What Should I Bring Backpacking | Hikers University

Backpacking can quickly go sideways if you don’t have the right equipment, which leaves many beginners wondering, what should I bring backpacking?

Backpacking is an exciting and thrilling outdoor activity that attracts many people to leave their hustle-bustle life in the city and relax in nature. However, hikers need various items to fulfill their needs in a remote land, usually stripped of any facility.

The essential items that you must carry in your backpack include water, food, navigation tools (compass, map, etc.), a first-aid kit, cooking and eating utensils, tent, sleeping bag, GPS device, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, flashlight, water filter, waste bag, spare clothing, and more.

While these are the items that you should always carry in your backpack to ensure a safe and sound trip, you can also carry other items to have a more convenient and better experience. These can include bear spray, quick-dry towels, binoculars, etc. However, ensure that you only add the weight you can carry without stressing yourself.

As hiking enthusiasts, we know all about the items to carry in a backpack with our extensive experience. Therefore, we put together this guide to help people wondering what to pack in their backpacks.

Table of contents


Must-Have Items

First-Aid Kit

Having a first-aid kit is always good advice when hiking. You never know if something might go wrong, so it's best to be prepared with what you need for treating injuries on the trail. An experienced hiker will tell you that carrying an emergency medical supply package can help in case of accidents or other unforeseen events while exploring nature at high elevations where reception may not exist nearby.

The best first-aid kit has everything you'll need for any medical emergency. It should include gauze and tweezers, tape, bandages, scissors pain relievers, antihistamines, burn cream, hydrocortisone creams, and prescription medications (if needed).

Navigation Tools

Hikers have many reasons to carry navigation tools, such as safety and marking the trail. A compass is one way that hikers can use their surroundings to find direction on off-trail terrain with no landmarks.

At the same time, a map helps them figure out where they are at any given moment to avoid getting lost during hiking trips when it isn't much else around besides nature itself! A GPS device may also come in handy because it lets you know your exact location, so if anything happens (like someone falling ill), then others will know exactly how far away help might be located

You can use their navigation tools to plan the best way forward. Maps show all of these different trails in an area, and compasses will help determine which direction you need to take to a destination.


When you're out in the wilderness, water is essential for survival. Your body needs water to function properly, and without it, you will quickly become dehydrated. That's why it's essential to carry water with you when backpacking. By doing so, you can be sure that you have a clean and reliable water source whenever you need it.

Additionally, carrying water helps keep you safe in case of an emergency. If you get lost or injure yourself, having water with you can help to prevent debilitating dehydration. So next time you head out into the wilderness, make sure to bring plenty of water - your life may depend on it.

You should carry one to two liters of water for a day’s hike. However, backpacking is usually more extended, and you will be out of water soon. While you can find water sources in many places, they may not always be safe to drink. Fortunately., you can keep a water filter and hydration packs to fulfill your water needs.


When you're backpacking, it's important to carry enough food to keep yourself well-nourished. Depending on the length and intensity of your hike, you may need to consume upwards of 3,000 calories per day. That's a lot more than the average person typically eats!

Carrying enough food with you will help to ensure that you have the energy you need to complete your hike. Additionally, food can provide valuable warmth and protection in cold weather conditions. If you get stranded overnight, having a food supply can make all the difference.

Finally, carrying food with you backpacking also helps prevent unwanted interactions with wildlife. If you're snacking on a trail mix, there's no need to worry about a bear coming along and trying to steal your food! All in all, it's simply not worth taking the risk of going without food when backpacking. Make sure to pack enough for yourself and then some.

What Food Should You Pack for Backpacking?

When backpacking, you need to consider what type of food to bring with you carefully. First, you'll want to ensure enough food to last the entire trip. This means bringing plenty of non-perishable items high in calories, such as granola bars and trail mix.

 You'll also want to make sure you have some lighter, easily-digestible snacks for when you're on the trail, such as candy or fruit. In terms of meals, it's best to stick with simple, easy-to-prepare recipes that don't require a lot of cookware or ingredients. Pasta dishes and rice dishes are always good options, as are freeze-dried meals.

And finally, don't forget to pack some coffee or tea for those mornings when you need an extra boost. With a bit of planning, you can ensure that your backpacking trip is enjoyable and delicious!

Cook Set and Eating Utensils

When you're out on the trail, the last thing you want to worry about is where your next meal is coming from. That's why it's important to always carry a cook set and eating utensils when backpacking.

You can boil water for coffee or tea, cook up a hot meal, and even make s'mores over the campfire with a cook set. Eating utensils may not seem like a big deal, but having a spoon, fork, and knife can make the difference when you're trying to eat a hearty backpacking meal.

Additionally, carrying your own cook set and eating utensils ensures that you won't have to rely on someone else for your next meal. So whether you're cooking for one or feeding a group, be sure to pack a cook set and eating utensils on your next backpacking trip.

Fire Starting Supplies

When backpacking, it's always a good idea to carry a fire-starting kit. You never know when you might need it, and it's better to be safe than sorry. A fire can be used for warmth, cooking, or simply to signal for help.

If you find yourself in an emergency, having a fire can make all the difference. The best way to carry a fire-starting kit is in a waterproof container. This will protect your matches and lighter from the elements and ensure that they will be ready to use when you need them. Be sure to include some tinder and a paper towel or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly to make excellent tinder.


As backpacking involves spending multiple days in the wild, you will definitely need a place to rest, and not just at night. Some trails and areas have resorts and accommodations. But what if you are lost and forced to spend the night in the open? It is always vital to carry your own shelter. The shelter consists of these three items:


Tent camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors without roughing it too much. Sure, you still have to sleep on the ground, but a tent keeps you dry and protects you from insects and other critters. Tent camping is also relatively easy to set up and take down, and it doesn't require any special equipment. However, the most important reason to carry a tent when backpacking is it provides a sense of security. When you're out in the middle of nowhere, a tent can be a refuge from the elements and a reminder that civilization isn't too far away.

Sleeping Bag

There's nothing quite like crawling into your sleeping bag at the end of a long day when you're out on the trail. But what happens if you don't have a sleeping bag? Suddenly, that comfy campsite doesn't seem quite so appealing.

A tent’s floor is not comfortable or supportive. That's why it's always a good idea to carry a sleeping bag when backpacking, even if you're planning on staying in developed campsites. Sleeping bags provide warmth and insulation, essential for a good night's sleep. They also help keep you dry, which can be important if your tent is leaking or the ground is wet.


There are a few reasons you might want to consider carrying a blanket when backpacking. For one, blankets can help to keep you warm in cold weather. They can also be used as an extra layer of protection if you need to camp in an area with rough terrain. Additionally, blankets can be used as a makeshift shelter in an emergency. And finally, they can simply add an extra layer of comfort to your sleeping setup. So, if you're looking for a versatile piece of gear that can help you stay warm and dry in all kinds of conditions, a blanket is a great option.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

When you're out in the backcountry, it's important to take care of your belongings, including your toothbrush and toothpaste. Unlike other items in your pack, toothbrushes and toothpaste are personal items that can't be shared. That's why it's essential to clean them regularly, especially if you're using them in a shared space like a tent or campsite.

Toothbrush and toothpaste cleaning isn't just about keeping your own things clean - it's also about preventing the spread of germs. When you're sharing close quarters with others, it's important to do everything you can to prevent the spread of illness.

A few simple tips can help you keep your toothbrush and toothpaste clean while backpacking. First, always pack them in a separate bag, so they don't come into contact with other items in your pack. Second, clean them with soap and water after each use. Finally, make sure to dry them thoroughly before packing them away.

Soap/Hand SanitizerSpare Clothing and Layering

When you're out in the wilderness, you're susceptible to bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. That's why it's always a good idea to carry soap and hand sanitizer with you when you go backpacking. Soap will help remove dirt and grime from your hands, while hand sanitizer will kill any harmful germs you may have picked up.

In addition, both soap and hand sanitizer are relatively light and compact, so they won't add too much weight to your backpack. So next time you go backpacking, be sure to pack some soap and hand sanitizer - it could just save your life.


There are plenty of reasons to carry a torch or flashlight when backpacking, even if you're not planning on doing any night hiking. A light can be very helpful if you need to set up camp in the dark. It can also be useful for finding your way around in the dark or signaling for help if you get lost.

Additionally, a light can be handy for reading maps or other materials, and it can also help you avoid tripping over obstacles in the dark. So, even if you're not planning on doing any night hiking, it's still a good idea to bring along a light.


Spending time in the sun is one of the best parts of backpacking, but it's important to be safe and protect your skin. Even if you don't typically burn, it's still possible to get sun damage. It protects you from harmful UV rays, but it also helps to prevent sunburns, which can be painful and last for days.

When you're backpacking, it's even more essential to carry sunscreen with you. First of all, you're likely to be spending more time in the sun than you would at home. Second, you may not have easy access to medical care if you get sunburned. And third, carrying sunscreen doesn't add much weight to your pack, so there's really no excuse not to have it.

Waste Bag

There are a few reasons you should always carry a waste bag when backpacking. First, it's important to be respectful of the environment. When you're out in nature, you want to leave as small a footprint as possible. That means packing out all your trash, including your food waste.

A waste bag helps you do that. Second, carrying your waste with you can help prevent wildlife from getting into it. Animals will often rummage through trash looking for food, which can lead to dangerous situations for both animals and humans. By carrying your waste with you, you can help keep wildlife safe. Finally, it's just good manners! No one wants to see your trash left behind, so make sure to pack it out with you.

Emergency Communication Device

When you're out in the wilderness, it's important to be prepared for anything. That's why carrying an emergency communication device is smart when backpacking. If you get lost or injured, a device like a satellite phone can help you call for help. In addition, many devices now offer features like GPS tracking, so rescuers can more easily find you.

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles can be a lifesaver when you're out on the trail. Not only do they help to take some of the strain off your legs and back, but they can also provide additional stability on uneven terrain. They can also be useful for crossing rivers or streams, and in the event of an emergency, they can be used to help build a shelter. Trekking poles are handy in backpacking, where every ounce counts. They are lightweight and can easily be strapped to your pack, making them an ideal piece of gear for any hiker or backpacker.

Items for a Better Hiking Experience

The items we discussed above are essential for survival on a backpacking trip. However, the difficulty level of backpacking depends on the weather, trail type, elevation, etc. Sometimes backpackers are left wanting more. You can carry the following things to make your experience better.

  • Repair Kit & Tools
  • Sunglasses
  • Mobile Phone
  • Portable Battery Pack
  • Pack Cover or Pack Liner
  • Electrolytes
  • Gaiters
  • Camera
  • Bear Spray
  • Binoculars
  • Quick Dry Towel
  • Tampons (If required)


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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