What Gear Do I Need for an Overnight Backcountry Backpacking Trip?

Taking a backpacking trip or a long hike out into the backcountry shouldn't involve too much gear. You don't want to be hauling half your house around on your back. Instead, focus on carrying in the essential items to prepare but not be exhausted at the end of the day.

Whether it is your first time heading out into the backcountry and you want to be ready, or you are a seasoned vet making sure you don't forget something, this article highlights the major pillars of a successful backcountry trip. 

The gear essentials are camping gear, kitchen gear, supplies for personal hygiene, preparedness gear, and comfort gear. We break it down so you know exactly what is important for you to bring to your backpacking camp and what is optional for a more comfortable stay.

Everything You Need: Backpacking Camp Essentials

Please note this essentials checklist is only a general guideline to help give you a baseline understanding of what you need. The amounts and exact kinds of gear you bring vary depending on the type and length of your trip. Consider all these materials and anything else you might need for your unique situation.

The Camping Gear

Let's start with the material that is perhaps the most obvious, the material you need for a safe camping trip. Whether you are going for an overnight trip or a multi-day trek, you will need a tent, sleeping bag, and a backpack to carry it in. Of course, the size of your backpack varies based on the length of your trip. As a rule of thumb, you should use a backpack between 50 to 70L if you are going for a three to five-day trip. If your stay is more or less, adjust as necessary.

Beyond the backpack, you need a tent that is large enough to fit you and your backpack on your trip. Ensure that it is water-resistant or waterproof, depending upon your needs, and check it for any rips or tears to repair before heading out on your trip.

Your sleeping setup is essential to make you comfortable, particularly if you plan on staying for multiple days in a row at your backpacking campsite. A sleeping bag is enough for some people, but most campers like to add a lightweight sleeping pad to go underneath. These also help protect you from the cold of the ground. You can also use a hammock to sleep, but this is another camping style and requires some trees or poles.

The Cooking Gear

Cooking gear is the next most important category. Your food intake on any hiking or backpacking trip is essential to get right to make sure you stay in tip-top condition while you go on such a physical adventure. Start by meal planning. You should bring enough food to eat roughly 2,500 calories each day of your trip—your calorie intake should be equal to the calories you burn.

Once you have planned your meals, you can pack the appropriate kitchen gear. Most camping food will at least require a backpacking stove and its associated fuel source. In addition, you should have a camp-safe cooking pot, utensils, and some water containers. If you camp in bear country, make sure you pack all of your food in a bear bag or a bear canister. Often, a camping pot, a backpacking stove, a fuel canister, and some utensils will weigh less than a pound if you find materials meant for backpacking.

You should also bring supplies to clean your cooking materials, such as biodegradable soap and a microfiber cloth. Finally, remember while you go to abide by Leave No Trace principles. Food materials or litter from packaging left at your backpacking camp can be quite dangerous for the wildlife.

The Personal Hygiene Gear

Although it isn't as important as food and shelter, personal hygiene is still a priority on the trail, particularly hiking with other people. We are also grouping clothes under this category, another great thing to have on the trail.

Clothing is almost entirely dependant on the weather and area you will hike in. You should make sure you have enough underwear and socks that won't let your boots chafe on the back of your heels. Choose between shirts, jackets, and types of pants based on the climate.

You should also take care to choose clothes suitable for the kind of activity you are doing. Cotton is not a good idea to bring, such as in shirts or jeans. It is not moisture-wicking or odor-resistant. Instead, bring clothing made from quick-dry materials like polyester since this will mean you don't have to worry as much about sweat or getting wet.

Speaking of getting wet, packing waterproofed pants and a rain jacket is a good way to keep dry if it starts to pour. That is also why you should bring a waterproof covering for your backpack, for your tent, and another bag you can put your wet clothes in if they do get drenched, so it doesn't affect the rest of your supplies.

Other than clothing, other personal hygiene items to pack include dental care, hand sanitizer, a towel, prescription medications, and sunscreen. Of course, bringing along all of your typical makeup gear or items for your hair will only weigh you down.

The Preparedness Gear

Beyond the essential things you where eat and sleep in, there are other elements of being prepared. You should bring an emergency kit for a basic first aid trip. These are often sold at outdoor stores in a waterproof bag. If you have one that wasn't, it is best to seal it into a baggie to be ready for whenever you need it.

It is also best to bring a repair kit for your tent and a whistle if you get in danger. If the area you are going to has many mosquitos or other biting bugs, bring bug repellant. You should also have navigational tools even if you think you know where you are going. These could include a GPS, but you should always have a backup form of navigation that doesn't need to charge, like a map and a compass.

A knife and some multitool can always come in surprisingly handy when you are on one of these trips. Finally, whether you are going for one night or several days, you should have an emergency contact who you give an itinerary. You should also keep their details on your person.

The Comfort Gear

This last category is perhaps the most optional one, but it is also the best when you can pick a couple of items from this list to come with you. These aren't essential to survival, but they can make your trip that much more enjoyable.

Gear in this list includes things to really make your campsite perfect. For example, who wants to sit on the ground after a long day of hiking or try to set out a blanket? Instead, bring a lightweight folding camping chair with you to make the starry night that much more comfortable. 

Although you might feel the draw of the open backcountry, you might not be that interested in sleeping on the ground. However, if you find yourself in this boat, that doesn't mean you are excluded from the opportunity to enjoy the open country. Instead of sleeping on the ground, try bringing a camping cot along with you if your backpacking camp isn't far from where you park your car. There is quite a variety of these that help campers support their backs and get a better night's sleep than most will in a sleeping bag.

Want to visit the backcountry but not planning on going very far? You should consider bringing a camping table along with you. That way, you can comfortably get your campsite set up, a kitchen ready to go, and relax without having to cook on the ground.

A Comfortable Night Under the Stars

When you start planning for your trip, consider all factors such as the weather forecast, the longevity of your trip, and how far you plan to go. If you are spending all of your time in the backcountry, be sure to pack enough for the whole trip. If not, don't overload your backpack and pick stuff up along the way if possible. 

Considering the weather forecast, even if you think it will be a beautiful trip, weather can often change on a dime. Pack enough to make sure you are ready for it to turn rainy just in case. It is better to be safe than to get sick in the backcountry.

Finally, you should be ready to have a good time. Spending time in nature has been proven to be good for people. Taking a trip like this should be comfortable and fun. If you are still unsure how to make it more enjoyable, go to Camp & Go to find gear meant for camping comfort.