Ultimate Backpacking Checklist for Beginners

man standing on cliff edge | Ultimate Backpacking Checklist for Beginners | featured

Ready for your outdoor activity? Run through this backpacking checklist before your trip to make sure everything is all set!

In this article:

RELATED: Camping Checklist: Tips for a Safe Fall and Winter Camping Trip

Backpacking Checklist for the Beginner Backpacker

— This post is courtesy of the Survival Life shared with permission —

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What Backpacking is All About

Backpacking is an outdoor experience that takes a more adventurous spin to your camping trip.


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Far away from the comforts of having a car or cabin close by, backpacking tests your survival skills and challenges you to become more inventive on your days deep in the wilderness.

With the limited number of items on your back, this outdoor adventure calls for resourcefulness and creativity far beyond what a typical camping trip would ask for.

If this is your first time going on a backpacking trip, check out some tips that we have to help you get started.

What to Follow for First Time Backpackers

1. Take a Simple Route

person with map in the woods | camping gear checklist

Don’t go overboard on your first backpacking trip. Starting small is better than finding yourself lost in the woods.

Also, if you have a backpacker friend who knows the destination well, ask them if they can tag along and help you out on your first try.

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2. Prepare a Meal Plan

cooking grill | camping checklist

Your first backpacking trip may not be the best time for you to try searching for food in the wilderness.

Having easy-to-cook meals, energy bars, or a cooking kit to help you prepare food will definitely help you go through your activity without a hitch.

We’re not against you challenging yourself by foraging or looking for survival foods, but maybe you can put this off, at least until you’re more familiar with the activity and have more experience.

3. Have a Backpacking Checklist

camping items | what to bring during backpacking

A backpack is a holy grail for any backpacking trip. It contains backpacking essentials that should last you from the start until the very end of your adventure in the wilderness.

While there is no one-size-fits-all backpacking gear list, there is a fool-proof approach to help you succeed on your first backpacking trip.

Check out this guide on how to create a backpacking checklist perfect for you.

What Your Backpacking Checklist Should Contain

While you can find many backpacking checklists online, the best way to go about packing for your trip is by planning and visualizing the things that you will do on your trip.

After plotting your activities out, ask yourself: What will I need in this specific activity? How can I make things easier?

By approaching your checklist in this manner, you will leave little to no space for errors. This will help you narrow down what you think you will really need, lessening the chances of you over-packing.

After all, having too much carry-on will make the trip harder on you the longer you have to carry your backpack.

To help you make your backpacking gear checklist, here’s an easy-to-follow guide that focuses on important aspects of your trip.

You can make use of this as you visualize the activities you will have to allow you to focus on essentials depending on your specific needs.

1. Navigation

compass in mountains | backpacking gears

How are you going to get to your backpacking site? And how will you make sure you will navigate safely in the woods?

Make sure that you have everything that you will need on hand, from permits for your trip to maps or compasses that will serve as your guide in the wilderness.

Consider adding these to your backpacking checklist:

  • Map / Compass
  • Cellphone with a portable battery or a solar-powered charger
  • Flashlight
  • Necessary permits for entry, etc.

RELATED: [Watch This] Essential Checklist For Your Wilderness Survival Kit

2. Shelter

tents in the woods | camping gear

Your shelter can come in all shapes and sizes. Some bring tarps they can set up, while others make use of regular tents for camping.

Plan to have some sort of shelter at the end of the day to keep you and your belongings safe from animals and other forces of nature.

Consider adding these to your backpacking checklist:

  • Tent / Tarp / Hammock
  • Stakes
  • Insect Mesh
  • Ground Cover

3. Sleep

sleeping bag on grass | sleeping bag

Building on the items you should bring to help you secure a place for shelter, you should also take into consideration how you can sleep comfortably and safely through the night.

Being in the wilderness does not automatically mean that you should sacrifice your comfort. Pack sleeping essentials for you to have a good night’s rest in your backpacking trip.

Consider adding these to your backpacking checklist:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Camping blanket

4. Food and Water

camping food | gear checklist

Your source for food and water is the last thing you would want to worry about.

To avoid encountering problems related to this, one thing you can do is to study your trail beforehand if there are available resources to help you understand the area.

Try to find out if there is any potable water you can drink or sources you can get food from. But again, the better solution is to just bring your own food and water so you’re confident that what you’re consuming is safe.

After all, having an upset stomach during a backpacking trip will not only ruin the fun for you but may also be dangerous.

Consider adding these to your backpacking checklist:

  • Potable water/filter
  • Cooking kit
  • Firestarter
  • Energy food/drink
  • Food bag

5. Clothes

man in camping clothes | backpacking

Since you’re going to be hiking most of your time in the woods, make sure that the clothes you are wearing are appropriate for the weather and temperature in your area.

Check possible weather changes too, so you can pack necessary clothing to help you adjust.

Consider adding these to your backpacking checklist:

  • Hiking attire and footwear
  • Protective glasses
  • Moisture-wicking clothes
  • Weather-appropriate clothes (jacket, vest, etc.)

6. Emergency

first aid kit red white cross | backpacking gear

Last but not least, be sure that you have items to aid you in the slight chance that you would encounter an emergency.

No matter how easy the trail is going to be, backpackers always need to be on the lookout for possible dangers in the wilderness.

While prevention is key, we sometimes need to rely on contingencies. Make sure you are ready for anything.

Consider adding these to your backpacking checklist:

  • First Aid Kit
  • List of important hotlines
  • Firestarters
  • Whistle

Here’s a sample list to help you as you pack for your backpacking trip. Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy infographic for reference:

Ultimate Backpacking Checklist Infographics | camping gear

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Again, let this serve as a guide and not a final list for you to solely rely on. Do a bit of research and understand the activities you want to do.

The ultimate backpacking checklist, after all, is one that will cater the most to your needs, which you will know best!

Any item you wish to add to your own personal checklist? Share them with us in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 13, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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