Packing List for an Overnight Hike

Carry Only What You Need

Figuring out what to carry on your first overnight hike can be overwhelming. It's up to you to haul all the comforts of home on your back -- not something that modern life really prepares us for. Use this checklist as a starting point to make sure you have all the essentials on your first overnight backpacking trip, then add, remove or change items as experience dictates.

This list is loosely predicated on the ten essentials, although I've rearranged the categories to suit my way of thinking. For more detail about what to pack (and a more loyal take on the ten essentials), here is a more in-depth discussion.

UPDATED 5/23/2014: I've tweaked some of the bullet points to be more concise.

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Justin/flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Base layer (top and bottom)
  • Mid (insulating) layer
  • Outer (shell) layer
  • Extra socks
  • Hat and gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Optional: Clean underwear (you can always go without or turn yesterday's inside-out).
  • Optional: For those in bear country or doing long hikes, an extra set of base layers to sleep in.
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  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad (and patch kit, if it's air-inflated)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Optional: Tent footprint
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  • Cookable breakfast, cold lunch, cookable dinner for each full day on the trail.
  • Snacks for in-between meals (Use your dayhiking experience to help you gauge quantities; estimate high until you've got it dialed).
  • Cooking/eating dish
  • Eating utensil (I admire the noble spork)
  • Cup for hot drinks
  • Camp stove
  • Stove fuel
  • Animal-proof food storage appropriate for your area: Bear-proof canister, rope, and bag for bear-bagging, rodent-proof bag, can, and rope for mouse-bagging, etc.
  • Optional: Camp spices
  • Optional: Stove repair kit (depending on your stove and trip length).
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  • Water: The exact amount depends on the weather, how hard you're working out, and your next guaranteed refill opportunity.
  • Water filter or purifier
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Comfort Items

  • Sunblock/sunscreen
  • Bug repellent
  • Bandana
  • Optional but a really good idea: Hand sanitizer/biodegradable soap
  • Optional: Wet wipes (I dig Action Wipes)
  • Optional: Hand shovel for digging catholes
  • Optional for women: Urine director, menstrual supplies
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Just In Case

  • Fully-charged cell phone (but never count on having cell service)
  • Headlamp and extra batteries
  • Your hiking emergency kit -- including, at a bare minimum, an emergency whistle, knife, duct tape, water purification tablets, map and compass, water treatment tablets, waterproof lighter/striker, firestarter, large garbage bag, space blanket.
  • First aid supplies
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  • Lightweight stuff sacks to keep everything organized
  • Copies of relevant guidebook pages
  • Camera in a ziplock bag or waterproof case
  • Bear spray (if appropriate in your area)
  • Hiking poles (optional)
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Trip Plan

File a trip plan before you go, then stick to it!