What do I bring when backpacking is usually the first question that gets asked. Unfortunately it's not an easy question to answer because it depends on what kind of backpacking you are doing, where you are going, whats the season or climate of the hike, and who you are going with. Even the most skilled backpackers have to think about these questions when backpacking. The basic list provided on this page are good guidelines to follow, but you have to add or delete certain things depending on what you are doing. Remember, whenever you go out into the outdoors, plan your event by asking and answering these simple planning questions:

  • WHO - Do you have a large group where you can distribute the gear and the weight? Is your group younger or older? Medical needs?
  • WHAT - What are you taking? What is your emergency plan?
  • WHEN - Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall? Cold, Heat, Rain or Snow? Night hiking?
  • WHERE - Where are you hiking? Desert, High Alpine, Lush Forest, Tundra, Coastal? Make a plan and then figure out HOW your are going to do your hike.
  • WHY - Why are you doing the hike? Is this a training hike to test out gear? Is this a 50 miler or more? Are you concerned with comfort or weight?
  • HOW - This is the big one.... How are you going to hike this trip? Plan out your destinations. Is there water at these destinations? How many miles everyday?

If you can answer and prepare for these questions, you'll usually be good to go! A SCOUT IS PREPARED, but that doesn't mean you have to carry the house to do be prepared.

Car camping gone wrong

Backpacking is different than car camping.

What Style of Backpacker are you???

There are some general guidelines to how backpackers determiner your "style" of backpacking. It's usually based on the amount of weight you want to carry. You might ask yourself, "Why would I want to be anything less than a UltraLight backpacker"? That would be a good question and maybe here is a good answer.....

BPW = Base Pack Weight - everything in your pack except consumables (food, water, and fuel). Does not include what you are wearing. The consumable weight will change over the course of the trip.

TW = Total Weight - everything, including you. This is all the weight you need to move up the trail. A 170lb person with a 50lb pack (170lbs + 50lbs = 220lbs) would have the same TW as a 200lb person with a 20lb pack.

SuperUltraLightweight - under 5lb BPW

UltraLightweight - under 10lb BPW

Lightweight - under 20lb BPW

Traditional - under 30lb BPW

Heavy - over 30lb BPW

Many people spend way too much time shrinking their BPW so they can think of themselves as UltraLight hikers, but that's a waste of effort. The goal should be to reduce the entire amount you need to move up the trail (the TW) in order to have a more enjoyable hike, but still remain safe and as comfortable as your enjoyment requires.

Benefits of Lighter Weight

I've not met anyone that does not agree a lighter pack means a better hike. Some reasons to go light:

  • Less tired at the end of the day
  • Cover more miles of trail and see more sights
  • Travel more challenge terrain
  • Less stress on legs lowers probability of injury
  • Less food and time needed to cover a certain distance
  • Extend the hiking years for older hikers

And, a few common concerns of going too light:

  • Unprepared for emergency situations, such as injuries or bad weather
  • Include adequate first aid and weather protection.
  • Sacrifice of too much comfort, such as sleeping pad and warm clothes
  • Carrying 25lb instead of 50lb is more comfortable all day.
  • Lighter gear costs more
  • Lighter, stronger materials are more expensive - but check into making your own.

Lightening your load doesn't need to be a revolutionary event. You can evolve your gear and acquire lighter items as needed. Always keep safety a Number One priority whenever heading outdoors and take the first aid and emergency items that really make sense.

The Big Three

(where to best reduce weight)

The best way to lower your equipment weight is to concentrate on reducing three key areas and then work on from there. These three areas account for the majority of your pack weight:

  • Shelter - tents, tarps, or bivys are all options for shelter depending on your preferences, insects, and expected weather.
  • Sleep System - sufficient insulation from the ground and air to keep you warm all night is the requirement. There are dozens of sleeping pads and sleeping bags from which to choose, using different insulation types and amounts resulting in different temperature ratings and comfort levels.
  • Pack - the pack in which you carry everything weighs something itself. Some framed packs may weigh 7 or more pounds. An ultralight frameless pack can be under 1 pound. There are many choices in the sub-3 pound range.

Working on getting your Big Three weight under 8 pounds (or lower) is a good starting goal, but don't get a lightweight pack before reducing the weight you will put in it. Lighter packs are intended to carry lighter loads.

Backpacking list

Please download the packing lists provided from this site. Other items can be added, or deleted, based on the type of trip and when asking your Who, What, Where, Where, Why and How questions. The experienced hiker/backpacker will review his gear after each trip he/she takes and determine if it was necessary and if it is needed on the next adventure. Always strive to improve how you pack and how you experience the outdoors.


Shelter (tent, bivy, hammock, tarp, etc)

Sleeping bag

Sleeping pad

Reflective pad / cloth **



Mess Kit / eating utensils

Bear bag w/ rope / canister

Stove w/ fuel



First Aid kit

Pocket knife

Navigation - Map and Compass / GPS

Water Treatment

Fire starter

Flashlight / headlamp

Rain and/or snow coat

Whistle / signalizing

Sun protection (hat / lotion)

Trail food



Gaiters (optional)


Jacket / Coat

Sandals / camp shoes

Swim suit (optional)

Extra clothing


Summit Pack

Hygiene items (tooth brush, soap....)

Troop 25 Backpack checklist.pdf

General Pack List developed by Troop 25. Does not anticipate all camping locations or seasons. Add / Subtract items based on your camping plan.

Philmont Packing List 2018.pdf

Backpack List developed by Philmont Scout Ranch. Designed for longer treks (7 day or more) , Northern New Mexico high elevation camp. Rustic camp with incorporated camps. Anticipated monsoon rains daily, bears, snakes, scorpions.