A lot of people ask me what they should pack for a 3 day backpacking trip. The answer is that you need everything you’d bring on a 1 day backpacking trip, except for a little more food, fuel, toilet paper, and what ever other extra consumables you need to stay out an additional 2 days. It doesn’t matter if I go on a 24 hour hike or a 2 week backpacking trip, I bring the exact same gear and clothing every time.
What’s that include? It’s really just the 10 essentials, plus a backpack.
For example, here’s what I bring on every backpacking trip, regardless of duration or distance.
- Always: waterproof map, compass, watch, and pre-planned itinerary (leave copy with a responsible adult in case of emergency)
- Sometimes: GPS but never without a map and compass. Don’t rely on batteries or satellite accuracy
2. Sun protection
- Always: small tin of sun tan lotion, chapstick for lips, and sunglasses
- Always: wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and hat for sun and insect prevention
3. Insulation, including additional layers
- Always (wearing): 1 pair socks, 1 short sleeve performance top, 1 synthetic pair long hiking pant 1 pair underwear, 1 billed cap
- Always (packed): hard shell raincoat with hood and rain pants, lightweight (top and bottom) long underwear to wear when sleeping, 1 pair extra socks
- Always: a sleeping bag rated for seasonal temperatures and a sleeping pad to prevent my body from being chilled by direct contact with the ground
- Always: rain mitts, synthetic glove liners, fleece beenie hat
- Always: some sort of ground cloth, plastic sheeting, or a waterproof bivy bag to keep my insulation dry
- Sometimes: lightweight down or synthetic vest or jacket, depending on time of year or climate
- Always: head lamp, one set extra batteries
5. First-aid Supplies
- Always: small packets of Benedryl, Imodium and Ibuprofen, 6 sterile gauze bandages, a few band-aids, 1 ounce bottle of Purell, 1 pair latex gloves, a tick key, and 10 extra chlorine dioxide tablets for purifying water (2 day supply), 1 ounce tube of zinc oxide, and two safety pins
- Always: a pen or pencil to write messages or record first aid information in an emergency
- Always: a 1 ounce bottle of Dr Bronner’s soap for daily hygiene and cleaning wounds
- Always: fire steel and a small box of wooden matches
- Sometimes: cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly for lighting wood fires
7. Repair kit including knife
- Always: 1.5 to 1.75 pounds of food per day
- Always: bear bag or bear canister to protect my food from bears or other animals
- Always: camping stove, just enough fuel for the duration of the trip, a 3/4 liter pot to boil water and use as a cup/bowl, and a long handled spoon
- Always: two recycled 1 quart plastic bottles and a small screw-on drinking filter
- Always: chlorine dioxide drops to purify water in bulk
- Always: a tent or a tarp, tent stakes, and cordage to tie it down
- Always: trekking poles, which I use instead tent poles to save weight
Other Important Items
In addition, I usually add a few other important items including:
- Insect repellent
- Mosquito netting, to cover my head at night
- A cell phone, although I often can’t get a signal in the backcountry
- An emergency whistle, since it’s louder than yelling for help
- A personal locator beacon, that I mainly use to send a daily email message to my wife with my GPS coordinates to let her know I’m ok, but that I can also use to contact SAR in a dire life-threatening emergency.
Things I don’t bring
- I don’t bring any extra clothes: I just wash the ones I’m wearing if they become too smelly or salty. These dry overnight or I put them on damp in the morning and let my body heat dry them out while I’m hiking. I use the following rule of thumb: you should be able to put on all of the clothes you are wearing and the ones in your backpack at the same time. If you can’t, you have too many clothes.
- I don’t bring extra sandals or camp shoes. Some people do, but not me. They’re dead weight most of the time.
- I don’t wear hiking boots because they take too long to dry. Instead I wear trail runners. They let me hike faster and they dry quickly.
If you have any other questions, ask away. I’m here to help.
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