Many of us love the minimalist approach to backpacking. But for those longer trips, you simply have to take the time to pack the essentials. What you pack depends on several things such as where you’re headed, how remote it is, how long you’re going for and, of course, what the weather has in store.

In general, the shorter the backpacking trip, the more minimalist you can pack. While the longer the backpacking trip, and the more unsettled the weather, the more clothing, gear, food and water you’re going to need.

Some procrastinate, while others have no idea of what to pack for a backpacking trip. So here we break it down for you with 10 essential items for every backpacking checklist.


Modern technology has made navigation a lot easier than it used to be. Foldable maps and compasses have long been since removed from the recommended packing list — heaven forbid a millennial would have to take a bearing!

Smartphones have evolved into incredibly useful pieces of technology. With GPS now a standard on all phones, mapping apps such as google maps allow you to pinpoint your location anywhere on the globe. For those venturing off the beaten track, modern apps allow maps to be downloaded and thus they don’t require a data connection in remote parts.

However, those venturing in far off remote areas may still require advanced equipment. Altimetres, personal locator beacons or satellite phones may be required for the adventurous types.

First aid kit

Disaster can strike at any time, and no matter how long the backpacking trip, you should always bring along a first aid kit. A quality kit should include items such as bandages, tweezers, antibiotics, insect repellent, athletic tape and medications such as antihistamines, anti-inflammatories and pain relievers. The aforementioned items may be what gets you down that mountain to safety in the event of an unlucky accident.

A quality knife

Whether for running gear repairs or preparing food, a quality knife should be an essential item in any backpacking checklist.

Sun protection

If you spend any considerable amount of time out under a hot sun unprotected, then it will eventually find a way through. A quality pair of sunglasses with UV protection, sun-protective clothing and sunscreen should always be considered on a trip where prolonged exposure to the sun is a possibility.

Cooking equipment

Those going on extended trips will require cooking equipment. Modern camping stoves provide a convenient solution. Just ensure you carry enough fuel and a lighter to cover the length of your trip.


Headlamps or torches are always a recommended item for your backpacking checklist. Whether you’re caught out after sunset or need to set off before sunrise, they’ll help you navigate any rough terrain in low-light.

With a multitude of other uses, encompassing everything from midnight bathroom breaks to searching for lost keys, a headlamp should always be one of the first items you pack. Just don't forget to pack some spare batteries, especially if you’re backpacking in cold weather.


Whether a tent, a bivouac or simply a hammock, you’ll want to pack your chosen form of shelter. Modern options are lightweight, and in the case of tents, the weight can be distributed across several members of the touring party to minimise the burden on any particular person.


Food is an essential item for any backpacking checklist. As a general rule of thumb, you should always pack more than you think you’ll need. In addition to the staple foods, energy bars provide a lightweight, calorie-dense snack that require no preparation. Bear in mind that hiking long hours on consecutive days in the mountains can be physically draining. You’ll find that you need to replenish more calories than normal, so be prepared.


No one can last long without water, and even moderate dehydration can severely limit your physical abilities. Always carry more water than you think you’ll require. If you’re venturing out on a long trip where clean safe water is not readily available, then consider packing a box of water purifying tablets. That way you can fill up from a clean river or stream and later purify the water to make it completely safe to drink.


Always check the weather forecast and pack the appropriate clothing. In the mountains, temperatures can often soar during the day, but drop like a stone at night. Ensure you carry warmer clothing if you’re backpacking at altitude. Be prepared for rain, and ensure you have a pair of well broken-in boots.

When backpacking it’s all about finding balance. Carry too much and it weighs you down, challenges you more physically and limits your options when out in the mountains. But if you get it right, and hit that sweet spot between utility and weight, then come sun, hail, rain or shine, you’ll be prepared!