Efficient Packing
Planning for a backpacking trip is quite a bit different than planning a typical camping trip. This checklist can help ensure you only pack what you need, rather than overpack. Packing light is especially important for backpacking!

Safety and Preparedness
Where you go, the weather, and how long you will be gone will make a huge difference in what you need to take with you. A checklist beforehand can help you be prepared for the unexpected, like weather changes, injuries, and other situations that may arise. When venturing through the backcountry, it can be more important than ever to be prepared for emergencies, so be smart and plan well.


Customize Your Checklist
By creating a checklist based on both your own and other people's experience, you can decrease the chance that you'll forget essentials (I tend to always forget something). After each backpacking trip, update your list to make the next trip easier and better as you learn what works for you.

Backpacking Checklist Template

for Excel, Google Sheets or PDF
Backpacking Checklist Template


⤓ Excel
For: Excel 2007 or later
⤓ Google Sheets

License: Private Use (not for distribution or resale)



This Backpacking Checklist template was originally created to hand out to Scouts preparing for a trip. It was created based on my own experiences and from suggestions in the Boy Scout Handbook and Varsity Scout Guidebook. 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.

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.

Before Going Backpacking ...

Get Adequate Training: 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.

Be Ready for Common Injuries: 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: They 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.

Water, Water, Water: Know exactly what you are going to do about water. For multi-day trips, 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.

Leave No Trace: Backpack responsibily and remember to follow Leave No Trace principles. This means that you will need to pack out all of your waste.

Inform Somebody: 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 AimAdventureU.com - This site is completely devoted to backpacking and has an extensive amount of information.