Are you planning a backpacking trip and feeling overwhelmed with figuring out what gear and supplies you need to bring? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place.
In this post, we’ll share our ultimate 3-day backpacking checklist (tailored for women) to help ensure you have everything you need for a successful and enjoyable trip.
From essentials like shelter and a comfortable sleep system to practical clothing choices, we’ve thought of all the basic essentials you’ll need to be comfortable on a weekend-long backpacking trip – nothing more, nothing less.
While this is a comprehensive list, I encourage you to adjust your checklist based on your own needs. That being said, I also encourage you to try and stick to the essentials. You may be surprised at how little you need!
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The Big Gear Items
These are the essential pieces of gear that should always be on your backpacking checklist for every single trip you plan.
I’ve tried many backpacking backpacks, and funny enough, the least expensive one I’ve owned has also been my favorite.
At 4 lbs. 8.7 oz., the Deuter Aircontact Core 60 + 10 SL Women’s Pack isn’t super lightweight, but it still weighs nearly 2 pounds less than my old Gregory backpack and it seamlessly molds to my body.
Deuter’s Aircontact series packs can adjust for a variety of torso lengths and also comes in a men’s model.
The 60 +10 SL pack is plenty big for a multi-day trip. In fact, this is the pack I took on my 22-day John Muir Trail hike, a 10-day backpacking trip in Alaska, and my Trans Catalina Trail backpacking trip.
For a shorter backpacking trip or if you’re splitting carrying gear with a partner, check out the smaller 45 + 10 SL version. This version is what BFT Director Linda uses on backpacking trips.
Shop Deuter Aircontact Core 60 at:
Your tent choice can make the biggest difference in weight out of all the big gear items. However, the lighter your tent, the more money you’ll spend.
If you know you’ll be doing a lot of backpacking, I recommend investing in a good-quality, ultralight tent like the Zpacks Duplex. At just over 1 lb 5 oz, it’s one of the lightest tents on the market yet still roomy enough so you don’t feel like you’re sleeping on top of your partner.
Shop The Zpacks Duplex Tent at:
If you would like more room or backpack with a pooch, the Zpacks Triplex is just a half-ounce heavier and gives a bit extra space. My partner Ryan and I use the Triplex for backpacking trips which fits us and our 2 dogs, Charlie and Gumbo.
If $600+ is too much to spend on a tent (we don’t blame you!) or you want a freestanding tent, the REI Flash 2 Tent is a more budget-friendly option. It is a few pounds heavier at 3 lbs 4 oz, but still a great lightweight option.
Shop REI Co-op Flash 2 at:
I currently use the women’s Sea to Summit Comfort Light Sleeping Pad and love it. It’s lightweight, packs up small, and still manages to be warm and comfortable.
It’s also easy to inflate and comes with a pump integrated into the stuff sack, and it’s made out of durable ripstop nylon.
There’s a unisex version too in case you want something a little bigger.
Shop The Sea to Summit Comfort Light at:
More and more backpackers are opting for quilts over sleeping bags because they are more lightweight and versatile yet still keep you nice and cozy at night.
The Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt is our pick for a backpacking quilt. It’s incredibly lightweight at 1 lb 3 oz (850-fill, 30-degree) and we also love that you can customize it to your needs and preferences.
When ordering, you can choose between 850 and 950 fill power, select a temperature rating between 0 to 50-degree, and even customize your quilt length.
The Revelation Quilt is truly a revelation and one piece of gear I don’t leave at home when I’m heading out on a multi-day trip.
If you’re backpacking with your partner and prefer to cuddle, check out our post on the best double sleeping bags for backpacking.
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There are tons of backpacking accessories you can choose to pack, but here we list the most important ones that will keep you safe and comfortable on the trail.
On those uphill climbs, trekking poles help take some of the weight off your hips and legs by utilizing your arm strength. On the downhill, they help ease the pressure on your knees. And on those stream crossings, these puppies have saved me more times than I can count by helping me balance.
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles are Black Diamond’s lightest foldable poles made of carbon fiber and come in 4 sizes to meet your height.
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The BioLite Headlamp 325 is my new go-to headlamp for backpacking. It’s ultralight, low profile, and very bright with four lighting modes including red light so you won’t blind your basecamp buddies or compromise your night vision.
I also love that it is battery-free and USB-chargeable (just be sure to fully charge it before you head out!).
Shop The BioLite 325 Headlamp at:
Emergency Communication Device
I like to carry a tracking device with me that I can use to send a help signal in case of an emergency.
The Garmin inReach Mini 2 allows for two-way custom texting and also has GPS that you can use for navigating.
The Mini is much smaller and lighter than the regular Garmin inReach so I prefer it for hiking and backpacking when every ounce matters.
Shop the Garmin inReach Mini at:
First Aid Kit
You should always have a first aid kit when you are hiking in the backcountry. This ultralight, waterproof medical kit comes with the minimum supplies that you will need to address minor wounds, as well as travel-sized packs of some handy medications. I
In addition to what comes in this kit, you should supplement it with some extra blister band-aids and any medications that are specific to the hikers in your group.
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Packing a lightweight chair is definitely not essential for a backpacking trip, but it’s a nice-to-have item if you plan to spend a lot of time relaxing at camp. The Helinox Chair Zero packs down to roughly the size of 2 Nalgene water bottles and weighs only 1 pound, making it the perfect luxury item.
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Backpacking Kitchen Gear
Next on our backpacking checklist is your camp kitchen gear. I tend to keep my cooking setup simple when backpacking. I mainly boil water for coffee or tea and oats in the morning and for backpacking meals in the evening.
Backpacking Stove & Fuel
The Jetboil Flash Cooking System is the most efficient backpacking stove I’ve found, especially if you are only boiling water.
Together, the stove and pot only weigh 13.1 oz. For a 3-day trip, one 230-gram fuel canister (sold separately) should be enough if you are using your stove for coffee, breakfast, and dinner.
Shop the Jetboil Flash at:
Water Bottles or Hydration Reservoir
I like to pack a few of these lightweight Platypus Soft Bottles that can be rolled up when they are empty. Compared to a hard water bottle like a Nalgene, these are much lighter and take up less space when backpacking.
Depending on water availability, I’ll bring up to three of these on my backpacking trips.
I also tend to use these instead of a hydration pack since a reservoir can be a pain to pull out of my backpacking pack each time it needs to be refilled.
But if you like to backpack with a hydration reservoir for easy water access while you hike, the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir is a great option.
Shop the Platypus Soft Water Bottles at:
Backpacking Water Filter
The Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System is absolutely the easiest way to filter your water in the backcountry, in my opinion.
This system relies on gravity to push water through, eliminating the need to pump by hand or manually squeeze water through a filter – meaning you can save your energy for the hike.
At 11.5 ounces you will barely notice this thing in your bag, and what’s really cool is you can connect the hose directly to your water bottle or any standard hydration reservoir.
For more details on how it works, read my complete review here.
I’ll also mention that it’s always good to carry a backup in case your water filter fails. These Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets are great because they are super small and you can just throw a few in your first aid kit.
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Lightweight Camping Mug
You’ll need something for that morning coffee and evening tea. The GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug is lightweight and will keep your beverage warm in the coldest of conditions with its insulated wrap and sip lid. It even has a lightweight fabric strap as a handle.
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A girl’s gotta eat! Ramen, backpacker meals, oatmeal. This Sea To Summit Alpha Lite Long Spork is the only utensil you need, and it weighs shockingly little at less than 0.5 ounces!
It also has a long handle and can easily reach the bottom of that Mountain House bag.
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Some people like to carry a multi-tool, but personally, I’ve always been able to get by with a simple, small knife.
This Gerber Mini Paraframe Knife can cut paracord or be used to prepare food and only weighs 1.4 ounces.
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You may or may not need a bear canister depending on where you are hiking. They are required by law in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, spots in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and more.
In some places, they may be available for rent but be sure to check before heading out.
Shop the Bear Vault 450 at:
My beauty routine while backpacking is pretty limited and is focused purely on hygiene. That is what I’ve reflected in this backpacking checklist. No deodorant, no makeup, no hairbrush, etc.
The mountains can suck the moisture right out of those beautiful lips leaving them cracked and dry. Plus, your lips are just as vulnerable to sunburn as your face, so SPF is key.
Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 has natural, organic ingredients and will keep your lips hydrated and protected.
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At high elevations, you can burn way quicker than you think, and all those hours hiking in the sun add up.
This Sun Bum sunscreen comes in a small tube, is water-resistant, and provides SPF 50.
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Toothpaste & Toothbrush
It’s all about those travel-size toiletries when backpacking. This Dr. Bronner’s Travel Toothpaste comes in a 1 oz size and is all-natural, fair trade certified, and the packaging is completely recyclable.
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Poop Kit – Trowel, Toilet Paper, & Ziploc Bag
In order to comply with the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, you need to dig a cathole that is at least 6-8 inches deep when you go #2.
You may think “I don’t need a shovel… I’ll just use a rock or stick.” I’ve made that mistake myself only to find that sometimes the dirt is so hard, you can’t dig a hole. And then panic ensues.
Make life easier for yourself by grabbing a TheTentLab The Deuce #2 Trowel. It’s lightweight and there’s really is no excuse to not bring it with you.
Also, when you go #2, you need to pack out your dirty toilet paper in order to maintain campsite and trail conditions for future campers.
There’s nothing grosser than finding a bunch of used dirty TP when you’re camping. I like to bring a Ziploc bag for my TP and then I store that in a small (not-see-through) stuff sack that I can rinse out later.
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While this might sound strange to you at first, bringing a pee rag on your backpacking trip, like this specially made, antimicrobial Kula Cloth, is super helpful.
Instead of having to wipe with TP each time and pack it into your zip lock bag, and instead of not wiping at all which can result in odors and discomfort, just wipe with this reusable cloth!
When going to the bathroom, I drip dry and then pat myself off with this in order to keep my lady parts clean.
Then, I use my water bottle to rinse off the towel 200 feet from any water sources (as recommended by Leave No Trace) and hang it from my pack to dry.
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Quick Dry Towel
A lightweight quick-dry towel is always handy, whether it’s for drying your hands and face, doing dishes, or going for a swim and doing some sunbathing.
They come in a variety of sizes so you can pack what you need and nothing more.
Shop the REI Multi Towel at:
A travel-size hand sanitizer is a must before eating and after going to the bathroom while in the backcountry.
I prefer hand sanitizer to soap because it’s easier to follow Leave No Trace. If you do choose a biodegradable soap, like this one by Dr. Bronner’s, be sure to abide by Leave No Trace and rinse 200 feet away from water sources.
Shop Dr. Bronner’s Hand Sanitizer at:
For shorter trips, you might be able to get away without wet wipes, especially if you’re using the pee rag method and you want to save weight in your pack.
However, if you want a little refresh, these Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes are soft and gentle on both your skin and the environment. They’re unscented (better for not attracting wildlife) and even come in an extra-large size in case you want to wipe your whole body down after a hot sweaty day on the trail. Be sure to pack them out in your ziplock trash baggie to dispose of them properly.
Shop Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes at:
How much clothing should you bring on a 3-day backpacking trip? The absolute minimum you need to be comfortable.
You’ll appreciate it when you start to feel the weight of your pack after a couple of hours of hiking.
You really only need 1 hiking outfit and 1 set of dry, warm clothes to change into when you get to camp and for sleeping.
The only thing I bring extra of is underwear and socks and maybe an extra shirt I can swap out depending on how many days I’m backpacking.
Tip: Avoid cotton which retains moisture, takes a long time to dry, and tends to harbor smells. Instead, opt for quick-dry materials that wick sweat and resist odors.
A lightweight, packable, insulated (down or synthetic) jacket is key for when the temps drop in the evenings.
I prefer something with a hood so I can keep my head warm when it’s windy or extra cold, so I pack my Arc’teryx Atom Hoody.
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Always check the weather before you set out. Even if it’s looking like nothing but sun, I like to bring a lightweight rain jacket and the Arc’teryx Beta AR Rain Jacket is my top pick. It is definitely pricey (catch it on sale!) but once you invest in a piece like this, you’ll have it forever. It’s the rain jacket I wore on a backpacking trip in Alaska where it rained nearly every day.
For a more budget-friendly option, check out the REI Co-op Ranier Rain Jacket – it’s what Linda, BFT’s Director of Operations, currently uses and loves.
Also, if there is any chance of showers, I throw in a pair of rain pants too.
Shop the Arc’teryx Beta AR Rain Jacket at:
Base Layer Top
A warm, wool base layer is handy for changing into when you’re ready to get out of your sweaty hiking clothes and get warm at camp. It can be cozy to sleep in too.
I like the Icebreaker 200 Oasis Half Zip because it’s super soft and odor-resistant. I also opt for Icebreaker over other Merino wood brands because they have strong animal welfare standards.
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I prefer to backpack in leggings (if it’s too cool for shorts that is). The lululemon Cargo Super-High-Rise Hiking Tight 25″ have been BFT Director Linda’s go-to leggings this season because they’re designed specifically for hiking with thoughtful details such as snag-resistant fabric, zippered pockets, and 2 loops that you can use to clip keys or other small items that you want to keep safe and easily in reach.
Shop the lululemon Cargo Super-High-Rise Hiking Tight 25″ at:
Moisture Wicking T-Shirt
I always hike in a non-cotton, quick-dry, moisture-wicking t-shirt, and most often it’s the Patagonia Cool Capilene T-Shirt.
As I get older, though, I’m preferring the long-sleeve version because it provides more protection from the sun. These shirts are lightweight, so even with the long sleeves, I stay nice and cool.
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I like to backpack in spandex shorts when the weather’s nice, but lately, I’ve been liking these REI Co-op Active Pursuits Shorts.
They’re comfortable and stretchy and offer a little more breathability than spandex.
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Sports bras are my go-to even when I’m not hiking, and these days I’m personally loving the lululemon Run Times Bra.
It’s perfect for backpacking because it doesn’t shift around, my breasts are fully supported, and don’t bounce around AT ALL. I also love the thick straps becuase they don’t dig into my shoulders.
Shop the lululemon Run Times Bra at:
Quick Dry Undies
The lululemon InvisiWear Mid-Rise Boyshorts are lightweight and have a barely-there feel, making them great for backpacking.
I’ve tried two other cuts of these InvisiWear underwear, and the boyshorts stay in place the best out of all of them.
Shop the lululemon InvisiWear Boyshorts at:
I alternated between 2 pairs of Darn Tough Hiking Socks on my John Muir Trail hike. That was years ago, and I still wear these socks hiking.
They are extremely durable and stay put while you’re hiking so you don’t end up with nasty blisters. Plus, Darn Tough offers a lifetime warranty. Free socks for life!
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I’ve always been a big fan of Oboz and recently upgraded to a new pair of Bridger BDry Hiking Boots after wearing my last pair out through years of hiking and backpacking.
The mid-height helps support your ankles, plus they are waterproof and have a stiff sole, so you get plenty of support on those steeper, rockier slopes.
Shop the Oboz Bridger BDry Boots at:
It’s always nice to take those hiking boots off when you get to camp to let your feet breathe, and for that reason, a pair of camp sandals are a must on my backpacking checklist.
These Teva Universal Trail Sandals are lightweight (1 pound for the pair) and provide structure and grip for walking around camp.
They have padding around the ankle and anywhere there is a buckle to prevent rubbing, and they are one of the most comfortable pair of sandals I’ve ever owned.
Plus, they are made from recycled water bottles, so it’s a win-win! See my full review here.
Shop the Teva Universal Sandals at:
Even if you’ll be hiking in the woods or the forecast looks cloudy, you’ll want to bring a sun hat to protect your face, neck, and shoulders from harmful UV rays. Not only do hats ward off sunburns, but keeping your skin shaded can also help prevent dehydration and heatstroke.
The Wallaroo Sedona Hat has been my favorite for years. I love the wide brim, stylish look, and that it can pack down without losing its shape.
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(Use the code BEARFOOT20 for 20% off)
Don’t forget your shades at home! You probably already own a pair of sunglasses, but if you’re in the market for some new backpacking sunglasses, Goodr makes fun, affordable options. We also love that they are a member of 1% For The Planet.
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I also highly recommend packing a buff – a versatile piece that you can wear around your neck for sun protection, around your face and ears if it’s windy, and even as a headband soaked in water to help keep you cool.
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If it’s going to be cold, you’ll also want to bring a pair of gloves. I like these lightweight Smartwool liners. They’re touchscreen compatible and not bulking, so they work well with trekking poles.
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It’s a good idea to pack a lightweight, quick-drying beanie to wear at night or if temps drop during the day. The Patagonia Everyday Beanie is a simple hat that does the trick.
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Need help planning or preparing for your trip? Check out these helpful backpacking how-to guides:
What’s on your backpacking checklist that we missed? Is there anything you’d add or subtract? Do you have any questions about what to bring backpacking? Let us know in the comments below.