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Do you feel like going backpacking this summer, but haven’t streamlined the packing and planning process?
Today I’m sharing the checklist I use for backpacking with the hope that you’ll be able to use it during your own planning. With food, water and Nikon DSLR, my pack that this list is based on weighs in at about 28 lbs. This list is certainly not all-encompassing, so feel free to edit and tailor it to your climate (mosquitos? hot/cold/humid/dry?), legalities (bear cans?, no ground fires?, CCW permitted?) and style (comfort on foot vs comfort at camp?). Just to give you an idea of what kind of backpacking I’m doing with the gear in this checklist, I’m usually in California’s Eastern Sierra during the summer on easy well-traveled terrain where navigation is a no-brainer.
Aside from the necessities, I allow myself one indulgence which is usually my DSLR. Sometimes I ditch the DSLR and pack a point-and-shoot camera with a flask of rye whisky instead. Some may opt for a camp chair frame, the kind where you slide your mattress inside for a padded seat with a minimal weight penalty, but I just sit on my bear can. Your adventure is your own; pack what suits you.
This article is split into two templates. First, a packing checklist. Copy this into Google Docs, Evernote or wherever you keep all your notes and documents. Second, a Google Docs emergency contact template that I share with others in my group. I have them add in their personal information (to include emergency contact information like a family member or girlfriend) and then right before we punch out of work on Friday, I copy, paste and mass-mail it to their emergency contact.
Without further ado:
Procedural Stuff to do at Home Before Heading Out
- Freeze leftovers
- Unplug stuff from walls
- Buy topo maps
- Email emergency contact info to friends/family of party members
- Enter emergency contact emails into SPOT messenger contact list
- Find dogsitter
- Take out trash and recycling
- Clean camera lenses
- Top off batteries (camera, headlamp, SteriPEN, SPOT Messenger, etc.)
Stuff to Pack
- Topographic Map/s
- Suunto Ambit (currently field testing this, but have been wearing a Suunto Vector for the previous nine years for the altimeter. Most will opt for a compass and possibly a GPS with topo base maps such as the Garmin 62St)
- Liner Gloves
- Shell Jacket
- Down Jacket
- Base Layer Hoodie
- Spare Socks (seasonal)
- Headlamp (sewn to beanie, this is two items for normal people)
- Survival Kit + Space Blanket
- Mora Fireknife with LED Photon light, matches, whistle, compass, purification tablets, tinder, taped to sheath with 9 feet of duct tape
- 30 feet of 550 Paracord
- Hand Sanitizer
- Trail Snacks
- Jetboil Cooking System
- Food (2x Mountain House, 1x Instant Ramen Noodles per day)
- Bear Can
- Hydration Bladder and/or Bottles
- Drink Mixes (1x Emergen-C, 1x Starbucks Via, 1x herbal tea per-day)
- Ground Pad (Big Agnes Insulated Air Core or Therm-a-Rest NeoAir)
- Sleeping Bag (Big Agnes 40°)
- Tent (Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2)
- Trekking Poles
- SPOT Messenger
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, Gold Bond, floss)
- Baby Wipes
- Trash Bag/s
- Bear Spray
Stuff to Throw in the Car
- Extra Food
- 7-Gallon Water Jug
- Day Pack (if trailhead quota is exceeded and party decides on day hike instead)
- Titanium Mug (pot substitute if sharing Jetboil with another party member)
- Clean T-shirt and Flip Flops for the Ride Home
Emergency Contact Info Template
This is the emergency contact information for your spouse/SO/child regarding the backpacking trip they are going on with me. See below for relevant information.
“We will be off the grid and therefore out of cell phone contact from mid-morning Saturday until noon Sunday. Do not call Search and Rescue unless we have not checked in by Monday morning. Inyo National Forest Ranger station: (760) 873-2485.”
Summary of Activities
Visit NOAA.gov to find the forecast for your location.
It’s best to snap a photo with the topographic view of your destination and share the route information with your emergency contact.
“We will trace counter-clockwise on the loop towards the top. Weather is expected to be clear with zero precipitation, highs in the 80s and lows in the high 40s or low 50s.”
- 1830 – Depart Los Angeles after Hicks and Spunkmeyer leave work and arrive at my place. Dinner is on our own: either on your way here, fast food enroute, or Mountain House at camp.
- 2300 – Arrive at camp at dispersed camp near Lone Pine at the usual spot. Weirzbowski will drive up from San Diego and meet us there at his own pace. Send SPOT beacon.
- 0645 – Break camp, Mountain House for breakfast or Jack-in-the-Box in Bishop.
- 0730 – Line up at Bishop permit office to attempt walk-in overnight permit.
- 0930 – Hit trailhead. We’ll park our car wherever the designated overnight/backcountry trailhead parking lot is. My Sulaco is the one with the Yakima rack and surfboards.
- Afternoon – Camp at Shamrock Lake. Send SPOT beacon. Instant noodles for lunch, Mountain House for dinner.
- 0800 – Break camp at our own pace. Mountain House for breakfast.
- 1000 – Arrive back at trailhead.
- 1600 – Arrive home. Each person should check in with their emergency contact when they arrive safely home.
- Please bring cash in small bills to reimburse your driver.
- Gas: for those riding with me: 620 + 5% miles = ~650 miles / 21 mpg = 31 gallons @ $4.50/gal = $140 total / 3 pax / car = ~$47ish
- Food: n/a, on your own.
- Lodging: $0
- Park fees: $5 bear can rental if you don’t own one. I will put my food into Hicks’ bear can. Wierzbowski and Spunk don’t have one, so you guys decide amongst yourselves who will do the rental and divvy up your food/toiletries and other scented items.
- Total Estimated = ~$60ish per head
Plan Your Own Adventure!
This article should serve as a great starting point to help you plan your next weekend adventure. Feel free to customize the packing checklist to fit your own needs be sure to send us a postcard.
“I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right.” – Henry David Thoreau
Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Jeff lives in Los Angeles and serves as our resident Eastern Sierra correspondent. He’s buckling down for the next Sharknado, but in the meantime is throwing the occasional blog post up on skunkabilly.com.
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One thing that I've been struggling with recently is food. I see you've listed 2x Mountain House + 1x Ramen noodle. I usually pack about the same, but that only equals about 1,000 calories. Those meals usually take away the hunger, but on a trip that's about a week long, I'm feeling pretty drained at the end. Anyone else?
@Ontario Geardo Instant mashed potatoes, Hamburger helper, and ramen are my favorites. They used to sell these little salmon or meat steak packages at Walmart. I think you can still buy them on the Bumblebee website.
I question listing spare socks as a seasonal item, I have needed spares on many trips in all seasons. I even keep a spare set in my truck.
@backyardsniper Being without clean socks can quickly ruin a morning. Being without dry socks can ruin a trip.
Great list! When it's all laid out like that, it might seem like it's a lot to handle but once you get used to it, it's easy :).