What To Bring On a Backpack Trip?

Many people have asked me: “What should I bring on my backpacking trip?”

This is a tricky question to answer and varies from person to person. For instance, a person who is glamp-packing is going to be more concerned with comfort whereas an ultralight backpacker sacrifices these things in favor of speed and lighter weight/stealthiness. Either way, this is a list of what I prefer to bring on my backpacking trips (and for what it’s worth, I tend to be closer to an ultralight backpacker than a glamp-packer).

1. Food


Everyone’s body is different and requires different amounts of calories. I try to bring approximately 1500-2000 calories of food per day. I like to plan this out by sorting my food in columns, as shown above (ignore the table ornaments 🙂  ). One day’s meal may look like this:

Breakfast – 1 pack of oatmeal (120 calories)

Lunch – 1 ProBar Meal Replacement Bar (300 calories)

Dinner – 1 Mountain House dehydrated meal (450 calories) – cooked in its own bag

Snacks, electrolytes, etc… – 2 Kind Bars (300 calories), 3 packs of electrolyte chews (300 calories), 2 servings Cytomax drink powder (200), 1 protein bar (200 calories), 2 tea bags (0 calories)

2. Toiletries and Personal Items

What I bring:

1 small toothbrush (handle broken off to save on room used)

1 small tube of toothpaste

1 travel size deoderant

1 contact case

1 travel bottle of saline solution

pair of glasses

toilet paper (depends on how much you use, women will probably use more. for me 1 normal roll lasts 3-4 days at least)

1 travel bottle of sanitizer

1 travel floss container (optional, I like having it)

Deet-based mosquito spray (usually 1 bottle of 30% deet lasts a few days for me)

Sunscreen (usually 1 oz. per day is enough for me)

3. Survival

1 backpack (duh! size dependant on how long you’re out. I use a 35L pack for anything up to 4 days)

1 backpack rain cover

1 sleeping pad

1 sleeping bag (15 degree bag for me in all conditions, can be unzipped if too hot)

1 first aid kit (these vary. I recommend every first aid kit have moleskin, band-aids, disinfectant, benadryl, ibuprofin, diamox (altitude sickness), anti-sting gel, cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly (also good firestarter), and anti-chaffing gels (Chamois butter is my preferance, comes in small sample packs)

1 emergency kit (paracord, tick remover, lighter, few purification tablets, compass, signal mirror)

1 headlamp (I like the Black Diamond Spot/Storm)

1 stove (I use the Gigapower from Snowpeak. note: It also comes with its own firestarter)

stove fuel (usually I allocate 50g of isopro per day to be on the safe side)

1 pot (I use the Snowpeak Titanium 500mL) with a foil lid

1 spork

1 water filter (I like the Sawyer Squeeze for personal use or the Katadyn Hiker when with others)

1 empty water bottle (can use with filter and is great for mixing water with electrolytes)

1 3L Camelbak Bladder

1 tiny multitool (Gerber Gurve is great and light)

1 serrated knife (Gerber Paraframe is a good value)

Pair of trekking poles (I also keep duct tape wrapped around these for emergencies)


Bear vault or stuff sack for food (don’t forget a couple ziplocs for garbage!)

Ipod with a passive speaker for music (passive speakers are light and need no batteries)

Solar charger for Ipod/phone (I like the Solio Bolt)


GPS (I like the Garmin Etex 20 with 24k maps)

4. Clothing

I wear socks, shoes/boots, light long pants (REI Venturi are great!), a light running shirt under a longsleeve button-down hiking shirt, and a pair of boxers (ExOfficio is absolutely the best). In addition to these I bring in my pack:

-extra pair of boxers

-extra pair of socks

-pair of lightweight running shorts (Brooks are very lightweight and pack small)

-knit hat (warmth)

-baseball cap (sun protection)


-down jacket (Outdoor Research Maestro is super warm and light)


-1 rain jacket and pair of rain pants (REI Ultralight/Rainwall series is lightweight, small, and a good value)

Some bonus tips on saving weight and carrying less

1. A headlamp pointed at a full water bottle will function as an effective lantern because the water refracts the straight beam of light. Keep the lantern at home!

2. A bear cannister doubles as a great stool

3. A jacket often functions as a great pillow for sleep at night

4. Long sleeve shirts and long pants function as sun-relief and will require you to bring less sunscreen

5. Remove any wrappers before you go on a trip and put items in ziploc freezer bags. These can also be used for cooking dehydrated food.

6. Tent guylines double as great clotheslines

7. A lighter weight jacket can be brought on most trips and the sleeping bag can double as a secondary insulation layer when hanging out around camp.

8. Bringing the aforementioned pair of running shorts will double as a minimalist towel.

9. I always bring my wallet (cash included) and phone with for emergencies, along with the key for my car (when I drive). I only take my car key and leave other keys in the car to save a few ounces.

10. I like to use caribiners to attach some quick-access items to the back of my pack. These items include the solar charger, pack cover, pot (with stove/fuel in it), sunscreen, and bug repellant. These will allow you to fit at least 2-3L more of stuff in your pack.

11. Keep your first day’s food out of your stuff sack/bear cannister. I keep mine in my pack’s lid pocket. This will allow you to put more stuff into your food sack/cannister. If you have extra room in your bear cannister, fill it with your stove, toiletries, any anything else.


What works best for you? Any tips you’d recommend that are missing from this list?


Posted on August 12, 2013, in backpacking, hiking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I would add that you can also use your extra clothes as a pillow by arranging them in a stuff sack or your sleeping bag sack. And don’t forget the dry sack to keep your clothes, phone, etc. dry in case you fall in a creek or get caught in a downpour before you can put on the rain cover.

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