Essential Backpacking Gear List

Even seasoned hikers use a checklist to make sure they have everything that they need on the trail. Whether you are new or old-hat, these backpacking gear lists are designed to help you make sure you have not forgotten something important before you set off on your next backpacking adventure.

I encourage you to keep a list written down and revisit it after your trip to add or subtract items as needed for the kind of hiking you do. Over time you will develop a custom checklist that is optimal for your individual needs.

I will start with a core essential list that includes things you will need for any hiking trip that includes sleeping in the wilderness followed by lists specific to the kinds of weather you expect to encounter so that you can customize according to your plans:



Regardless of how long your trip will be, and the terrain you plan on traveling, there are some basic items you should have for any overnight trip. I call these the “core essentials” since no matter where you are going, you will want to be sure you have these items in your backpack:

  • Water reservoir and/or bottles
  • Water filter or treatment tablets
  • Lantern or flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Food – always pack an extra day worth of food
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Shelter
  • Poncho (large enough to fit over your pack as well)
  • Map or a guidebook
  • Pen or pencil
  • Compass
  • Drink mix packets for electrolytes
  • Extra socks
  • 2 large garbage bags (or use them as pack liners)
  • Permits and licenses
  • First aid kit
  • Disposable gloves – nitrile for various purposes, being waterproof, durable, and practical for keeping hands clean when no running water is accessible (also pack hand sanitizer)
  • Knife
  • Lighter or matches, waterproof container
  • Fire kit for an emergency
  • Sunscreen
  • Whistle
  • Reading or prescription glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Jacket
  • Identification
  • Prescription medications
  • Cash and credit cards

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