Ultimate backpacking checklist

Written by Nigel Simpkins

Preparing for a backpacking trip takes a lot of work. Forgetting even the smallest piece of gear can ruin your journey, and nobody wants to head home early because they left behind one single thing! Planning is everything, whether you’re alone or going in a group.

We’ve teamed up with Compare and Choose to bring you this ultimate backpacking checklist that’ll keep you well-equipped for any kind of backpacking holiday!


There are some things that are just common sense, but you’d be surprised how often people forget them. This includes things like:

  • A suitably-sized backpack, daypack or other large bag
  • A sleeping bag and/or sleep pad
  • A portable light source, usually a flashlight or phone with torch functionality
  • General toiletries and health requirements, like toothpaste and medical prescriptions. Toilet paper and mand sanitizer is also recommended
  • Some light accessories for different weather (a balaclava or sun hat, etc)
  • A knife and some matches, as emergency measures (not recommended for air travel, of course)
  • A map of the area/s (digital, physical or both)

Clothing for warm weather

  • A breathable coat to stop humid air and warm rain
  • Shorts or short trousers to increase body heat loss (or to sleep in)
  • A spare sleeveless top or vest for extremely warm weather
  • Breathable shoes, usually trainers
  • Some open sandals

Clothing for cool weather

  • A thick coat that can retain heat
  • Warm trousers (preferably stretchy ones that allow more freedom of movement)
  • An overshirt or jumper to wear during particulary cold weather
  • Some casual shoes (such as Macro Tozzi shoes and boots) for relaxing
  • Gloves or arm warmers (depending on how cold the weather is)

Recreational gear

Long sessions of travelling and waiting get boring fast, so at least one piece of basic recreational gear is an excellent idea!

  • At least one lengthy book (physical or digital)
  • A music player for songs or podcasts, especially if travelling alone through open country
  • A camera or mobile phone with camera apps
  • A pack of cards (or any card-based game)
  • Quick-drying swimming trunks for warm weather (can also be useful for crossing deep streams)

Group essentials

If you aren’t backpacking alone, you might need to pack some extra gear to keep your group connected:

  • A simple two-way walkie-talkie or radio pair, for emergencies
  • Simple flares, glowsticks or emergency lights to help locate lost members at night
  • Extra batteries and a phone powerbank
  • (At least) one first aid kit per person, in case you get separated
  • Separate mobile phones with each other member as a contact
  • An up-to-date map (digital or physical) for each group member

Food prep

Taking a trip to the middle of nowhere can be tough, so having enough edible food is essential:

  • Enough food for each expected day of travel, per person
  • At least one or two days’ worth of emergency food per person (things like calorie bars and ration packs)
  • A decently-sized water stockpile and at least two methods of filtering natural water
  • A stove for cooked food, as well as fuel and/or matches to light it
  • Sturdy and compact cutlery, as well as some simple cups and bowls for eating meals
  • Emergency water purification tablets
  • A cooking pot or bowl-topped stove with a lid, to keep out dust and sand
  • Some zip-lock bags or airtight storage boxes to carry leftover food, so that none of it is wasted
  • Thermos flasks for heated or cooled liquids

Camping and shelter

If you’re planning on sleeping outside each night, you’ll need a lot more gear, so make sure you’ve got the room to carry it!

  • At least one tent and all it’s components (best spread out across the group, so one person isn’t carrying an entire tent)
  • Some spare rope and duct tape for short-term tent repairs
  • A small “roof” for stoves or campfires to keep rain away (this can usually just be a tarp and some thick sticks)
  • A foldable camping chair
  • A small pillow to make sleeping more comfortable
  • A small umbrella