Backpacking Checklist Tips and Reviews

Often considered the quintessential outdoors experience, backpacking not only opens you up to new travel experiences, but makes you a better hiker, too. There’s nothing quite like trekking through the woods or the streets of an unfamiliar city (yes, urban backpacking is a thing!) to make you realize how beautiful and diverse this great wide world can be. Here are our favorite Backpacking Checklist tips and reviews.

However, it is important that you don’t head out there unprepared. Knowing what kind of equipment is essential – and what can be left at home – is the first step to a successful backpacking adventure.

What to Consider When Packing For Your Trip

groud of friends camping with bon fire and tent

Make A List

Before heading out on your trip, make a detailed list of everything you might want to bring with you. It can help to break it down into separate categories, such as “must bring,” and “want to bring.” That way, if you’re short on space, it will be easy to figure out which items get the boot.

Don’t Do it the Night Before

Whatever you do, don’t put off packing until the night before your trip! Make sure you are packed and ready to go in advance, and give yourself plenty of time in order to avoid last-minute frustrations – like a broken backpack zipper or clothes that just won’t fit into your pack.

Don’t Forget the Car

Not at home, that’s it. But keep in mind that many backpackers make a heavy mistake when it comes to packing for a long trip. You can keep some gear in your car! This is especially the case if you aren’t planning on trekking too far away from your car at any given time.

Don’t pack your essentials there, of course, but consider throwing some optional items in your trunk. For example, you might want to toss some extra clothes, towels, or water there. You never know when you might decide to make an impromptu trip back to the station wagon!

The Essential Backpacking Categories

When you are planning for your first backpacking trip, keep these categories in mind. By separating out your backpacking checklist into multiple categories, you will be more organized and have a clearer idea of what, exactly, you need.


First and foremost is storage. Where are you going to stash your gear? Invest in a high-quality backpack that features ergonomic supports like chest and shoulder straps. Make sure it has all the space you need for gear and has enough waterproofing features, too. Aside from that, you might want to consider stashing some of your gear in waterproof stuff sacks or the equivalent.

Shelter And Sleeping

Where are you going to sleep? There are plenty of lightweight tents designed for backpacking, so consider investing in one of these. You might also need to pack tent poles, a rainfly, stakes, guylines, tarps, or hammocks, depending on your preferences.

Oh – and the sleeping bag! That’s important. Make sure you invest in one that is rated to colder temperatures than what you think you might experience on your trip. You might want to pack optional items like a pad or pump sack, too – but forego the pillow. For that, you can use some balled-up clothes or a separate stuff sack.


Everybody’s favorite item to pack is the food, but it can also be one of the trickiest. Opt for lightweight, non-perishable foodstuffs. The goal is to pack food that will last without refrigeration and offer the maximum amount of calories for the smallest amount of space.

Some suggestions? What about beans, rice, trail mix, or hard cheese? These all travel well, as does dried fruit and chocolate bars.

You also need a way to cook your food. This might include some simple matches, lighters, or other fire-starting equipment, but you also might want to pack a cookstove with fuel. Don’t forget the dishes if you plan on cooking, either!


This is one of the most difficult categories to pack for because there are so many “optional” items that can fit into it. Are you planning on bringing a pocket knife? What about bear spray or trekking poles? Some other tools you might want to consider include:

  • Batteries
  • Power bank
  • Assorted Ziploc bags
  • Cell phone with phone case
  • MessKit
  • Multitool
  • Whistle
  • Headlamp


Unless you’re headed to a well-marked campground that you know extremely well (like your own backyard), you will need to pack some navigation equipment. A good-ol fashioned map is essential, even if you have a cell phone or digital device. You might also want to bring along a compass, GPS watch, driving directions, and copies of guidebook pages.


Don’t rely on good, clean drinking water where you are headed. Always pack at least a few water bottles along with water treatment methods. You don’t have to skimp on space, either – there are lots of excellent collapsible water containers on the market.


Emergencies happen, and it’s good to be prepared. Some items you might want to include in an emergency kit include first aid items (including band-aids, antibiotic ointment, gauze pads, medical tape, gloves, tweezers, antihistamines, and moleskin) as well as tools.

Some tools to include are:

  • Patch kits
  • Sewing kit
  • Duct tape
  • Superglue
  • Stormproof matches/fire starters
  • Flares
  • Signaling kit


Don’t forget your skivvies!

Just kidding, but in all seriousness, it’s important that you pack several changes of clothes. These should be lightweight and moisture-wicking – leave the cotton at home. Consider packing things like a rain jacket and pants, a warmer coat for cooler weather, gloves, a hat, hiking pants, long and short-sleeve shirts, sunglasses, and several pairs of socks and underwear.

Another tip? Treat all of your clothing with bug repellant before you leave home and hit the trails, and you won’t have to load yourself down quite as much when you’re on your trip.


You might not need to pack an entire backpack of makeup when you head out on your backpacking excursion, but you will need some basic toiletries. Don’t forget things like lip balm, sunscreen, and any prescription medicines you might take, as well as toothbrushes and toothpaste.


This last category is entirely optional – but a good idea if you don’t think the entertainment of the great outdoors will hack it during the entire trip. You might want to consider packing things like a book to read, headphones, or crossword puzzles to keep you entertained. Oh – and don’t forget your camera!

5 Must-Have Items for Backpacking

1. TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

First and foremost on the list of items you must include on your backpacking checklist is this awesome backpack by Teton Sports. After all, where else are you going to store all of your gear?

This pack is not a traditional backpack. It’s a top-selling internal frame and can be worn by men and women alike. The waist belt offers more than 30 inches of adjustment, as does the torso length adjustment. It even has molded channels and an open-cell foam lumbar pad for maximum airflow and comfort!

What We Liked

  • Ergonomic design
  • Maximum airflow
  • Weighs less than 5 lbs unloaded

What We Didn’t Like

  • Ergonomic design
  • Maximum airflow
  • Weighs less than 5 lbs unloaded
  • Cannot be used as a carry-on

2. Coleman Sundome Tent

The Coleman Sundome Tent is the perfect fit for two sleepers on a backpacking trip. It can be set up in just ten minutes, making it the best choice to add to your backpacking checklist. It has large windows and a ground vent along with a patented WeatherTec system to help you stay dry.

What We Liked

  • Has inverted seams to keep you dry
  • Sturdy frame can withstand 35+ MPH winds
  • Can sleep two people with ease

What We Didn’t Like

  • Has inverted seams to keep you dry
  • Sturdy frame can withstand 35+ MPH winds
  • Can sleep two people with ease
  • Rainfly blocks some airflow

3. Alpinlite 5’6″ Right Zip Sleeping Bag

A warm sleeping bag is essential no matter what time of the year you might be traveling. His sleeping bag is filled with 850 fill down and has a full-length zipper. It’s rated to 20 degrees and has one of the best loft-to-weight ratios, meaning it weighs surprisingly little despite its warmth.

What We Liked

  • Breathable shell
  • Comes with waterproof insulation
  • Lightweight yet warm

What We Didn’t Like

  • Compression sack shouldn’t be used for long term storage

4. Aquamira – Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment Drops

Another thing that is absolutely essential on the trails is clean water. These water treatment drops will make it easy for you to drink the water no matter where you might be traveling. The treatment has a four-year shelf life and kills odor- and sickness-causing bacteria.

Best yet, it’s lightweight and portable, found in a small bottle. Despite its small size, it can treat up to 30 gallons of water with minimal aftertaste.

What We Liked

  • Comes in a small 3-oz bottle
  • Eliminates the risk of most waterborne illnesses
  • Does not discolor the water

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some customers report issues with leaking

5. Marmot Men’s PreCip Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket

This rain jacket comes in a wide variety of colors – you’ll look great as you step out on the trails. It’s super lightweight, making it ideal for packing and wearing. Made out of durable and breathable nylon and polyurethane, this jacket is 100% seam taped and has a roll-up hood that you can tuck back into the collar.

It also comes with back pockets – a feature that’s perfect for us backpackers.

What We Liked

  • Has pit zips for ventilation
  • Waterproof and breathable
  • Accurate sizing

What We Didn’t Like

  • Not designed for heavy rainstorms

Personalize Your Backpacking Checklist

No two backpacker’s checklists should look the same – and yours likely won’t take the same appearance each time you hit the trails, either.

Every trip is unique – and so your backpacking checklist should be, too. However, these recommendations will make it easy for you to hit the trails safely, in style – and well-prepared.


About The Author

Brian Voytovich is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking, camping outdoors, and exploring new scenic areas. He has traveled across the country in his RV for the last 20 years and has visited hundreds of camping and RV spots. His love for everything camping and outdoors resonates in his articles and reviews for various camping products and RV camping sites.

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