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Backpacking Gear List from Rock/Creek’s Experts

Are you looking for a backpacking gear checklist? We get this question quite a bit, so we’ve created this essential gear list. Please let us know what you think in the comments below, and share if we’ve done a good job — or just missed something on this packing list!

Having effective, quality equipment is not only essential to enhancing your outdoor adventure, it is fundamental in contributing to the ease and comfort with which that adventure is had. At Rock/Creek, our knowledgeable and experienced staff have spent countless days in the backcountry fine-tuning their backpacking skills amongst some of the most spectacular terrain in the world.  In consultation with our staff, we have come up with the ultimate checklist of “must-have” gear that will ensure that your backpacking trip is properly outfitted… Keep in mind, this list is just the beginning of your own custom backpacking gear list. The season, location and your own style of backpacking will dictate your final gear list.

Backpacking Gear List

Backpack (We’re fond of Osprey packs, and here’s why)

Backpacking gear list
Your results may vary, but we love having a couple brews and Chacos ready.
  • pack cover
  • pack liner–which could be one large waterproof stuff sack or large black trash liner
  • Hydration bladder

Lightweight Backpacking Stove

  • Pocket Rocket/Gigapower(Solo or Fast-packing) and/or MSR Whisperlite/Dragonfly/Simmerlite (for gourmet meals, larger groups) **If you are taking a Whisperlite bring the Maintenance kit**
  • Extra fuel (canister/denatured alcohol) – we can not ship this so you’ll have to get it in a store
  • Esbit tablets
  • Windscreen for liquid canister stoves

Cooking Utensils & Accessories

  • Spoon, knife, and fork set
  • Plate/Bowl
  • Pot/Pan
  • cooking utensils
  • MSR backcountry soap/sponge
  • camp mug/cup

Water Filtration

Sleep System

  • ThermaRest /sleeping pad  **Must have a ThermaRest Field Repair Kit**
  • Optional–ThermaRest seat converter (to lounge around by the fire at night after a hard day of hiking)
  • Pillow or stuffable pillow case (we like the Nemo Fillo Pillow)
  • Sleeping bag (down or synthetic, proper temperature rating for trip)
  • Sleeping bag liner (add warmth)
  • Waterproof stuff sack

Shelter Types

  • Ultralight tarp shelter  (w/ reflective cord to tie it off)
  • Tent (w/ footprint, rainfly, and tent stakes)
  • Bivy sack  (w/stakes)
  • Hammock (w/ straps to attach to tree, rainfly, bug net, and pad to avoid wind)

Outdoor Clothing


  • Merino Wool or synthetic shirt (baselayer)
  • Merino Wool, Down, or Synthetic shirt/sweater, Fleece Jacket, or Softshell Jacket (mid-layer)
  • Outer layer Waterproof and Windproof: we break this down into rain jackets, alpine jackets, and wind shells (shell)
  • Merino Wool hiking socks–minimum 2 pair
  • Sock liners (optional for blister care)
  • Synthetic or Merino wool underwear
  • Synthetic pants and/or shorts
  • Trail running shoes, light hikers/hiking shoes, or hiking boots **closed toe recommended**
  • Boot conditioner, extra laces
  • waterproof hat/sun hat
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • ***Must get proper wash for clothing care***(Try Nikwax Techwash)

Miscellaneous items to consider

  • Accessory cord for bear bag & many other things
  • Waterproof bag for food
  • Bug spray (DEET or premerthrin)
  • Sun Hat (like the Outdoor Research Sombriolet)
  • Gaiters
  • Trowel
  • Waterproof matches
  • Knife
  • MAP!! (w/ weatherproof case) or print your own on National Geographic waterproof printer paper
  • Compass
  • Thermometer
  • Headlamp
  • Small lightweight lantern or flashlight
  • Batteries and solar charger
  • Trekking poles
  • Waterproof paper/notebook (to catalog your adventure/emergency situations)
  • Sea2Summit Travel Microfiber towel
  • Leatherman Multi-tool/pocketknife
  • Hand held bottle (Platypus or Nalgene)
  • Wine bag or flask
  • Book (If you’re hiking the Smokies you need this guide)
  • Chacos or other shoes to wear around camp

First Aid Kit (Consider the Adventure Medical Kits “Fundamentals” Kit for most of these) 

  • Duct Tape
  • Moleskin
  • Glacier Gel
  • Gold Bond/ Baby Powder
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Pain killer
  • Muscle relaxer
  • Gauze
  • Alcohol swipes
  • Medical/Athletic Tape
  • Fishing line
  • Needle
  • Survival blanket
  • Safety Whistle
  • Tiny mirror
  • Splint
  • Tums
    **On larger/longer trips in remote backcountry consider bringing a SPOT GPS and SPOT Connect***

Things to consider when crafting your backpacking gear list:

In preparing for any overnight trip in the backcountry, the importance of logistical planning is not to be understated.  This should include a decent amount of research on the area to be explored. Every time you head out on a trip, you’re likely to have a different backpacking gear list. You have to base your list on what you plan to experience. With descriptions of terrain, trails, and recommendations, guide books are usually the most productive (and concise) point of reference to start planning a trip.

Once an area/location for your adventure has been found and researched, locating a legible and properly scaled map of the area should become the priority. From USGS topographic to waterproof, backpacking-specific (National Geographic), a good map is the priority for every trip. It is essential to become familiar with the scale of the map, the route and distances you will be hiking, and the topography through which you will travel.  This includes the logistics of traveling both to and from the trailhead as well as the intended path of foot travel of your backpacking trip.

Once the location of your adventure has been established, prepare for the weather that you may encounter.  Understand both the environment and the type of climate within which you will be traveling.   The season, the normal high and low temperatures, the amounts of potential precipitation, and the typical weather patterns of the area should all be known prior to the trip.  Knowing the possible conditions will allow you to pack and prepare for those conditions with ease and confidence should they arise.

Ask for expert advice to help craft your backpacking gear list!

…Which just happens to be our profession at Rock/Creek. We’re the gear experts!  As a specialty outdoor retail store, Rock/Creek has been outfitting the Chattanooga area for over 25 years with the most state-of-the-art gear available.  The equipment you put on your personal gear list should reflect the preparation and specific needs of your backcountry wilderness adventure.  The basics of your backpacking gear list should include:  a well-fitted, properly sized backpack, a compact backpacking stove with extra fuel, lightweight cooking utensils, an effective water filtration system, a weather-proof sleeping system, a quality first-aid kit, and, most important, weather-appropriate clothing that is suitable for layering.  A layered system of clothing allows for optimal physical activity while, simultaneously, allowing your body to stay warm and release moisture during exertion (hence, the term “breathable”).  We’ll have an article about that coming out soon.

Cotton can be deadly. Because the fabric retains moisture and dries slowly, it has the tendency to cause you to become chilled very quickly.  It is imperative to have merino or synthetic layers that allow your skin to breathe while maintaining a degree of warmth.  Dressing in layers allows you to clothe yourself according to both exertion levels and temperature.  This becomes more important in wet and/or cold environments.  A waterproof/breathable outer shell is a necessity in an extended backcountry setting.  Comfort and preparedness are important not only for the enjoyment of your trip but critical to your safety and well-being while in the backcountry — there is a very fine line between wilderness inspiration and hypothermia!  Be prepared.

Our backpacking gear list provides a thorough account of the gear recommended to complete any backpacking trip, from a simple overnighter to an extended multi-week expedition or thru-hike.  We’ve collected this list from Rock/Creek’s seasoned staff, and it’s an “essentials” list based on our staff exploring all over the world in every conceivable climate and weather condition. We’ve made the mistakes, left that one key item, and broken every possible product.

Backpacking is the most accessible outlet of exploration, the most basic, the most popular means by which our natural world may be seen.  We know you’re going to have a great time. That being said, planning for a backpacking trip does require an exceptional amount knowledge, preparation, and gear.  Come visit Rock/Creek and let us prepare you for your next adventure!

If you have any questions or are kind enough to tell us what you think about our backpacking gear list, please leave a comment below. To speak with one of our gear experts, check out our contact page.

If you’re looking for ideas on where to go next, check out RootsRated’s backpacking and hiking recommendations and be sure to follow the RootsRated Stories news site.