This is the fourth article in my series on Beginner Backpacking. Here I will discuss creating your gear checklist, which will round out your pack after you have the major pieces of gear and clothing covered in my other articles. You can see the other articles in the series here:

Part 1: Trip Planning

Part 2: Major Gear

Part 3: Clothing

You should always prepare a checklist for yourself before you go backpacking. This will help ensure you don't leave something important behind and will ease some of the anxiety that usually comes when you realize you'll be leaving the comforts and conveniences of home behind.

Backpacking SiteYou should start with a good basic checklist that covers all the bases. Your backpacking checklist will evolve over time. Keep this file as a word processor (MS Word, OpenOffice Writer, etc.) document and update it before and after every trip. Remove unnecessary items and add new ones that you've found to be indispensable.

Before a trip, I always print out a copy of my checklist. I find a room with some space and lay all my gear out on the floor. Then I begin packing the gear in my backpack and checking off items as I go along. I place heavy and bulky items that I won't need quick access to in the bottom of the pack. Lighter items or items that I need to access quickly go near the top. By the time you're finished, you'll have a well-packed bag, and you'll be confident that you haven't forgotten anything important.

Here's my own Backpacking Checklist, which you can use as a guide to creating your first one:

Tent Small first aid kit
Sleeping Bag Required medication
Air Mattress 2 headlamps
Backpack Food hanging kit for bear country
Hiking Pants (1 extra if longer than 3 nights) Toilet paper
Hiking Shirt (same) Hand sanitizer
2 pairs socks Hiking poles
2 pairs underwear Bug repellant
Sleeping clothes (pajama pants and t-shirt) Sunblock
Fleece Pullover Lighter
Rain jacket Waterproof matches
Rain pants (when I don't have fishing waders) Compass
Buff Bear bell for bear country
Swim trunks Stuff sack (can stuff with clothes for pillow)
Boots A few gallon-size plastic bags (trash, etc.)
Hat Camera
Bug net (if mosquitoes will be bad) Map of route
Sunglasses Tooth brush and tooth paste
Gaiters in snake country Eye drops for contacts
Stove and fuel Lip balm
Tea pot Required licenses, permits, etc.
Long-handled Spoon Fishing gear
Foil for cooking fish Small book (for bad weather)
Freezer bag cozy Vitamin supplement for long trip
Water filter Food (make separate checklist for food)
Two water bottles Pillow
Coffee cup Smart phone
Foldable or squishy camp bowl

Multi-tool (love my Leatherman Skeletool!)

Some duct tape

I'll give you a few notes about some of the items. A Buff is a unique piece of headware that I find indispensable on backpacking trips. It's shaped like a tube. I wet it and put it around my neck or head to keep me cool in hot weather or just put it dry around my neck to help keep me warm in cold weather. I use it as a pot holder to pick up my teapot. It helps keep bugs away from my neck. Just tons of uses for it. The freezer bag cozy is for use in freezer bag cooking, which I'll cover in my food article. Some of the items are luxuries that I'll leave behind most times (pillow, book, swim trunks among others). I take both a lighter and waterproof matches. The matches are a reliable backup. These days I often take my iphone because I use it for gps, and it could come in handy in an emergency. I always take duct tape because it has so many uses. When I'm carrying a fly rod, I often wrap lengths of duct tape around the rod tube for easy storage. I use a foldable or squishy camp bowl to hold my freezer bags while eating. Just makes things easier.

Make sure to take required equipment for bear country. Where I backpack you're often required to hang your food. In national parks, you will often be provided with cables to hang your gear from (which you can see if you look closely at the upper right in the photo above) but not usually in national forests or other areas. I take my own rope and hanging gear for such areas. Practice doing this before you go. Finding a suitable tree limb is often an adventure in itself. In other areas you must put your food in bear-proof containers. Just make sure you know and understand regulations for the area where you'll be backpacking.

This article should be useful to you as you prepare and evolve your own backpacking checklist. Happy backpacking!

by ND Kennedy