The Ultimate Backpacking Checklist for 2020

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I still remember my first backpacking without my parents. I made the first mistake by buying an inaccurate backpack. It was too big for me. Then I packed a lot of stuff which led to overweight. When I started hiking, I immediately realized that I was going to have a tough time carrying it.  But I still enjoyed my first backpacking as everyone enjoys anything that’s “First.” You have to kick off at some point or another. Isn’t it?

After so many mistakes in my initial trips, I had learned the art of backpacking. I can call my backpacking an excellent balance of lightweight and comfort now. I am going to share the same in this article so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

You have to consider a few things before you decide on what you want to pack –

  1. Defer your trip if there is a forecast of heavy rain or thunderstorm or heat warning. It is to avoid any type of harsh challenge. You need extra food, gear, clothing, etc. in such extreme weather conditions. Your backpacking will also depend on how long you want to hike and how far-flung your site is.
  2. You should study the map to understand what sort of terrain you are going to walk through and camping. You need different gears for woods, grassland, swamp, etc. You must not overburden your backpack to suit all kinds of grounds.

Let’s Build the Checklist

To make it easier for you, I’ll break down the checklist into different subcategories. It will help you concentrate on one thing at a time. Don’t forget that you don’t have the luxury of space for keeping your materials. Keeping the backpack lightweight is always a challenge for any new backpacker. Any newbie tends to bring excessive heavy equipment with them.

You can download the free checklist from here.

Backpacking Gear

It is the part of the backpacking where you tend to get excited and end up doing over-packing. You have to restrain yourself from over-packing by picking up only vital gear.

Here is a simple list of Backpacking Gear –

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag / Pad
  • Tarp
  • Map & Compass
  • Flashlight / Headlamp
  • Batteries
  • Knife
  • Repair Kit
  • Mess Kit
  • Backpacking Stove
  • Fuel
  • Fire-starter / Matches
  • Utensils
  • Bowls / Dishes
  • Food 
  • Water Container (Collapsible)
  • Water Bottle
  • Bear Canister
  • Snacks
  • Hang Bag
  • Towel
  • Cup / Mug
  • Whistle


  • Trekking Poles
  • Lantern
  • GPS
  • Satellite Messenger
  • Spot Personal Tracker
  • Watch
Backpacking Gear List

Very few people understand the importance of the Repair Kit. I make it a point that I don’t forget to pack it even though I had to use it on a few occasions. What would you feel if you have to sleep on a dripping mattress in the night?

In this era of modern technology, who doesn’t love the gear like GPS? But, please remember that there is no replacement for a map and compass. You’ll never be sure if the mobile network is available there. So, you cannot trust or dependent upon the gear like GPS.

I didn’t get into the details of food and drink intentionally in this article. Eating is a personal thing. It’s not wise to advise people on what they should or shouldn’t eat or drink. My only caution is not to put so many food items that would make your backpack overweight. Whatever food you may be carrying but you should be able to get these ready easily and quickly.  

You can try to find out if there are fire pits or ready shelter available. If so, you can cut down a lot of weight by excluding the kitchen gear.

Personal Stuff

Personal hygiene is always important, whether you are hiking or at home. It’s challenging for most people to live without the elementary stuff like toothpaste, toothbrush, hand sanitizer or toilet paper, etc. even when they are camping.

Personal Stuff list includes-

  • Toothpaste & Toothbrush
  • Toilet Paper
  • Towel
  • Deodorant
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm of min SPF 30
  • Menstrual Items


  • Biodegradable soap
  • First Aid Kits
  • Excedrin Migraine/Aspirin
  • Brush/comb
  • Insect repellent with DEET
  • Sunglasses
  • Book / Kindle
  • Photo ID

A Driving License is something that you can’t afford to forget. You must carry it with you. Always keep additional cash as you never know when you may need it.

Protecting your skin from the sun shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should always carry sunscreen no matter where you are camping. You should have something with min SPF 30. Don’t forget to apply it from time to time.

There is a risk of Lyme disease in almost all the states in the USA, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. So, you should use DEET even if you don’t like it. It’s risky to take it lightly. 

You’re likely to feel pain on the first day. So, you should keep some medications to get relieved from the pain. You can take Excedrin to boost your energy after hiking for a long.  

Clothing & Footwear

There can be a debate on what kind of clothes backpackers should carry with them but, the bottom line remains the same – “Wear Less or dress in layers.” You can still be comfortable with bare minimum clothing if you choose the right kind of clothing carefully.

You must avoid any kind of cotton outfits. It doesn’t get dry quickly and begins to smell. The best option is the synthetic ones. Synthetic clothing is light in weight, dry quickly, and doesn’t smell.  

You should have two sets of clothing –

  1. Use one collection of clothing while you are hiking.
  2. Use Another when you come back to camp for sleeping.

It’s good to have some extra underwear and socks. Having a cap with a brim is a great idea to protect your eyes from the sun.

Find out the weather forecast and make small tweaks in clothing, if needed. For example, if there is a forecast of cold weather, add a few more stuff like wool beanie, jacket, gloves, etc. In case of the forecast of rain, you should add a poncho in your clothing. 

Seasoned campers say no gear is more significant than footwear. Landscape plays a vital role while choosing footwear. If you’re going to hike on rough and stony pathways, you should have boots. Hiking Shoes or Trail Runners are adequate on flat trails. 

clothing & footwear

Here is the list of clothing –

  • Synthetic Pants (Insulated for cold/rainy weather)
  • Synthetic Shorts
  • Additional Synthetic T-shirts
  • Long & Short Sleeve Shirts
  • Rain Jacket & Pants (insulated for cold/wet weather)


  • 2 Pairs of Underwear (Long ones for cold weather)
  • 1 Pair of Sports Bra (for ladies)
  • Gloves (for cold weather)
  • Shoes / Boots according to the landscape
  • 4 Pair wool or synthetic Socks
  • Cap with brim
  • Sandals (Optional)

You can read our article, “Backpacking Tips for Beginners” to learn the following –

  • How to lay out your gear practically?
  • Basic Principles of Backpacking
  • Mental & Physical Preparation

Final Thoughts

Your backpacking checklist gets matured with each trip. You can always polish your checklist based on your experience. There is no hard and fast theory of backpacking.

What I would recommend to you is that you carry a notepad with you. Write down your experience in the notepad. It will help you improve your next backpacking trip.

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