Packing Lists for Backcountry Hikers — Backpacking Meal Plans, Packing Lists, and Tips for Hikers and Casual Paddlers

We’ve learned a lot while making many adjustments to our packing lists for backcountry hikers over the years. I recently decided that since it took us so much trial and error finally to figure out how to properly plan and pack for a backcountry trip, I would share our meal plans and packing lists for hikers and casual paddlers.

I find it’s useful to divide backcountry packing lists into five categories: camping gear, hiking gear, cooking gear, organisational gear, and food. This helps to keep track of what’s done and what’s left to do. It’s also easier to look at short packing lists by category than to look at one long, messy list.

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Last time I shared our meal plans for backcountry hikers, so food’s covered! Now I’ll be getting into our hiking gear, camping gear, and cooking gear packing lists for backcountry hikers. I’ll cover organisational gear next time, however, when I go over my packing tips for backcountry hikers.

Our packing lists for backcountry hikers are aimed at couples hiking together, but they can very easily be adapted to individuals or to small groups. Anyone who can share gear and work together to lighten their collective loads definitely should!

To make it easier to use these camping, hiking, and cooking gear packing lists, I’ve included a free printable PDF download at the end of the article, so keep reading! You can also check it out above by clicking the image then using your browser’s zoom controls if it’s still too small.

Hiking Gear Packing List

When we’re in the backcountry, we’re concerned with the performance of our clothing more than anything else, though comfort is a huge factor, too. But we’re certainly not worried about clean or stylish clothing when all we really care about is not carrying our entire wardrobes on our backs. So, we only pack one of everything for each of us (except spare undies, as you’ll see).

These are the basic items we wear or carry while hiking in the backcountry:

  • Hiking boots

    If we know we’ve got a large water crossing, we also pack water shoes. They’re sturdier than bare feet on slippery surfaces.
  • Spare laces

    Just in case one of the laces on our boots fray through while we’re hiking… I had to use a spare set of laces once, and I know I’ll be using another very soon from what my current laces looks like!
  • Performance socks

    Good technical socks are essential to keeping our feet dry and comfortable. They dry quickly so we wear the same pair every day. We bring an extra pair on longer trips, though. There’s a limit to just how smelly we can stand ourselves!
  • Field pants

    We wear our field pants no matter how warm it is. They’re lightweight enough to keep cool, they dry quickly if they get wet, and most importantly, they protect our legs from all those branches sticking out on the trail. And it doesn’t hurt that they keep the bugs out, too.
  • Dry-wicking shirt

    We appreciate wearing something that dries quickly, particularly when we take off our backpacks and realise our backs are all sweaty…
  • Arm sleeves

    These are great for protecting my arms from UV rays, branches, and bugs while still allowing air flow to my arm pits. Marc doesn’t wear any, though I think he may be starting to consider it.
  • Hat

    To block out the sun, and to keep bugs, leaves, and twigs out of long hair…
  • Hiking poles

    These are handy in hilly terrain, especially for reducing strain on the knees when going downhill.
  • Water bottles and filters

    We have one each.
  • Camera
  • Patagonia raincoat

    I’ve had my Women’s Storm Jacket for over six years and I absolutely love it. It’s been everywhere with me — on treks and travels around the world. It was even my winter jacket while I was working in Vancouver during the Olympics and while I was living in South Korea. So now we’ve finally bought a Men’s Storm Jacket for Marc, and the timing was great — there’s a wicked sale on right now! We can’t wait to get his new Patagonia raincoat in the mail this week (smiley face).
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  • Backpack rain covers

    Again, we have one each.
  • Bug vests

    Ditto.
  • Homemade natural bug spray

    Our recipe is safe for people and pets, helping to protect against ticks, mosquitoes, black flies, and fleas.
  • Sunscreen

    There are some things we can share, like this and most of the items below…
  • Toilet paper and trowel

    We usually don’t need the trowel at camp, but it’s good to have while hiking around…
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  • Watch face

    We carry a watch, bracelet removed, so that we can tell the time without having to turn on our cell phones and waste the batteries. A watch battery lasts a lot longer!
  • Compass
  • Multi-tool
  • Pen flare
  • Duct tape
  • Waterproof matches
  • Emergency blankets

    We have one for each of us, and we both carry our own in case we get separated.
  • Wind-up flashlight
  • Hand sanitizer
  • First aid kit (containing baking soda, tweezers, adhesive bandages, gauze, first aid cream, triangle bandage, tensor bandage, antiseptic towelettes, latex gloves, first aid booklet)

    The baking soda, mixed with water, makes a paste that relieves itchiness from bug bites. The tweezers are to extract ticks.

Camping Gear Packing List for Backcountry Hikers

Ever since I wrote Preparing For a Trek: Gear and Food, we’ve managed to reduce our carrying weight by quite a lot. We used to bring way too much stuff, and the gear we chose to bring was too heavy for backcountry hiking. Now we’ve trimmed down our packing lists for backcountry hikers and at least one of us is usually within our target starting weight.

Update (August 21, 2015): In fact, we’ve both been within our target range for all our 2014 and 2015 backpacking trips (smiley face). And since writing these packing lists, I refer to them constantly as I ready our gear. They’ve been really useful to me!

This is the list of camp gear we bring on overnight backcountry hiking trips:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping pads

    Here’s another item we each need to have.
  • Sleeping bags

    And another, though we zip them together so we can share our body heat (and maybe even snuggle a little).
  • Inflatable pillow

    We actually use stuff sacks full of clothes as pillows, so the inflatable pillow is for my knees. I’m starting to feel some more aches and pains as the years go by…
  • Camp chairs

    Some might say this is a camp luxury, but we feel it’s worth being comfortable at camp. We’ve each got great lightweight camp chairs that allow us actually to enjoy the time we spend at camp.
  • Fleece sweater and pants

    Fleece is lightweight and dries quickly, which makes it an obvious choice for camp clothes.
  • T-shirt

    Depending on the time of year, we might replace the t-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt, or we might bring both. Likewise, we might bring a pair of shorts to wear at camp as well.
  • Camp socks

    Something to give our feet a rest from our smelly, sweaty hiking socks, and to keep the mosquitoes away at night.
  • Spare undies
  • Camp shoes

    We’ve both got lightweight sandals we bring to wear at camp so we can rest our feet from our hiking boots.
  • Personal microfiber towels
  • Tooth brushes

    Cutting the handles off helps us to save space and pack more efficiently, and some argue it makes a difference in carrying weight if you’re trying to go ultra-light.
  • Tooth paste

    Why waste space on a tube of tooth paste? We get Lush’s Toothy Tabs, only bringing along the exact amount we need for our trip.
  • Flashlight and head lamp
  • Rope

    In case we need to hang something or tie up the dogs, etc.
  • Plastic shopping bags

    We bring a couple for trash and wet stuff.
  • Plastic garbage bags

    We bring two and put them over our backpacks overnight in case it rains, making sure to wrap the bottoms, too.
  • Needle and thread

    Just in case we need to patch our tent or our backpacks…
  • Playing cards

    In case it rains while at camp, we have something to do in the tent…
  • Collapsible sink
  • Camp suds

    Since these are biodegradable, work well in water, and only take a few drops, these are a good choice for all camp soap needs, including washing dishes, hands, body, clothing, or anything else you can think of.
  • Hand-knit dish cloth

    These dry quickly and are lightweight without being specialty items, which is why I like them for washing dishes.
  • Microfiber drying towel

    We used to bring regular tea towels to dry our dishes, but they weigh too much and take too long to dry. We were doubtful whether a microfiber towel would work well for drying dishes, but it really does!

If it’s the right time of year, we’ll also bring our swimsuits, a larger towel to share, and our water shoes.

On fishing trips, we pack the fishing rod and tackle, too. Oh, and a book for me!

Cooking Gear Packing List for Backcountry Hikers

This is the cooking gear we need to prepare and eat our food. For our food lists, check out our meal plans for backcountry hikers.

  • Grill

    We bring a small backpacker’s grill to facilitate cooking over the fire, but often we find a grill has been left at our campsite. Still, it’s not worth risking not having one to save a bit of weight, so we always bring it. There’s just no guarantee we’ll be able to find rocks flat enough to serve as a cooking surface…
  • Stove and small fuel can

    We generally cook over the fire, but we always bring our lightweight collapsible stove and a bit of fuel in case it rains. We pack more fuel if there’s a fire ban.
  • Nesting pots

    We’ve stopped bringing the pan that came with our set of nesting pots since we don’t really use it and can do without it. Two pots are enough for us.
  • Tea steeper
  • Measuring cup

    We use this to measure the water for our dehydrated meals, to measure our oatmeal, and to measure our daily portion of trail mix.
  • Plates

    Our plates have high edges so we can use them as bowls if we need to. We bring one each, though we don’t always use them if we’re just eating out of the dehydrated meal package.
  • Mugs

    We bring one each for our morning tea.
  • Camp spoons and knife

    With one spoon each, it’s easy to share our dehydrated meals. We’ve stopped bringing our camp forks since we really don’t need them, and we only bring one camp knife in case we need it, but we usually find the spoons are sufficient.

On fishing trips, we also pack a hand-held toaster which Marc uses to make his flatbread. And of course we need to bring a small cutting board and filet knife, too. Plus, we pack a camp spatula in case Marc doesn’t catch anything and we have to make eggs (winky face).

Packing Lists for Backcountry Hikers: Follow-Up

Tip: You can click directly within the table to edit its contents (smiley face). If you want to save your changes for the next time you plan a trip, scroll down to download the print-friendly version.

Hiking, Camping, and Cooking Gear Overview Checklist
Hiking GearCamping GearCooking Gear
Hiking bootsTentStove and fuel
Spare lacesSleeping padsPlates
Performance socksSleeping bagsMugs
Field pantsInflatable pillowSpoons
Dry-wicking shirtRopeTea steeper
Arm sleevesPlastic shopping bagsMeasuring cup
HatPlastic trash bagsNesting pots
Hiking polesCamp chairsGrill
Water bottles and filtersFlashlight and headlampsCollapsible sink
RaincoatsFleece sweaters and pantsCamp suds
Pack rain coversT-shirtsHand-knit dishcloth
Bug vests and sprayCamp socksMicrofiber drying towel
SunscreenSpare undies
Toilet paper and trowelCamp shoes
Watch facePersonal microfiber towels
CameraToothbrushes
WhistleToothpaste
CompassNeedle and thread
Multi-toolPlaying cards
Pen flareSwimsuits
Duct tapeLarge Microfiber towel to share
Waterproof matchesWater shoes
Emergency blanketsFishing rod and tackle
Hand sanitizer
First aid kit (baking soda, tweezers, bandages, gauze, first aid cream)
Click here to view a shareable image (smiley face).

Free Packing Lists Download!

If you like these hiking, camping, and cooking gear packing lists, download this free and handy printable PDF packing checklist for backcountry hikers [83 kilobytes] (smiley face).

For more info on where to buy a lot of the gear mentioned here in these packing lists for backcountry hikers, check out Backcountry Gear Shopping in Toronto.

There are also some great backcountry packing tips in the rest of the Backpacking Meal Plans, Packing Lists and Tips for Hikers and Casual Paddlers series. How we pack food and gear on a hiking trip is coming up next.

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