A Complete 3-Day Backpacking Checklist
The last complete backpacking checklist I published on here was my John Muir Trail gear list….and that was two years ago. I’m happy to report much of the gear on that list I’m still using today (because it’s awesome). However, as gear companies keep coming out with lighter gear that is able to withstand wear and tear, I have made a few upgrades in an effort to lighten my backpack.
In this backpacking checklist, I share every item I bring on a 3-day weekend backpacking trip in the spring, summer, and fall seasons. I hope that this comprehensive backpacking checklist will help simplify your planning, help you figure out what you can trim out, and if you are new to backpacking give you some good recommendations for gear to invest in that will last you years.
Once you read this blog post, make sure to visit my “Gear Archives” where we more details about how to choose the different components of your backpacking gear.
Start planning with my 3-day backpacking checklist.
— Backpacking Essentials —
These are the pieces of backpacking gear that come with me on every single backpacking trip.
BACKPACK: Deuter ACT Lite 60 + 10 SL Pack
I’ve tried many backpacks, and funny enough, the cheapest one I’ve owned has also been my favorite. Deuter is known for packs that are reasonably priced, while still standing up to nature’s elements. At 3 lbs. 14 oz., the Deuter ACT Lite 60 + 10 SL Women’s Pack weighs 2 pounds less than my old Gregory backpack, and it seamlessly molds to my body. Deuter’s Lite 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, and in fact, this is the pack I will be taking along on my 25-day hike on the John Muir Trail.
TENT: MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
The MSR Hubba Hubba Tent has been around for over 10 years, and this year’s new model is a great compromise between durability and weight. It has a non-tapered design so you have just as much room on both ends of the tent and poles recently got a strength upgrade. Other features include Xtreme Shield waterproof coating, rainfly vents which help reduce condensation, and the rainfly can be partially rolled up for extra air flow even while it’s raining.
For more information on choosing the best backpacking tent and our favorites, check out our tent guide!
SLEEPING PAD: NEMO Equipment Inc. Tensor Sleeping Pad
I just picked up this NEMO Tensor Sleeping Pad this summer. It’s the lightest pad I’ve ever owned and way comfier than some of the other ultralight pads I’ve tried. I really like its rectangular design which helps prevent you from sliding off in the middle of the night (weight: 13.5 oz).
After some very cold camping in the desert this spring, I decided to upgrade to a warmer sleeping bag. The Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 Degree Down Sleeping Bag was the warmest I could find for its mere 2 pounds. And even with its 850 down (hello plush), if you use a compression sack to store your bag in your pack, the sleeping bag takes up very little room. I admit it was a bit of a splurge, but I expect if I properly care for this bag, it will last me a decade. Check out our full guide to finding the best backpacking sleeping bag.
Nemo sleeping pad & Western Mountaineering bag. The MSR Hubba Hubba Tent is not pictured here.
HEADLAMP: Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp
The Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp has multiple settings, including ultra bright and red night vision – which comes in handy when you want to have a conversation without blinding your friends. It also has a locking mechanism to prevent it from accidentally turning on in your bag. You can also charge this headlamp on solar if you are using BD’s rechargeable batteries (weight: 4 oz).
TREKKING POLES: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles
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. These Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles are Black Diamon’s lightest foldable poles made of carbon fiber and come in 4 sizes to meet your height (weight: 9-10 oz depending on size).
Communication Device: SPOT Gen3 GPS Transponder or Garmin inReach
I like to carry a tracking device with me that I can use to send a help signal in case of an emergency. The SPOT is super simple and gives me peace of mind and allows you to send pre-drafted text messages, as well as a call for help.
The Garmin InReach has more features in a slightly bigger packages. It allows for two-way custom texting and also has GPS that you can use for navigating. I know prefer the Garmin due to these additional features.
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 some travel packs of some handy medications. 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.
Learn how to choose the best backpacking pack for your trip.
— Backpacking Kitchen Gear —
The Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System is the most efficient backpacking stove I’ve found, especially if you are only boiling water. Where the MiniMo shines is that it gives you greater simmering control than previous versions of the Jetboil. Together the stove and pot weigh 14 oz.
Fuel: 1-230 gram Jetboil Jetpower canister
For a 3-day trip, 1 230-gram fuel canister should be enough if you are using your stove for coffee, oatmeal, and dinner.
Water Bottles: Platypus Soft Bottles
I prefer these lightweight Platypus Soft Bottles that can be rolled up when they are empty. Depending on water availability, I will bring up to these of these on my backpacking trips.
Water filter: Platypus 4L GravityWorks Filter
The Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System is absolutely the easiest way to filter your water in the backcountry. This Platypus filter relies on gravity to push water through, eliminating the need to pump water by hand – 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 into your water bottle or any standard hydration reservoir.
Water filter backup: Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets
It’s always good to carry a backup in case your water filter fails. These Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets tablets are great because they are super small and you can just throw a few in your first aid kit.
Camping Mug: GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug
You need something for that morning coffee or evening whiskey hot apple cider.
Eating Utensil: Snowpeak Titanium Spork
A girl’s gotta eat. Ramen, backpacker meals, oatmeal. This Snow Peak Titanium Spork is the only utensil you need, and it weighs shockingly little at less than 1 ounce! It also has a long handle and can easily reach the bottom of that Mountain House bag.
Knife: Gerber Paraframe I Knife
Some people like to carry a multi-tool, but personally I’ve always been able to get by with a small knife. This Gerber Paraframe I Knife can cut paracord or salami and only weighs 2.6 oz.
You may or may not need one of these depending on where you are hiking. They are required by law in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, spots in Alaska, Washington, and Wyoming, and in some places they may be available for rent. If you are only carrying food for yourself, the Solo Bear Vault (2 lbs) is a good inexpensive option. Or for a duo, go for the larger version (2 lbs 9 oz).
Learn more about choosing a backpacking water filter.
— Backpacking Toiletries —
My beauty routine while backpacking is pretty limited and is focused purely on hygiene. No deodorant, no makeup, no hair brush, etc.
Lip balm: Jack Black Lip Balm
The mountains can suck the moisture right out of those beautiful lips leaving them cracked and dry. My go-to lip balm is Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm with SPF 25 in the natural mint flavor. It goes on clear and also provides sun protection.
Sunscreen: Thinksport Sunscreen
At high elevations you can burn way quicker than you think. This Thinksport Sunscreen comes in a small tube, is water resistant, and provides SPF50.
In order to comply with Leave No Trace, when you go #2, you need to dig a cathole that is at least 6-8 inches deep. You may think “I don’t need a shovel…I’ll just use a rock.” I’ve made that mistake myself only to find that sometimes the dirt is super hard, you can’t dig a hole, and then panic ensues. This GSI Outdoors Cathole Sanitation Trowel is so cheap and light there is no excuse to not throw it in a ziplock and bring it with you.
Toliet paper & a plastic bag for used TP
When you go #2, you need to pack out your dirty TP. Ewww. I know. But there’s nothing grosser than finding a bunch of used dirty TP when you are camping. I like to bring a ziplock bag for my TP and then I store that in a small (not-see-through) stuff sack.
Baby Wipes: Cora Individually Wrapped Wipes
Cora make Individually Wrapped Bamboo Body Cloths that are safe to use all over, from your nether regions to your stinky armpits. They are chemical free and made with plant-based moisturizers & essential oils. Simply wipe as needed, store in the wrapper and put it in your ziplock trash baggie.
— Camera Gear —
While I don’t expect most of you to carry all this camera gear, I frequently get asked what camera equipment is on my backpacking checklist. So here ya have it!
DSLR: Sony A7Rii with 16-35mm lens
This is my go-to DSLR body and lens combo for all of my landscape shots. That said, it’s probably overkill for 98% of you. Instead, I suggest the Sony a6000 and kit lens if you are starting out and want to invest in something awesome but still fairly affordable.
GoPro & Accessories: GoPro Hero 7 Black, 3-way mount & extra batteries
I love my GoPro Hero7 Black…it’s a HUGE upgrade from previous versions. It comes with me everywhere because it allows me to get unique POV shots as well as pictures of myself when I’m traveling alone. It’s also what I use for all of my video edits. Have you checked out my YouTube Channel yet?
Tripod: Mefoto Daytrip Tripod
If you want to get stellar night-time shots, you’re going to need a tripod. I use the Mefoto Daytrip Tripod which is the smallest, lightest real (table-top) tripod I’ve found that can support a DSLR. If you have a point a shoot, consider a Joby.
— Backpacking Clothing —
How many pairs of clothes should be on your backpacking checklist? The absolute minimum. Avoid cotton which retains moisture and smells and opt for quick dry material. The only thing I really bring extra of is underwear and socks and maybe an extra shirt depending on how many days I’m hiking.
Down Jacket (1): Patagonia Women’s Down Sweater
Rain Coat (1): Arcteryx Beta AR Rain Jacket
Check the weather before you go. Even if it’s looking like nothing but sun, I like to bring a lightweight rain jacket since the weather can change so quickly in the mountains. Arctertyx is expensive, but one of their rain jackets should last you a liftime of backpacking. If there is any chance of showers, I throw in a pair of rain pants too.
Top Base Layer (1): SmartWool Midweight Long-Sleeve Zip-T Top
Bottom Base Layer (1): Prana High Waisted Leggings
I like to hike in leggings. These Prana High Waisted Leggings are comfy for hiking and can double as pajamas.
Non-Cotton Wicking Shirt (1-2): Nike Scoop Neck Legend Shirt
Shorts (1): R-Gear High Five Shorts
Sports Bra (1): Under Armour Women’s Mid Printed Sports Bra
Quick Dry Undies (2): Ex-Officio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Hipkini
I’ve tried MANY pairs of outdoor type underwear, and these are my favorites.
Hiking Socks (2): Darn Tough Midweight Hiking Socks
I alternated between 2 pairs of these on my John Muir Trail hike. That was two years ago, and I’m still wearing these socks on the reg today.
Hiking Boots (1): Oboz Bridger BDry Hiking Boots
Camp Shoes (1): Teva Hurricane Sandals
These are lightweight but still provide some structure and grip for walking around at camp at night. Plus you can wear socks with them and look super fashionable.
Ball cap / Sunglasses / Hat / Gloves (depending on temps)
** Read Next: What to Wear Hiking **
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I hope my backpacking checklist was helpful! If you have any questions about what’s on your backpacking checklist, feel free to get in touch!
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