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Best Backpacking Checklist PDF Printable

The Ultimate Backpacking Checklist [with FREE PDF]

Every adventurer understands the appeal of gearing up and trekking out into the world. While backpacking can be a great way to save time and money, while still having an amazing journey, many people hold back from trying it. 

No doubt, transitioning from overpacking a massive suitcase to only bringing a backpack can be kind of scary. Getting metaphorically lost in the wilderness can be intimidating, even if you want to. 

However, you'd be surprised how much you can fit in the right backpack. You just need a good backpacking checklist! 

Just think, if you could save so many headaches by knowing what to pack, how to pack, and what backpack to bring.

Luckily, this article will cover anything and everything you need to know about backpacking. You'll learn all about backpacking essentials, and how to make a backpacking checklist. Let's get started!

The Best Backpacking Checklist

  1. What Backpack is Good for Backpacking
  2. How to Pack a Backpack
  3. Free Backpacking Checklist
  4. 10 Backpacking Essentials

What Backpack is Good for Backpacking?

When you’re thinking about what kind of backpack you’ll need, you should consider three very important factors. These are:

Capacity: Whether you’re camping or just hiking, you’ll want to fit as many useful items as possible. Extra clothes, food, water, and hiking gear can all take up a lot of space. With that in mind, you’ll want a larger and cleverly designed bag to fit all of your backpacking essentials.

Weatherproofing: You never know what kind of weather you’ll be hit with while you’re out. Knowing that, having a waterproof bag is super important.

Comfort: You’re going to want a bag with comfortable straps, especially if you’re carrying a lot of gear while hiking.

If you want a new bag for your optimal backpacking list, we recommend the Sunny 16 Voyager. It checks off all of these boxes.

It’s got the size to hold all of your gear (and keep your camera safe), super comfy padded shoulder straps, and is made from a waterproof material.  Its size and structure make it super versatile for any kind of hiking, camping, or photography. By far, it's the best camera backpack for travel.


Is a 40L backpack big enough for backpacking?

A 40L backpack is definitely big enough for a backpacking trip. In fact, it might even be bulkier than you need. You can easily fit a sleeping bag and a tent in a 40L backpack.

But backpacking is all about balance, and if you don’t want an extremely heavy load on your back, we actually recommend having a smaller bag. You might need to be more careful with your backpacking checklist, but you’ll also have a better time on your hike. Just remember that you’ll be most comfortable when your bag doesn’t exceed more than 20% of your body weight.

That’s part of the reason we recommend The Voyager as it’s 31L. This size is a perfect balance, not being as bulky as a 40L, but also having more space than a 25L. 


2. How to Pack a Backpack

Fitting everything you want to include from your backpacking checklist can be overwhelming, but it’s all about how you pack your backpack. The video from above features REI showing us how to pack for backpacking.

The first step is to split your bag up into different sections. Sounds a bit weird, right? But it works!

  • Bottom Section. This is where your bulky stuff goes, and make sure you don’t pack anything you need to access quickly! 
  • Middle Section. This is a good place for dense and heavy items, as the weight of your bag will remain balanced. Many of your backpacking essentials will go here. 
  • Top Section. While this area can still hold some bigger things, this is mainly where you want to pack anything you might need while you’re out. 
  • Accessory Pockets. Even better for quick access. Pack all your small essentials and urgent-use items here. 
  • Loops and Straps. These external storage devices are essential for oversized and long items that you can’t fit in your backpack!

What do I need for a 3 day backpacking trip?

REI Backpacking Checklist - How to Pack for Camping - Backpack

If you’re going on a 3-day backpacking trip, that means you’re going to spend nights wherever you are too. So, if you’re staying in the great outdoors you’ll want to add camping gear to your backpacking packing list. Tents and sleeping bags are always good to pack, even if they’re a bit bulky.

If you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside, you’re also going to want to protect yourself from the elements. Things like sunscreen, bug spray and a rain coat can really come in handy.

Overall, spending 3 days backpacking isn’t so different from spending one day backpacking. You just need to add more of the same gear like clothes, food, etc. to your backpacking checklist.


What should you NOT bring backpacking?

Backpacking Gear Checklist - REI - Bear

From keeping animals away to simple redundancy, here are some things you should scratch from your backpacking checklist:

  • White clothes and cotton clothes. White clothes will just get filthy, and cotton clothes will stubbornly stay wet if it rains. 
  • Shampoo and Deodorant. While there are camping alternatives to them, the traditional versions may attract wildlife. Plus, they’re not Plus, they’re not environmentally friendly!
    • Too much food or perishable food. Bringing either of these things is not only a waste of space, but also poses the risk of spoiling or attracting wildlife

    Free Backpacking Checklist

    Even if you have the perfect backpack on your backpacking list, you don’t want to forget about anything while you’re out backpacking. Luckily, we know just what you need. 

    You can use a backpacking checklist to assemble all of your most important backpacking essentials. And, the best part about a checklist is that it keeps you from forgetting important items. Here are the four most important backpacking checklist categories:

    Backpacking Checklist for Hikes

    REI Backpacking Checklist - Hiking Vista Point

    Hiking is one of the most common activities that comes with backpacking. So, with that in mind, here is our hiking-related backpacking gear checklist:

    ☐ Water bottle

    ☐ Trekking poles

    ☐ Map or GPS

    ☐ Compass

    ☐ Headlamps or flashlights

    ☐ First-aid kit

    ☐ Sunscreen

    ☐ Bug spray


    Backpacking Checklist for Food

    REI Backpacking Checklist - Camping Cooking Overnight

    Even if you’re not staying somewhere overnight, it’s good to have some snacks with you while you’re backpacking. You never know when you might need an energy-booster. However, like when planning for a road trip, you should be careful not to pack too many perishables or to go overboard with snacks.

    Ideally, you should only bring between 1.5-2.5 lbs of food.

    Here’s our backpacking checklist for food:

    ☐ Granola Bars

    ☐ Cereal

    ☐ Protein/Energy Bars

    ☐ Nuts

    ☐ Cheese Sticks

    ☐ Chocolate

    ☐ Fresh Fruit & Veggies

    ☐ Hummus

    ☐ Sliced Bread

    ☐ Crackers

    ☐ Peanut/Almond/Sunflower Butter

    ☐ Jam

    ☐ Spices

    ☐ Rice or Pasta

    ☐ Pre-made sandwiches, burritos, or tacos


    Backpacking Checklist for Clothing

    Ultralight Backpacking Camping Checklist - 3 Day Summer

    While we touched on clothing earlier, this list will go into more detail about what kinds of clothes you should bring with you. Weather plays an important role here, so always do some research on the upcoming weather before you go backpacking. 

    Here’s our backpacking checklist for clothing:

    ☐ Moisture-wicking undies, T-shirts, pants and shorts

    ☐ Long-sleeve shirt

    ☐ Lightweight fleece or jacket

    ☐ Sneakers

    ☐ Rain boots

    ☐ Rain coat

    ☐ Gloves or mittens

    ☐ Socks

    ☐ Sleepwear

    ☐ Sunglasses

    ☐ Sun hat


    Backpacking Checklist for Camping

    REI Backpacking Checklist - 3 Day - Catalina Island

    If you plan on camping during your backpacking trip, you’ll want to include some camping essentials in your backpack camping checklist. Luckily, we’ve got you covered.

    Here’s our backpacking checklist for your campsite:

    ☐ Tent

    ☐ Sleeping bags

    ☐ Blankets

    ☐ Pillows

    ☐ Headlamps or flashlights

    ☐ Camp chairs

    ☐ Lantern

    ☐ Lighter

    ☐ Cook pots and pans (preferability aluminum or cast iron)

    ☐ Eating utensils

    ☐ Cooking utensils

    ☐ Foldable Knife

    ☐ Plates and bowls

    ☐ Mugs and cups

    ☐ Biodegradable soap

    ☐ Pot scrubber and sponges

    ☐ Trash and recycling bags

    ☐ Dish towel


    10 Backpacking Essentials

    Ultralight Backpacking Checklist - Overnight - 3 Day Summer

    Now that you know about all of the backpacking essentials you need, you might be wondering if there's anything else you need. Well, there are particular items you can bring to improve your backpacking experience.

    From camping gear to hiking equipment, here’s our top ten items to add to your backpacking checklist:

    1. The Voyager Backpack Bundle

    The Essential Bundle includes: The Voyager Backpack, Waist Straps and Cable Lock.

    The first on our list of essential backpacking gear, the Sunny 16 Voyager camera backpack is a midsize backpack. Its size and structure make it super versatile for any kind of hiking, camping, or photography.

    This backpack packs a serious amount of gear for its size, fitting two DSLR cameras, up to seven lenses, a laptop, a tablet, and other accessories. It’s made of a waterproof material, making it perfect for any of your travels, rain or shine.

    For comfort, this backpack features both padded shoulder straps and padding on the back made of light, breathable material. You’ll have comfort during extended periods of time wearing it, and keep cool when it’s hot out.

    On top of that, you’ll have quick access during your travels. The Voyager has multiple access points to equipment with both rear access, side access, and a top pocket for your convenience. Having side access as the primary bag opening keeps your equipment safe and close to you.

    Speaking of safety, you can use the hidden zipper and anti-theft clamshell opening to secure your equipment.


    2. Portable Power Bank

    This high-capacity portable charger is a great gift for any backpacker who likes to travel or do long photoshoots. It has 2 USB ports in combination with a 5V / 2.1A and 5V / 1A that provide quality power output.

    On top of that, it’s made from a high quality A + polymer lithium battery to prevent excessive power, overheating and overcharging. That makes it one of the best chargers to add to your backpacking checklist.

    3. Garmin GPSMAP 66st

    REI Backpacking Checklist - 3 Day Camping - Garmin Navigation

    Though essential, many maps can be confusing. Luckily, this handheld GPS provides a whole host of useful information, while also being small and easy to carry.

    The Garmin GPSMAP 66st will give you your exact location, as well as include useful markers on the map. You can see where you’re headed, explore new places, the current time, and even take a look at local weather. It basically combines several tools into one, which will also make your backpack lighter. 

    4. Nemo Dragonfly Tent

    Ultralight Backpacking Checklist - 3 Day Summer

    Though on the expensive side, this tent is an amazing option for any backpacker who’s looking to camp. It’s lightweight and easy to carry before you even set it up. It’s built to be carried on a backpack, with a dual-stage stuff sack that allows you to split the load with a hiking partner.

    However, what makes us recommend this tent is it’s easy set-up, waterproof design, and overall longevity. This tent is truly built to last and withstand harsh weather conditions. 

    5. Platypus Water Filtration System

    REI Backpacking Checklist - Water Hydration

    This water filtration system is a great choice for any backpacker who wants to take advantage of the world around them. With it, you can feel comfortable drinking from any water source you come across. Not only is that fun, but it could also be lifesaving.

    Overall, this product comes with an easy-to-pack reservoir that you fill with water, and a microfilter attachment. With it, you can easily collect water, and then pour it into most water bottles. The filter kills 99.9% of bacteria. 

    6. Morsel Spork

    Backpacking Checklist 3 Day Summer Overnight - Cooking

    The morsel spork is an easy-to-clean cooking utensil that combines the utility of a spoon and fork. However, what truly sets it apart from other sporks or plastic utensils is it’s design.

    It’s large and made of rubber, which is meant to help campers and hikers cleanly consume food. The material also makes it highly durable and reusable. 

    7. Snowpeak LiteMax Stove

    Backpacking Checklist 3 Day - Stove

    You’ve likely seen this backpacking essential in pictures before, and there’s a reason why. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and extremely useful for cooking. It’s only 2 ounces!

    You can use it to quickly make coffee, boil water, or make all kinds of hot food. 

    8. Campers Multi Tool

    REI Camping Supplies Checklist - List of Items

    Why bring a bunch of bulky tools with you when you can have this multi tool? It’ll save space in your travel backpack, and be incredibly useful.

    This particular tool features an axe, hammer, knife, saw, multiple blades, screwdrivers, and more. If you can think of it, this tool probably has it.

    It’s also surprisingly lightweight, at only a pound.

    9. LT5 Three Piece Carbon Trekking Poles

    Backpacking Checlist 3 Day Overnight

    Trekking poles are an extremely useful way to enhance your stability and lessen the pressure on your knees while backpacking. And, there are no better trekking poles than the LT5 Three Piece Carbon Trekking Poles.


    They can be compacted for easy storage and lightweight. They can make your hike much easier, especially if you tend to get joint pains. 

    10. Watertight .7 Medical Kit

    Backpacking Checklist - 3 Day Camping - Medical Kit

    First aid kits might not be the most glamorous piece of gear, but they’re nonetheless one of the most important. 

    This particular first aid kit goes above and beyond. It comes with wound care items, bandages, medications and more. 


    Up Next: How to Become a Travel Photographer

    Now that you know the best tips and tricks for creating your backpacking checklist, let us know in the comments where you plan to backpack next. Once you decide, take the plunge and schedule your trip. 

    And, if you want to learn more about how to take amazing photography on your travels, we've got an article for that too! 

    Up Next: How to Become a Travel Photographer →

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