There is a fine line all backpackers walk between being weighed down with too much gear and not having enough. It can be tricky to pack for this kind of outdoor adventure when you want to be agile enough to climb steep trails or cross streams. We’re here to help with our ultralight backpacking gear list to ensure you have what you need without adding too much pack weight for a longer trip.
Beyond things that simply make you feel comfortable, you also need the things that keep you safe out on the trail. You might find yourself staring at a pile of clothing, gear, and equipment strewn across your living room floor thinking “how on earth will I carry all of this?”
Rather than getting overwhelmed by the options, use our backpacking essentials checklist. You’ll be sure to get out into the woods with just the right amount of hiking gear and supplies. This list is designed for the average three-day backpacking trip in mind. However, you’ll be well prepared for outdoor life with these simple (but important) backpacking items that meet our high gear review standards.
For specific recommendations on clothing check out some of our other articles below:
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What You'll Learn
1. First Aid Kit
Every backpacker needs access to basic first aid supplies while out on the trail. Adventure Medical Kits are designed for hikers and backpackers who need to use as little space in their packs as possible but also need access to this backpacking essential in case of an emergency. The Ultralight / Watertight Medical Kit .9 is designed for a hiking trip lasting 1 to 4 days. It includes trauma pads and dressings, an irrigation syringe, wound closure strips, and more, all in a pack weighing less than 8 ounces.
Your backpack is the centerpiece of your gear, and it should be both lightweight and durable. Not only should the bag be designed with efficient packing in mind, but feel comfortable against your body. The last thing you want on a three-day hike is a pack that chafes your skin.
The Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 is an excellent choice thanks to its X-frame design. It’s able to manage load distribution, numerous points of adjustment, and inner compartment to store wet or soiled items. Also, the hip belt pockets, and incredibly strong nylon and polyester construction make this pack a favorite among experienced hikers and backpackers. It’s roomy enough to hold everything from your water bottles to clothing, sunscreen, food, and more.
Some backpackers forego the tent and take the risk when it comes to weather. But if you want to play it safe there are plenty of lightweight backpacking tent options to stash in your pack.
The NEMO Dagger OSMO 2 person tent gives you a floor area of 31.3 square feet and a peak height of 42 inches all while weighing in at less than 4 pounds. Made of recycled fabric for a low impact on the environment, the NEMO Dagger OSMO boasts thoughtful details like gear and nightlight pockets as well as door clips.
Having an option for shelter in cool weather and warm weather is always a smart idea, plus you never know when a storm can roll in. Consider packing a tent repair kit as well, just in case!
4. Sleeping Pad
A sleeping pad makes a tremendous difference when it comes to camping comfort, and we love the Mountain Equipment Aerostat Down 7.0 Sleeping Pad. Taller backpackers will be thrilled to find this comes in both regular and long sizes, and the pad weighs less than two pounds for easy portability.
Filled with 700-fill power pure duck down, this pad also does a tremendous job of providing added warmth. If you’re a backpacker trying to catch some Zs in cold weather, then the included windsock provides an easy way to inflate the pad. Also, it comes with a stuff sack too!
5. Sleeping Bag
The Hyke and Byke Eolus Sleeping Bag is ultralight but provides plenty of warmth in cooler temperatures. Available in four color combinations and long, regular, or short sizes, this sleeping bag is made of durable nylon and is water repellant. With the Eolus bag and a quality sleeping pad, you will get the rest you deserve after a long day of outdoor adventure.
6. Cooking Stove
Innovative gear designers have found ways to create extremely compact cooking stoves for use on the trail, with no better example than the Snow Peak LiteMax Stove. It weighs just 1.9 ounces with dimensions that won’t take up too much room in your pack (3 x 2.7 x 1.3 inches). This camping stove can boil water in under five minutes. What’s more, the price is under $100 to boot!
The backpacking stove has a folding arm design that is helpful when it comes to packing. Don’t forget to purchase Isobutane-propane, since fuel isn’t included.
7. Utensils and Dishes
Save room in your backpack with one utensil that can do it all: the spork. Snow Peak’s Titanium Spork is all you need to enjoy meals on the trail. This durable and lightweight utensil can be used throughout any backpacking adventure, and you can also couple it with Snow Peak’s popular Titanium Single Wall Cup. The clever foldable handle on this cup makes it easy to pack and carry with you as you hike.
A variety of backpacking food and beverages can be eaten with these simple tools. Also, you don’t want to weigh yourself down carrying more than you need. The titanium is durable enough to place on a stove. You can be assured it will not leave a metallic taste in your mouth when you drink your morning coffee and snack on trail mix.
8. Water Filter
Proper hydration is critical for backpackers. You must always play it safe when it comes to accessing clean drinking water from a given water source.
Sawyer Products makes a mini filtration system at an affordable price, great for campers and backpackers on the go. With a .5-liter capacity, this system can attach to water bottles, hydration packs, or the drinking pouch that is included with the system.
You should count on drinking at least two cups of water for every hour of hiking. While it can be tempting to just “press on” without it, you might pay the price later in the form of fatigue. Hydration is an absolute must for a safe day of backpacking. Certainly, be prepared with a filtration system and at least one reusable water bottle.
A sleek and compact multitool is often a hiker’s best friend. You should never set out on the trail without one, and we love this affordable tool from Cabela’s.
The Cabela’s Multitool with Sheath packs an amazing 8 tools into a compact frame, with a closed length of only three inches. This handy problem solver can be used for everything from removing a splinter to repairing a broken zipper on your backpack. Best of all it slips easily into your pocket!
Do not forget to protect your skin during backpacking adventures with high-quality sunscreen. Whenever possible choose fragrance-free products so you will not attract insects!
The Thinksport SPF 30 Stick is lightweight and easy to carry, providing excellent coverage without ingredients that are harmful to the environment. It is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and customers report that this sunscreen absorbs quickly and never feels greasy.
For long days of backpacking, be sure you are reapplying often. And remember that even on overcast days, you can still get a sunburn. Nothing can ruin a three-day hiking adventure more than a blistering sunburn on day one!
11. Bathroom Supplies
Finally, every backpacker should prepare for the “pit stops” you will inevitably have to make in the great outdoors. A small shovel will come in handy as will biodegradable wipes.
In addition, you can also use Combat Wipes on the face and body to clean up after a long hot day of hiking. They are friendly to the environment as well as your skin, with an alcohol-free formula infused with aloe and vitamin E.
Beyond these general recommendations, every backpacker may have their specific needs. Perhaps your asthma demands you carry along a rescue inhaler, or a bee allergy means you will always have an epi-pen in your pack. As long as you smartly pack your hiking gear staples, you should be able to save room for personal items like your air pods or a book to read in the evening.
It is always a good idea to put all of your items in your pack and do a little test run, up and down your stairs or even in your backyard. Try this while wearing your hiking clothing as though you’re out on the trail. Include your hiking boots or hiking shoes, your wool socks, a rain jacket, and your trekking poles (if applicable) so you can get a true feeling of how much your body is expected to carry. You may find you can live without a few items on your packing list if it means a lightweight backpacking experience, but never leave behind the items that matter most to your safety.
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Last update on 2022-07-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API