A guide to lightweight backpacking!

Contributed by Ruth Heaton

A printable Backpacking Gear Checklist.

Every scout should have the following:

NO COTTON clothing. Take nothing cotton on a backpack trip. Note about this list. It is always the same. Once you have packed properly for one backpack trip, you will pack exactly the same for every trip, perhaps acquiring lighter versions of each item as you go.


• Scout pants. nylon, zip off, quick drying.

• Class B wicking t-shirt.

• Fleece Jacket

• Wicking poly or smartwool socks

• Hiking boots or trail shoes

• Baseball cap—wool or synthetic, not cotton

1. Rain gear:

• Either a backpacking poncho (one that will cover you and your pack) or Frogg Toggs, top and bottom. Pack on top or in an outer pocket where you can get at it.

2. Clothing Ziplok 1: In a gallon zip-lock bag, put the following items, for warmth and sleeping in:

• Lightweight stocking cap

• Wool or polyester socks

• Long underwear (essential). Wool or polypro or silk

• Light fleece gloves

3. Clothing Ziplok 2:

• Optional--Extra pair of lightweight wicking pants--nylon or similar (Your long underwear or rain gear pants can be your second pair of pants).

• Hiking shirt or t-shirt, long sleeve. Not cotton. Wool or poly or other wicking fabric.

4. Clothing Ziplok 3:

• 1 or 2 pairs of wicking socks

• 1 extra pair of underwear. Wicking if possible.

5. Clothing Ziplok 4:

• lightweight fleece or down vest

6. Crocs or other lightweight shoes for camp or water shoes

7. Sleeping gear:

• Sleeping bag—20 degree

• Pillowcase—you can stuff things in it to make a pillow

• Sleeping pad

• Tent or hammock

8. Cooking gear. Each cooking group should have:

• Light-weight cooking stove

• Fuel for the cook stove—1 ounce per person per day

• Matches

• Stove windscreen, if you have one

• Pot with a lid ~1qt to heat water

• Pot-gripper

• Lexan spoon for stirring

• Pot cozy (like a fleece hat or scarf or Buff or bandana)

• Garbage bag

• Bear bag = a nylon bag to hold food, an attached carabiner, a 100ft rope, a small ditty bag to hold a rock.

9. Group gear. Each hiking group should have:

• Water-purification system: filter or pump

10. Personal gear:

• Trowel for digging cat-holes and a small toilet paper roll

• 1 (minimum) or 2 (better) water bottles (very important!). The extra bottle can be a throw-away Gatorade-type bottle, to stick in the pocket and toss after the trip. Very light and functional.

• Mess kit, containing a bowl or cup and an eating utensil

• Small Swiss army type knife--make sure it has a can opener if you are bringing any canned food

• Headlamp or very light flashlight--pack this in a pocket where you can get at it

• Extra batteries for the light—one set

• Bandana

• Safety gear, in a ziplock:

• Compass

• Map of the trail, in a plastic zip-lock.

• Hiking first aid kit

• Backup personal water purification method: UV stick, iodine pills, or chlorine.

• Small mirror

• Whistle

• Sunscreen

• Matches and Firestarter

• Space blanket

• Other personal gear:

• Lip balm

• Eyeglasses / contacts-case-solution

• Sunglasses

• Small toothbrush

• Tiny or mostly used up toothpaste (I use a tiny Nalgene of baking soda—very light, does not need to be bear bagged, and works!)

• Garbage bag

• Plastic grocery bags for packing out trash—always pick up trash on the trail and pack it out, whether it is yours or not.


that’s the list.

The important thing here is to make every item the lightest version of that item you can find, borrow, or make. Get out a kitchen scale and weigh stuff. One Swiss army knife will be twice as heavy as another. One pillowcase will be twice as heavy as another. Really. There are very light flashlights you can buy for $2.00 at Lowes.

If you don’t have a pack, put it all in a bag and we’ll find or borrow you a pack. Any investment you make in lightweight and wicking hiking clothing (long underwear, socks, poncho) will pay off over your years in scouts.

FOOD: Take enough for the days you are camping & extra for one meal

A printable suggested Backpacking Food List!

  • Make sure you have a water bottle. Or two.

Snacks—any combination of the following that interest you:

  • Beef Jerky
  • Pocket Food – Cliff Bars or Energy Cookies or Hudson Bay bread or PowerBars or
  • Gorp – nuts and dried fruit in whatever combination you love
  • Hard Cheese (lasts longer)
  • Jerky (beef/turkey) or salami
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Bagels, English muffins
  • String cheese (individually wrapped)
  • Chocolate & candy
  • Dried fruit (raisins, apples, pears, peaches, bananas)
  • Dried meat and fish
  • Giant pretzels
  • Raw fruit / vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Fig/Peach/Apple Newtons


  • Luxury item: Coffee + coffee press
  • Otherwise: Starbucks via Instant coffee packets or tea or instant hot chocolate
  • Sugar
  • Gatorade powder
  • Salt / Pepper
  • Other spices to taste or a spice mix


  • Breakfasts: instant oatmeal or grits or cream of wheat packets with dried fruit and nuts, pancake mix, breakfast bars, granola.
  • Lunches (not cooked—usually snack foods, or wraps with peanut butter and bananas or salmon and cream cheese, crackers with salami and cheese, etc.
  • Dinners: grains or pasta or minute rice with spices and packet meat or (small) canned meat. Use dehydrated vegetables (think sun-dried tomatoes). Look at instant soups and sauces, instant stuffing, instant potatoes. Bring spices or mix up spices to put in stuff. There are tons of recipes online. On short backpack trips, you can also take fresh food because weight is not such an issue. Just don’t bring a bag of potatoes or anything. If you have a dehydrator, you can dehydrate anything (hamburger, carrots, tuna, rice, fruit). Makes perfect backpacking food.

Ruth Heaton