Backpacking packing list: What to bring

Backpacking packing list: What to bring

This is my go-to backpacking packing list for three-season trips in the Sierras (spring to fall) and with some minor tweaks works in other settings as well. My end goal is to have my pack be no more than 40 pounds (preferably less) including all food, bear canister and a full hydration reservoir of water. A good general rule of thumb is to keep the pack under a third of your body weight.

Of course, depending on your gear, how much and what you eat, how many days you will be on the trail and how far apart water sources are, your pack weight may vary. I do carry some items that people might consider luxury, like a pack pillow, but for me, it’s worth the few extra ounces for a good night’s sleep. I share the tent and meals with a backpacking partner, so we generally have one person carry the tent, the other carry the fuel, cookware and eating ware.

In the list below, if I have a product I particularly like, I’ve linked to it. That’s not to say I’ve tried all the competitors, it’s just what I have and would recommend to a friend, like you!

Printable checklist (PDF)

Camp gear

Sleeping bag
Thermolite bag liner (if your sleeping bag isn’t warm enough on its own)
Sleeping pad
Pack pillow
Backpack rain cover
Trekking poles


Hike pants that zip to shorts
Long underwear (top and bottom, for sleeping and otherwise)
Short sleeve wicking shirt (one per every 3-4 days)
Long sleeve layer
Down or Primaloft jacket
Socks (1 pair per day)
Hiking boots
Underwear and bra(s)
Rain jacket
Warm hat and gloves
Camp shoes
Sun hat


Waterproof matches
Biodegradable soap and quick dry wash cloth


Sun block (1 oz for 3 days)
Bug spray
Lip balm with SPF
Hand sanitizer (1 oz. for 3 days)
Bath wipes
Feminine supplies


Extra batteries
Camera or camera phone
Solar charger
SPOT Satellite Messenger for emergencies (we always have one for the whole group)


Steripen with spare batteries
32 oz Nalgene for purifying
100 fluid oz. hydration reservoir, full at start
Iodine tablets and neutralizers, as backup
Electrolyte tablets (older Steripens need minerals in the water to work, so sometimes you need a tiny bit of electrolyte mix in clear mountain water, also good for rehydrating)

General Purpose

2 bandanas
Extra ziplocks (good for trash or other needs)
Kleenex packets (or toilet paper)
Swiss Army knife
Duct tape (wrap some on your trekking poles to save space)

First Aid

Note: For medicines and such, I bring a few single use sized packages or will remove a few single use amounts from a larger package rather than bringing an entire box
Bandaids, various sizes
Emergency blanket
Rehydrating salts
Ace bandage/knee brace
Anti-diarrheal medicine
Eye wash
Neosporin or other antibiotic cream
Medical tape
Personal foot care: insoles, gel toe covers, etc. (This will vary per person)
Alcohol wipes
Burn gel


Bear Canister
Meals and Coffee
Money & Credit Card
Health Insurance Card
Identification Card
Trail map
Paper and pen
Something to read
Post hike change of clothes to leave in the car

Am I missing one of your must-have items? Tell us in the comments!