Backpacking Gear List: Things to Pack for Any Adventure
Whether you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail for the next six months or backpacking around Europe for two weeks, packing for an outdoor adventure can be tricky. You want your bag to be as lightweight as possible — but still contain everything you need for your trip.
How do you know what to take and what to leave behind? All you need is the right backpacking gear list to tell you what things to pack for any adventure.
A Rucksack to Hold All Your Gear
When you go backpacking, what’s your most important piece of gear? You’re going to be traveling a lot of miles on foot, so a lightweight, structured bag like the TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack is a must.
Rated at 4.5 stars on Amazon, the Sports Scout is one of the most popular rucksacks available today. It’s roomy but still lightweight, and it fits a wide range of body sizes, making it suitable for both men and women. At less than $100, it would be hard to find a better deal.
A Headlamp So You Don’t Get Lost In The Dark
Whether you’re backpacking through the Outback, jogging down the street at night or simply taking out the trash in the dark, a hands-free light is an essential tool. Everyone should own a headlamp like the LuxoLite Headlamp, which gives you all the visibility you need at a budget price of less than $15.
The LuxoLite has two separate push buttons to select white or red light, and you can set the exact brightness you want without cycling through a bunch of different modes. Long-lasting battery life means it will last for the duration of your trip. At just 3 ounces, it won’t add any weight to your pack either.
A Quality First Aid Kit
Anything can happen when you’re backpacking, from minor blisters and scrapes to sprains and strains — maybe even a bear encounter! Okay, you probably won’t really encounter a bear, but a handy kit like the Surviveware Small First Aid Kit for Backpacking can take care of all those other minor injuries you could suffer out in the woods.
At around $40, this might seem like a pricey first aid kit, but it’s worth it. Why? It’s lightweight so you can easily pack it along, plus it comes with everything you might need on the road — a variety of bandages, antiseptic wipes, personal medicine mini bags and much more.
When it comes to packing toiletries for a backpacking trip, you just need to remember one thing: Only pack the essentials! For starters, Squeeze Pod Travel Size Toiletries come in small, easy to use pods that are perfect for tossing into your pack when you’re on the go. After all, when you’re in the backcountry, there’s no need for makeup, hair styling products or even a razor. All those things just take up precious rucksack space and add weight.
Each product in this set — body wash, shampoo and conditioner — is made with all-natural ingredients, and the packets are leak-proof and recyclable. A pack of 30 single-use pods costs less than $25.
A Variety of Clothing
In many locations, it can be sweltering during the day and downright cold at night, or raining one minute and bright and sunny the next. No matter what the weather is doing, clothing made from synthetic materials, such as the Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail II Convertible Pant work best.
Made out of 96% nylon and 4% elastane, these pants keep you cool in summer and warm in winter, making them perfect for venturing outdoors. It’s important to pack a variety of clothing that is appropriate for all weather and climates. At less than $50, these pants get you started at a bargain price.
Wool Socks to Keep Your Feet Dry
There’s a saying in the backpacking community: Cotton kills. In contrast, these SmartWool Men’s Hiking Socks will keep your feet dry and protected through all kinds of weather. Made out of 66% merino wool, they let your feet breathe and keep them at a comfortable temperature year-round.
Cotton can’t do that. When it gets wet, all the air pockets in the fabric fill up with water. That means if you get stuck in the rain or even just get sweaty, cotton clothing will soak up water like a sponge. It’s a recipe for disaster. Stick to wool options like this one for between $19 and $25 per pair.
Ear Plugs and an Eye Mask So You Can Get Some Rest
Whether you’re sleeping at a crowded campsite or a noisy hostel, it can be difficult to get quality sleep when you’re not at home. The Bedtime Bliss Sleep Mask and Moldex Ear Plug Set can help you catch some shuteye, no matter the conditions.
Perfect for men or women, the soft and comfortable eye mask is ideal for blocking out light, whether it’s coming from a street lamp or a full moon. The included earplugs and carry case ensure that no loud noises will disturb your slumber. For about $10, this set can help you sleep well and wake up refreshed.
A Hat for All Kinds of Weather
Whether you’re out on the trails or walking down the street, a boonie hat sounds silly but always comes in handy. The Camo Coll Outdoor UPF 50+ Boonie Hat provides UV protection in the summer and cold protection in the winter and keeps your face safe from the sun and wind. Added bonus: There’s less chance ticks will end up in your hair!
The hat costs less than $15 and comes in a huge variety of colors. Made out of soft, comfortable fabric, it offers UPF 50+ protection and is vented for hot days. An adjustable string makes sure it stays put, even on the windiest days.
Camper’s Toilet Paper So You’re Always Prepared
If you’re an experienced backpacker, you already know toilet paper is essential, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got room to tote around bulk packs of Charmin. Coleman Camper’s Toilet Paper provides comfort and hygiene in a compact, easy-to-carry format.
If you’re hiking your way through the backcountry or you’re visiting a part of the world that doesn’t provide toilet paper, make sure you’re prepared. Leaves don’t really cut it. Each pack contains three biodegradable rolls that will easily fit into any backpack, and the case doubles as a dispenser. At less than $6 a pack, you can’t afford to go without.
A Water Filtration System
Unless you’re Bear Grylls, you probably don’t know how to filter water using an old sock and some gravel — and who would want to drink gravelly water anyway? A simple water filter like the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter makes the process a lot easier and very compact.
Whether you’re backpacking through a country that doesn’t offer potable water or through an uninhabited stretch of forest, LifeStraw gives you a viable alternative to risking contamination. The portable filter can clean up to 1,000 liters of water without using any harsh chemicals, and it removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria — not bad for less than $20!
Quick Dry Travel Towel
If you missed it before, rucksack space is at a premium in the wild, so as much as you might want to pack a nice, cushy bath towel, you just don’t have room. Luckily, this compact little Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel works just as well in a compact form.
This lightweight travel towel adds mere ounces to your pack, plus it dries super fast so you don’t have to worry about your gear stinking like wet towel later in the day. Even better? A portion of all proceeds goes to the Elephant Sanctuary in Laos. At less than $15 for a medium towel, it’s a steal.
Wipes So You Can Clean Up Wherever You Are
Some days, you just don’t have the energy (or the means) to take an actual shower. On days like that, these Combat Wipes Active Outdoor Wet Wipes can take care of the problem. Unlike regular wimpy wipes, they are extra thick and extra large, so they can actually get you clean.
The Combat wipes retail for about $7 a pack and were developed by real soldiers who know what it’s like to survive in harsh conditions and go without a shower for days. The wipes they created are not only durable, but biodegradable so you can bury them in the ground, and they will naturally break down.
A Quality Pair of Hiking Boots
If you’re backpacking, you’re walking — a lot. Make sure your feet are protected in a good shoe like the KEEN Targhee II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot, which comes in both men’s and women’s styles. After all, you can’t enjoy your hobby if you don’t take care of your feet. Whether you’re climbing a mountain or climbing some museum steps, a good pair of hiking boots will come in handy.
These boots retail between $110 and $159, and the waterproof design keeps your feet dry, while the arch support keeps them comfy. Even better? The aggressive lug pattern will keep you steady on even the most uneven terrain.
A Lightweight Tent
There are many different types of tents out there, but when it comes to backpacking, only one thing matters: weight. This ultralight three-season Featherstone Outdoor Backpacking Two-Person Tent is the perfect choice.
With your rucksack already packed full of gear, the last thing you want is to lug around a heavy tent on your adventure. At only 3.8 pounds, this tent is light enough to take everywhere you go but rugged enough to withstand harsh conditions. At less than $100, it’s a bargain you shouldn’t miss.
A Quality Sleeping Bag to Keep You Warm
After a long day of walking, nothing feels better than laying down on a nice soft bed. That’s a bit of a challenge outdoors, but it’s still possible with the Abco Tech Sleeping Bag. At just 3 pounds, the bag is fairly light, and it’s also inexpensive.
Whether you’re exploring the city or the outback, you need a quality sleeping bag with an appropriate temperature rating so you can crash in comfort come bedtime. The trick? Finding one that will fit in your ruck. This particular bag isn’t very compact, but for less than $30, you may want to see if this four-season bag is right for your backpacking adventures.
Dehydrated Meals for Your Convenience
Freeze-dried meals are lightweight, filling and perfect for backpacking. Bonus: Some like the items in the Mountain House Essential Bucket are even tasty. This particular bucket comes with enough meals to last 3.5 days, making it the perfect option for backpacking, camping, hiking and even short-term emergency preparedness.
The pouches are lightweight and don’t require refrigeration, and prep is as easy as adding a little water. Even better? You can eat directly out of the pouch, so no plates or utensils are required. Although this bucket is full of dinner options, Mountain House offers several other varieties. Each bucket retails for roughly $75.
Sunglasses to Keep Your Eyes Protected
Even if you’re going to a cold locale, don’t assume you don’t need eye protection. Sunglasses are always a necessity outdoors, and at less than $25, the Duduma Polarized Sports Sunglasses are an excellent option for minimizing light exposure on your outdoor adventures.
The polarized lenses offer 100% UVA and UVB protection against the sunlight and cut out all glare. As an added bonus, the sunglasses restore true color, so whatever vistas you’re looking at will appear even more stunning!
Bear Spray to Keep the Bears Away
People always say that bears are more afraid of you than you are of them, and it’s probably true. Your chance of getting attacked by a bear out in the woods is slim to none, but Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray is definitely one of those “better safe than sorry” products.
It’s likely you’ll never need to use it, but if you do encounter an angry bear, you’ll definitely be glad you have it! For less than $30, it’s worth the cost of throwing it in your pack.
Universal Travel Adapter
Even if you’re backpacking in the backcountry with absolutely no access to civilization, you have to emerge and power up at some point. If your phone is long dead from your journey, you may need a Universal Travel Adapter to plug in and recharge, no matter where you are in the world.
This device is something that’s worth investing in for any traveler. The key is choosing a quality adapter because cheaper models may not work well and could even damage your electronics. At around $30, this adapter might seem pricey, but the quality is worth the investment.
Bug Spray So You Can Stay Bite Free
Backpacking is a lot of fun — until the bugs start eating you up. Your best bet is to spray yourself and your gear with a DEET-containing product, such as OFF! Deep Woods Sportsmen Insect Repellent. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the U.S. or abroad, if you’re on a multi-day hike or an overnight camping trip, you will need it to ward off the bugs.
Besides being annoying, but bites are dangerous. Mosquitos, ticks and other insects spread countless infectious diseases. The odorless formula in this product provides hours of protection against mosquitoes, biting flies, chiggers, ticks and fleas so you can enjoy your time outside. You can get a three-pack for around $25.
A Waterproof Jacket
Unless you’re backpacking in the Sahara, eventually you’re going to get caught in a rainstorm. A lightweight, packable option like the Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 Rain Jacket can make the experience much more pleasant — maybe even enjoyable.
An adjustable hood and cord keep your hair and face as dry as possible, and a down storm flap over the zipper helps keep your body dry. These jackets run between $12 and $25, depending on size and color.
A Travel Camera So You Can Capture All Your Fun Moments
If you want to capture all the beautiful scenery and wonderful moments on your trip, you need something much better than the camera on your cell phone. When it comes to travel cameras, the Panasonic Lumix ZS50 has always been a favorite.
The camera excels at macro and action shots and offers an amazing bang for your buck. At around $250, you get a high-quality camera that takes amazing shots in a variety of different situations.
A Backpacking GPS to Keep You on Track
If you’re heading out hiking in the backcountry all by yourself, it’s easy to get lost. A handheld GPS like the Garmin ETrex 10 Outdoor Handheld GPS Navigation Unit can keep you heading in the right direction, no matter how far you hike into the wilderness.
Even if you’re an expert navigator, there are times when trails have been poorly maintained, or debris is blocking your path. Don’t risk ending up totally off track. The unit works for up to 20 hours continuously and is waterproof to boot. It’s a total steal at less than $90.
Trekking Poles to Help Maintain Your Footing
Trekking poles aren’t always necessary, and using them increases your energy expenditure. However, if you have balance issues, bad knees or difficulty navigating inclines, then poles like the Cascade Mountain Tech Aluminum Adjustable Trekking Poles can be a God-send.
For less than $23, the poles are a great lightweight option for your backpacking trip or long hike. Cork grips, an aluminum body and adjustable height all make them a total steal at such a great price.
A JetBoil for Cooking on the Go
Freeze-dried meals aside, cooking in the field can be tough. Even if you’re staying in a hostel, hot food options might be limited, which is where the Jetboil Zip Camping Stove Cooking System comes in to play. It’s hands-down the best thing to happen to backpacking since the invention of the lightweight tent.
The JetBoil’s easy-to-use system boils water in just over two minutes, making it super fast and simple to make everything from tea to oatmeal to packaged noodles. You can even use the stove portion alone to heat up cans of soup or beans directly over the flame. It just doesn’t get any easier when it comes to camp cooking.
An Emergency Whistle in Case You Get Lost
No matter who you are — or how experienced — you should always carry an emergency whistle when hiking or backpacking. At less than $8 for two whistles, this pack of Michael Josh Outdoor Emergency Survival Whistles might be the best purchase you make all year.
Whistles are much louder than the human voice, and their sound carries much farther than shouting. If you get lost in the woods, you’ll certainly be glad you have it. The stainless steel double tubes provide up to 150 decibels and can be heard for miles. The included carabiners and lanyards make the whistles easy to carry.
Local Travel Guide/Phrase Book
When you’re traveling abroad, it’s helpful to understand local culture as well as find fun, exciting places to visit. A simple guidebook, such as Rick Steves Pocket London, will tell you everything you need to know about a new location, from where to eat and sleep to how to speak to locals and how to not offend anyone.
Many other countries — even English-speaking ones — have different customs. For example, did you know that it many locales, it’s not the norm to tip waitstaff? Most guidebooks run $10 or less, so gaining a little education isn’t going to break the bank.
A Day Pack for Short Outings
If you’re taking an extended trip, you’re likely lugging around a large, somewhat bulky, rucksack with all your gear. However, a pack like the 4monster Durable Packable Backpack is a much better option for short outings. It easily tucks away in your rucksack when you’re not using it.
A compact packable backpack is the perfect solution when you don’t want to take that giant bag with you every time you take a day hike or a quick trip to the shops. At less than $20, it’s a solid investment.
A Travel Battery So Your Phone Never Dies
If you’re staying in a hostel or a commercial campground, there’s a good chance you’ll have access to a power outlet, but if you’re camping in the backcountry, it could be quite some time before you see electricity again. A portable battery like this Solar Power Bank easily hangs on your backpack and lets you charge while you hike
A solar power bank is extremely useful for keeping your phone or camera charged in the wild. At full capacity, it has enough power to fully charge an iPhone XS more than seven times, which makes it seem like a steal at less than $45!
A Hiking Journal to Remember the Good Times
Fact: Every backpacking, camping and hiking trip is filled with irreplaceable memories. With a fun hiking journal like Journals Unlimited: A Hiker’s Journal , you can be sure to treasure those memories forever. It doesn’t matter if you’re in another country or just 10 minutes from home, if you’re away for months or just a couple of hours, being outdoors is an adventure worth recording.
Each journal comes filled with daily writing prompts, including date, location and trails. For less than $20, there’s no reason you can’t take the time to write down your story.
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