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A Complete and Exhaustive Backpacking Checklist

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backpacking checklist

We have know how much pain it is to pack for a backpacking trip. You don't want to miss your essentials but you don't also want to overpack to a point where you feel like a turtle carrying its home on its back.

Hence, we have created this handy dandy checklist on what to pack for if you are only looking at the essentials, things you can consider if you have some extra room and things you can carry if you really want to fill the last inch of your backpack.

Without further ado, let's jump in.

Here are some of the tips that will help you pack better.

Table of Contents

1. A basic list of survival gear!

2. Pack depending on the number of days of travel

3. Tips for packing light

4. A 9-Point Comprehensive Backpacking Checklist

5. Things you don't really need.

If you’re wondering how to pack for a trip, packing light and carrying only what you need is crucial. So, before you even start placing things into your backpack mentally prepare yourself and plan ahead.

You’ll want to know that packing light is a process; it can’t be done in less than 30 minutes.

First off, research about the place you’re headed to. Choose your clothes and supplies based on the weather and your level of comfort. Ensure you’re carrying a backpack that fits you. Having an oversized backpack will only make you carry more.

Here’s how you can pack smart and light.

Begin by laying out everything you think you want to carry and remove half the stuff you can do without.

1. A basic list of survival gear!

Survival checklist

Here are some of the basic essential survival gear which I recommend you pack with every trip. You can add and build on top of this as per your need and the place you are visiting for but never leave out without these essentials.

Electronics and Medicine Toiletries Everything else
Camera and camera charger

Phone and portable charger

Flashlight and sunglasses

First-aid kit

Sunscreen and bug repellent

Hand sanitizer

Body / face wipes

Toothbrush and toothpaste

Microfiber towel

Deodorant

Umbrella / rain cover

A knife and few healthy snacks

Water bottles or a hydration pack

A repair toolkit / fire-starting gear

Map and trekking pole

2. Pack depending on the number of days of travel

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1-Day Trip:

If you’re travelling for a day or if it’s an overnight trek, make sure you carry a daypack, nothing bigger. Most often you’ll only need the following essentials. However, we recommend that you modify the below list based on the location and weather.

Ensure you’re wearing comfortable, yet appropriate clothing, footwear, and jacket. Also, don’t forget to carry enough money and an ID card. You can also carry a few snacks.

In addition to the above basic list of survival gear, the below list will help you decide better.

Must Haves Good to Haves Luxury
Electronics and medicine

Toiletries

Pack cover and rain cover

Water bottle and snacks

Permits and route description

Credit card, cash, ID

Insect repellent

A jacket and whistle

Trekking pole

Quick-dry towel

Hand sanitizer and deodorant

Body / face wipes

Energy drink

Multifunction watch with altimeter

A repair toolkit / fire-starting gear

Sleeping pads and pillows

Jewelry and valuables

Personal locator beacon

2-Day Trip:

When you’re planning to take off for two days, you can opt for a full-size backpack, just, don’t overstuff it. Pack light, carry things that’ll make you feel great and not stop you from your adventure.

Wear the same outfit while travelling to and fro from your destination. We recommend that you leave your jeans behind. However, if you’re carrying your jeans then packing two tops / t-shirts should suffice. Make sure you carry enough money and an ID card.

In addition to the above basic list of survival gear, the below list will help you decide better.

Must Haves Good to Haves Luxury
Electronics

Medicine

Toiletries

Water bottle and snacks

Daypack or summit pack

Pack cover and rain cover

Permits and route description

Credit card, cash, ID

A jacket

Insect repellent

Binoculars and Whistle

Trekking pole

Quick-dry towel

Earplugs and eye shade

Hand sanitizer and deodorant

Body / face wipes

Energy drink

Multifunction watch with altimeter

A repair toolkit / fire-starting gear

Sleeping pads and pillows

Jewelry and valuables

Personal locator beacon

Multiple shoes

Bear spray

These essentials have got you covered. However, you’ll have to add or remove things from the list based on your destination. For example, if you’re going to a cold place, carry woolens, jackets, etc., instead of swimsuits or shorts.

3-Day or a Longer Trip:

A 3-day or longer trip will need more planning. Recognise that your mindset affects your packing; don’t expect the comfort of your home, carry as little as you can. If you don’t mind repeating your clothes, just carry three sets of clothes. It’ll give you more room to move and will also be easier on your back and shoulders.

After packing your clothes, medicines, and all your gear limit your backpack to weigh around 20lbs.

In addition to the above basic list of survival gear, the below list will help you decide better.

Must Haves Good to Haves Luxury
Electronics

Medicine

Toiletries

Water bottle and snacks

Daypack or summit pack

Pack cover and rain cover

Permits and route description

Credit card, cash, ID

Tent and sleeping bags

More than one jacket

Insect repellent

Binoculars and Whistle

Trekking pole

Quick-dry towel

Earplugs and eye shade

Hand sanitizer and deodorant

Body / face wipes

Dishes, bowls, utensils, cups

Energy drink

Kindle and watch with altimeter

Camp chair and portable lantern

A repair toolkit / fire-starting gear

Sleeping pads and pillows

Jewelry and valuables

Personal locator beacon

Multiple shoes, sandals, gaiters

Bear spray, biodegradable soap

The list is intentionally small yet comprehensive. Follow it and you won’t forget anything important.

3. Tips for packing light

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Here are some tried and tested tips for packing light.

  • Cut the clothing – as a backpacker, it isn’t practical to wear fashionable clothes every day. You don’t have to look drab, but don’t pack clothes that you’ll only wear once.
  • Cut the toiletries – hair gels, big bottles of cream, shampoo, etc. Carry travel-friendly packs. Also, unless you’re going to a remote location you can always buy these things in anyplace.
  • Quality unmentionables – packing multiple underwear and socks are an absolute essential. Invest in high-quality unmentionables; comfort and breathability are vital as they stay in contact with your skin all day.
  • Invest in a good pair of shoes – value for money will be when you have a well-constructed and well-fitting shoe. Having the right shoe will prevent any pain that might arise.
  • Ziplocs – Carry many Ziplocs or plastic bags. Plastic bags and Ziplocs will protect your electronics from rain. Also, you can store your wet or soiled clothes separately.

4. A 9-Point Comprehensive Backpacking Checklist

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Ok, now you know what to pack for based on the days you plan to travel. We didn’t want to leave you without an comprehensive list of items you should consider. For your consideration...

Here’s a list of fundamental gear for your survival and comfort. You don’t need all of it, choose items depending on your travel and personal likes and dislikes.

1. Your personal guide:

You might like a guide to show you around, tell you facts about old structures and more. However, sometimes, a guide can kill your sense of adventure. So when you don’t want a guide to travel with you, equip yourself with a map.

Here’s a list to help you navigate better:

  • Gyro compass
  • GPS or GPSdepot maps
  • Watch or Pathfinder
  • Gaia navigation on smart phones
  • Altimeter
  • Map

2. Electronics:

Whether you want to use your mobile phone for music or GPS, ensure you keep them charged and preserve its battery life. Gadgets like your phone play a critical role in your safety and well-being. Carry enough batteries and gear up.

  • Laptop and laptop charger
  • Phone and phone charger
  • Portable charger
  • Headlamp, head torch, or flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Camera and camera batteries
  • Memory cards
  • Outline plug adapter
  • Binoculars

3. Comfortable clothing and shoes:

Hiking or walking with a backpack will leave you sweating. So, it’s important that your clothes and shoes are well ventilated and provide you with good mobility.

If you’re not hiking to a place, wear the same clothes while travelling as this saves space. While walking / hiking a light jacket to protect you from the sun or the chilly weather is enough. However, if you’re going to a chilly place do carry an insulating jacket because once you stop walking it’s likely that you’ll feel cold.

Whether it’s a 4-day trek or a 4-month trip, these are generally all the clothes you’ll need as you can laundry them. Three to six sets of clothes will suffice. Carry durable, light-weight, wrinkle-free clothing.

Full-sleeve T-shirts or a light jacket (protect from the sun)

  • Pants / shorts (avoid fitting denim)
  • Gloves and thermals or clothes made of merino wool
  • Underwear and socks (cotton or woollen)
  • Hat, bandana, balaclava, headband, or cap
  • Rainwear (waterproof jacket and pant) or poncho
  • Fleece jacket and T-shirts
  • Neck-gaiters
  • Trekking shoe or boots (high ankle with good grip)
  • Flip-flops (optional)
  • Quick-dry towel

4. Skin Protection and toiletries:

Irrespective of the season, extended exposure to sunlight will harm your skin. It’s is extremely important that you protect your skin against sunburns, chafing, dryness, and more.

Carry these essentials to protect your skin:

  • U/V Protected Sunglasses
  • Hiking Cap or Sun Hat
  • Sunscreen, lip balm, and hand sanitizer
  • Body / face wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Anti-bacterial powder
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Travel-sized lotion and body wash and shampoo
  • Microfiber towel and deodorant
  • Insect repellent
  • Tissue paper

5. Snacks and Water:

While travelling or hiking, it’s always good to take frequent breaks. During these breaks make sure you eat something and drink enough water.

Don’t carry oily or fatty food. Ensure you carry healthy snacks like,

  • Nutrition bars or energy bars
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Dry fruits
  • Electoral

To stay hydrated at all times, carry one bottle of water per person or an adequate hydration reservoir in your backpack. If you’re camping and don’t have access to clean water carry a water filter or purification tablets.

6. Shelter and sleeping bags:

Carry a durable tent and sleeping bag only if you’re camping or sleeping on the floor. You can also carry a tarp as an emergency shelter.

7. Medicines:

Ensure to pack your medication and not run out of it. Along with any medicines, you’ll need to carry, also carry a first-aid kit.

  • Prescription drugs
  • Pain medicine
  • Motion sickness medicine
  • Band-aids
  • Diarrhoea medicine
  • Tissues
  • Muscle spray

8. Tools and repair kit

On an adventure, you can never expect to know when your repair kit will come in handy. You can use a knife to cut a fruit or portable stove to make some tea.

  • Knife, Multitool, or army Swiss knife
  • Rope or clothesline
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight and padlock
  • Umbrella
  • Plastic utensils
  • Ziploc bags
  • Sink stopper (if you want to wash your clothes in a sink)

9. Emergency survival fire kit

When you’re planning to camp in the wild an emergency survival fire kit is a good thing to have. Ensure you pack it in a Ziploc or a water proof container.

  • Lighter or matches
  • Fire starter kit

5. Things you don’t really need

It’s only natural that you feel that you haven’t packed enough. To be on the road and survive with things from a backpack is challenging, but you don’t need anything more than the above list.

You can avoid carrying the following:

  • Sleeping pads
  • A massive backpack
  • Jewelry and valuables
  • Extra toiletries and bulky towels or beach towels
  • Guitar or other musical instruments
  • Hair straighter or dryer
  • Pillows
  • Makeup or too many perfumes
  • Too many cotton clothes and jeans
  • More than one jacket
  • Multiples of the same thing like water filters, stoves, etc
  • More than one book (gear up to enjoy the place)

6. Conclusion

First-time travelers usually bring too many items, travelling with a heavy pack will only wear you out faster. Hopefully you don’t make those novice mistakes after reading this. Remember, one backpacker’s essentials can be another backpacker’s non-essentials. You might feel like there are many items on this list that you can’t imagine backpacking without. So feel free to modify this checklist as per your needs. The goal is to serve as a basic roadmap of what you should and should not include, not create a hard and fast rule.

Hopefully you have a better idea now on what to pack and what to leave. Don’t be a packing novice. Be a packing expert. 

Anything that you would do it differently? Feel free to comment and let me know where I’m wrong or where I could do better.