backpacking gear checklist with compass

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or you’re a first-time backpacker, there’s no denying the importance of being prepared as you explore the world around you. Regardless of your experience level, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of your trip and forget a thing or two. Avoid the risk of forgetting something that could make your trip less memorable and keep the following backpacking gear checklist in mind as you prepare for your journey.

Backpacking Gear Checklist:

Navigation Supplies

If you’re a backpacking beginner, the first navigation device that comes to mind might be a smartphone, since it has GPS capabilities and access to things like personal assistants that can tell you where to go. And yes, smartphones are great. But you’ll also want to either bring a handheld GPS device or a traditional map of the area for when you lose your connection. Place your map in protective plastic to keep it from getting soggy. A compass can also be a good thing to have with you.


Don’t assume you’ll always be around sources of clean water. Pack reusable water bottles so you can fill them up when you are around reliable water sources. Another option is to bring a portable water purification device so you can remove harmful bacteria and viruses from whatever water you may have access to while backpacking.


Keep yourself well-nourished as you backpack by including nutritious food supplies that will give you energy. Most backpackers prefer conveniently packaged items like granola or meal bars. There are also plenty of freeze-dried meals you can pack. The rule of thumb is to bring an extra day of food supplies with you. Here are some backpacking food ideas to get you started.

Clothing (Including Stuff to Keep You Warm)

Even if you’re in a spot that’s normally warm, temperatures can dip quickly when the sun goes down. Opt for a mix of clothing that can provide warmth or keep you cool. Suggestions include moisture-wicking tees and underwear, fleece pants, an adjustable vest that can be worn with or without sleeves, rain gear, a sun-shielding hat, and quick-drying pants or shorts if you’ll be around rivers, streams, and other bodies of water. Don’t forget to add sun protection (e.g., sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses) to your backpacking gear checklist.


Avoid the temptation to go with all-occasion sneakers and choose shoes or boots appropriate for the terrain where you’ll be backpacking. Most of the time, this means you’ll need hiking boots or shoes. Look for footwear that has durable soles and plenty of traction to minimize the risk of slipping. Don’t forget socks! The last thing you want is a cut or scrap on your feet — or a bite from an unexpected visitor.


At some point, you may need to stop and set up camp, which means the need to stay warm and have a source of heat to cook. Store your matches or lighter in a sealed bag or airtight container to avoid moisture damage. You can also pack a firestarter kit with spark igniters and strikable fire starter points.


A fire isn’t always a practical light source, especially if your adventure will include exploring caves and other spaces where illumination may be necessary. Choose a flashlight that’s specifically designed to be extra durable for outdoor use. Another possibility is to go hands-free with a headlamp. But don’t forget to pack extra batteries.

Repair Kit/Tools

Be prepared for times when you might need to make quick emergency repairs. You can opt for a kit that has things like repair mesh, adhesive for sealing seams, and tape to fix rips or tears. Duct tape and a multi-tool knife can also come in handy.

Emergency Shelter Supplies

You may have a destination in mind as you’re backpacking, but there’s always the chance of being surprised by a storm or other unexpected circumstances that will require you to take shelter immediately. Supplies for situations like this include survival and reflective blankets, a tarp, and a portable tent.

First-Aid Kit

No backpacking gear checklist is complete without a first-aid kit. Because you never know what type of injury you or anybody who happens to be backpacking with you might sustain, you want a kit that includes essentials for many possible emergencies. The basics include splints and wound coverings, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain meds (e.g., Advil, aspirin, Tylenol), multi-tool knife or tweezers, a CPR mask, and compression wraps. Also, bring any prescription medications you may need to take on a regular basis plus the scripts in case you need refills.

This list is fairly basic, so consider checking out this backpacking checklist for a complete guide. Check out the Where is Simon? blog for more backpacking and hiking tips and any other advice you may need to make your backpacking experiences more enjoyable.

Is there something we didn’t include on this list that you HAVE to have on a backpacking trip? Share it with us!

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