A man wearing a backpack stands on a rock looking out at the view below

Made To Roam: Backpacking Essentials Checklist

You’ve decided you’re going backpacking, the kind that will push boundaries and get you out of your comfort zone. The best part? Epic journeys and stories of escapism lie ahead.

Catching your first sunrise over a peak not too far from home, or following a snowy pine-lined trail somewhere much further afield, any backpacking escape can feel like a true adventure. But whether it’s getting caught in a tropical storm or having to re-route due to a blocked path, it’s best to plan for surprises and you’ll thank yourself for being a little extra prepared before you set off.  

Ready to get on your way? Let's dive into the backpacking essentials and tips that will prepare you for the best (and sometimes worst) times that await out on the trails.

A man assembles a tent in the woods
Photo by @malikdanijah

The Backpacking Essentials

Keep in mind there will be trip-specific essentials, depending on where you're going and how long for, but here are a few things to get your packing list started:

  • Hiking boots or shoes: Durable and comfortable for the terrain. And ideally well worn-in!
  • Backpack: Weather-resistant with adjustable straps and the right size for your trip.
  • Tent: Lightweight and easy to set up, suitable for the climate.
  • Sleeping bag and pad: Appropriate for the weather, compact, and comfortable.
  • Stove and fuel: Portable and efficient.
  • Kitchen supplies: Compact cookware and utensils.
  • Food: High-energy, lightweight, and easy to prepare.
  • Water bottles and treatment: For safe hydration.
  • Appropriate clothing: Layered for weather adaptability - think insulators, waterproofs, mid-layers and base layers. And appropriate headwear. 
  • Emergency supplies: First-aid kit, navigation tools, headtorch, and emergency shelter.
  • Hygiene and health supplies: Biodegradable soap, sunscreen, toothbrush, etc.
  • Repair kit: Multi-tool and necessary repair items.

A backpack leant against a tent
Photo by @malikdanijah
A man using walking poles hikes through snow
Photo by @malikdanijah

How to use this checklist

Sometimes you can't beat a good ol' pen and paper to get organised. A couple of things below to keep in mind when you're packing:

  1. Review each item: Go through the checklist and get familiar with each item, it’s useful to understand why each is an essential piece of kit for your backpacking trip.
  2. Customise according to your trip: How long are you going for? What’s the terrain and climate like? Are you wild camping?
  3. Gather and check your gear: Give everything a good once over to check for any wear and tear, ensuring everything is in good working condition.
  4. Pack mindfully: As you pack, think about the weight and balance of your backpack. Distribute the weight evenly and make sure you have easy access to the things you’ll need most often. Keep heavy items close to your back and between your shoulder blades.
  5. Double-check before you set off: One last thing. Take a look over your checklist once more before you leave to ensure you haven’t missed anything important. Room for one more snack?
A woman sips coffee from a cup around a campfire in the woods

The Backpack

The right backpack will be your trusty go-to for years to come. A backpack with a capacity of 30–50 litres is ideal for most trips, but the key is to find the sweet spot between size, comfort, and functionality. 

Also note, the size of the pack can be more dependent on the conditions than the length of the trip - a week's trip in the summer will require less bulky items than a weekend trip in winter!

Sleeping Equipment

Planning on camping out a few nights? Each piece of kit has its role in making sure your experience out in the peaks or on the trails is comfortable and safe, from shelter to sleeping gear.

  • Backpacking tent (with stakes, guylines)
  • Sleeping mat (inflatable or foam)
  • Sleeping bag or sack.
Two friends backpacking across a valley

Kitchen Gear

Choose compact and easy-to-use items that cover your cooking game without piling on extra weight you don't need. If you’re planning a multi-day hike, check out the refuges or camp spots you’re staying at, they may already have stoves and gas ready to use.

  • Portable stove and fuel (check you're able to use this in the area you’re hiking, as some areas have a high risk of fire and stoves are banned).
  • Lightweight cookware (pot, pan, mug, bowl etc.).
  • Sponge and biodegradable soap.
  • Food storage containers or snack bags.
  • Water bottles suitable for hot water.
A group of three friends make coffee while on a hike and pour into cups

Clothing & Footwear

The best pieces of kit and gear are the ones you pack again and again, each telling its own story from past adventures. That goes for us at Passenger too, we all have our go-to gear we can rely on to do the job, whether it's the perfect layer or something to shield against unpredictable elements.

  • Moisture-wicking base layers.
  • Insulation layer (fleece or activewear jacket).
  • Waterproof jacket.
  • Well worn-in hiking boots or shoes.
  • A pair of sandals or flip-flops for some light relief after a day of hiking.
  • Merino wool or synthetic socks.
  • Hat, cap or beanie.

Food & Drink

Nourishing grub will keep you going on the trails, and it's wise to carry foods that are not only high in energy but easy on the pack. 

For shorter, slower trips where you might have more space in the bag, why not pack ingredients that bring a bit of soul to your cookouts. Campfire nachos, grilled tacos and one-pot mac 'n' cheese are all Passenger cookout faves.

Carry enough water for the trip, and have purification tablets ready for when you need to find more.

  • High-energy snacks for on-the-go boosts. Nuts, trail mix and energy or oat bars will do the trick - and if they're homemade the night before, even better.
  • Dehydrated meals for when packing space is tight and you've got a crammed itinerary.
  • Reusable water bottle.
  • Water filters or purification tablets.
A man preparing vegetables sat on a blanket on a beach
Photo by @taitmiller

Health & Hygiene

Whether you’re tackling a gritty section of the South West Coast Path for a day or backpacking the GR20 in Corsica for a week (like Passenger’s own Laura did!), maintaining good health and hygiene will make it all the more comfortable and enjoyable. 

  • First-aid kit
  • Biodegradable soap and hand sanitizer
  • Sponge or bamboo cloth
  • Sunscreen 
  • SPF lip balm
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Toilet roll and waste bag 
  • Bug spray
  • Quick-dry towel.
A man takes a nap against a rock on a hike
Photo by @malikdanijah
A man stands on a rock overlooking a forest gorge
Photo by @malikdanijah

Useful Tools

You never know when you might need additional navigation aids or emergency tools, so it's best to pack them just in case.

  • Map and compass or GPS device - practice using these if you're not familiar with them!
  • Multi-tool or knife
  • Headtorch and spare batteries
  • Emergency whistle
  • Trekking poles
  • Notebook and pen.
A man sits at the top of a mountain writing in his journal
Photo by @deeehabs

Personal Extras

Snapping an epic vista, spying a rare wildlife sighting or just finishing off your fave read at the end of a long day roaming, these extras can bring a little added enjoyment to your trip.

  • Camera or smartphone for photos
  • Portable battery pack
  • Lightweight book or e-reader
  • Compact binoculars.
Three people backpacking in a valley with cloud rolling in

Tips For Responsible Backpacking

Embracing responsible backpacking is not just about what you pack, but also how you can best respect the environment during your trip.

  1. Always have a plan, but be flexible - use a route planner before you go such as Komoot, All Trails or Strava, and download for offline use so you can use it on the trail.
  2. Stay hydrated and nourished.
  3. Respect nature and wildlife.
  4. If you’re going alone, tell someone you’re going, what your plan is and what time you expect to be back.
  5. Check the weather and local reports for risks.
  6. Practise 'Leave No Trace' principles.
  7. Camp responsibly.
  8. Be considerate of others.
  9. It's your adventure, enjoy it!

Final Thoughts Before You Go...

We're big fans of backpacking at Passenger. It can be the most enriching and enlightening experience that reconnects you with nature, whether you're escaping the 9-5 for a weekend or planning a longer adventure. And it's as much about choosing the right gear and getting prepared as it is about enjoying the journey, wherever it takes you. 

A woman wrapped in a blanket looks out at the sunset over the mountains
Photo by @mariiamichaud


What is the ideal weight for a backpacking backpack?
Ideally under 20% of your body weight so the pack doesn't feel overly heavy. It shouldn't be a burden!

How do I choose the right backpack for my trip?
It depends how long you're going for and what the conditions are like. Make sure it's a comfy fit and has the right features for your trip.

What should I pack for a 3-day backpacking trip?
There are tons of things to consider, but start with shelter, a cosy sleeping bag and clothes that match the weather and your level of activity. And don't forget water and snacks!

How much water should I carry while backpacking?
Typically half a litre per hour, depending on the temperature and terrain. If you’ll need more than you can carry, plan ahead to make sure you can find more along the way.

What are the best foods to bring backpacking?
Lightweight, high-energy foods like nuts, trail mix and energy bars (easy to make at home before you go). 

How can I backpack responsibly?
Tread lightly and respectfully. Leave no trace by taking all litter with you and clearing up camps. Research what wildlife you might encounter along your trip to avoid disturbing nature around you. 

A man walking towards his tent pitched by a river
Photo by @hippiesnap
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