producers that sequester carbon emissions.  

Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt

Our Pick
Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Top

Get the set! You’re sure to stay cozy with this matching merino wool base layer.

This women’s thermal base layer top by Smartwool perfectly matches the recommended bottoms. There’s also a men’s version available. Both are created with sustainably sourced merino wool, offering warmth, comfort, and breathability.  

Convertible Winter Jacket

Our Pick
Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange Winter Jacket

This waterproof, insulated jacket adjusts to varying weather conditions with its 3-in-1 design.

Winter weather can change drastically on multi-day hikes and even day hikes. Be prepared for varying conditions with the women’s or men’s Whirlibird IV interchange winter jacket by Columbia. 

These models have a 3-in-1 design. Wear the waterproof shell, the thermal insulated liner, or both depending on the elements. The jacket is also breathable, has several pockets, and features that make it suitable for skiing and snowboarding, too. 

Waterproof Hiking Boots

Our Pick
Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

These boots check all the boxes. Expect comfort, durability, breathability, and waterproofing that works. 

I own a pair of women’s Merrell Moab 2 hiking boots — as does my best friend. My husband and brother have the men’s version because truly, I tell everyone to buy these boots. They’re the best hiking footwear I’ve come across after years of outdoor exploration. 

I love that they’re genuinely waterproof, yet offer good ventilation. They’re comfortable out of the box and feature a durable, grippy sole. These hiking shoes are year-after-year award winners for good reason. 

Traction Device

Our Pick
Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System

These quality microspikes allow backpackers to navigate snowy, icy terrain with ease.

Want a successful backpacking trip in winter conditions? Pack a reliable traction device — emphasis on reliable. Kahtoola microspikes may be pricier than competing products, but they’re worth the investment. 

Each foot features twelve ⅜-in. stainless steel spikes. They’ll keep you stable even on steep, icy terrain. And unlike similar microspikes, they don’t pick up clumps of wet, heavy snow thanks to their flex chains. Enjoy backpacking all year round with this must-have piece of gear. 

Backpacking Packing Tips

The author's husband using the Mountainsmith Apex backpack
My husband carrying the Mountainsmith Apex backpack; see my extensive review for details

Follow the 20% Rule  

People often ask, “Is X pounds too heavy for backpacking?” Ultimately, your maximum pack weight is specific to you and your abilities — as well as the quality of your backpack. A well-constructed pack is designed to transfer the bulk of weight to your hips. This way, your legs support the load more so than your upper body.   

But that aside, experts agree that in general, one’s backpacking pack should be no more than 20% of their body weight. 

Of course, fitness level plays a role, too. I’m a reasonably active person who weighs 100 lbs. and I find 20 lbs. to be a comfortable weight, but anything more quickly becomes strenuous.    

View of things needed for backpacking
Backpacking setup for two

Invest in Gear Wisely

Now that you’ve done the math, maybe you’re concerned that your gear exceeds your max pack weight. Here are the items I recommend upgrading before all else: 

  • Backpacking pack – As mentioned, a quality pack will make carrying your load more comfortable. It may also cut down your base weight. The ultralight Osprey Eja and Osprey Exos weigh as little as 2.597 lbs and 2.695 lbs, respectively. 
  • Backpacking tent – This is one of the heaviest items on your backpacking checklist. Opt for a modern, lightweight model like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent if your budget allows. Fortunately, it’ll last you for years.  
  • Sleeping bag – Weight doesn’t vary as much when it comes to sleeping bags. But trust me, a cheap product won’t keep you warm in the same way. When upgrading, select a product with a solid warmth-to-weight ratio.   

Meal Plan Like a Pro 

Overpacking food is one of the most common errors new backpackers make. Yes, you should always carry an extra day’s worth of nutrition just in case. 

But carefully plan your meals and calorie intake — don’t just pack the entire bag of trail mix and an unnecessary number of energy bars.

Speaking of, you want to be conscious of what foods you pack. Dehydrated meals and small, calorie-dense snacks are solid choices. In addition, be mindful of how you pack your backpacking food. Ziplock bags are a lightweight solution that allows for portion control. 

The author, Abigail Bliss with her friend packing their things for backpacking
My friend and I packing — she’s seen with the Osprey Aura AG LT, which I extensively reviewed

Load Your Pack Properly 

This is a crucial step for comfort. However, it will somewhat vary depending on your backpack and preferences. In general, you should first slide your hydration pouch into place. Then, pack the bottom of your backpack. Place your sleeping bag at the base, giving a bit of cushion to your lumbar region. 

Next, place your heavier, compact items in the middle (e.g. backpacking stove and fuel, food bag). Stuff your clothing in the open gaps — no need to worry about wrinkles in the wilderness! 

Place frequently used items at the top of your pack. I like to place my first aid kit, headlamp, and camera gear here, providing easy access. Lastly, fill up the accessory pockets. I’ll usually put my phone in the lid pouch, a snack in one hip belt pocket, and my water bottle in the side pocket. 

🌲 Read Next: National Parks Essentials Checklist

Safety First

Dark clouds over the Badlands National Park
Storm clouds at Badlands National Park in South Dakota
Hail falling at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota
Hail shortly followed 

Prioritizing safety is my most important backpacking tip. Yes, you worked so hard to train, pack up your gear, drive to the trailhead, etc. But weather conditions, injury and sickness, and so forth are out of your control. 

I’ve had to forgo an adventure here and there due to these types of circumstances. There’s no shame in turning around and trying again another day. Fortunately, the trail isn’t going anywhere! 

FAQs About Packing Backpacking Gear

What’s the most important piece of backpacking gear? 

Your backpacking pack is the most important piece of backpacking gear. A well-constructed, lightweight backpack grants comfort and convenience. Prioritize a comfortable fit, organizational and customizable features, and durable, eco-conscious materials.   

What should you not forget when backpacking? 

You should not forget a backpack rain cover, cooking fuel, water filter, and headlamp when backpacking, among several other things. Of course, the Ten Essentials are crucial in the wilderness. 


Thanks for reading my ultimate backpacking checklist! Hopefully, this resource will help you prepare for your next adventure. Check out my hiking essentials checklist if you frequently go on day hikes, too! 

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