Sleeping Under the Stars: Backpacking Gear Guide

By Shannon Minnis

Every year, millions of people pack their gear and head outside to camp. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, there’s nothing quite like the long-lasting memories you create when you’re camping.

When going out in the wilderness it can be refreshing to totally unplug. This is what’s referred to as Boondocking or going “off the grid” which means camping with nothing but a tent for shelter and no electricity. If you’ve never done it before, it’s essential to be prepared with the right equipment which can be such a rewarding experience that gives you the opportunity to clear your head, gain clarity, and strengthen bonds. 

In order to help you gear up for the season, we made you the ultimate backpacking gear guide. Keep reading to find out all the most important items you’ll need to have the best possible experience with mother nature.


Backpacking Gear Guide: Essentials  

So, here’s the deal:

Camping doesn’t actually mean being uncomfortable and eating boring food. Although, I can’t argue that you can easily be set up for such an experience by being unprepared. Which is why I’m here to tell you about the gear you’ll need to make your next backpacking adventure fun.

Below you’ll find categorical checklists of backpacking gear with notes on some of the most essential items. 


Backpacking Gear Guide 1
Image CC BY-ND 2.0, by hjjanisch, via Flickr

1. “The Basics”


  • Tent 
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Flashlight 
  • Pillow
  • Backpack

On any camping adventure, you’re going to need shelter before you can think about anything else. So, let’s discuss tents for a moment.

For many camping products, companies manufacture different items for certain types of camping. Certainly, if you want to go deep into the woods with all your gear, you don’t want to carry a million pounds on the way.


What to look for when you’re shopping for a tent?

There are a few things that hold true for tents regardless if they are made for camping, backpacking, or glamping.

In terms of space measurements, the manufacturer will generally list the square footage of the tent’s floor. Furthermore, you’ll want to make sure that the floor material is in one piece instead of sewn together and comes up the sides at least a few inches. Otherwise, you take a chance of springing a leak.

Secondly, check the item description or see the tent in person — because you want the seams to be folded with double stitching. If you can see through the material when you pull the seam to the side, it’s going to leak.

PROTIP: No matter what, you want to get some seam sealer and go over them again anyway.

Backpacking Tents

How do you find the best tent specifically for backpacking? First, you want to know how many people it will need to fit — this is known as capacity. Additionally, you should consider:

  • How much room you want in the tent (headroom and sleeping area)
  • Whether the tent is difficult to set up and tear down (you can usually find this information in the review section)
  • Budgetary restrictions (backpacking tents can get pricey)
  • Seasonality (you can get tents that work throughout all four seasons)
  • Weight — especially important for a backpacking tent

As you can see, even when it comes to backpacking tents, the options are nearly endless. Therefore, by determining the required features based on your adventure it ensures the tent will be suitable for you. 


Sleeping Bags

How can you find the type of sleeping bag you need? Again, like with the tent, it’s important that you understand which season you’re going to be camping in and the climate at your destination.

Sleeping bags have different temperature ratings:

  • Summer: +30-degrees and higher
  • 3-season: +15 to +30-degrees
  • Winter: +15-degrees and higher

Remember, you can always unzip a sleeping bag and for that reason when shopping you want to purchase a bag that’s rated for the lowest possible temperature in the area. 

Sleeping bags come in four different shapes including:

  • Rectangular: leaves plenty of room in the leg area and you can unzip it and use as a comforter if needed
  • Semi-rectangular: like a mummy bag and a regular bag had a baby, gives you a little less room to move around (covers your head)
  • Mummy: designed to boost warmth and cut weight, the fit is very snug (also covers your head)
  • Double: a giant sleeping bag designed for two
  • Kids: mini sleeping bags for little bodies


2. Kitchen Supplies Camping Edition 

What would a Backpacking Gear Guide be without kitchen supplies?


  • Camping Stove
  • Cooking Supplies
  • Pocket Knife 
  • Biodegradable Soap
  • Small Quick-Dry Towel

These days, there’s no reason to “rough it” or go hungry when you’re camping. Not with all the camp stove options on the market, anyway. So, let’s find out how to get a camp stove that will be suited for backpacking. 

As usual, it’s important that you know how many people will be in your group. Obviously, you don’t want a tiny two-burner if you’re group is larger than five people. After you know the size of the stove, then it’s time to consider which features you want.


Camping Stove

Like much of the camping gear we’re discussing, you can get either a car camping stove or a more compact and lightweight backpacking stove. You can also get a stand-alone camping stove with legs and a prep table if you want.

What to look for when choosing a camp stove:

  • Is it large enough to fit the pans you’re using?
  • What type of fuel will you need?
  • Does the stove come with windscreens?
  • BTU: a measure of power — the higher the BTU the hotter the stove gets (this is important if you camp in cold climates)
  • Ignition: some stoves come with push-button starts and others are manual (requires a lighter)

Cooking Supplies

Now, it’s one thing to have the right camp stove, but what about everything you need to put on it? Well, go to any camping supply store and you will see the options are nearly endless. You can get everything to satisfy any Backpacking Gear Guide from coffee percolators to collapsible washtubs.

Essential items for cooking while backpacking:

  • Camp stove (including fuel and a way to light it)
  • Skillet
  • Cooking utensils
  • Potholder
  • Can opener, multi-tool, and bottle opener
  • Sharp knife (unless you prep food ahead of time)
  • Dishes: cups, mugs, plates, and utensils

Optional items you can get for cooking while camping:

  • Camp grill
  • Griddle
  • Aluminum foil
  • Dutch oven 
  • Charcoal/firewood
  • Portable coffee/tea maker 
  • Roasting forks
  • Camp kitchen organizer and table

Remember, an important factor when you take food into the woods — animals. Make sure you get a decent cooler for cold storage, of course. Additionally, though, make sure you get food storage bags or other containers that are bear and rodent resistant.


3. Nutrition 


  • Pantry (the combination of Non-Perishable/Perishable items) 
  • Snacks (granola bars, gels, and trail mix) 
  • Water Purifier 

With the proper preparation, making delicious meals while backpacking is easy! The most important aspect of this is developing a pantry full of non-perishable food items that you actually enjoy. I recommend checking out how to stock a camping pantry for suggestions on where to begin. 


4. Style (Clothing + Footwear)


  • Moisture-Wicking T-shirt 
  • Quick Drying Pants 
  • Long Sleeve Shirt 
  • Lightweight Fleece
  • Shoes suited for terrain 
  • Sunglasses

It’s important to expect the unexpected when backpacking. For that reason, always pack additional clothing for worst case scenarios. The most common situation to be prepared for are temperatures falling at night and items of clothing become damp – which makes waterproof clothing an easy fix to that possible problem. 


5. Navigation


  • Map
  • Compass 

Regardless of how familiar you may be with your campsite don’t forget both you map and compass. These are two light-weight essentials that can go a long way and avoid being lost in the outdoors. 


6. Cleanliness  


  • Hand Sanitizer 
  • Tooth-brush/paste
  • Sanitation Trowel

It’s often reported that over the course of a weekend camping trip people report being uncomfortable based off of overall cleanliness and accessibility of showers. In order to avoid that feeling, it’s essential to come with the proper gear. 


7. Emergency 


  • First-Aid Kit
  • Sunscreen 
  • Insect Repellent 
  • Whistle 
  • Matches 


Safety First 

Unfortunately, heading outdoors can present all sorts of issues we don’t face indoors. So, it’s essential that you pack a first aid kit designed. You can purchase a pre-made kit or create your own.

A camping first aid kit should include:

  • Waterproof bag with a lot of pockets to store the items
  • Bandages in many sizes (both sticky and gauze)
  • Wound sealer
  • Burn cream
  • Cortisone (anything to help with bug bites)
  • Tweezers
  • Pain relievers
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Ace bandage
  • Moleskin (really good for blisters)
  • Any other medication someone might need

Obviously, if you’re camping with someone that has special medical needs, make sure you pack everything they’ll need.


8. Extras 


  • Hammock
  • Camera 
  • Outdoor Journal
  • Star Chart / Night Sky Identifier 



One thing to consider, though, when choosing your seating arrangement is this — you could have a seat that doubles as a bed. Many backpackers like to carry specialized hammocks instead of a tent. You can even get hammocks with rain-flys and mosquito netting.

So, if you’re an avid hiker, including a hammock as part of this Backpacking Gear Guide might be for you. They fold up really small and come with their own stuff sack. Plus, a hammock is much easier to carry around than even the lightest backpacking chair.


Backpacking Gear Guide 2
Image CC BY-ND 2.0, from Gamma-Ray Productions, via Visual Hunt


Find the Best Camping Spots in the Country

Today, we have talked about the gear to bring backpacking that will set you up for a successful camping trip. Now in order to plan more of the specifics during your adventure, you can refer to this Camping Across America Guide that breaks down the US by region and provides details on weather, animals, gear, and attractions. 


Backpacking Gear Guide: You’re Ready to Hit the Road with Confidence

And there you have it, my friends. You are as empowered as any pro to equip yourself and your adventure crew with everything you’ll need.


On your next trip, prepare to impress your fellow campers with your broad range of camping knowledge. Then come back here and tell us all about it in the comments below!


Guest Author at

Mindfulness Coach: I help women ditch comparison, build confidence and cultivate internal happiness!

SEO Expert who loves blogging and building brands.


28 thoughts on “Sleeping Under the Stars: Backpacking Gear Guide

  • October 28, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    As a solo traveller, this post is so encouraging – I will certainly check back when I feel down. Thanx so much for sharing.

  • July 17, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    This is a great and detailed list for the first-time campers like me. Selecting a tent and a sleeping bag can be tricky. I like the points you have mentioned to make this process easy. Also, I agree that camping is not about boring food anymore considering the availability of a lot of products in the market. Keeping your bag stocked with granola bars and trail mix is a great idea for quick energy repairs.

  • July 13, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Great and well detailed. Am currently organizing a camping trip but don’t really know what to expect as i have never been to one or organized one before but this is going to help me know what to do and what not.

  • July 11, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    What a great list definitely seems like you’ve got the necessities.

  • July 10, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    These are great camping suggestions, especially for someone new to camping.

  • July 9, 2019 at 10:35 am

    This is such a great, informative list. My kids are desperate to go camping so we have all the gear. Our issue is that my husband decided that we needed the biggest tent possible, so we have a 16 man tent. We’re a four person family!! Need to find a camp site big enough to fit the tent!!

  • July 9, 2019 at 8:16 am

    I haven’t been big on camping but I’m becoming more interested now and this post has come at a good time

  • July 8, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    I loved this list! I am going to save this because I always forget a lot of things when we go camping. Especially, the cooking essentials.

  • July 8, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    This is a great beginning list for camping! I find that the more you camp, the more efficient you become. For instance, you can use some products for numerous things. If you find a multi-use product, that greatly cuts down on how much you need to pack. It’s definitely a lot of stuff to bring, but the experience is so worth it! I particularly love your suggestion about a hammock, I’ve yet to do that!

  • July 8, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    We haven’t been backpacking in years, but we do go camping. This is a great list of necessities when it comes to camping.

  • July 8, 2019 at 3:50 am

    Great guide! I am not a newbie but it is still very useful to me. It’s good to refresh and compare with other people’ thoughts.

  • July 7, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I never camped but in the future, I am planning for it. You have provided a detailed list of supplies and essentials to be carried during camping. All stuff related cooking supplies, safety items, and navigation items will top my packing list.

  • July 7, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    This takes me back to the days of backpacking. It’s been such a long time since I have done this. I will have to get some of these things and go backpacking with my daughter. It would be such a lot of fun.

  • July 7, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    your post reminded me of one thing i had forgotten to pack for my trip outdoors today 🙂 an essential at that

  • July 7, 2019 at 10:19 am

    There really is so much to think about when going camping! This is such an informative post and really useful!

  • July 6, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    I’ve never gone camping but I’ve always wanted to try it, it sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing these simple but informative lists, I had no idea I needed some of these things! You surely just made my future shopping a lot easier!

  • July 6, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    I’m gonna save this super informative list for when I’ll finally decide it’s time to go camping again after all these years! There are so many things to consider beyond the tent! Plus, I didn’t know you can get hammocks with mosquito netting – genius!

  • July 6, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    I must admit that I have been thinking of getting into the whole camping holiday experience but with small kids-was a bit reluctant. They have now gone a bit older and I think I can look to venture out into the wilderness and sleeping under the stars. Some great tips her and great help for a movie like me including the info on camping gear. Great to know that going out in the wilderness and unplugging yourself is known as Boondocking or going “off the grid”. Would live to give that a go. Thanks.

  • July 6, 2019 at 2:35 am

    As an amateur backpacker, what a great guide to read. Your short and easy-to-follow lists make shopping and research simple. I am saving your article for later. Even though I haven’t bought anything, I already feel more prepared.

  • July 6, 2019 at 12:22 am

    This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. We are currently planning our family’s camping trip!! You listed a couple things that I didn’t think about

  • July 5, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Hammocks are such a great idea! My husband and I love sleeping under the stars. This is such an awesome list for that.

  • July 5, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Some great advice. I love camping but I’m probably the world’s most disorganised camper too. Think I’ll print this out and save it for the next camping trip. It’s the little things like tent, sleeping bag and flashlight I usually forget lol

  • July 5, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    As someone who is not a camper, this breaks it down into a perfectly manageable list! I would love to try to get some more experience camping so this is a great place to start. Baby steps for me!

  • July 5, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    i can’t possibly camp on the ground anymore due to my back and chronic pain but the hammock sounds lovely. wonder if you can use some sort of back support or air mattress in a hammock.

  • July 5, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Wow. This post is so informative. It’s really useful for a novice like me. I always felt intimidated about camping. Now I know everything about planning my next camping.

  • July 5, 2019 at 5:30 am

    Thank You for sharing this. We are wanting to take my girls on their first camping trip soon. This will come in so handy!


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