Essential Backpacking Gear For Camping/Hiking Trip

When living out of your pack for any extended period of time, having all of the essentials is a necessity. Whether you are traveling in a hot, humid climate or a cold, wet one, there is a basic list of gear that you’ll find indispensible.

With all of the brands and styles available, it is ultimately personal preference that will dictate which ones work best for you.

Carrying gear


The size of your backpack and the number of liters it holds depend on the length of time you will be outdoors and where you plan to stay. Day hikes usually require nothing more than a small daypack. Most feature integrated water bag holders, and plenty of room for your camera, snacks, and a rain jacket or additional layer.

For a short overnight trip, a 45 liter bag is ideal. If your trip is a weeklong expedition, or you are hiking in the winter, you’ll need at last a 70-85 liter sack to accommodate all of your necessary gear.

Pack Cover /pack liner

Most packs some with integrated rain covers. Additionally, if you are hiking in wet climates, use a pack liner or small waterproof bags in which to store all your gear inside of the pack. A heavy-duty garbage sack works in a pinch.



Always have a detailed map of the area you plan to visit. Purchase a USGS map online or print a free topo map at the National Geographic Maps site.


Do not forget to pack a compass when going hiking- and know how to use them while reading a topo map. • Liquid filled- it protects the magnetic needle and the jeweled bearing thus reducing fluctuation • 0 to 360 degrees- ideally, in 2 degree increments • A base plate with 3 to 4 inches length- this can be used as a straight edge for recording map bearings and establishing the distances on maps. • A fold out mirror- the mirror ensures accurate readings because you can put the mirror such that the mirror and distance objective can be seen at the same time.

Avalanche beacon

If you are heading out in the winter, especially in high, snow-covered mountains, it’s a good idea for each member of your group to take an avalanche beacon, shovel, probes and know how to use them.

You can take a basic Avy 1 course at many locations around the US. Additionally, you can take an advanced course and learn how to “read” the snow to predict its instability.


Rain Gear

Rain gear is an absolute must have item when hiking, even when the sky doesn’t indicate any signs of downpour. Mountain regions are notorious for fast, unpredictable changes in weather. Most rain jackets are wind resistant so this means that if the weather suddenly becomes worse, it will keep you warm.

Choosing pants that have no zippers or full side zippers is personal preference. While the latter are easier to slip over your hiking pants and boots, the former feature fewer points through which cold, wet air may leak.


Thermal bases are a personal preference as to whether you prefer synthetic materials or natural wool. Both work well, but wool is known to resist odors for a longer period of time. If synthetics are your choice look for those that feature wicking and silver-threaded fabric to help keep you dry and stink-free longer.


If you intend to hike in warm weather, then T-shirts are the best. Go for merino wool t-shirts since they are comfortable, lightweight and repel odors.

Food and Drink


Recharging your energy levels is vital while hiking so ensure you have packed enough food. The length of your trip as well as weight and available room will most likely dictate whether you choose freeze-dried meals or cook everything fresh.

Nuts, dried fruit, cookies, chocolate, crackers and granola bars will help boost your energy levels when you’re trekking.

Water Bottles and/ or Water Bladder

Carrying enough water is important while hiking. Before you get out, do some research on the trail you intend to use and see if there are water points, streams or rivers along the way. This way, you will know the amount of water to carry.

While many hikes like the convenience of a water bladder such as the go-to Camelbacks, other prefer to use lightweight Nalgene bottles in their packs. If you are carrying water in the winter the latter will remain unfrozen for a much longer period of time.

Water Treatment System

If you can access water on the trail you’re hiking, look for a way to treat it to make it safe. I recommend buying a portable water filter or sterilizing pen as they are lightweight and work fast. The tablets are good for emergencies, but the taste of the treated water can be hard to swallow.


Hiking Shoes

Many thru-hikers have turned away from traditional heavy, ankle height boots in favor of treaded trail runners. This again, is a personal preference. Older hikers or those with heavier packs may find comfort in a bit of extra ankle support. Regardless of which you prefer, be sure to buy them ½ to a full size bigger to avoid banging your toes on the down hills. And try them on with the socks you will be wearing.



When it comes to sleeping, there are several options for you when outdoors. A tent is one of the most convenient options as it offers comfort, safety and warmth. When taking warm weather trips, you can use a hammock or cowboy camp, which means sleeping on your sleeping pad under the stars.

Lightweight Sleeping Bag/Sleeping Bag Liner

A lightweight travel sleeping bag is perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to carry a tent. If you are particularly keen on keeping warm all night, adding a sleeping bag will give you that extra warmth you need. In some warmer regions, a liner is enough to keep one warm the entire night.

There are lots of sleeping bags available on the market for every camper, from 1 season to 4 season sleeping bags. To determine the ideal sleeping bag, know the minimum temperatures at your destination and choose a sack accordingly.

Tent Footprint

This is not a must have item. However, a footprint will protect the base of your tent from getting holes thus make it last longer.

Sleeping Pad

A sleeping pad provides both comfort and warmth while lying on the ground. Even the lightest of pads allow for side sleepers to avoid hip bruises. The weather and conditions at your destination will to dictate how thick your pads needs to be to keep your bones from feeling the chill of snow right through your down sleeping sack.

Safety/emergency gear


A light is a necessity for any hike – daytime or night. While a standard flashlight is a fine choice, more and more hikers are using headlamps, which allow for hands free use. They are ideal for cooking or walking to use the loo at night. Additionally, they are easy to hang inside your tent for late night reading or card playing, They are water-resistant and often feature several light levels. LED lights are best as they have the longest life. Carry additional batteries with you.

Pocket Knife and Tools

This is an important backpacking essential. Go for a multi-tool that has everything you may need in one place. Swiss Army Knives or Gerber tools are ideal choices.

Knives come in handy for food preparation, cutting ropes, first aid and doing repairs. However, consider your needs before you buy a knife for your backpacking trips so that you don’t end up with a heavy tool that you rarely use.

Backpack Locks

While hiking is generally safe, if your extended trips include hostel stays, you may wish to carry a lightweight cable lock to ensure that your gear doesn’t wander away. A TSA approved lock is the perfect way to keep your sack shut while flying.

First Aid Kit

A basic first aid kit is a must. It should have a few dressings, plasters and bandages. This is vital for minor scrapes and cuts during your hike. In some areas, you will need an extensive kit that contains sterile needles and syringes, especially where the medical facilities are poor. But, don’t carry anything you don’t know how to use as amateur medicine can cause more harm than good.


A whistle is an important item when hiking. It comes in handy when you are lost, hurt and require help or when someone else you’re hiking with is lost.

Warning! metal whistles, especially those with a pea, can be a hitch in the mountains. The pea can freeze and you already know what will happen when you put your lips on frozen metal.

Insect clothing or repellents

Almost anywhere your love for the outdoors takes you, you will certainly come across mosquitoes and other annoying insects. An effective mosquito repellent makes your trip an enjoyable one without having to spend half of the night fighting with bugs! It will also help keep you safe from serious tropical diseases like Malaria.

<p?Mosquito repellent comes in different forms on the market right now. However, the effective one is the DEET repellent. DEET mosquito repellents come in different strengths, 20% formulas work best in areas that are less prone to malaria while 50%-100% formulas work best for high-risk areas. The repellents generally come in a spray but can also be bought as roll-ons and lotions for ease of application to areas that are difficult to reach.

Firestarter and Matches

It’s important to have matches with you when outdoors. This can be in film canister, magnesium sparker or cigarette lighter. Although the magnesium lighter is quite heavy, it’s the best backup that will work even when it’s wet.

You may want to consider waterproof matches, but the cheaper options are not quite waterproof while the expensive ones are really pricey. And in most cases, they are often used in non-emergency duties such as lighting a campfire.

Sunglasses and Sunscreen

The higher the elevation the more intense the sun even on cloudy days. Squinting all the time will probably give you headaches. By wearing good quality sunglasses, you will be able to enjoy your day while keeping yoru eyes safe.

When hiking during sunny days, wear clothes that are light colored, long sleeve shirts and wide brim hats. Apply sunscreen to the exposed parts of the skin including your neck and ears.. It should be SPF 30 and above for maximum protection.

Luxury items

Travel Towel

Travel towels are the perfect lightweight, highly absorbent and quick-drying combination ideal for hikers and even frequent travelers. They can be used to dry off after a dip in the mountain stream or even to moisten and wrap around your neck to keep you cool. Most of the towels are manufactured using a smooth microfiber material but there are so many other options available if you don’t prefer the fine texture of the microfiber towels.

Hand Gel

This is the ideal item to have to keep your hands clean especially when there aren’t any washing facilities. Clean your hand with anti-bacterial gel after toilet breaks, after handling foreign currency, and before eating. This helps to reduce the risk of diarrhea during your trips.

Anti-bacterial hand gels are cheap and they come in pocket-sized bottles, making them easy to carry around when hiking.

So there you have the essential backing gear for camping or hiking. Sometimes, you may not need to carry all the above items depending on your destination and the activities you will be taking part in. However, this list is a great starting point for the backpacking and travel neophyte.