Backpacking Packing List

A backpacking packing list is something you don’t want to do without. Try packing without a list and you’ll end up trying to cram the whole of your closet into the backpack; it won’t fit, but when you’ve cut down all but what appear to be necessaries it’ll still be monstrously heavy. Then, when you get out in the boonies, you’re likely to discover that you missed most of the crucial items anyway.


Of course, your backpacking packing list is dependent on where you’ll be going. A wilderness backpacking expedition through some Alaskan backcountry will need a differently packed backpack than a backpacking trip to Malaysia, for instance. To begin with, here’s your back country essentials backpacking packing list.



Back Country Essentials Backpacking Packing List

1. Map (in a Ziploc bag or waterproof case

2. Compass

3. Flashlight or headlamp, with extra batteries

4. First aid kit

5. Matches or lighter, in waterproof container; also possibly fire starter, also in a waterproof container or sturdy Ziploc bag 

6. Knife; and/or possibly a multi-tool like a quality leatherman.

7. Duct tape

8. An extra day supply of food

9. Water bottles or other water reservoir system

10. Water filter or water treatment tablets

11. Emergency tent or tarp 

12. Sleeping bag 

13. Sturdy rope


More Comfort Items for Your Back Country Trip

Then here’s a list of your comfort Items: These may be more or less essential depending on how you want to travel:


• Sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses (if you’ll use these items)

• Camping stove (you can usually cook over an open fire in the backcountry, but a stove is certainly convenient)

• Fuel (a stove is no good without a supply of the fuel it takes)

• Pan, bowl (a pan to cook with, a bowl to eat from, and possibly a cup as well)

• Eating utensils (Forks and spoons are not over-rated)

• Energy food (trail mix, energy bars)

• Nylon cord (Useful for many purposes, including stringing up your food away from bears at night)

• Low-weight meals for the time you plan to be on the trail (make your menu beforehand and plan your meals carefully for maximum calories/minimum weight)

• Watch with altimeter (it’s nice to know what time it is, and an altimeter can help you figure out where you are in a pinch)

• Signaling whistle (if you are traveling with a group, to keep in touch; and a signaling mirror may also be handy if you know how to use it)

• Hang bags for food (if you are going into bear country)

• Toilet paper (no comment necessary here, we think)

• Toothbrush and toothpaste (unless you plan to make yourself one with a stick)

• Insect repellant (being bitten is no fun. You can pack bear repellent if you’re going out in bear country, too; it’s not foolproof, but it may help keep the beasts away.)

• Binoculars (more useful for open terrain than forests, but a nice bit of equipment anytime)

• Sandals (you won’t want to have your hiking boots on all the time)

• Extra socks (socks have a way of getting wet, sweaty, or mud caked)

• Raingear (not usually necessary for desert hikes)

• Tent (unless your emergency test from the basic list is sufficient for your needs)

• Change of clothing (packed in a waterproof plastic bag)

• Ice axe (for winter backpacking)

• Collapsible Sink (a very useful thing for washing up)

• Notebook or paper, pen and pencil, in waterproof bag (even if you don’t mean to keep a journal, the potential to jot notes is never a bad thing)

• Hand sanitizer (keep the germs down without water)

• Sanitation trowel (you’ll be making your own toilets on the trail)

• Soap (because hand sanitizer, however useful, is not an end-all meet-all)

• Small, quick drying towel (microfleece packs small)

• Camera, memory cards and extra batteries, if desired.

• Preferred communication device: cell phone, 2-way radio or satellite communicator, with extra batteries and/or solar charger.

• Flares for signaling in emergency 


There’s our backpacking packing list. We think it’s pretty comprehensive, but is there anything you consider essential that we’ve missed? Anything we’ve packed you consider dead weight? We’d love to hear from you. 




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