What should you 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, and toilet paper, to stay out an additional 2 days. It doesn’t matter if you go on a 24-hour hike or a 2-week backpacking trip, you’ll basically 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’d recommend bringing on every backpacking trip, regardless of duration or distance, including some specific gear suggestions as examples.
- Always: waterproof map, compass, watch, and pre-planned itinerary (leave a copy with a responsible adult in case of emergency). Even a rudimentary knowledge of compass use is helpful to identify the cardinal directions: N, S, E, and W
- Sometimes: GPS unit or a GPS Phone App, but never without a paper map and compass. Don’t rely on batteries.
2. Sun protection
- Always: small amount of suntan lotion, chapstick for lips, and sunglasses
- Always: wear a long sleeve shirt, convertible (zip-off) long pants, and hat for sun and/or insect prevention
- REI Sahara Shade Hoodie
- Columbia PFG Tamiami II Shirt
- Kuhn Renegade Convertible Hiking Pants
- Tilly LTM6 Ventilated Hat
3. Insulation, including additional layers
- Always (wearing): 1 pair socks, 1 short sleeve performance top, 1 synthetic pair of long hiking pants, 1 pair of underwear, 1 hat
- Always (packed): raincoat with hood and rain pants or skirt, lightweight (top and bottom) long underwear to wear when sleeping, 1 pair of extra socks
- Always: a sleeping bag or quilt rated for seasonal temperatures and a sleeping pad to prevent your body from being chilled by direct contact with the ground
- Always: rain mitts, synthetic or wool glove liners, fleece hat
- Always: some sort of ground cloth, plastic sheeting, or a waterproof bivy bag to keep your sleep insulation dry
- Sometimes: lightweight down or synthetic vest or jacket, depending on the time of year or climate
- Darn Tough Hiker Socks (Wool, Indestructible)
- REI Magma 30 Sleeping Bag
- Thermarest NeoAir Xlite NXT Sleeping Pad
- NEMO Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad
- Marmot Precip Rain Jacket
- Marmot Precip Rain Pants
- Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Jacket
- Always: headlamp, w/ extra batteries or a power recharger
5. Minimal First-aid Supplies
- Always: small packets of Benedryl, Imodium, Children’s aspirin, and Ibuprofen, 6 sterile gauze bandages, alcohol wipes, strips of leukotape, hydro-seal bandages for blisters, band-aids, 1-ounce bottle of Purell, 1 pair latex gloves, a tick key, and 10 chlorine dioxide tablets for purifying water (2 day supply), a 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 liquid soap for daily hygiene and cleaning wounds
- Always: butane lighter and a small box of wooden matches
- Sometimes: cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly for lighting wood fires
7. Repair kit including knife
- Always: small knife with scissors, 10 ft of duct tape
- Always: 1.5 to 1.75 pounds of food per day
- Always: A bear bag or bear canister to protect 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 one-liter plastic bottles and a small screw-on water filter or Steripen
10. Tent or Shelter
- Always: a tent or a tarp, tent stakes, and cordage to tie it down
Other Important Items
In addition, I usually add a few other important items including:
- Insect repellent
- A mosquito head net, to cover my head at night
- An emergency whistle, since it’s louder than yelling for help
- A cell phone for emergencies
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.
- I don’t wear hiking boots except in cooler weather. Most of the time I just wear running shoes.