The Complete Backpacking Checklist

Did you know that America is home to some of the best backpacking destinations in the world?

Picture inhaling fresh mountain air, viewing amazing wildlife, and experiencing the epic beauty of nature with every step you take.

Hike the Grand Canyon. Backpack through Alaska’s Inside Passage trails. Trek off the beaten path in Florida’s Everglades hidden hiking destinations.

There are a number of benefits to hiking and backpacking as you can see.

But before you leave for your trip, you’ll need to know what exactly what to pack in your backpack.

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need for the complete backpacking checklist.

Let’s pack.

1. Navigation tools are vital items for your backpacking checklist

Keeping on track is essential when backpacking. You have to be prepared with the right navigational tools when you trek nature’s woods, mountains, and backcountry.

Having one navigational device is not enough.

It’s important to have a variety of navigation backup tools, in case one breaks down.

The last thing you want is to be stranded in the wilderness if your cell phone, Apple watch or GPS signal fails. 

You’ll need three items: two maps, a topographic map and a map of the local area where you are backpacking, plus a compass.

A topographic map will illustrate additional geographic details that an area map won’t display. Some of these geographic elements include boundaries, reserves,  roads, lakes, borders, and paths.

Study your map before you go. You want to know what to expect to on your journey beforehand, especially if you’re hiking alone or with a group that doesn’t know the terrain.

Bring a plastic case or covering to protect your maps and compass from the rain and bad weather.

Test your compass before you leave and have a backup in case it breaks or gets stepped on.

2. Protection against the elements 

The sun gets strong when you’re out there, so you’ll need some items to protect you from those strong UV rays.

The first item is sunblock lotion. Get one with a high SPF protection. You’ll also need to pack sunglasses with good UV protection for your hike.

Other items you’ll need on your backpacking checklist are a hat, bug repellent, and bear spray.

3. Clothing to put on your backpacking checklist

Packing the right clothing for your trip will make you feel comfortable while you snake through the trails in the great wilderness.

Bring different items to layer up. T-shirts can be worn under heavier shirts that can be removed if it gets hot. Bring a sweater for cooler weather.

And, naturally, you’ll need a good pair of hiking boots.

4. A first aid kit–an essential item on your backpacking checklist

A first aid kit will help you in the case of a minor accident. It’s possible to get cut up by the flora in the area and bit by bugs, so you’ll need to take care of any wounds.

You first aid kit should consist of:

  • Anti-bacterial ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Tweezers for splinters
  • Q-tips
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Non-stick sterile pads
  • Adhesive pads in a variety of sizes
  • Compound tincture of benzoin 
  • Antihistamine for allergic reactions

5. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate

Keeping hydrated is key as any experienced backpacker knows. That’s why it’s important to have water on your backpacking list.

Get a hydration reservoir so your hands are free. It’s also known as a hydration bladder and was once popular with cyclists who wanted to ride with their hands- free.

They used to come in hydration packs when they first came out. Now nearly every backpack manufacturer sells a backpack that is hydration bladder compatible.

It makes backpacking and hiking as well as other outdoor sports convenient. You won’t have to reach in your backpack every time you need a drink of water.

Some backpacks come with a single tube you can drink from. Others have several tubes that are connected to the shoulder straps of backpacks.

Hydration bladders come in three sizes: one liter, two liters or three liters.

Make sure you bring your backpack with you to buy the right size for your backpack. If you haven’t bought your backpack yet, consider the kind of hydration reservoir you want before you purchase your backpack.

6. What food to bring on your trip

You want to bring food that’s rich in nutritional value on your trip. But keep it simple and the light, so your backpack doesn’t weigh you down. 

To give you energy for your trip, you’ll need a well-balanced diet. 

Eat good sources of protein, with unsaturated fats, rich in vitamins and nutrients. Don’t bother with foods that take time to prepare. You might not have that option.

Wouldn’t you rather spend your time charting your course than making meals?

If you’d rather take time to prepare a quick meal, here are some simple meals you can make.

Check out these foods that regulate blood flow, keep your heart healthy and your body strong.


One thing you can pick up is trail mix from any store. It’s compact with healthy seeds, nuts and raisins, which are all good for you.

Or bring almonds, walnuts and cashews. These nuts taste great and are rich in nutrients. They have heart-healthy fats.

Cashews help relax the body. Almonds are filled with good stuff like zinc and magnesium, which boost your serotonin levels, which gives you energy and supports your central nervous system. 


Oatmeal is also high in serotonin and great for camping and hiking.

It’s easy to make with hot water and it won’t taste boring if you add some fruit or dried fruits to the bowl or cup. Try bananas, blueberries and strawberries.

Dried fruits

The best dried fruits are berries. Blueberries are high in antioxidants and will help keep that bounce in your step on the trails.

Oranges are another good fruit because it’s rich in vitamin C and good to fight off a cold coming on.


Salmon is a great food and is available in packets for camping.

This fish is rich in Omega 3.

It also balances cortisol levels, a hormone in the body that regulates stress and decreases glucose levels. And it tastes so good.

7. 8 optional convenience items 

Here are some additional items you might want to consider:

  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Camera or smartphone
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tarp or bivy sack
  • Battery stove for cooking
  • Binoculars

Packing the right tools and items on your backpacking list are essential. They’ll enable you to have a safer trip and a more enjoyable backpacking experience.

Our blog provides handy tips and expert advice for new and veteran backpackers and hikers. Visit our blog today to read everything about hiking.

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