Prepping for a multi-day hike is one of the most exciting things to us. Packing our backpack with our gear and venturing into the great outdoors is a thrill like no other. Through our experiences, we’ve learned so much about what to bring on a hike and how to pack a backpack. That’s why we wanted to share our knowledge and provide a comprehensive backpacking checklist for you.
When you’re training for backpacking, knowing what to pack is a critical skill for backpackers. You could be in tip-top shape, but you’ll be in trouble without the hiking essentials. Before departing for any backpacking trip, you should always refer to your backpacking checklist. If you don’t, you risk getting into a dangerous situation.
After studying this checklist, you’ll have a vital resource to know what should always be in your backpack. Some items will vary based on where you go hiking, but we’ve covered all the essentials for any multi-day hike. So, grab your backpack and start packing for that next adventure.
If you’re a first-time backpacker and nervous about your adventure, also check out these 12 things you should know
For every hike, there is a list of backpacking essentials you should always have with you no matter what. Whether you’re on a day hike or going on a 7-day backpacking trip, these items should be in your backpack every trip:
- Water – You need enough water to last your entire trek. If your route has no place to refill your water bottle, you’ll need to pack a pouch full of water. A reusable water bottle and a purifier is great when there are natural sources to refill your water.
- Food – Bring the minimum amount of food you’ll need on your backpacking trip. Snacks such as trail mix and granola bars help for a few hours but pack filling meals to cook for multi-day treks.
- Extra Clothes – Other than the clothes on your back, you’ll need extra garments to change into. If you get caught in the rain or it gets freezing at night, extra layers are essential. Our layer system post shows you how to stay warm in any environment.
- Navigation – Whether you use a physical map, compass, or GPS, always know where you’re going on the trail.
- First Aid – If there’s an emergency, have the necessary tools to treat injuries. Pack items like bandages, antibiotic cream, gauze pads, hydrogen peroxide, whistle, insect repellent, and anything else you may need for your specific route.
- Shelter – For multi-day backpacking trips, you’ll always need a tent for shelter. But even for day hikes, having an emergency shelter can also be a lifesaver.
- Fire – Never underestimate how chilly it can get at night and pack the resources needed to start a campfire. But before you start your trip, ensure campfires are allowed in the area you’re hiking. You never want to risk starting a bushfire, and some hiking destinations are prone to fires.
- Knife – A reliable knife serves as protection against dangerous wildlife and helps repair damaged gear.
- Sun Protection – Some environments expose you to fierce amounts of sunlight, and you’ll need protection from UV radiation. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and any other gear that protects you from sunlight.
- Headlamp – If you wind up hiking in the dark, a headlamp is essential to see where you’re going. Make sure you enough batteries to last the entire backpacking trip.
Camping necessities to add to your backpacking checklist
For multi-day backpacking trips, camping necessities are vital for backpackers. You’re going to sleep in the wilderness and need the proper gear to survive the elements. If you’re new to camping, these essentials will show you what to bring on a hike:
- Tent – You always need a roof over your head to protect you from rain, snow, or other adverse weather conditions. The tent should provide warmth for the lowest temperatures you’ll encounter on your backpacking trip. Also check out our guide on what to look out for when purchasing a lightweight backpacking tent.
- Tent Footprint – A groundsheet adds extra protection for your tent in rainy or snowy weather.
- Sleeping Bag – Feel snug and warm at night inside your tent for added protection against the elements. Similar to a tent, your sleeping bag should offer warmth at the lowest temperatures in your environment.
- Sleeping Pad – Sleeping on the ground can be brutal on your body and leave you aching for your next hike. For added comfort, bring a sleeping pad to slide beneath your sleeping bag.
- Repair Kit – If your camping gear gets damaged, you want the needed tools to repair it on the spot.
- Lantern – For light when you can’t see what you’re doing in the darkness.
In addition to the hiking essentials on your backpacking checklist, you’ll need other backpacking gear for your specific route. Depending on where you’re hiking, you may not require all of these items. But you must research your route to know what to bring on your hike.
- Water Purifier – If your route doesn’t offer treated drinking water, you must rely on natural sources (streams, rivers, etc). A water purifier treats the water for bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other nasty organisms that can make you sick.
- Trekking Poles – While not everyone requires trekking poles, they can help you on steep, rocky, or muddy trails. Trekking poles offer added support to ease the pressure on your knees.
- Rain Cover – A waterproof rain cover prevents your backpack from getting soaked during a thunderstorm. And you’ll keep the gear inside your backpack dry.
- Bear Spray – If you’re backpacking where bears live, then bear spray is essential for protection. Make sure you read the instructions to know how to use the spray should you encounter a bear.
- Bear Canister – These containers are designed to prevent bears from getting into your food supply.
- Multi-Tool Kit – Whenever your gear gets damaged, a tool kit can help you make repairs and extend its lifespan.
- Daypack – If there are day hikes from your campsite, a daypack lets you trek without carrying all your gear. Check out our top picks daypacks here.
- Personal Tracking Device – For backpacking trips that take you deep into the backcountry, a personal tracking device helps you send an SOS message during emergencies.
When you’re living in the outdoors, cooking your own meals is essential for survival. And enjoying a hot meal makes backpacking life more bearable after roughing it in the wilderness. From our experience, the best cooking gear keeps it simple and helps you maintain sustainable travel. Our cooking essentials guide covers all the basics for cooking at your campsite. Here’s what we recommend adding to your backpacking checklist:
- Camping Stove – Bring a lightweight, portable stove that can cook a variety of meals. We’ve been able to cook potatoes, pasta, meat, and vegetables on our stove.
- Pots & Pans – Pack lightweight pots and pans that are heat-resistant, have non-stick coating, and collapsible to fit in your backpack.
- Gas Bottle – You can’t use the stove without fuel, and a gas bottle is essential to cook your meals. An alternative is a reusable fuel burner that’s easy to pack.
- Utensils – Keep it simple and bring versatile cookware to help you prepare your hot meals.
- Plates – Pack reusable plates that are heat-resistant and easy to clean.
- Cutlery – An easy-to-pack cutlery set with forks, spoons, and knives to eat your meals.
- Cups – Bring the right cups based on the temperatures you’ll encounter on your backpacking trip. Collapsible cups are always fantastic for your backpacking packing list.
The attire for your backpacking checklist will vary based on the weather of your hiking route. You should prepare for abrupt changes in the forecast and be able to change clothes while trekking. It’s also important to know the type of terrain to ensure you bring the proper hiking shoes. While your specific list may differ, start with these clothing essentials:
- Hiking Boots – For rocky terrain, you’ll need sturdy hiking boots with ankle support. Trail runners are fine when hiking on dirt trails with less incline. Bring waterproof boots for backpacking trips with water crossings.
- Hiking Socks – Wool socks are our favorite to keep our feet warm in the outdoors. Here’s why we think Merino wool socks are the best.
- Several Thin Layers – Wearing multiple layers of moisture-wicking clothes helps you maintain a healthy body temperature. When the weather changes, you can add or remove layers for comfort.
- Wool/Fleece Jacket – An extra layer of protection when facing frigid temperatures.
- Waterproof Jacket – Stay dry and avoid the risk of hypothermia in case of cold, rainy weather. Find out why I never hike without my GORE-TEX rain jacket. We’ve created a rain jacket buying guide, and you’ll see why it’s the top brand on the market.
- Waterproof Pants – Bring trousers that remain dry in a torrential downpour.
- Thermal Underwear – An extra layer of warmth if you’re backpacking in chilly temperatures.
- Gaiters – Extra protection when trekking through water or snow.
- Gloves – Keep your hands warm and dry.
- Scarf – Protection for your face and neck in cold, windy conditions.
- Hat/Beanie – Retain body heat in cold temperatures by protecting your head, face, and ears.
- Spare Clothes – An extra outfit to change into once you’re finished hiking for the day.
Miscellaneous stuff on your backpacking packing list
We’ve covered the basics, but there are other items you should consider adding to your backpacking packing list. These items won’t be critical to your survival but will make your backpacking trip more pleasant. Consider these miscellaneous items when prepping for your trip:
- Personal Toiletries – Pack whatever you need for added comfort on your backpacking trip. This can include a toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant, medications, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes.
- Toilet Paper – If you’re in the backcountry, bring the number of rolls you need for your trip. And the lack of plumbing means you’ll have to seal your waste.
- Hand Towel – For scorching temperatures, you’ll be glad to have a towel when sweating buckets.
- Camera – Stop for scenic photos of your journey to share with your loved ones back home.
We love to hear from you
Thanks for checking out our backpacking checklist for multi-day hikes. Hopefully, this has provided the information you need to pack your backpack for your trekking adventure. If you have backpacking experiences or other tips to recommend, please leave a comment below.
Don’t forget to check out our destination pages to see our favorite places to go backpacking. For more travel tips and inspiration, check out more of our travel tips. And for extra inspiration for your next backpacking trip, check out the greatest multi-day hikes in Europe.