The Ultimate Backpacking Checklist for 2023

CEO Tam DT
Are you ready to embark on an epic backpacking adventure? Whether you're a rookie backpacker or a seasoned pro, having a well-prepared checklist is essential to ensure a successful and enjoyable trip. In this article,...

Are you ready to embark on an epic backpacking adventure? Whether you're a rookie backpacker or a seasoned pro, having a well-prepared checklist is essential to ensure a successful and enjoyable trip. In this article, we've compiled a comprehensive list of everything you need for your backpacking journey in 2023. From backpacking equipment to kitchen gear, footwear and clothing, health and hygiene products, and personal items and extras, we've got you covered. So, let's dive in and make sure you're fully equipped for your upcoming adventure.

Backpacking Equipment

No backpacking trip is complete without the right equipment. Here are the essentials you'll need:

Backpacking Tent

Backpacking checklist (view of tent from overhead)

  • Top pick: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 ($550)
    • What we like: Highly competitive combination of weight, livability, and ease of use.
    • What we don't: Expensive; thin floor is susceptible to tears (we advise using a footprint).

Backpacking Pack

  • Top pick: Osprey Atmos AG 65 ($340)
    • What we like: Great carrying comfort, thoughtful organization, and class-leading breathability.
    • What we don't: On the pricey end and far from the lightest design available.

Sleeping Bag

  • Top pick: Feathered Friends Hummingbird YF 20 ($509)
    • What we like: Very warm for the weight and built by a very reputable down specialist.
    • What we don't: Feathered Friends bags don't come cheap; lacking some modern features.

Sleeping Pad

  • Top pick: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT ($210)
    • What we like: Three-season warmth and great comfort at a competitively low weight.
    • What we don't: Warm-weather backpackers can save with a lower R-value pad.

Water Filter or Purifier

  • Top pick: Sawyer Squeeze ($41)
    • What we like: Impressively light, fast flow rate, and covered by Sawyer's lifetime warranty.
    • What we don't: Best for the solo backpacker—groups will likely prefer a larger gravity filter like the Platypus GravityWorks 4L.

Hydration Bladder and/or Water Bottles

  • Top pick: Osprey Hydraulics 3L ($37)
    • What we like: Highly reliable and built to last.
    • What we don't: Rigid backer adds weight and bulk (you can't roll it up when empty).

Headlamp

  • Top pick: Petzl Actik Core ($80)
    • What we like: Great output, long battery life (via AAAs or the rechargeable battery), and easy-to-use interface in a feathery build.
    • What we don't: Expensive and not the most water-resistant option on the market.

Optional Backpacking Equipment

  • Trekking poles
  • Daypack
  • Backpacking chair/sit pad
  • Backpacking pillow
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Tent footprint/ground cloth
  • Extra stakes and guylines

Kitchen Gear

When it comes to preparing meals while backpacking, having the right kitchen gear is essential. Here's what you'll need:

Backpacking checklist (boiling water on stove)

Backpacking Stove and Fuel

  • Top pick: MSR PocketRocket 2 ($60)
    • What we like: Surprisingly powerful for how light and cheap it is.
    • What we don't: Noticeably less stable and wind-resistant than integrated canister systems like the Jetboil Flash.

Backpacking Food

  • Top pick: Backpacker's Pantry ($10-$13)
    • What we like: Affordably priced, easy to find, and extensive selection of tasty meals.
    • What we don't: Relatively long cook times and less innovative than some upstarts.

Cookware and Utensils

  • Pot
  • Spork or long spoon
  • Mug or cup

Optional Food Items

  • Instant coffee
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee press or dripper
  • Electrolyte tablets

Footwear and Clothing

Having the right footwear and clothing is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable backpacking experience. Here's what you should consider:

Backpacking checklist (sitting outside in sleeping bags)

Hiking Boots or Hiking Shoes

  • Top pick: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX ($175)
    • What we like: Trail runner-like agility with hiking boot protection and stability.
    • What we don't: Those shuttling serious weight might want to step up to a more cushioned and supportive design like Salomon's own Quest 4.

Hiking Socks

  • Top pick: Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion ($21)
    • What we like: Great padding and breathability for three-season use; backed by Darn Tough's lifetime warranty.
    • What we don't: A bit too thick for sweltering summer days; highly durable build sacrifices a little plushness.

Hiking Pants or Hiking Shorts

  • Top pick: Outdoor Research Ferrosi ($99)
    • What we like: Ferrosi fabric nicely balances weight, durability, and mobility.
    • What we don't: No built-in belt; not the most everyday-friendly option due to the thin construction and basic pocket layout.

Rain Jacket or Hardshell Jacket

  • Top pick: Patagonia Torrentshell 3L ($179)
    • What we like: Confidence-inspiring protection and classy looks at a hard-to-beat price.
    • What we don't: Fairly crinkly and stiff; doesn't have a chest pocket.

Down Jacket or Synthetic Jacket

  • Top pick: Patagonia Down Sweater ($279)
    • What we like: Comfortable fabrics, competitive warmth for the weight, and highly versatile.
    • What we don't: Not the lightest option for dedicated backcountry use.

Baselayers

  • Top pick: Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino 1/4 Zip ($115)
    • What we like: All-merino build is warm and comfortable, regulates temperature well, and doesn't hold stink like polyester.
    • What we don't: Pricey, too warm for high-output use, and requires more care to last than synthetics.

Optional Footwear and Clothing

  • Camp shoes
  • Ballcap
  • Sun protection shirt
  • Rain pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Gaiters (for snow or water crossings)
  • Neck gaiter/buff

Health and Hygiene

Staying clean and comfortable in the backcountry is essential. Here are the must-have health and hygiene items:

Backpacking checklist (toiletries inside backpack)

Toiletries

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Toilet paper and/or baby wipes
  • Wag bags or trowel (check local regulations)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Deodorant
  • Personal medications
  • Lip balm
  • First aid kit

Sun and Bug Protection

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellent

Optional Health and Hygiene Items

  • Mosquito net
  • Sun hat

Personal Items and Extras

Don't forget the small personal items that can make a big difference. Here's what to consider:

Backpacking checklist (reading Kindle)

  • Basic repair kit (multi-tool, duct tape, extra cord)
  • Navigation (map, GPS, compass)
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Extra batteries and/or solar charger
  • Notebook and pen/pencil
  • Book or Kindle
  • Bear canister and/or bear spray (if required)
  • Ziploc bags (for trash and waterproofing electronics)
  • Whistle
  • Lighter and/or waterproof matches
  • Backup water purification tablets
  • Pack rain cover (if not included)
  • Moleskin
  • Quick-drying towel
  • ID, cards, and cash
  • Backcountry permit or reservation (if required)
  • Forest Service/park pass (if required)
  • Camera
  • Satellite messenger device

Additional Backpacking Tips

To ensure a successful backpacking trip, here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Check restrictions before you go to ensure you're up to date on current fire bans, required bear-proofing measures (such as bear canisters or bear bags for food), etc.
  • A balanced and organized load is key for maintaining comfort on the trail. It's best to place the heaviest gear in the middle of your back and pack in a way that allows easy access to certain items on the go. For a detailed breakdown, see our article on "How to Pack a Backpack."
  • Use resealable bags for toiletries and other small items you don't want to lose or get wet, such as lighters and matches.
  • If you're limited on space, consider using dedicated compression sacks for soft gear like your sleeping bag, clothing, etc.
  • Research your route ahead of time to verify where you'll encounter water sources for fill-ups. If they're plentiful, you may be able to carry less water.
  • We recommend a 10-degree buffer for your sleeping bag. For example, if your bag is rated to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, expect to be comfortable down to around freezing.
  • Pack foods that you enjoy eating and remember to drink water often. Refueling properly is key to maintaining energy and feeling good on the trail.
  • Always bring backup water purification in case your filter fails. Iodine tablets are a cheap and easy way to ensure you'll have clean drinking water, and adding electrolyte tablets will help eliminate any aftertaste.
  • Share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member before heading out, including your expected route and arrival/departure dates.

Where to Buy Backpacking Gear

When it comes to purchasing backpacking gear, you have several options available. Here are some recommendations:

  • REI Co-op: REI offers an excellent selection of gear, a generous return policy, knowledgeable staff, and the benefit of a brick-and-mortar store.
  • Backcountry.com: Backcountry.com is a great option for online shopping, with free standard shipping on orders over $50 and a solid selection.
  • Amazon.com: Amazon provides a wide range of sellers and product options, making it a convenient choice for cheaper items and quick delivery.
  • Local shops: Consider supporting your local gear shop. It's a great way to contribute to the community, receive expert advice, and try items on in person.

So there you have it—the ultimate backpacking checklist for 2023. With this comprehensive list, you'll be fully prepared to tackle any adventure that comes your way. Happy backpacking!

Editor's note: The original article provided a brief overview, but for a more detailed breakdown of the necessities and nice-to-haves, check out our printable PDF version of the backpacking checklist.

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