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Packing List for your First Backpacking Trip

July 18 2018

Packing List for your First Backpacking Trip
Packing List for your First Backpacking Trip


Ready to get out in the wild and feel refreshed and inspired?  Backpacking, or overnight camping with just the gear in your backpack, is a great way to truly experience the outdoors.  Get ready to take in epic views that can only be earned. Read ahead for a packing list for your first trip off the grid.

Our packing list is designed for a 3 day/2 night first time backpacking trip, but overnights and longer trips are totally doable with some food adjustments.

First things first...FOOTWEAR

I recommend hiking boots, preferably high top versions for ankle stability while carrying weight.  Keen, Lowa, Arctyrex, Merrell, Solomon, and Vasque make good options.  Waterproof boots are nice, but not necessarily required if on a budget.  You need to break your boots in before you go backpacking!  Blisters can ruin a trip.  I recommend a retailer like REI to buy boots because they will help you find a pair that fit and have a great return policy in case a pair doesn’t work out. 


  • 1-2 Short sleeve shirts (or tanks) MERINO WOOL
  • 1 Long sleeve shirt MERINO WOOL or high quality moisture-wicking material
  • 1 Pair of shorts OR lightweight capris (for hiking)
  • 1 Pair of pants (for sitting around fire or hiking in the mornings, can be zip off legs to combine with shorts)
  • 1 Pair of MERINO base layer pants, for sleeping or layering
  • 1 Warm middle layer- fleece jacket OR packable down jacket.
  • 3 Pairs of socks MERINO WOOL
  • 1-3 sets of Undergarments, MERINO WOOL


  • 1 Wind proof layer (packable windproof/waterproof jacket)
  • 1 Large Packable Poncho (in case of rains, this will also cover your backpack when you wear it)
  • 1 Pair of MERINO or ski-liner style gloves
  • 1 Beanie/hat MERINO if possible
  • 1 Baseball cap/Visor
  • 1 Pair sunglasses
  • 1 Buff (optional)
  • 1 Belt (optional)
  • Lightweight sandals or flip flops (optional, but really nice to have)

Note: Why Merino you ask?  We will get into this in another blog post, but the key feature of real Merino is that it is warm when wet.  Cotton, for example, can drain body heat when wet.  Merino will keep you warm, safe, and comfortable.


  • First aid- band aids, blister specific band aids, some people like Moleskin.
  • Any prescriptions, plus ibuprofen, an antihistamine, and an anti-diarrheal.
  • Hand sanitizer or soap in a Matador Flatpak Bottle to save space
  • Body wipes (optional)
  • Deodorant (optional)
  • Baby Powder or Powerglide (optional, if you usually use it then bring it)
  • Dry Shampoo (optional)
  • Hair ties

Note: When in the backcountry, it is important to follow Leave No Trace Guidelines, and this is particularly important around water sources.  REI has a nice website to learn more about Leave No Trace that you can check out.



Here is a list of all the gear you might consider packing.  You cannot fly with a gas canister or ‘used’ stove so plan to rent or buy these on location at a local outdoor store.  I included some links, these are just recommendations or what I use and have tested.

  • Bio-degradable Toilet Paper 
  • Compact spade shovel 
  • Bug spray, 97-100% deet, this comes in small 1-4 oz bottles
  • Sunblock, minimum SPF 30. I recommend active ingredient Oxybenzone
  • Spork/Fork/Spoon with a long handle
  • Camera (optional) or cell phone camera
  • Hydration Pack (1.5 to 3L depending on location and water needs) Matador Hydrolite includes this.
  • Sawyer mini water filter, Matador Hydrolite includes this (and it is already assembled!)
  • Headlamp + backup set of batteries
  • Nano Towel, Matador NanoDry Towel, leave the case at home to save weight.
  • Water bottle (optional) for coffee or flavored drinks
  • Packable Hammock (optional)
  • Book to read (optional)
  • Radios (really handy if you have a group!)
  • Watch (optional) 
  • GPS and/or Spot emergency radio(optional) 
  • Maps and a compass, always, always, (always!)
  • Pocket knife (optional) but recommended
  • Cooking pot for water (Included if you have a jetboil)
  • Packable daypack like Freerain24 or Hydrolite (for excursions and peak bagging)
  • Bear canister or Bear bag (always check the requirements for where you are going!)
  • 20’ Heavy weight paracord or lightweight rope (for hanging a bear bag, high tensile strength)
  • Packable/Backpacking Pillow. I recommend a stuff sack to store your clothes in, and then use that as a pillow to save space.
  • Stuff sacks for organization.  Dry bags also work for this.
  • Chapstick with SPF
  • Hand warmers, hot hands, (optional)
  • Coffee mug (optional)
  • Hiking poles (optional)
  • Lighter (even if stove has one built in, as a backup)
  • Firestarters (optional, and depending on laws in area)
  • Compact axe (optional, and depending on laws in area)

Note:  Always check the rules and regulations for where you plan to go backpacking.  Some places require advanced permits, others not.  There is a lot of variation in rules depending on where you are.  Use your ranger station resource, a quick phone call can answer a lot of questions.  Learn about the regulations regarding wildlife.  


Food is all about energy on the trail.  You can buy freeze dried meals, make your own meals, or do a mix of both.  High protein snacks will keep you fueled throughout the day.  Freeze dried meals are actually really delicious and come in a lot of varieties to suit dietary needs/preferences.  My favorites are Backpacker’s Pantry and Mary Janes Farm Organic meals.  I pack all my food in a Hydrolite that can be strung into a bear bag overnight or re-purposed as a summit pack.  It's very multipurpose.

 Here is a list of what you will need if you hit the trail after breakfast on day one:

  • 2 breakfasts
  • 3 lunches
  • 2 dinners
  • 3 days worth of snacks- which will be eaten while hiking.
  • Instant coffee packets (optional)

 Example day of eating on trail:

Breakfast: Freeze dried granola breakfast + instant coffee

Snack: trail mix

Lunch: Cliff bar with Justin’s peanut butter packet, tropical trail mix

Snack: banana chips

Dinner: Freeze dried large meal

Dessert: Freeze dried cheese cake

Fireside drink: Whiskey mini bottle, neat


I hope this is a helpful start to getting ready for your first multi-night backpacking adventure!  If you have any questions, feel free to add them to the comments and we will get back to you!  If you want tips about Colorado, send us an email at



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