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Wondering what to pack for your first backpacking trip? This basic packing list for beginner backpackers has the essential gear to make your first backpacking trip a success.

Hiking and backpacking are two of my favorite things in the world. While I’ve always enjoyed hiking it took me a bit longer to get into backpacking. I resisted backpacking for a long time simply because I didn’t understand how it worked. I thought that backpacking involved carrying all of my car camping gear on my back- it sounded awful! When I finally understood that backpacking required new gear I tried to purchase everything as cheaply as possible. I wasn’t concerned about how heavy my pack was because I was only going out for one night at a time.

I traded my large 6-person tent for a smaller 2-person Coleman tent, I bought a synthetic 20-degree mummy bag, and I borrowed a backpack, stove, and water filter. The rest of my gear I cobbled together from what I already had available. I used an inflatable swimming pool floaty for my sleeping pad, I brought a spoon and fork from my cutlery drawer, and a small flashlight (I didn’t know about headlamps yet!). It wasn’t until I started backpacking on a regular basis that I began upgrading my gear.

But, it still took a while before I felt confident in my gear choices. The amount of gear that I thought I needed to be a “real backpacker” was overwhelming and expensive, and finding the gear that worked for me took a lot of trial and error. I bought a lot of gear that I ended up not using because I found that cheaper “hacks” worked just as well, or better than, the expensive, carefully engineered ultra-lightweight equipment. More importantly, I learned what equipment was worth the investment (tent, sleeping bag, and backpack), what equipment can be shared (water filter, stove), and what equipment can be hacked, multi-purposed, or bought inexpensively (sleeping pad, cutlery and kitchen essentials, and water bottles).

The items on my packing list are the items that I now confidently carry with me every time I backpack. They are my go-to items that I’m a bit lost without. (Want this list as an easy download? Scroll to the bottom of this post and sign up to receive my Essential Packing List for Beginning Backpackers.)





Here’s what I have in my bag whether I’m backpacking for one day or 10 days.

What do you have on your gear list? Have you developed any hacks to multi-purpose or replace expensive gear? Join our private Facebook group for women who are new to backpacking or backcountry adventures and share your gear list or learn more about backpacking and backcountry adventures. Come say hello!

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