Skip to main content

Going On a Multiday Hiking Trip? Yay! Here’s a backpacking pack list to help make packing easy.

This backpacking packing list is for basic, mid-weight, durable, practical, and multipurpose gear. Recommended for spring, summer, or fall backpacking.

Multi-Sport Gear: many items on this list overlap with your Whitewater Rafting, Backcountry Skiing, Hut Trips, and Bike Packing Trips.  It’s worth getting good, high quality stuff to last for many adventures.

Links are included to show photos and more info on the recommended products.  None of these links are paid affiliate links! These are real recommendations.  Some of these brands are generous sponsors, like Osprey Packs and Pistil Designs, but either way nobody pays us to write these packing lists and we only recommend products we think are excellent, useful, high quality items.

We highly recommend purchasing gear at your local outdoor shop or mountaineering shop. They stock the best brands and have really knowledgable staff.  Local shops can help get you the right gear for you in the right sizes, boot fitting, pack fitting, etc.  They may also help you in ways beyond gear, with local knowledge, beta, maps, trail recommendations, safety information, and up to date conditions.

1. Sunny Weather Outfit

  • Sun Shirt I like a long sleeved and collared shirt to keep the sun off. Bonus points for pearl snaps, thrift store purchase.  T-shirts are obviously fine, too, but you’ll need to pack more sunscreen.
  •  Shorts  Quick dry. Check out Patagonia Baggies.
  •  Hiking pants use less sunscreen and keep your legs from getting scratched
  •  Sunhat  Backcountry Babes Trucker Hat
  • Lip Balm w/SPF
  • Sunscreen travel sized.  Check out non-toxic All Good Sunscreen line.
  • Hiking Shoes be sure to try on different brands in store to make sure you get the best fit.  I’m into the Altra trail runners because they’re nice and wide in the toe bed so my toes can spread out, and have zero drop (measurement between toes and heel) which is nice for my knees.  Wearing ankle high hiking boots can be useful if you’re traveling off trail or on terrain that truly requires stiff, heavy boots.  Otherwise, consider trail runners and low ankle hiking shoes as a lightweight option.  Ask your local shop!
  • Pack blister ampoules. If you feel any rubbing at all, stop right away to dress your hotspots before they become blisters.  Just stick on the blister ampoule and leave it on until it falls off (3 days, usually.)  You might get blisters in boots that you have hiked in before with no problems.  The heat, weight, and long days of backpacking make the inside of your hiking boot a breeding ground for blisters. (And we call this fun?)
  • Hiking Socks wool, 2 or 3 pair.  I recommend Darn Tough as the best brand.
  •  Sports Bra I like wool fabric or other “unstinkable” fabrics.
  •  Sunglasses don’t skimp, your eyes are important! Get a high quality pair with real UVA/UVB protection. Those gas station glasses? They could be even more damaging to your eyes because the darkness dilates your pupils allows more MORE  UVA/UVB rays deep into your eyes.  Sunglass retainers are nice, too (croakies or chums)
  • Sun gloves keeps you from needing sunscreen on your hands.  Any thin gloves will do.
  • Trekking poles can add years to the life of your knees. If adjustable, make sure they flick lock into place. I don’t recommend the twist-lock type of trekking poles because they often collapse throughout the day. I use my backcountry ski poles because I don’t like to accumulate too much gear. Ski poles are heavier than lightweight trekking poles, but they keep my triceps strong 😉
  • Backpack: 45:L= ultralight, 60 Liters = 5 days; 70 Liters = 10 days.  Osprey Packs has really high quality, comfortable packs.  Aura 65 L Osprey Packs is really ideal for long trips or check out the Exos 48 for ultralight backpacking trips.  I see a lot of thru-hikers using the Osprey Exos 48 for long stretches on the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Backpack Rain Cover like a raincoat for your pack, crucial in wet climates.  Some people use garbage compactor bags as pack liners, but I find this really annoying for packing AND it ruins the efficiency of pockets in your pack. Plus, trash compactor bags are kind of expensive for a disposable item. I find the rain cover to be a worthwhile, durable, useful product.
  • Water: Carrying capacity at least 2 liters, more in dry areas.  A hydration system with a hose is nice, Nalgene bottles work fine, and reusing 32oz gatorade bottles will work.  Also worth checking out stainless steel options to avoid the whole plastic toxin leaching and taste problem.  You will be drinking great mountain water…enjoy!
  • Water Purification: My favorite is the CamelBak All-Clear water purifier.  It uses UV light and has a rechargeable battery via USB cord.  I used it on a 3-week trip, shared it with a co-leader, and the battery lasted about 16 days. Impressively awesome.  Other folks like Aqua-mira chlorine drops. I’ve heard good things about the Sawyer squeeze filter. For big groups, I like a dromedary bag with some kind of gravity filter.

Author in her backpacking outfit, shorts, tshirt, boots, socks, trucker hat, sunglasses, 70 liter backpackBackpacking in the Southern Sierras, in my hiking outfit.


2. Staying Warm at Camp

  • Down Jacket. Crucial. 
  • Patagonia R1 Hoodie or some kind of expedition weight base layer top. A cashmere thrift store sweater works great too.
  • Wool long sleeved shirt or some kind of midweight base layer top. Thrift store silk or thin wool works great.
  • Lightweight base layer a thin wool shirt to wear underneath your midweight and expedition weight layers in the evening. It’s nice to have something that hasn’t been hiked in all day to change into.
  • Wool Buff works as a neck warmer or hat
  • Wool Long Underwear aka midweight base layer bottoms. Thrift store silk is also great!
  • Fleece Pants aka expedition weight base layer bottoms. I just got some Patagonia DAS puffy pants… I think I’ll never be cold again.
  • Down Booties As you might have noticed, I really don’t like to be cold, so I always bring these.  You can pad around camp in these in the evenings and sleep with them on really cold nights. Don’t get the REI brand as they slip down your heel so you can’t really walk around easily. Look for something with some kind of durable sole.
  • Wool Socks pack these in your sleeping bag so you have “sacred socks,” one warm, dry set for when you sleep, even if your other socks are all crusty and/or wet from hiking 🙂
  • Warm Hat Pistil Designs for style points
  • Warm Gloves I personally only use my sun gloves.  However, many people like to have warm gloves at night or early mornings, especially for holding trekking poles.
  • Raincoat acts as a windbreaker, too, for a final outer layer to stay warmer. I have found that only Gor-Tex actually works as a waterproof material in heavy rain. Consider anything else a windbreaker.

3. Stylish at Camp

  • Thrift Store Skirt or Sarong for lounging, air drying, changing, looking fashionable
  • Sandals: nice to give your feet a break from those hiking boots
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste (travel sized), Floss
  • Medication, contacts, glasses
  • Period Kit: Tampons, ibuprofen, menstrual cup, baby wipes, extra zip lock for trash.  Pack this trash out in a separate trash bag; don’t bury!) For more info on getting your period in the backcountry, check out our other blog
  • A very small amount of soap for washing hands. 3 oz is plenty. (Do any washing 200 feet from stream!)
  • Clean Undies
  • Camp Chair a Crazy Creek is nice.  Put it under your inflatable pad at night to help keep you insulated and reduce the chance of getting holes in your pad.
  • Mug for coffee or warm drinks

Bowl and SpoonContents of backpacking toiletry kit for packing listMy backcountry toiletry kit: Face scrub (to remove caked on sunscreen. Definitely could get a smaller container,) mini hairbrush, floss, deodorant (not actually very useful in the backcountry,) powdered toothpaste, nail file, lighter, super salve for dry skin, toothbrush, All Good Sport Sunscreen, lip salve with SPF, multi tool & headlamp.

4. Sleeping System

  • Inflatable sleeping mat I like the Big Agnes system where your pad goes into a sleeve on your sleeping bag. You can’t roll off your pad, and you only need half as many feathers.
  •  Sleeping Bag (inside a waterproof stuff sack) Sleeping Bag Ratings: Bogus!  A bag rated for 15ºF means you’ll survive the night, but you won’t be comfortable at 15ºF.  Typically women need a bag that’s 10ºF warmer than what their male counterparts need.  For me personally,  a 15ºF is more appropriate for temps around 35ºF.  If it is so cold that your water bottle freezes overnight, you will want a oºF bag. I personally take a Big Anges -20ºF bag and haven’t been cold since.  For me, it’s worth the weight and bulk.  A great night sleep means happier days on the trail, every day.
  • Ground Tarp to go under your sleeping pad or tent, aka footprint.
  • Tent go light here. 3-4 lbs for a 2 person tent is reasonable, or skip it and just rig a tarp system, especially in areas where mosquitos are light.
  • Pillow Case  (I put my down jacket inside for a comfy pillow)
  • Headlamp (w/extra batteries.)

backpacking sleeping set up for our backpacking packing list. crazy creek chair, pad, sleeping bagMy Sleeping System: Crazy Creek hex-light camp chair, Big Agnes inflatable pad, Big Agnes sleeping bag (with sleeve on bottom for sleeping pad) and a lightweight tent.

5. Bonus Points

  •  Bake chocolate chip cookies or brownies, store them in a ziplock and break them out for your friends
  • Bring a second surprise stash of chocolate to share on a special day
  • Bring a quote or reading to share with your group on a peak
  • Bring fake tattoos, henna, or nail polish for a silly backcountry party
  • Bring a ukulele or guitar and some song lyrics
  • Camera with extra batteries, maybe in a waterproof case
  • Post-trip change of clothes to leave in the car
  • Journal, books, backgammon, cribbage, cards, games
  • Hair ties, mini hair brush
  • Post Office Envelope: Made of tyvek, these are relatively waterproof and lightweight. Great for carrying maps, letters, books, and other papers
  • Credit Card, Driver’s License, and Insurance Card in the world’s thinnest Allet Wallet.
  • Cell phone great for photos and communication on your way into and out of the backcountry.

6. Group Gear

  • Food:  An entire topic in itself! Check out my friend Brian’s page Outdoor Blueprint for ideas
  • SNACKS! SNACKS! SNACKS! Expect to be very hungry.  Why pack expensive, dry bars when you can eat Snickers, Twix, Kit Kats and other awesome candy? Despite their health claims, most of those bars are basically bad tasting, high-sugar, chemical laden, laboratory created junk food anyway.  So why not just eat what you like?   In addition to candy, consider group trail mix, nuts, dried fruits, beef jerky, etc.  (Bars I think are top of the line: ProBars, Lara Bars, Kind Bars, those meat bars are only great if you’re super hungry.)
  • Stuff sack for food one per person for a little hang on a branch from rodents.  If you’re in bear country with habituated bears get a bear canister.  Bear canisters are required in Yosemite backcountry and other bear problem bear areas. (aka human problem areas…) A lightweight alternative is the Ursack. [A “bear hang” is often ineffective and could be more of  a “bear piñata.” You also might be surprised how many serious injuries there are when throwing a rock attached to a line 30 feet up and over a branch.  Projectile, pendulum in the dark, swings back towards your head or your friend’s head] Healthy, wild black bears not used to eating human food are shy and will most likely avoid you.   (Grizzlies are a bit of a different story.  If you are going to Grizzly Bear country…read more!) No need to be afraid though, bears are special and beautiful. We can help protect them and ourselves from human interaction by following some simple principles.
  • Stove: Jet-Boil, Pocket Rocket, or Whisperlite stove and fuel.  I’ve heard from a number of guides that the MSR Reactor Stove is the fastest, most fuel efficient set up and it rocks.
  • Pots: 1 for boiling water (pasta, rice, oatmeal, etc), 1 for sautéing (onions, garlic, veggies) and maybe 1 more for sauces. A long handled titanium stirring spoon is nice, too.
  • Cook kit: cutting board, paring knife, serving spoon, can opener, spatula. More necessary for larger groups to maintain high kitchen cleanliness.  If your trip is comprised of just you and a best friend, you can forget all this and go rogue, eating out of your cooking pots and using your bear can lid as your cutting board.
  • Coffee: Best thing since sliced bread: reusable, light, nests into your pocket rocket fuel canister: GSI ultralight java drip
  • Knife: a small multitool with pliers and mini scissors is nice for cutting onions, spreading peanut butter and repairing gear.
  • Map and Compass. Sure, load up the GPS and apps, it’s fun and pretty easy.  Make sure you have an alternative method of navigating when the GPS battery dies.
  • Repair Kit: McNett’s Seam Grip glue in case of an inflatable sleeping pad hole, sticky ripstop tape in case of a tent or down jacket tear, floss and needle for sewing something up.
  • First Aid Kit and Wilderness First Aid Course so you know what to do.  Even better take Wilderness First Responder, an 80-hour backcountry first aid course.
friends looking at peak Monache Meadows Beck Meadow California PCT Pacific Crest Trail JMT john muir trail

June in the Sierra South Wilderness California Sierra Nevada, Beck Meadows looking at 12,000ft Olancha Peak. Photo by Brennan Burrows


backpacking gear packing list thermarest big agnes pistil clif bar crazy creek down booties down jacket

Me and all my stuff in a 70 liter pack, about 35 pounds of gear, 21 day trip.  Southern Sierra, 2015.


emily backpacking snow sierra nevada alpine meadow

This is June in Southern Sierra Nevada in California and it is 35 degrees and snowing! Brrrr…. don’t skimp on the layers!



Thanks for getting out into the beautiful backcountry wilderness and being a good steward of the land.  Here’s a great summary of LNT to get your group on the same page 🙂

HAVE AN AWESOME TRIP!!  It’s all about the journey..and packing is part of the journey. Enjoy 🙂

Photo of the camelback lightcap on a backpacking trip for packing list

This is the Camelback All-Clear Lightcap. 60 seconds of UV light ensures there are no living things in your water that could give you GI problems later. Retains the awesome fresh water taste, no chemicals. USB rechargable battery lasts 10 days of 3 liters of water a day.


Backpack, boots, raincover for backpacking packing list

Osprey Backpack, Boots, Rain Cover.  In mud, snow, or off trail travel, I recommend ankle high boots. Otherwise, trail runners or approach shoes can be great.

backpacking guide shows off contents of entire backpack for the packing list

Babywipes on Backpacking Packing List

Babywipes, a nice touch for wiping after the backcountry #2 and for wiping the lady parts. Be sure to pack these out in a trash bag, like the zip lock shown.  I used to be more hardcore, using only smooth sticks, stones, snow, etc…but I think this is a luxury that’s worth the weight.


womens backpacking items

A few items not on the list: Tutus, an essential birthday celebration item.  Handkerchief for wiping after peeing, waterproof compression stuff sack for sleeping bag.

backpacking in Northern California