Planning for a backpacking trip is quite a bit different than planning a typical camping trip. Where you go, the weather, and how long you will gone will make a huge difference in what you need to take with you. Create a checklist to make sure you don't forget any essentials. The free backpacking checklist below can help you get started.
You can download the PDF below, but the spreadsheet will allow you to customize your list. That is important, because backpacking is about being as efficient as possible and taking only what you need. When venturing through the back country, it can be more important than ever to be prepared for emergencies, so be smart and plan well.
Printable Backpacking Checklist
The checklist below is a PDF file with a very general list of items to consider taking on back pack trip. I created this checklist based on my own experiences and from suggestions in the Boy Scout Handbook and Varsity Scout Guidebook.
- Backpacking Checklist (.pdf)
Think Light! Share the load. I doubt you'll want to take everything on this list in your own pack. Make sure you don't forget the essentials.
Backpacking Checklist Templatefor Excel, OpenOffice, and Google Sheets
This Backpacking Checklist template was originally created to hand out to Scouts preparing for a trip. You will need to make modifications based on your specific plans (weather, activities, menu, duration), but this should give you a good head start.
Remember that this checklist is meant only as a guide. It might not include everything you need or ought to take with you on your backpacking trip.
Before Going Backpacking ...
Do not go backpacking into the wilderness without people in your group having wilderness and remote first aid training (including CPR). This means more than just basic first aid skills or knowing how to start a fire. You may be able to find a short-course in your community through the Boy Scouts or the American Red Cross.
Some of the most common injuries on backpack trips, besides cuts and scrapes, are sprained ankles and broken arms (trips and falls lead to broken arms/wrists). Plan in advance how you will deal with a sprained ankle, so that you are prepared when it happens.
Cell phones are not likely to work, so do not rely on them. Consider getting a ham radio license and taking a handheld 2m radio (or invite somebody to go with you who can operate a 2m radio). A 2m radio usually has enough power to reach the nearest repeater, even in remote areas.
Know exactly what you are going to do about water. It's not realistic to carry all your water with you. The general rule of thumb is that a person will use 1 gallon of water per day (but in hot weather with a lot of hiking, that could be 1.5 or even 2 gallons per day). Take water purification tablets and use them. You can take powdered drink mix to make the water not taste so bad (and to replenish electrolytes). I've gotten heat exhaustion twice and it is NOT fun. Do not skimp on water.
Always create a detailed plan and make sure somebody at home knows the details.
More Backpacking Info and Resources
- Backpacking for Beginners at REI.com - Yes, this is a commercial site wanting you to buy expensive equipment, but they also have useful tips, as well as a good checklist.
- Tips for Reducing Backpack Weight at backpacking.net - Packing light is always a big challenge. This site has a lot of good ideas that can help lighten the load.
- Backpacking 101 at backpacker.com - This site is completely devoted to backpacking and has an extensive amount of information.