Backpacking for Beginners: The Ultimate Packing List

Looking to get into backpacking, but don’t know where to start in terms of what gear to buy and what to pack for your first backpacking trip? I’m here to help! Check out my list below for what I put in my pack and start thinking about your next gear purchase!

backpacking for beginners

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Buying backpacking gear can be overwhelming. Having the right gear can make or break your trip. One of the most important aspects when selecting backpacking gear is weight – you want the items to be as light as possible to keep your pack as light as it can be when hiking long distances. I love buying my gear from REI – they have a great return policy, and the employees there are very helpful in recommending the best gear to suit your needs.

Take the stress out of planning and check out the below items to start building a foundation of backpacking gear for yourself. They may not be the most expensive, “best of the best” for advanced backpackers, but these are all products that I currently use and love as a casual backpacker. Check out the below “backpacking for beginners” packing list for the essentials:

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Backpacking for Beginners Packing List

  1. Deuter 45 + 10 Backpacking Pack
backpacking packing list

The first thing you’ll need for a backpacking trip is a backpack. You want your pack to be light and durable, but most importantly it needs to fit you properly. I highly recommend going into REI and trying on a few different types to see which one feels the best on you. However if you want to order online without trying on, I LOVE the Deuter backpacks. I’ve had mine for 6+ years and it’s held up great. The 45+10 is a good size to start out with – suitable for a multi-day trip. This is the size that I have as well.

2. REI Joule Sleeping Bag

best backpacking gear

I’ve had this sleeping bag for a few years, and love it! I have the 30 degree bag that only weighs 1 lb 12 oz, but if you live in a colder area/will be backpacking in colder temperatures, go for the 21-degree version. The 30 degree bag has kept me warm on cold nights and is super comfy. It’s also water-resistant in case it rains.

3. REI Quarterdome Tent

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I have the older version of this, and love it. This budget-friendly beginner backpacking tent is super easy to assemble (takes less than 5 minutes) and sleeps 2 people. It’s also very lightweight, weighing about 2 lbs 8 oz.

4. REI Stratus Sleeping Pad

Investing in a good sleeping pad is essential in having a restful sleep while camping or backpacking. This inflatable REI Stratus sleeping pad is great. It feels like a mini air mattress, and takes less than 5 minutes to inflate. You can buy a separate pump to inflate, but I just manually inflate and it’s super quick.


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

If you have a bigger budget, this Thermarest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad is one of the best (and lightest) options on the market. I just upgraded to this sleeping pad a few months ago and love it so far. It packs up super small, is easy to inflate, and is comfortable. Great for backpacking!

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5. Jetboil

backpacking for beginners

The Jetboil is an AWESOME camping stove product used to boil water for your dehydrated meals on the trail. It boils two cups of water in 100 seconds! All the pieces fit conveniently inside the canister, and it weighs only 13 oz.

6. MSR Water Filter

backpacking gear list

At least one person in your backpacking group will need to bring a water filter on the trip. This enables you to filter water from streams or rivers right into your water bottle that is safe to drink. I have the MSR water filter and love it. The end of the filter fits conveniently on a nalgene water bottle, and it pumps out 1 liter of filtered water per minute. Also – it only weighs 14.6 oz!

7. Petzl Tikka Headlamp

You definitely can’t leave for a backpacking or camping trip without a headlamp! Having a headlamp makes it easy to see in the dark, whether you’re hanging out around your campsite or waking up early for a sunrise hike.

8. Water Bladder

Having a water bladder in your backpack is a great way to easily stay hydrated on the trail. This one holds 3 liters and also has a leak-proof cap so you can confidently go on your hike without worrying about it leaking in your pack.

9. The COLDEST Water Bottle

backpacking packing list

Even with a hydration bladder, I like to carry another water bottle or 2 in my side pockets of my backpack just in case. I love The Coldest Water, as it keeps your water colder than Hydroflask. This water bottle also floats!

10. Eno DoubleNest Hammock

backpacking gear list

Ok – so this isn’t technically essential for a beginners backpacking trip, but it’s definitely fun to have! I love bringing my 2-person Eno hammock whenever I go backpacking or camping (if I know there will be trees to hang it on). After a day full of hiking, it’s SO nice to get your feet off the ground and in a hammock once you’re chilling at your campsite. Note that if you are looking to pack ultra-light, you should not bring a hammock (unless you are going to sleep in it and are able to NOT bring a tent)

11. WEHE Hammock Straps

backpacking for beginners

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So if you buy an Eno hammock, note that it does NOT include the straps. You’ll have to buy that separately. I bought the WEHE Hammock Straps off Amazon as they were cheaper than the Eno brand straps and work just as well.

12. Dehydrated Meals

As a beginner backpacker, you might think dehydrated meals look unappetizing. However – there’s a great variety of options these days for dehydrated meals, and most of them are actually very tasty in my opinion! A few of my favorites are the Mountain House Southwest Skillet, Backpackers Pantry Pad Thai (it even comes with a packet of peanut butter, peanuts, siracha and lime!), and Peak Refuel Sweet Pork and Rice.

13. Patagonia Nano Puff

backpacking gear list

It’s important to pack enough layers on your backpacking trip to stay warm on the trail and at night. I love the Patagonia Nano Puff. It keeps you warm AND packs up super small to fit in your pack easily.

14. Travel Towel

If you’re backpacking somewhere where you know you’ll be swimming or getting wet, make sure to pack this backpacking-friendly towel. It packs up super small so is perfect for backpacking.

15. Hiking Boots

best hiking boots

As a beginner backpacker, you’ll definitely want to invest in some quality hiking boots. I strongly recommend going to REI and trying on a bunch of different brands and styles, and pick the one that feels the best for you. Oboz is one of the leading brands of boots with a variety of styles to choose from.

16. Merino Wool Hiking Socks

Along with having good hiking boots, you’ll also want some quality hiking socks to go with it. Merino Wool hiking socks are your best bet – to keep your feet cool and comfortable. I have these REI brand socks and they’re great!

17. Water Hiking Sandals

backpacking gear list

If you’re going to be hiking through rivers – like during the Havasupai hike for instance – you’ll want some quality water sandals that are comfortable to hike in and don’t give you blisters. KEEN is known to be the best brand for this type of footwear!

However, if you are on a budget (like I was when I purchased water sandals for my Havasupai hike) these water sandals from Amazon work well too.

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18. Cliff Bar Energy Chews

I swear by these things on the trail when I need a boost of energy. They’re also really tasty and I look forward to eating them, ha. I definitely recommend bringing a pack for when you need an extra boost to get up those switchbacks!

19. First Aid Kit

You should always bring a first aid kit in your backpack to be prepared just in case. This one is ultra-light and has the bare essentials to treat minor wounds while in the backcountry. It’s also a good idea to take one of the courses from your local REI to learn more about wilderness survival to be extra-prepared.

I hope this beginner backpacking list was helpful! Have fun out there!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sherry

    Hi, Lauren –
    Great pics! Reminds me of many similar trips. Gear has really improved since the 70’s.

    1. Lauren Wilson

      Thank you!!

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