Backpacking Checklist: Essential Items for Adventure

Backpacking Checklist: Essential Items for Adventure. Blue tent with light shining inside and campfire next to it sits under the brilliant night sky.

A good night's rest, drinkable water, and emergency preparedness are key

Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors / Spring 2019

A backpacking trip is a different sort of vacation. It presents you with the opportunity to be at one with nature and enjoy a sense of freedom far away from the distractions of everyday life. If you really want to get the most out of your backpacking trip, then going out into the backcountry and avoiding often depressing and overcrowded places like campgrounds is an absolute must. If you are going to be camping off the beaten track, here's our best backpacking gear list with some important extra things that you should definitely take with you on your next trip.

A Weather-Appropriate Sleeping Bag

Tent with sleeping bag lying next to it; sunset in the distance.

Aside from bringing adequate clothes, bringing a suitable sleeping bag (and sleeping pad) for the weather you can expect is essential. If you are going camping during the colder months of the year, it is even more important to choose a high quality thermal sleeping bag which can keep you warm even in the lowest temperatures that you can possibly expect at the time of year.

Sleeping bags are sold with a temperature-rating, which shows the minimum temperature at which the sleeping bag should be used. However, it's important to keep in mind these ratings typically understate (by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit) the temperature at which the sleeping bag will be comfortable (EN comfort ratings are an exception to this as these ratings are generally more accurate - confusing, I know). So if you're purchasing a sleeping bag, add 10 degrees to the stated rating. If this corresponds with the average nighttime temperature at your destination then you're on the right track.

A Water Filtration System

Waterfall trickling over the edge of reddish canyon rocks.

When you're going camping in the middle of nowhere, you'll need to have a healthy supply of drinkable water. Of course, in some places, you may be able to drink water straight from the stream, but this is risky and generally discouraged by the National Park Service, so you'll probably need a water filter. You can prepare for any eventuality by bringing a full water filtration system (along with a couple of water bottles). In arid conditions, packing in an ample supply of drinking water for the duration of your trip may be necessary. Water weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon so packing it in will add a lot of weight to your bag; however, if the alternative is to go without, this liquid can be worth its weight in gold.

Ziploc Bags

Back of backpacker with green hat and blue bag with orange ribbon.

Nature is beautiful, but mankind tends to have a love for ruining it in every way imaginable. Respect the environment by cleaning up after yourself and minimizing your impact on the surroundings. Do not, under any circumstances, leave your belongings lying around. Instead, bring enough Ziploc bags to take all of your garbage with you when you leave.

Swiss Army Knife / Multi-Tool

Close-up of pile of well-worn Swiss army knives.

Swiss army knives can come in incredibly handy and they are an essential tool to have whenever you're off the beaten track. A good multi-tool comes with everything from a bottle opener to a knife and set of screwdrivers. You never know when you might have a use for it whether it's for opening a tin of food or a bottle of beer or for trimming down some sticks for some makeshift tent pegs that you may be missing.

First Aid Kit

Closeup of Band-aid canister lying on the ground.

When you're going off the beaten track, you'll likely be far away from any proper medical attention should an accident occur. Fortunately, accidents while backpacking, if proper care is taken, are rare. Nevertheless, bringing a first aid kit can make a tremendous difference in the event an incident does occur. A first aid kit for camping should include things such as antiseptic lotions, bandages, painkillers, lint cloth and any necessary medicines for those who might have allergies to certain things out in the wild.

Wrapping-Up: Backpacking Checklist Essentials

Yellow tent sits in front of green grass levy with greenish-blue starlit sky in background.

Of course, there are other important items to take; for a full gear list, see below:

Duct tape, rain jacket and rain pants, trekking poles, stuff sack, lip balm, bear canister, backpack, hiking shoes or hiking boots (we recommend trail running shoes), toilet paper + wet wipes + trowel, sun protection, extra batteries for your black diamond headlamp, hiking pants, base layer and short / long underwear (only if it's below freezing), at least one long-sleeve t-shirt, hiking socks (we recommend Smartwool), an ice axe (only if necessary for cold weather adventures; if you really want to upgrade), a backpacking tent and repair kit (we recommend just using duct tape), down jacket, bandana or buff and hat, Patagonia fleece, camp shoes, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, and backpacking stove.

You'll have your cell phone in case of emergencies (although, you likely won't have a signal).

You can find most items on the above backpacking checklist on Amazon (we've attempted to provide links to what we believe are the best products); the rest should be on REI.

Looking for more on backpacking checklists and other camping-related topics? Try these:

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

— John Muir

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Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors / Spring 2019

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