When my best friend, Emily, first asked me to do the infamous Four Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells in Colorado with her in September of 2022, I remember wanting to go but feeling unsure as to what I would need. As someone who is new to backpacking, I felt overwhelmed by what I needed to buy, pack, and carry during a backpacking trip.
It turns out I did not need as much as I thought! We ended up sharing quite a bit of gear that my friend already had, and she even left me borrow her (ex)boyfriend’s backpack! This was a great entry point to start considering what I wanted to invest in for my own backpacking setup.
This list is made by a beginner backpacker for other beginner backpackers. Using my personal experience, I compiled a packing checklist of backpacking gear that you may want to consider bringing for a 1-night trip. Some of this gear will vary depending on the area you’re in (i.e. bear canister, bug spray), the weather (rain jacket, microspikes), and your personal preferences when it comes to things like meals and snacks.
As a reminder, it is crucial to research the trail conditions and weather ahead of time to make sure you are packing what you need to keep yourself safe. I recommend using an app/website called AllTrails to check trail conditions and a reliable weather source (I usually cross-check with multiple sources). I always lean toward overpacking when it comes to gear that could keep you safe if you’re not 100% sure.
It might go without saying, but backpacking gear is expensive! Many of the items on this backpacking checklist come down to personal opinion, preference, budget, and future goals (such as which size of backpack to purchase, which model of a cooking stove like Jetboil to use, etc.). There are always going to be cheaper (or more expensive) options. If you’re still unsure, I recommend renting the gear from a store like REI, or borrowing/sharing gear with a friend or family member to get a better idea of what might work best for you!
Another tip to save money: buy used gear! I actually found my backpack lightly used on an app/website called Poshmark (use code katekeepswild to get $10 your first purchase). I have purchased other gear on Facebook marketplace, thrift stores, and used outdoor gear stores in my town.
With all of this being said… here is the list of backing gear I recommend:
- Backpack (Gregory Deva 60L)
This pack is considered large for a 1 night trip; however, I purchased it because I also enjoy multi-night trips, so I wanted a bigger pack.
- Trekking poles (TrailBuddy Trekking Poles)
These hiking poles are on the cheaper end and probably heavier than some of the more expensive options, but they have worked well for me!
Apparel While Hiking
- Lightweight long sleeve (REI Co-op Long-Sleeve Running T-Shirt – Women’s)
I know you might be thinking – a long sleeve?! But I highly recommend it because it keeps you warm as you begin hiking and keeps you protected from the sun.
(Note – I rewear my long sleeve when hiking out on day 2 and recommend doing this!)
- Sports Bra (Brooks Drive 3 Pocket Run Bra – has a pocket for your phone!)
I have a bigger chest (size 34D) and couldn’t recommend this bra enough.
(Note – I rewear my bra when hiking out on day 2 and recommend doing this!)
- Shorts (Patagonia Women’s Baggies Shorts)
There is nothing “special” about these shorts, but they do the job well for me.
(Note – I rewear my shorts when hiking out on day 2 and recommend doing this!)
- Merino wool socks (Darn Tough Socks)
LOVE these socks – they provide an excellent cushion and don’t slip. I have never gotten a blister on any hike with these socks.
- Underwear for hiking (Icebreaker Siren Thong Underwear – Women’s)
This comes down to personal preference, but I love hiking (and pretty much live) in thongs. The merino wool blend keeps things down there fresh!
- Hiking boots or trail shoes (Altra Women’s Lone Peak 7 Trail-Running Shoes)
After wearing boots for five years, I recently switched to trail shoes and love them! They are so lightweight and comfortable. Unlike my boots, I’m never rushing to take them off once I’m back in the car.
- Hat (Parks Project 5-Panel Patch Hat)
This comes down to preference if you want a hat that’s more of an athletic material or just a normal hat. I’ve also worn a bandana which has been convenient!
Gear To Use While Hiking
- Sunglasses (goodr Joshua Tree National Park Polarized Sunglasses)
I am a fan of the goodr brand, and these are my second pair. They stay on your face, and you never have to push them up!
- Water bladder (Gregory 3D Hydro Hydration Reservoir – 2 Liters)
Love this water reservoir because I also have a hiking pack from Gregory, and this water reservoir is compatible with both my hiking pack and backpacking pack. It is so convenient to be able to sip water while hiking instead of having to stop to drink from a water bottle. I find that it helps me stay better hydrated!
- Water bottle (Lifestraw Go Series BPA-Free Water Filter Bottle – 22 oz)
My best friend introduced me to Lifestraw on the Four Pass Loop, and I knew I had to get one! These water bottles filter water through the straw as you drink, making it the perfect water bottle to refill from water sources while backpacking.
- Microspikes (Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System)
I was the only one in my friend group who had these on our most recent backpacking trip, and both of my friends decided they would purchase spikes as soon as they got home for the future. They were so helpful on a couple of sketchy snow patches we had to get across.
- Watch (Garmin Forerunner 55)
This is definitely not a “necessity,” but I like to track my mileage while hiking, so I use a cheap Garmin model.
- Bear spray (Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray – 8.1 fl oz)
I personally have not purchased this yet, but I could see this being helpful to have if you are backpacking in an area known for bear activity.
- Knife (Wolf Tooth Components 8-Bit Chainbreaker + Knife Multi-Tool)
I also do not have one of these, but my friend brought her knife with her just in case. I think it could be helpful for both safety and practical uses.
- First aid kit (Adventure Medical Kits UltraLight / Watertight .9 First-Aid Kit)
A must-have! You just never know.
- Bug spray (Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent – 3 oz)
The bugs have been so bad in Colorado lately. Reapply often… I got 10 bug bites on our hike back to the car because I forgot to reapply!
- Sunscreen (Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion – 3 oz)
Also something to reapply often!
- Hair ties (GOSICUKA 120 Black Hair Ties)
While you do not need to bring 120, I would recommend bringing 2-3 in case they break (which always seems to happen at the worse time).
- Kula Cloth (Women’s Reusable Antimicrobial Pee Cloth)
LOVE Kula Cloth! It is a reusable pee cloth that clips right on to the outside of your backpack. It saves so much toilet paper!
I keep a granola bar and some energy chews in my front backpacking pockets to snack on while hiking!
- Bear canister (BearVault BV450 Jaunt Bear Canister)
A must-have depending on where you’re backpacking. I recommend getting the smallest one that you can still pack food into because it takes up lots of space in the backpack.
- Granola bars (Clif Energy Bar)
Personal preference on the brand, but I love the White Macadamia Nut Clif Bars!
- Instant coffee (Alpine Start Instant Coffee – Package of 8)
Really like this brand’s instant coffee! Just stir in the water and you’re done.
- Freeze-dried meals (Backpacker’s Pantry)
We love the Pad Thai from Backpacker’s Pantry! One bag makes 2 servings. We usually just bring a meal to have for dinner and eat a granola bar for lunch, but it is completely up to you!
Apparel for Camp
- Extra pair of merino wool socks for bed/day 2 (Darn Tough Socks)
My socks from day 1 got wet, so I recommend bringing a second pair for sleeping and hiking out the next day.
- Extra pair of underwear for day 2 (Icebreaker Siren Thong Underwear – Women’s)
Always important to change the underwear!
- Lightweight jacket (Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket – Women’s)
Good for chilling around camp as a layer. I also wear mine to bed.
- Lightweight pullover (Patagonia Women’s Airshed Pro Pullover)
Same as above… good for chilling and wearing to bed.
- Pants or leggings (Patagonia Women’s Happy Hike Studio Pants)
It gets cold at night! I put on my pants late afternoon and wear them to bed.
- Beanie (Urban Native Era You Are on Native Land Beanie)
I sleep in mine and wear it the next morning.
- Rain jacket (Topo Designs Global Jacket Women’s)
Just in case – look into the weather but pack it if you’re unsure!
- Jetboil (Jetboil Stash Cooking System)
We actually use the Jetboil Flash, but look into the options and pick the one that’s best for you! You can also go with an off-brand from a site like Amazon if you’re looking to save money.
- Propane (Jetboil Jet Power Fuel 3.5 oz / 100 g)
Need this to be able to run the Jetboil.
- Coffee cup (REI Co-op Graphic Camp Mug – 12 fl oz)
I just use a lightweight cup and clip it with a carabiner to the outside of my backpack.
- Camping utensils (UCO ECO Camp 3-Piece Utensil Set)
Better than packing a metal spoon/fork (I am guilty of doing this).
- Body wipes (Alpine Provisions Body Wipes)
Feels so good to wipe off after using the bathroom, the next morning, after touching icky things, etc.
- Toothbrush (Aurelle TOOB Brush)
I bring the one I own from home.
- Toothpaste (Tom’s Natural Peppermint Toothpaste)
This is the kind I use at home and pack.
- Deodorant (Secret Deodorant Clear Gel)
Just bring your normal deodorant!
- Toilet Paper (Angel Soft Toilet Paper 4 Pack)
Good for when you have to go #2 and can’t use the Kula Cloth. 🙂
- Tent (NEMO Dragonfly OSMO 2P Tent)
OK this tent is expensive… it is the one my friend owns and upgraded to. I would probably purchase a cheaper tent unless you have big backpacking goals and want to buy a lightweight tent upfront. I’d also look into used tents.
- Sleeping bag (REI Co-op Down Time 25 Down Sleeping Bag – Women’s)
This is similar to the sleeping bag I got for car camping. There are definitely lighter weight ones out there meant for backpacking. I just didn’t want to buy a new one!
- Sleeping pad (NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad)
I actually don’t own one! But my friends do, and I always wish I had one. As I get older, the ground gets less comfortable.
- Inflatable pillow (Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow)
I usually just stuff my clothes into my sleeping bag case and use that as a pillow, but this pillow looks more comfortable if it’s hard for you to sleep without one.
- Portable phone charger (BioLite Charge 20 PD Power Bank)
I don’t have one of these, and my phone almost died the next morning. Would recommend investing in one!
- Headlamp (Black Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp)
This comes down to preference as there are tons of cheaper/more expensive headlamps. I have a pretty basic one that’s nice for when I have to wake up and pee in the middle of the night. 🙂
- Deck of cards (ArticaVisuals National Park Playing Cards)
Probably the most unnecessary item on the list, but it’s fun to play cards with friends at night!
As I mentioned before, I am still a beginner myself, so I am sure some of my suggestions are laughable by the “pros.” I think at the end of the day, here is what is most important to keep in mind for yourself:
- Weight of Backpack – As someone who loves to overpack and bring all of the fun gear, it can be tempting to bring new clothes and your favorite blanket. Don’t do this! Your pack will get very heavy, very quickly. I am guilty of commonly packing a hammock and then not using it. Just pack the essentials!
- Budget – Start slow when investing in gear. As I mentioned before, borrow gear, share gear, rent gear, and buy used gear when you can!
- Personal Preference – As with most things in life, you need to think about what will work best for yourself. Read reviews, talk to experts, and get fitted for a backpack at a place like REI (they will help you for free!). Everyone is different, so keep this is mind when thinking about what types of gear you will need.
What am I missing from my list that you would recommend bringing on a beginner backpacking trip? Please let me know in the comments! I will update this blog as I continue to learn more and test out other gear.
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