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What To Pack For A Backpacking Trip

Essential Gear For Overnight Trips

For those who want a multi-day hiking adventure, backpacking is for you. When you backpack, you’ll carry everything you need to survive in your pack and camp at various sites along the trail.

Pros: Backpacking is a beautiful way to immerse yourself in nature for an extended period of time. On foot, you’re able to access more remote locations where there are fewer people and more wildlife. Backpacking is a great athletic challenge with the added weight of your pack and the miles covered—so get prepared to get sweaty!

Cons: This is the least accessible option in that it requires more time, planning, and mobility than car camping or day hiking. You need to figure out where you’ll get water, how far you can hike per day, how much food to bring, and be comfortable using all your gear and tools.

It’s good to take a class, research, and talk to friends who’ve done similar trips before you head out. You can bathe in lakes and streams—but it’s obviously not the same as a warm shower!

Overall, backpacking is a bigger commitment but is an amazing way to experience nature, solitude, and self-reliance.

Essential Gear

This list is specifically for warm-weather adventures (temperatures around 50 degrees F and above). When packing your bag, place the larger and heavier items close to the bottom of the pack to maintain your center of gravity.

There are many ways to backpack, including ultralight, which means packing only the most essential items, and purchasing items like tents and sleeping bags specifically built to be ultralight (which often come with a more premium price tag). 


The most important thing to remember is that every piece of gear, apparel, or extras (think books, playing cards, camera gear) means a little bit more weight. A full-sized toothbrush might seem insignificant in terms of weight, but all those little extra ounces of weight add up—especially as you’re hiking uphill after a long day on the trail. 

Consider necessity, size, and ways to cut down on every ounce of weight when packing your bag (cut off the end of the toothbrush or get a small travel toothbrush instead, for instance). Do you really need that extra camera lens? Or can you simply use a smartphone for photos? It’s your weight to carry, choose lightly!

  • Water and reusable bottle or bladder
  • Food that’s lightweight and high in protein, fat, and fiber
  • Cash/debit or credit card
  • 2 pairs of shoes–one for hiking and another to wear in camp or on the drive home
  • Insulated jacket
  • Rain coat
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito/tick repellant or a bug net
  • First aid kit including: band aids, gauze, antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, painkillers, tweezers, insect sting treatment, medical tape
  • Headlamp
  • Map (downloaded or physical)
  • Backpack and rain cover (size: 35 Liters and up)
  • Tent/hammock/tarp
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Inflatable camping pillow
  • Trekking poles
  • Wool Socks (2 pairs)
  • Hiking pants
  • Quick dry top
  • Baselayer top and bottoms (pajamas or for cold days)
  • Midlayer top (fleece or wool)
  • Insulated jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Wool hat
  • Gloves
  • Bear spray
  • Extra batteries for headlamp 
  • Phone charging device
  • Water filter
  • Gas stove and gas canister
  • Lighter/matches
  • Cookset
  • Plastic bags/stuff sacks
  • Spork and knife or multi-tool
  • Gear repair kit
  • Trail permit
  • Whistle
  • Trowel and toilet paper
  • Mini towel
  • Biodegradable soap

Nonessential Items

A few items that can make your trip more comfortable.

  • Hydration tablets
  • Camera 
  • Book
  • Headphones
  • Coffee/tea
  • Spices

This list isn’t exhaustive, and you might not need all of it depending on your location, style of backpacking, and nearby amenities. Safety and first aid kits are a priority, along with plenty of water (about a half a liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures, more in heat or on strenuous hikes). 

Do you know the 7 Leave No Trace Principles? If you’re new to backpacking, brush up on these easy principles to minimize your impact, preserve our outdoor spaces for generations to come, and stay safe while you’re at it. 

With this gear by your side, you’ll be ready to manage any challenges you meet on your next backpacking trip. Come bears or mosquitoes, sunburns or cool nights, you’ll have everything you need to make it through alive and thriving. Here’s to you and your summer adventures. Happy trails!


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Bethany Clarke has her MFA from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Portland, Maine with her partner and their two cats. You can find her art and outdoor adventures on Instagram @bethanymclarke.