The team at Gaia GPS collaborated to build this three-season gear list for multi-day backpacking trips. Get an inexpensive scale and weigh everything before deciding what to pack. Websites like GearGrams and WeighMyGear can help you compile your list and calculate your total pack weight. You may not need everything on this list for every trip, and you may need other specialized equipment for some trips. There are many variations and options—consider this a starting point.
This post is a continuation of How to Plan a Backpacking Trip.
Clothing and Footwear
Trail shoes or hiking boots. With a light pack and straightforward trail walking, trail running shoes work really well. Hiking boots can offer more support when you have a heavier pack or the terrain is uneven. The choice is personal and depends on many factors, but just make sure you have walked miles in your choice before your trip to break them in and find out if any hot spots will develop.
Wool socks. 2-3 pairs depending on the length of your trip and how wet you expect conditions to be. If you expect wet conditions, a pair of “sacred socks” that you only wear in camp and while sleeping, not while hiking, will help keep your feet healthy, warm, and dry.
Gaiters. Optional, but nice for keeping snow, dirt, and rocks out of your shoes.
Camp shoes. Optional. Extra weight and space, but some people like a separate pair of shoes to wear when they get to camp. Crocs are lightweight and dry quickly.
Lower Body Clothing
Underwear. Synthetic or wool underwear dries quickly. Some people swear by cotton underwear for preventing urinary tract infections, so consider carrying a pair of cotton underwear if you have a history of UTIs.
Long underwear. Wool is more expensive, but tends to stink less than synthetic materials.
Hiking pants or shorts.
Puffy pants. Optional. If you expect cold conditions, consider insulated pants, fleece pants, or an extra pair of long underwear.
Upper Body Clothing
Hiking shirt. It’s nice for this to a different layer than your long underwear top so that you can change out of this sweaty layer.
Long underwear top.
Midweight insulated jacket or fleece. Consider two of these depending on the temperatures you expect. A “midweight” jacket usually weighs about 1 pound, depending on the materials.
Wind breaker. In light precipitation, a breathable windbreaker is more comfortable to hike in than a rain jacket, as you often sweat heavily inside a rain jacket.
Head and Hands
Sun hat. Something to keep the sun off of your head and neck.
Warm hat. Fleece or wool.
Lightweight gloves. fleece, synthetic, or wool. Ideally this is something in which you can also operate a stove or tie knots
Mosquito head net. If you expect insects, this is lightweight and makes life much more comfortable.
Buff. Can substitute for a hat in warmer temperatures, protect your face in cold temperatures, and can be used a sleeping mask at night.
Sleeping, Shelter, and Pack
Sleeping bag. Choose an appropriate one for the temperatures you expect – here’s a guide. They usually come with compression sacks. If you expect wet conditions, consider lining the compression sack with a thick trash bag.
Sleeping pad. Inflatable mattresses are undoubtedly more comfortable, but also more expensive and prone to leaking. A humorous comparison: No one ever says “I can’t wait to go to sleep on my foam pad,” and no one ever says “I think my foam pad has a hole in it.“
Pillow. Lightweight options (Sierra Designs, Big Agnes) exist, and may help you sleep better. Some combination of your pack, a water bladder, and extra clothing also works.
Pack. Size and style is determined by the length and goals of your trip. Generally, you’ll want at least a 40 L capacity for a multi-day trip. Here’s a guide.
Trekking poles. Optional, but can save your knees. One is often sufficient. Some tents can be set up with two trekking poles strapped together.
Compactor trash bag. Lightweight and inexpensive way to keep critical items dry. The two mil thickness 20-gallon size is good for most applications.
Bear spray. If applicable for your area, check the regulations of the park or forest you plan to visit.
Tent or Rainfly. Consider a ground cloth or lightweight second sleeping pad if using only a rainfly. Here‘s a guide to choosing a tent for backpacking. Pre-attach utility cord for guy lines in windy conditions.
Stakes. You can also leave these behind and use utility cord around rocks.
Cooking Set Up
Stove. Canister stoves are the lightweight and work for most conditions. Here’s a guide from Outdoor Gear Lab. Make sure to test your stove before you leave.
Fuel. Make sure it works with your stove. MSR has a detailed article on estimating fuel use.
Pot and lid.
Wind screen. Not pictured. Increases fuel efficiency. Only use one if it is compatible with your stove — some have caused explosions with canister stoves.
Pot grips. Makes it easier to lifts pots and pans and stir meals without burning yourself. If your multi-tool has pliers, those work well.
Frying Pan and Spatula. Optional, but it increases your meal options – quesadillas, pizza, toasted bagels are all quick fry pan meals.
Spices and oil. A lightweight spice kit can make your meals much tastier. I carry olive oil, hot sauce, and pre-mixed salt and pepper in Nalgene 1-oz and 2-oz bottles.
Miscellaneous Personal Items, including Emergency Kit
Lighter.Bic Mini lighters are small and fit in a pill bag for waterproofing
Spoon. You can eat anything with a spoon–but not with a knife or fork.
Bowl. Lots of options: lightweight metal, foldable plastic, collapsible silicone. A bowl with a screw top lid, while on the heavier side, can allow you to carry lunch and snacks that can’t be carried in a plastic bag, such as leftover dinner.
Water bottles or water bladder. Bladders with a hose make it easy to drink while walking, but something like a Gatorade bottle is lighter and less expensive. Tie some utility cord around the neck of 16 oz juice bottle and clip it to the hip belt of your pack for a lightweight alternative to a bladder.
Hot water container. Lightweight mug, insulated thermos, or .5 L Nalgene bottle. The .5 L Nalgene can be filled with hot water and taken to bed on cold nights, but they also add weight.
Watch. This basic tool, whether it’s on your wrist or the one on your phone, is an essential piece for dead-reckoning navigation.
Knife or multi-tool. A lightweight multi-tool with knife and pliers can be really useful for cooking as well as repairing stoves and gear.
Water treatment. Iodine or chlorine tablets are simple – drop it in your bottle and wait. Some prefer AquaMira for the taste, but the mixing process is inconvenient. SteriPen (UV light) and pumps are heavier, but offer the advantage of faster treatment. Read a review of options here.
Sunglasses. Crucial for high elevation travel to protect your eyes from UV rays.
Headlamp, with extra batteries. Batteries can be stored in a small pill bag or taped together.
Satellite communication device. The inReach Mini is lightweight and pairs with your phone. You can also get weather forecasts with it.
Firestarter. In case you need to start a fire to stay warm in an emergency situation. Cotton balls covered in vaseline, stored in a plastic bag with an extra lighter, is an effective and inexpensive option. Backpacking Light has a forum with many ideas.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. A small reusable bottle for toothpaste allows you to bring just what you need.
Hand Soap. Washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness.
Hand Sanitizer. When it’s not possible to wash your hands with soap and water, hand sanitizer works well.
Nail clippers. Optional, and dependent on the length of your trip. Trauma shears (see First Aid Kit below) can work too.
Hair management system. Depending on your hair, a lightweight brush or comb, elastic, and bobby pins can be useful. Check out Melanin Basecamp’s guide to managing different kinds of hair in the outdoors.
Personal medications. Bring just what you need in a small pill bag or ather small bottle.
Tampons or pads. Some people also like to use a Diva Cup. Bring an extra plastic bag to carry out waste.
Baby Wipes. Useful for keeping genitalia clean and comfortable. Bring an extra plastic bag to carry out waste.
Pee Rag. Extra bandana used for wiping internal genitalia after urinating. Kula Cloth makes an antimicrobial version.
Toilet paper. Toilet paper must be packed out, so bring an extra plastic bag. To save weight and avoid the mess of carrying used toilet paper, consider natural materials like smooth rocks or snow, or use the backcountry bidet method.
Bug spray. Optional, and if applicable for your area. In my experience, bug spray either doesn’t work at all or doesn’t last very long, making it not worth carrying.
Gaia GPS app on your smartphone. Make sure to download maps to use them offline.
Battery pack and charging cord. Extends the time you can use your phone on a longer trip. 99Boulders has a review of options. For very long trips, some people like solar chargers.
Paper Map and compass. It’s wise to bring backup navigation equipment if your phone is damaged or runs out of battery.
First Aid Kit
Hands on first-aid training is invaluable for managing wilderness medical emergencies. NOLS, SOLO, and Wilderness Medical Associates are well-known wilderness medicine course providers. NOLS has a comprehensive wilderness medicine book that is worth studying. It is best used in conjunction with hands-on training through a class.
The list below is a basic kit that weighs 8 ounces — you may need more or less depending on your objective. NOLS has a more detailed blog post about considerations for a first aid kit.
Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen (800 mg) with acetaminophen (1000 mg every 8 hrs can help with bad pain. Many doctors and hospitals use this combination instead of narcotic pain medications.
Diphenhydramine. For treating allergic reactions. If you have a known allergy that causes anaphylaxis, be sure to bring epinephrine.
Loperamide. For treating diarrhea.
Bismuth subsalicylate (chewable tablets). For treating upset stomach, diarrhea, heartburn, and nausea.
Wound closure strips.
Benzoin tincture. Useful for blisters. A Topical adhesive that helps tape and moleskin stick to your skin.
Moleskin. Useful for blisters.
Kinesio tape. Expensive, but really useful for blisters. The flexibility makes it stick on your feet longer than regular athletic tape.
Sewing needle and thread. A heavier-duty thread works better for repairing tents and clothing
Ripstop tape. Great for patching holes in sleeping bags and clothing.
Seam Grip. A general adhesive for repairing gear.
Tent pole splint. For repairing a broken tent pole.
Utility cord. 3 mm is a good size. This has many uses—extra tent guy lines, repairing broken straps, replacing busted shoelaces are a few examples.
Duct tape. Make into small rolls of 3 feet, or wrap around tent pole splint or pen or you’re bringing one
Inflatable mattress patch kit.