Your essential backpacking checklist for every trip

Embark on your next journey with our ultimate backpacking checklist! Gear up right and make every outdoor adventure memorable.


backpacking checklist

Embarking on a backpacking adventure? Your ultimate backpacking checklist is the key to ensuring you're well-prepared for your journey. This comprehensive guide will equip you with knowledge about essential gear, from choosing the perfect travel backpack to packing it with all necessary items.

In our basic backpacking checklist section, we'll cover everything from hiking boots and sleeping bags to cooking gear and water bottles. The camping-specific list dives deeper into outdoor equipment like freestanding tents and bear canisters - essentials for any overnight stay in nature.

Finally, we share some extra tips for an unforgettable backpacking experience that balances fun with safety.

Don't miss out this article about Adventure planning: the best guide for your backpacking trip.

Basic backpacking checklist

Man with a backpack looking at a waterfall 

Clothing and footwear

Pack the right clothes and shoes depending on your destination. Check how the weather is like in these places and during the season that you will be traveling.

Layer up with lightweight, breathable clothing -they dry up fast and don't take much space. Don't forget sturdy, waterproof boots with ankle support and grip and good traveling sandals if you'll be backpacking in hot places.

Health and hygiene items

Stay healthy and clean on the road. Bring travel-sized toiletries like toothpaste, soap, and shampoo. Wet wipes are a lifesaver when showers are MIA. 

Don't forget a basic first aid kit. Don't stress out about taking too many medicines to your trip "just in case". There are some specific medicines depending on the destination and your needs, but most of them you'll be able to buy them during your backpacking journey... except if you're traveling to very remote locations.


In this digital age of traveling, electronics are not only very helpful but a necessity on any trip. You'll keep a lot of important information in your smartphone, from photos and videos to air tickets, so make sure to keep it safe.

Don't forget chargers and adapters. Also, a portable power bank is a lifesaver.

Check out these travel apps that will save you time and money in Europe and the best travel apps for the techy traveler.

Other essentials

Don't overlook these important items:

  • A reliable thermo bottle that can keep liquid temperature for long hours.
  • Travel documents: Keep your passport, ID cards, and tickets safe. Send a copy of them to your email.
  • Multi-tool gadget: Handy in unexpected situations.
  • A raincoat big enough to cover you and your backpack in case the rain catchs you on the go.

That's our comprehensive guide for a successful backpacking journey. Now let's move on to specific checklists based on the seasonality of your trips.

Keep reading: The ultimate international travel checklist.

Girl with a backpack sightseeing in France

Backpacking checklist for summer trips

If you're planning a summer backpacking trip, it's essential to have the right gear. Whether you’re hiking through forests or trekking up mountains, your backpacking checklist should include items that will keep you safe and comfortable in warmer weather conditions.

Sun protection is a critical item on your summer backpacking checklist. This includes not only strong sunscreen but also long sleeves clothing made from light materials, a hat that covers your neck, sunglasses, and even lip balm with SPF protection.

A good mosquito repellent is essential specially (but not only) if you'll be traveling in tropical destinations.

Going to the beach? Read this essential beach packing checklist.

Two women on a hiking trail taking things out of their backpacks

Backpacking checklist for winter trips

Unlike summer adventures, winter trips require specific gear to ensure your safety and comfort in colder conditions.

A good travel jacket is the first item on our list. Look for one that is waterproof, windproof, and has insulation to keep you warm even in freezing temperatures. Pair this with thermal shirts or long sleeves underneath for added warmth.

Waterproof gloves are another must-have item when preparing your backpacking gear. They not only protect your hands from the cold but also provide grip if you’re hiking on icy trails.

Your feet need protection too! Invest in quality hiking boots that have excellent traction and can withstand snowy trail conditions. Don't forget about woolen or thermal hiking socks, which offer extra warmth while preventing sweaty hiking clothes situations inside your shoes!

A portable water heater can also be super useful.

Backpacking checklist: two warmly clothed people on a snowy natural place

Backpacking checklist for camping

You don't need everything that is on the camping shops, but camping while backpacking brings a unique set of challenges and specific necessities.

  • Hiking boots

Your choice of footwear can make or break your outdoor adventure. A pair of good quality hiking boots or hiking shoes are absolutely necessary on any trail conditions. They provide support and grip while keeping sweaty hiking clothes at bay with their breathable material.

A pair of hiking sticks can also be crucial.

  • Shelter essentials

Your first line of defense against the elements is your shelter, so be very selective about your tent. 

A lightweight tent can be ideal on tropical destinations, but you will need one designed for harsh weather conditions if camping in cold temperatures. These are usually more robust than regular tents and better equipped at keeping out snowfall or strong winds.

  • Sleep Comforts

Nothing ruins an adventure faster than lackluster sleep.

Invest in a good quality sleeping bag suited for the weather conditions you'll face. 

  • Navigational tools: Don't get lost out there

Make sure to download offline maps before heading off-grid, like those at HiiKER, Backcountry Navigator, Gaia GPS and AllTrails.

A detailed map of the area will also come in handy. Topographic maps are best as they provide information about physical features and elevations.

  • The camp kitchen

Fuel your adventure with good food. You'll need some basic kitchen gear if planning to cook meals at the campsite, like a portable stove, fuel, pots & pans, etc.

Pack enough food that doesn't require refrigeration like canned goods or freeze-dried camping foods. 

  • First aid essentials for the campsite

Don't skip this one. Always have a well-stocked first-aid kit handy when you're out in the wilderness. Include items such as bandages, antiseptic creams, tweezers and any needed prescriptions in your first-aid kit.

For those who prefer to assemble their own, ready-made first aid kits can be purchased from online retailers or sporting goods stores.

Check this article about how much does camping cost.

Backpacking checklist: hands of a person packing a backpack with camping gear

How to choose the best backpack

Your backpack is your home on the road, so selecting the right backpack for your trip is essential for a successful journey.

A well-fitted pack makes all the difference in comfort and mobility during long hikes or city explorations. Don't be a pack mule, choose one that fits your torso length and hip size.

Did you know there are gender-specific packs out there designed with body differences in mind? Ladies, check out women's specific models with shorter torso lengths, differently shaped shoulder straps, and more pronounced hip belts.

A rain cover is essential, as will keep your belongings dry during unexpected showers, while good cushioning ensures comfortable wear.

The last thing you want is a sweaty back after hours of walking. Stay cool with backpacks featuring breathable mesh panels.

Some of the most reputable brands are Deuter, Osprey, Thule, Arc’teryx, Peak, Patagonia and The North Face.

Finally, don’t forget to fit it properly to your body. All the strips of the backpack are there for a reason: both the waist and chest should be hooked, and the shoulder straps tightened and regulated so that the base of the backpack is above the height of your bum.

Find more information at How to choose the best travel backpack.

Two guys and a girl with backpacks looking at a mountain

Extra tip: the best backpacking experience

You've got your gear, you're ready to hit the road. But have you considered how to make this trip truly unforgettable?

The answer is volunteering through Worldpackers.

This innovative work exchange platform takes backpacking to a whole new level. Say farewell to the usual touristy jaunts and welcome a chance to dive into different cultures and build long-term relationships with people from all over the globe.

  • A unique way of traveling

By offering a few hours of work per day in return for accommodation and meals, travelers can not only save money while traveling, but also gain invaluable insights into their host country's culture and make friends and travel partners.

  • Dive deeper into destinations

No more rushing through tourist hotspots or feeling like an outsider looking in. With Worldpackers, each destination becomes home - even if only for a short time - allowing you true insight into daily life there.

  • Lifelong learning on the go

In addition to learning practical skills at various jobs offered by hosts worldwide (think eco-volunteering at a winery in Sicily or teaching English in Vietnam), users also gain access to comprehensive resources provided by fellow community members sharing tips, tricks, and everything related to travel budget planning, safety precautions, and cultural etiquette.

Check the Worldpackers' blog and the Worldpackers Academy, where you can find hundreds of travel and digital nomadism courses.  

  • An unforgettable experience awaits you

If you are a passionate traveler who values authentic immersive experiences rather than typical sightseeing tours, then Worldpackers might be the perfect fit. So why wait? Start packing your bags and embark on the adventure of a lifetime today: subscribe to the Worldpackers Community for free and start saving your favorite volunteer positions until you are ready to get verified

Learn more about how Worldpackers works: Traveling with Worldpackers: your top questions answered

Three volunteer girls and a guy with people from a local community from the Amazon jungle

Whether you're camping on the wild or exploring cities, having the right gear is crucial for a successful trip, so don't forget to pack like a pro.

From basic travel essentials to choosing the best backpack, this backpacking checklist covers everything you need to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience, because nobody wants to be caught without their toothbrush in the middle of nowhere.

By following these tips and recommendations, you can feel confident that you have all the necessary items for your adventure, and you'll be ready to conquer the world like a true explorer.

So grab your backpack, pack it with the essentials, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey, because life is too short to stay in one place.

Happy travels, fellow wanderers!

If you like these tips, follow Worldpackers social media to keep up with the news: we are on Instagram and Tiktok.

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