Backpacking Checklist

Backpacking in the Gila Wilderness Area, NM

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 Backpacking and Hiking Checklist

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Hiking and Backpacking Checklist

In response to some inquiries regarding gear and equipment, following is a sample 3-season backpacking and hiking gear checklist.  Keep in mind that it's just a sample and not designed to include everything you might need.  Local conditions, weather, length of trip, etc can all result in changes to the list.  If you're looking for gift ideas for a backpacker, watch for these (*).  A one page, printable copy of the list is available by clicking the link below.


The links above and in the right column below will take you to some of the premiere backpacking and hiking gear providers on the web.  Links appearing in the right hand column are to the stores that carry (as of 11/1) the item mentioned.




Gear & Equipment Checklist


Click for a printable, 1 page copy (pdf) of the list


(Acrobat Reader is required to view the PDF file.  Acrobat Reader can be downloaded free for personal use from Adobe).



The type I own



Gregory Palisade


Volume / weight by pack size:

X-Small: 4000 cu. in. / 5 lbs. 9 oz. 

Small: 4550 cu. in. / 6 lbs. 

Medium: 4700 cu. in. / 6 lbs. 3 oz. 

Large: 5150 cu. in. / 6 lbs. 11 oz.

Removable daypack

Water bladder compartment on the back

Plenty of places to strap things

Water bottle holders on the sides

Durable, well made

Heavy (new version is lighter)

Large enough for trips less than a week

gregory palisade backpack

Tent, Tent Stakes, Tie Down Lines

North Face Condor,

Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight

North Face Condor is on the large side for a backpacking tent.  Added fabric provides zip-closeable coverings for windows, doors and vents to keep things warmer in cool conditions.  Definitely too big for solo trips; but nice when going with buddies.  I use it when going in cooler weather, with another person and for car camping.  Large enough for 2 with gear kept inside.


Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight CD (pictured right) is small enough for solo trips and big enough for 2.  Although not freestanding and traditionally vented (windows don't close), it's lighter and good when temperatures are sure to stay 40's+.  Gear will have to stay outside.  I use this when camping in milder conditions and on solo trips.

sierra designs tent

Backpacking Stove (*)

MSR SuperFly

Coleman Exponent Apex II

SuperFly - light, canister stove.  I recently purchased this stove and was really happy with the results.  The SuperFly is compatible with multiple fuel canister brands and one canister lasted 2 of us for a 2 night, 3 day trip with fuel leftover (mild conditions). I've heard that the canisters don't work well at temperatures below freezing (keep the canister warm by putting it in your sleeping bag with you).


Coleman Exponent Apex II - dual fuel (can use unleaded gasoline).  I've used this stove for a couple of years now and it's been great.  I use it when car camping and in the backcountry.  The cheaper, more readily available fuel makes it a strong alternative to the lighter canisters.  I took a solo trip in the Gila wilderness and a fuel bottle filled 3/4 full lasted me 3 days, 3 nights in mild conditions (ran out during breakfast on day 4).  I mention conditions because things require a lot more fuel to cook in cold weather.  

apex ii backpacking stove

Coleman Exponent Apex II


SuperFly backpacking stove

MSR SuperFly

Sleeping Bag

Marmot Sawtooth

This Goose down bag is good to temps down into the 30's.  Starts to get cold in the 20's.  Goose down looses its ability to keep you warm if it gets wet.  Synthetic materials might be better in this regard; but down is nice.  I've been really happy with this bag.


Update (1/27):  a new line of convertible bags is now available and may warrant investigation.  These bags have an added zip off layer which can take you into colder environments.  Zip it off for 3 season comfort.  Put it back on during trips at altitude or in the colder months. 

sleeping bag

Sleeping pad

Thermarest Z Rest

Lighter than the inflatable Thermarest and provides sufficient insulation and padding.  Beginners may not think about needing a sleeping pad.  Rest assured (pardon the pun) that you do.

backpacking sleeping pad


Big Sky Java Press

No more instant coffee for me.  Java press is basically an insulated mug with a compatible plunger.  Great coffee and a gratifying purchase.  I love it!

Coffee Maker (*)

Big Sky Java Press

No more instant coffee for me.  Java press is basically an insulated mug with a compatible plunger.  Great coffee and a gratifying purchase.  I love it!

Food, Snacks

Mountain House Chili Mac

Tuna Helper - Cheesy Noodle

Ramen Noodles - Spicy Chicken



Instant Milk

The Mountain House Chili Mac dinner is one of my favorites.  The freeze dried meal is lightweight and adds protein to the diet.  Too expensive to eat every meal but a nice treat for dinners.

Hiking Shoes

Merrell Chameleon Ventilator - Low

I bought these shoes recently and use them for dayhiking and light backpacking.  I have a pair of boots also; but kept getting blisters.  I now use these shoes exclusively and no longer get blisters.  The synthetic material can be worn hiking the river.  I also used to wonder about what to do at river crossings.  Now I don't mind getting my feet wet as they drain better than the boots.


Camp Shoes


I used a pair of Tevas for along time and the velcro is now worn out and doesn't stay fastened (after several years of use).  I have since bought a pair of Chaco knockoffs.  I figure the one strap design should stay on in the river.  It's important to have shoes that are sturdy enough to hike in if the other pair is giving you trouble.

Hiking Poles (*)

Leki Makalu - Ultra Light titanium

Using a pair of hiking poles can take considerable stress off your knees, especially when going downhill.  I am a strong advocate for using the poles.  They also add stability during normal hiking, make steep ascents a lot easier and are often needed at water crossings.  River hiking (e.g. The Narrows in Zion) is MUCH more difficult without poles or a strong walking staff.


MSR IsoPro fuel (SuperFly)

Camping Gaz (SuperFly)

Giga fuel (SuperFly)

Unleaded Gasoline

Camping Fuel

I just started using the SuperFly and haven't tried many of the fuel types except for IsoPro.  I have a couple of the Camping Gaz canisters also; but haven't used them yet.


I sometimes purchase camping fuel for the dual fuel stove and use it instead of unleaded.  It burns cleaner.  The nice thing about unleaded gasoline is its availability and you can pour what you don't use into the gas tank (and it's cheaper than canister fuels).  I use the dual fuel stove when car camping and conserve the canisters for the backcountry.

Water Filter (*)

Pur Hiker

I've used this filter on a number of trips and haven't gotten sick (yet).  I've filtered some pretty stagnant water and done fine.  The downside is that you have to replace the element after a period of time.  I've had to replace mine.  Some of the ceramic element filters like the Katadyn Pocket Filter claim to filter up to 13000 gallons; but can be as much as 3 times more expensive.  I read a tip that said to wrap a coffee filter around the filter element... it's supposed to prolong filter life.  I haven't tried it yet.

backpacking water filter

Rain Jacket

Marmot Precip

Simple rain shell (not lined) with arm pit vents.  Vents well and keeps you dry.  I've been happy with this jacket.  Wear fleece jackets and your warm hat underneath for warmth.  Put on over other clothes on a cold night and pull hood up.


Camp Inn Backpacking (aka packframe) Poncho

Protects both you and your pack  Can use it to cover packs/gear outside for overnight stays in the rain.  Great for football games.

Knife (*)

Gerber Chameleon II folding lock blade

Affordable and rugged.  I use this knife a lot both car camping and backcountry.

Pepper Spray

Counter Assault Bear Spray.  I haven't used this but saw a number of people carrying it in Glacier National Park.

We were in a large group (6 men) so wasn't particularly worried.  If (when) I go back, I'll get something like this. Weighs 11 oz with contents of 8 fl oz so it's pretty good size.

Nalgene Bottle (*)

Wide opening version

Easy to mix gatorade and clean with the wide opening.  Wide opening also compatible with the Pur Hiker filter.  Small carabineers can be used to clip the bottle to your pack.

2 Fleece Tops

Marmot DriClime Windshirt plus a 2nd lightweight zippered fleece jacket

These lightweight jackets can be layered to keep you warm.  Windshirt is a bit pricey but is worth the extra money.  It's extremely comfortable and the shell helps keep the wind at bay which is especially important on exposed ridgelines.

Global Positioning System (*) I don't have one; but sometimes wished I did. When combined with a topographic map with latitude and longitude coordinates, can help you find out where you are and which way to go.

Compression Sacks

Granite Gear Compression sacks - 9x20 and a smaller version.  I pack the Condor tent and rain fly in the 9x20 to save space.  When packing the Sierra Designs I don't need it.  For clothes I use a smaller compression sack.

Put your dirty close in a zip lock and put the zip lock in the compression sack.  Put the rest of your clothes inside and cinch down the sides to save space in the pack.  Makes a lot more room available for other stuff.  Especially nice when trying to get the most out of a medium sized pack.

Convertible Quick Dry Hiking Pants

Columbia or equivalent

Quick dry material.  Legs zip off to yield shorts.  This is another of the mandatory items in my pack.  Use them as shorts during the day and zip the legs on at night.  Quick dry material stays more comfortable than cotton which can stay wet for a long time (can even be dangerous in cold weather).

Flashlights (*)

Princeton Tec MATRIX LED & Incandescent Headlamp

Princeton Tec IMPACT LED Flashlight

The headlamp type light is the best thing to have when backpacking.  Keeps your hands free when cooking or setting up the tent... no more holding the flashlight in your mouth or under your chin.  The LEDs used by these lights are more energy efficient than their incandescent peers.  The MATRIX (using the LED) headlamp can last for more than 100 hours when using lithium batteries (energizer makes a lithium AA battery).  The MATRIX and IMPACT lights are both waterproof.  The MATRIX headlamp also comes with an incandescent bulb which can be swapped in/out with the LED.  Light is slightly blue and not as bright as traditional flashlights but worth it.  Don't have to carry as many spare batteries.


Energizer Lithium AA

Lithium batteries and LED lights can last a long time.

Water Treatment Tablets

Potable Aqua tablets

Used if filter gets clogged.  Not my preferred method; but good to have as a filter back-up.

First Aid Kit

Blister Medic and/or other backpacking first aid kit (e.g. Adventure Medical Trail Kit)

The Blister Medic and Adventure Medical Trail Kits are both pictured at right.


Silva Guide

I chose this compass because it came with a mirror which can be used for emergency signaling.  I mostly use my little key chain, thermometer, whistle compass (Wal-Mart) because of its accessibility but use this when pouring over the map and when wanting more accurate readings.

Biodegradable Soap


 Less harmful to the environment.  Wash dishes away from your camp site and away from the river.

2-way Radios (*)

Motorola Talkabout

These radios can keep groups in touch when splitting up.  Range is good up to 2 miles.  Good for keeping cars in touch on road trips and people in touch on the ski slopes.  Other uses include cruise ships, etc.  I've used them on ski trips, road trips and backpacking.  One occasion specifically was when backpacking in Glacier National Park.  There were 6 of us and a couple of guys decided to leave early on the last day to get the car.  The rest of us headed out a bit later and kept in contact.  After a while, we realized that they had gone the wrong way and called them back.  Without the radios, they would've continued even further the wrong direction. 


Camp Towel

I was unable to identify the brand of camp towel that I use but it's similar to the PackTowl pictured.

Small and light yet works to dry off after a swim

Water Bladders

Platypus bladders, I have a 2 liter and a couple of 1 liter bladders

Available in various sizes you can fill them up, throw them in the water compartment on the back of your pack and switch the drinking hose when one runs dry.  I usually carry an empty one to fill at the overnight stop so to have plenty of water for dinner and breakfast.  Tip:  try the screw top from a bottle of soda if you lose the lid.

Fork, Spoon

A heat resistant plastic is lightweight and works for cooking.  Metal fork, spoon, knife combos are also popular.

Can Opener

The small, boy scout type can openers work fine and don't weigh a lot

Wicking Shirts

Coolmax Alta, Dri-Fit, or equivalent (non-cotton)

It'll only take you one trip to ditch the cotton.  These synthetic materials dry faster thus keeping you more comfortable in the heat and warmer in the cold.  I usually carry at least 2.

Drinking hose

Platypus knockoff works with the Platypus bladders

You can buy the hose packaged with a bladder; but may be able to find one separately. 

Moisturizing hand lotion, Hand sanitizing lotion Travel Sizes My cuticles will start to split and become painful in the backcountry.  The moisturizer keeps this from happening.  The hand sanitizer kills germs on hands when washing is impractical.

Warm Hat

Fleece or alternative warm hat

A significant amount of heat is lost through your head, cover it up in cool weather.


I use light running gloves when not expecting cooler weather.

If you're going cold weather backpacking, you'll want waterproof gloves


A book/box of matches in a freezer bag

Backs up the lighters.  Might want to purchase waterproof matches.


Small, non-climbing, key chain type carabineers

Tie to clothesline and use to hang your food.  Clip camp shoes and cups to your pack.

Fire Starters

The lightest of the selection

Came in a small plastic bag with about 12 sticks about the size of cigars.  Good for helping start fires.

Whistle, Thermometer, Compass, Key Chain (*) - All in One

Bought at Wal-Mart, easily accessible and clips to your pack or key ring

Combo device adds safety and can let you know how cold it got last night


Moist Towelettes

Wet Wipes

These little handy wipes can make you feel clean

Stove Shield

Might be able to make one out of a wire coat hanger and foil.

Flame/heat resistant wind guard that wraps around stove yet allows proper ventilation.  Can help preserve fuel by heating food faster.

Freezer Bags

Zip Lock or equivalent

Gallon size can be used for trash.  Use others for repackaging food, keeping toilet paper dry, and keeping related items together. 


Use a permanent marker to mark the outside of a translucent bowl at 1/2 cup intervals.  This helps you measure water for cooking.  The Nalgene bottles (above) are marked in ounces & milliliters (1 cup = 8 oz).

Pan / lid

I use the cheapest lightest sauce pan I could find at the store. A lid helps things cook faster and preserves fuel.  I honestly don't use a lid very often; but will on any long trips.


Stuff your clothes in the pillowcase at night and you have a pillow.  May also use the compression sack (wrap your fleece around it).

Rain Pants

Keeps wind from cooling legs at night, put on over convertible pants.  Breathable preferred.  Non-breathable will still keep the wind off; but you'll sweat.

Warm up pants

Use to keep legs warm at night.  Put on over convertible pants.  May not want to pack both rain pants and warm-up pants.  Just be sure to have rain gear of some type.

Gatorade Powder

Helps keep energy levels up and stay hydrated


Depending on the availability of water on the route, I'll usually have 4-5 liters of carrying capacity. 1 L - Nalgene, 2 L - platypus bladder and 2 - 1L Platypus bladders.  I'll start the trip with approx. 1L Gatorade, 2.5 liters water (more or less depending on the distance to the next known water source and temperature).


The smallest and lightest found at the store. Don't need anything fancy

Dental Floss

Use for flossing your teeth and when string is needed.


Hardcore backpackers will cut the handle in half to save weight.  Can use a Tic Tac case to cover the end.


Use as clothesline, use to hang your food

Trash Compactor Bag

Lines the inside of my pack.  This durable plastic bag is several times thicker than a trash bag and can keep contents dry.

More Gear

Bug Spray

Safety Pins

Duct Tape

Toothpaste - Travel Size

Handkerchief / Bandanna

Non-Cotton Socks

Ground Cloth / Tarp

Pot Scrubber

Comb, Brush

Lighter (mini)

Swimming Suit

Trash Bags / Ties

Lib Balm w/Sunscreen 

Multi Tool (*)


Sewing / Repair Kit


Camera - Film - Tripod

(online film and store)

Zip Locking Ties


Permits - Camping, Fishing, Hunting

Map (Waterproof Topographic)


Fishing Pole / Gear


Sock Liners

Undergarments, Long Underwear


Pencil, Paper

Biodegradable Toilet Paper


Itinerary Left With Someone

Watch (waterproof) Belt (non-leather, waterproof)



Trailside Guide: Hiking and Backpacking, New Edition
by Karen Berger


Advanced Backpacking: A Trailside Guide (Trailside Series Guide)
by Karen Berger, Ron Hildebrand (Illustrator)


The Backpacker's Handbook, 2nd Edition
by Chris Townsend


The Advanced Backpacker: A Handbook of Year Round, Long-Distance Hiking
by Chris Townsend


The Backpacker's Field Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Backcountry Skills
by Rick Curtis


101 Essential Tips: Hiking (101 Essential Tips)
by Hugh McManners

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