As a professional guide, one of the questions I get asked often is, "What's inside your pack?" or "What do you bring for a weekend trip Mat?" Over the years, the type of gear has remained very similar. However as many companies create lighter durable options or a new product I think would be pretty sweet to have on the trail, I have found myself doing a little bit of upgrading. As a backpacker I am no ultralight by any means. I do find that a lighter load in my pack makes for more mileage, comfort and maneuverability. Though I am also not one to sacrifice safety or a good night's rest.
In this backpacking checklist, I'm going to share with you the gear that I like to bring on a 3-season (spring, summer, fall) 3 day trip. Everyone has their preferences and comfort levels to which I am an advocate for following. My hope is that this list will help you with your planning, figure out what you may or may not need, give you some guidance if you're new to the backpacking world and inspire you to hit the trails.
*Disclosure: All of the gear mentioned in this article was purchased by me and is not influenced by the companies or brands in any way. I am not compensated for the products that are mentioned in this list if they are purchased by others. This is just gear I purchased, use, really enjoy and what works for me. Every individual’s choices may be completely different. Thank you.
A 3-Day (Weekend) Trip Backpacking Checklist
(What’s In That Pack?)
Osprey Exos 58
I love this pack. At 58 Liters it is more than enough for a 3 day trip. It's comfortable, spacious and super light (2lbs 8oz). The AirSpeed mesh along the frame provides great ventilation and keeps the weight off of your back. I rarely notice the weight is on my back. A top lid is detachable with this pack, so you can either rig your own summit pack MacGyver style or even leave it at home to shave a few extra ounces. There’s an extra flap of material with buckles to keep gear covered from rain if you choose to use that option. I also found I had enough room to store a bear canister horizontally if desired (or required). The fact that this is a lightweight pack makes it more suitable for lighter loads. I’ve only carried up to 25lbs in it at the moment. It could certainly handle more, but I haven’t needed to do so.
REI Quarter Dome 1
I know you may be thinking, “A one person tent? Mat, why?” This tent is unlike any other 1 person tent I have tried and with a lower price point than most out there, it is an incredible buy in my opinion. I never feel like a human sardine in a sardine can while sleeping in this. In fact, I have plenty of room to sit up, move around and even store my pack in there with me (I’m 5’10”). I feel this is also in part to the semi-freestanding design that uses the tent poles to really pull this thing out to the max.
A storage pocket near the head allows for keeping night time essentials close by. The minimum trailweight of this tent is 2lbs 2oz. If I am feeling like I want to be out under the stars, elevated and there are tons of trees where I plan to camp, I’ll switch this out for a hammock system that is fairly close in weight.
Also grab a footprint for this tent or if you choose to make your own, make sure it is set to the dimensions of the tent’s floor plan. Here in New England, I’ll always bring some type of tent floor protection to ensure that I will have this home away from home for years to come.
REI Igneo Sleeping Bag
This 19°F (EN rated), water-resistant 700 fill duck down sleeping bag is solid. Not to mention it weighs in at only 1lb 13oz. I’ll use this bag in 3-season conditions and beyond due to its light weight and compressibility. There’s plenty of room for me to move around, yet the bag is still close enough to provide me with optimal warmth. If it gets too warm, I’ll open the bag up and use it as a quilt. Too hot out on certain summer nights? I’ll go with an emergency heat reflective bivvy or a summer bag.
Sea To Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad
I just got this sleeping pad recently and it instantly won me over. It uses Thermolite insulation which prevents heat loss due to convection. The unique Air Sprung Cell design is very comfortable and makes me feel like I am on a spring mattress at home. I also find comfort in the antimicrobial treatment that is added to prevent issues from any warm, moist air that may make its way into the mat if blown up. It weighs 15 oz and packs up to about the size of a Nalgene bottle.
Sea To Summit Jetstream Pump
Gone are the days of having to blow air numerous times into your sleeping pad valve to inflate it. Enter the Jetstream Pump (pictured above next to Sea To Summit sleeping pad and attached to the sleeping pad). This pump works like an accordion to inflate the pad.
Simply connect the nozzle to the one-way valve on the pad and compress the bag, pull it back, compress. Repeat. I’ve inflated my pad with about a dozen pumps. Bonus: You can also use this pump as a stuff sack. (1.5oz)
Sea To Summit Ultralight Pillow
How many of you have either not wanted to carry a massive pillow in your pack or decided a pillow wasn’t necessary and opted to use a fleece or some clothes? I’m with you. How did you feel the next morning? I’m with you there too. Sore necks can really zap some of that morning energy out of you. That’s where this compact, light and comfortable gem comes into play.
The Ultralight Pillow weighs a little over 2 oz, takes about 2 breaths to inflate and has a nice contour for your shoulder to rest comfortably beside. Like the aforementioned sleeping pad, this too has the antimicrobial treatment to protect the inside of the pillow. Did I mention compact? No more huge space loss in your pack. This thing packs to about the size of a lemon. It goes with me on every backpacking trip and as a carry on for international travel.
Snowpeak Lite Max Stove
This stove is terrific and at 1.9 oz it adds little weight to my pack. It cranks out 11,200 BTUs and has a boil time of 4 min 25 sec per liter of water, though I have noticed it to be a little quicker. The stove has foldable arms which I like for more compact storage, but there is still the ability to open them if cooking with a large pot is desired.
The stove isn't equipped with a piezo (an igniter) so matches, a lighter or something else is needed to start this stove. It runs on fuel canisters. A 100g canister will get you around 45 mins of burn time due to the fact it takes slightly longer than other stoves. I find that to be a small drawback though for weekend trips. Adding the pouch to it raises the weight to 2.2 oz (Fuel canister sold separately).
MSR Titan Kettle
This ultralight titanium pot is all I need for solo trips or a few nights out with another individual. I've used it as a cooking pot, a mug and even a bowl for eating. The multi-purpose use allows me to carry less and save space in my pack for other gear.
It's 0.85 liters (about 29 fl oz) which allows me to store a fuel canister, stove and igniter inside. I've also had room for my coffee filter and a collapsible mug too. The lid stays snug and the spout is a nice touch for easy pouring. The handles on the side of the pot can get hot, but the sleeves of a fleece can take care of that. (4.2 oz)
Sawyer Mini Squeeze
The versatility of this filter is insane. Choose from attaching it as an inline to your hydration reservoir (additional hose and adapter kit needed), attach a straw and drink from the source, screw the filter onto a small mouth water bottle (Smartwater bottle or something similar), attach the filter to a 16 fl oz pouch it comes with and either drink straight from the pouch or squeeze filter the water into your container of choice. Along with the filter, straw and 16floz pouch, the Sawyer Mini Squeeze also comes with a backflush to help maintain your filter in the field. The filter weighs 2 oz and can filter up to 100,000 gallons before it needs to be replaced. (Mesh stuff sack not included). I bring this on backpacking trips and also day hikes when I'm going through water like crazy due to New England humidity in the summer.
Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Tablets
I always carry tablets as a backup. It’s highly unlikely, but there may be a time where you find yourself with a clogged filter, broken filter or lost filter. There are tons of tablets out there and all of them work. On it’s own these will take a bit longer due to its contents. I like the fact that there is no bitter taste or discoloration and since I keep these as a last resort I don’t mind the extra time needed.
Sea To Summit X-Mug
This mug travels with me a lot. It’s heat resistant silicone makes it great for hot coffee or tea (it can still get a bit warm) and also easy to clean.
The 16floz mug shown here, collapses down to a resemble a small disc which allows it to take up a very small amount of space in my pack. It is BPA free and weighs 2.4 oz.
Sea To Summit Alpha Light Spork
This spork weighs a mere 0.4 oz. It is made from aircraft grade aluminum alloy that is hard anodized which makes it very durable. I like to carry the long one with me for trips when I choose to have freeze dried backpacking meals. The length is perfect for getting every bit of food out of the pouch. There is also a shorter option available which weighs 0.3 oz.
GSI Ultralight Java Drip
Not only do I bring this on my backpacking trips, but I also use this for car camping outings too. Instant coffee? No thanks. With this coffee filter, you can bring your favorite coffee grounds from home or your local store.
Clip the filter to your mug, add the grounds and pour your hot water over it. Your coffee will start dripping instantly (minus the grounds, so goodbye cowboy coffee). Flip it inside out to clean it completely and fold it up to almost nothing. Pack it up and you’re all set. (0.4 oz).
Sport Water Bottles
Some people prefer to use a water reservoir with their pack, but I have always been a water bottle guy. I like the no fuss filling and cleaning of a bottle. Plus it forces me to stop and take a quick break, which also allows you to enjoy an otherwise possibly overlooked view and a deeper connection. Which is why we’re all out there, right? I like the sport bottles because they weigh half as much as a standard Nalgene which weighs 6oz on its own.
Smartwater Water Bottles (1 Liter)
These bottles weigh even less than the sport bottles I just mentioned.
They hold just as much water, are cost effective and are perfect for a Sawyer Mini Squeeze to connect to (pictured above).
REI Traverse Power Lock Cork Trekking Poles
Here in New England, trekking poles can take a beating. I find these strong aluminum alloy poles (pictured to the right of the pack) stand up to the abuse time and time again. The cork handles are lighter in weight and offer comfortable, solid grip in various conditions. The locking mechanisms are secure and easy to use even when wearing gloves. I have also pulled them completely apart into three sections which made them compact and allowed for travel when needed. (1lb 3oz per pair)
- Bear Bag System -
In most cases, a bear bag system is what I will choose for all of my scented goods. Though a bear canister is required in certain areas such as the High Sierra’s in California, Wyoming, Washington and the Adirondacks in New York. It is good to call and check with a local ranger to see what the guidelines are before you head out to the location. Some places also allow you to rent one during your time there. If you are using a bear bag, here is what I will use.
REI 3 Liter Mesh Stuff Sack
I’ve heard stories of individuals tying a rock to their cordage and lopping it over a branch only to have it come down on the other side and snip the rope. Now they’ve lost that extra length that may be needed. The mesh sack gives me the added security in knowing that the only thing to most likely get shredded is the stuff sack itself. (0.4 oz)
REI 10 Liter Waterproof Dry Bag
I find this size to be good for myself for about a week, or a couple of days for a small group. Your average bear canister will be 10-11 liters in size (just to give a frame of reference). The waterproof bag not only protects everything from the elements, but it also protects everything in my pack should something accidentally puncture inside. (2.3 oz)
PMI 50’ 3mm Utility Cord
40’ to 50’ of cord will work for hanging a bear bag. This stuff has a strength of approximately 400 lbs (1.8 kN). It is durable, cost effective and light. (2.28g)
Petzl Ange S Carabiner
Almost any climbing carabiner will do. This one weighs 34 grams making it light and it is also clean all around so I never find the cord getting snagged.
These bags work great. I’ll throw all of my food, scented items, scented clothing from wearing while cooking and then toss it into the dry bag. I haven’t had an issue with small critters or puncture pouches yet. They are reuseable and worth every penny. (0.8oz)
Food & Water
This is a personal preference, like everything else in any checklist of course, but you’ll want to aim for about 1-2 lbs of food per day per individual and 2-3 liters of water per day. For food I like to grab a few snack bars to have during activity (about every two hours) and then a meal bar and coffee at breakfast and homemade freeze dried meal at dinner. Since we're burning about 3,000 calories or more a day backpacking, I'll aim for 35% fat and the rest protein and carbs. This usually results in about 125-150 calories per ounce. I'll avoid most snacks that offer less than 100 per ounce.
Sea To Summit Lightweight Dry Sack
Some may call it a guide habit and others may call it OCD. I just like having everything organized and know exactly where it all is in case I need something specific during a certain time. These dry sacks help with that and also keep all of my gear dry since I don’t use a raincover on my pack (I’ll line it with a contractor’s bag instead). The different colors offer for organization, if you’re like me, and they come in various sizes. They’re durable, lightweight and get the job done. Depending on the size you choose, bags weigh between 1.1 oz and 4.3 oz. For a 3 day trip I will usually have all of my gear in about 3 of these different bags and the rest of the items in a couple of Ziplocs.
- Lighting/Electronics -
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
This little headlamp is incredible. Its highest output is 200 lumens (80 meters) and you can dim it all the way to 4 lumens (8 meters). Along with its powerful white LED bulb it also contains a red LED which reduces eye strain and preserves night vision. It will also keep your fellow campers happy. Battery life is long too with 50 hrs on the highest and 200 hrs on the lowest. It uses 3 AAA batteries, is waterproof and weighs 3.2 oz.
Anker Powercore 10000 Portable Charger
It's always nice to have the ability to get in touch if needed, keep loved one's comforted with a check in or maybe even find the closest place to resupply on a longer trip if using your phone as a GPS device. Can't forget the photo ops too. This device will keep your phone going for days. The model I use and have pictured here has 10,000 mAh battery capacity. To break it down, an iPhone 7 has 1,960 mAh. This means you can almost completely charge that specific phone about 5 times before you need to recharge this portable charger. The device itself weighs 6.3 oz and is super compact, making it great for long solo trips or if you are out with a group for a night or two. It charges through a USB cable, allowing it to be plugged in to a laptop or a wall outlet with a wall adapter (not included, though a standard iPhone one works just fine). The four small dots on the device (which can be seen as grey circles on the right side of it in the picture above) are great indicators that turn blue to show how much juice is left in the charger. 4 is full - 1 is low.
MPOWERD Luci EMRG
Sometimes I’ll just go with hanging a headlamp from inside my tent, but at 2.4 oz this durable, compact lantern comes with me on most of my trips. Its 25 lumen output lights up the inside of my tent with just the right amount of light needed. It's waterproof and doesn't need any batteries, using a simple sloar panel built in to the top. Run time is 7 hours on the bright setting, longer on the lower setting.
Charge time is 8 hours in direct sunlight. This little lantern also has a strobe feature and an emergency red light strobe feature too. It is also listed to operate between 15°F–122°F (-10°C–50°C) when used outside. For colder temps, I'll use a different option like the Black Diamond Moji.
- Hygiene -
GSI Cathole Trowel
Leave No Trace Principles are important for any trip and on backpacking trips it can get tricky. For when you have to no. 2, this trowel is where it’s at. It is durable and weighs 3.1 oz. The serrated edges are a nice add-on too and help take care of any trouble you may find from areas that are tough to dig.
Cotton Buds Scent Free TP & Plastic Ziploc Bag
This is a must have for backpacking and is everything tp should be. It’s scent-free, durable, soft and effective. This 2-Ply Roll contains 75 sheets and weighs 1.3oz. I carry a plastic bag or two also because it’s good practice to pack it out and in some areas it is even required to do so such as the High Sierras. I'll simply throw it in a plastic bag and then a designated stuff sack.
Sea To Summit Wilderness Wash Bio-degradable Soap 3 fl. Oz.
A little bit of this stuff goes a long way. Clean laundry, dishes, hair & skin. It does it all. It’s effective, biodegradable & pH neutral. A capful with 10 liters of water is all you need. I’ll bring this for travel too as it is TSA compliant. (3 fl oz)
Sea To Summit Wilderness Wipes Compact Size
Sometimes you can be pretty far away from any water source. Better to save your water for hydration. That’s when these come in handy. After a long day on the trail or if you’re just feeling beat, these no rinse wipes help clean and keep you refreshed. Like the soap, they are pH neutral and also compostable. Plus, they contain aloe vera and vitamin E. (12 wipes, 1 oz for the whole package)
PackTowl Luxe Quick Dry Towel Face Size
These quick dry towels are great and while there are lighter options out there, I tend to prefer the comfort of home with this one. They absorb 5 times their weight in water and wring out with no fuss. It has odor control and dries 30% quicker than cotton. This towel is also compact and comes with a nice storage bag for quick drying and packing. There are lighter options out there, but I like to splurge a little with this one. (4.6 oz)
Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Mouthrinse, Deodorant
- First-Aid, Protection, Emergency -
Whether you are into making your own first-aid kit or you pickup a pre-made one, it is always good practice to know each item in this kit and how to use it. This is one of the important Ten Essentials that should be in every pack for a 3 day trip and any other adventure you go on.
Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight Medical Kit .7
This watertight and ultralight kit contains a good amount of essential supplies that one may need when out on the trail for themselves and one other for a 3-day trip. It also contains a roll of duct tape. For a list of what to have in your first-aid kit for this trip duration or shorter trips check out the Ten Essentials for every pack here. This specific kit pictured here weighs 8 oz.
Sawyer SPF30 Sunblock Lotion
This sunscreen is sweat-resistant which offers long lasting protection while out on an adventure. It doesn’t stain clothing and I also never feel like it is greasy or heavy on my skin. This specific product also contains aloe vera and vitamins. (8 fl oz)
Natrapel Insect Repellent
Being outdoors all day in New England you don’t want to take any risks with Lyme Disease or any mosquito transmitted viruses. This insect repellent uses picaridin which provides similar protection to the familiar DEET products we have all used, but without harming synthetic materials, fishing line or possibly the body. I find it to be effective for around 10-12 hrs before I need to reapply. It works against ticks, mosquitoes and black flies really well and also has a pleasant smell to it. Picaridin products are also known to have been used in Europe for the last 15 years or so. (3.4 fl oz)
This one I’ll always have on me. I don’t really have a particular preference, but I love the fact it has many more uses than just to protect your lips. Check out the Back To Basics section on the website and you too may never leave for a trip without this compact, versatile piece of gear.
This thing goes with me everywhere. It’s lightweight, compact and has over a hundred uses. You can even use it to filter coffee if needed. To support my love for my home of New England and one of America’s beautiful long distance hiking trails, I wear the Appalachian Trail Buff loud and proud. I’ve also sprayed it with permethrin which keeps the bugs away from my face so I can focus on the important things and views from the trail. (1.1 oz)
For when you refuse to take your Buff Headwear off your head. I also like to keep a couple of these in my pack in case of an emergency and because they are cotton they are also great to soak in water and cool you down a bit if you wanted. You can find multiple uses for a bandana on the Back To Basics page too.
SOL Emergency Bivvy
This piece of gear is worth its weight in gold and is so compact you won’t even notice it in your pack. It reflects up to 90% of your body heat back to you and can provide that extra warmth and protection you just might need to survive an unplanned overnight situation. The material is windproof, waterproof and is also seam taped. Throw this in your pack, whether it’s a long distance trip or a simple day excursion. (3.8 oz)
Tifosi Dolomite 2.0 Polarized Fototec Sunglasses
I find these glasses to be very comfortable and provide the proper eye protection that I seek for 3-season trips. The lenses adjust very quickly to changing light conditions which give me clarity and protection in return. They’re great for cloudy and sunny conditions by offering a 32.1 – 11.9% range of light transmission. The frames are durable, light and have a high bending strength. They also offer high resistance to UV damage. Rubber ear and nose pieces can be adjusted for a custom fit and I never find them to slip under hot, humid conditions. The lenses are vented which also provide fog prevention.
Gerber Dime Multi-tool
This multi-tool weighs 2.2 oz, is compact and has never let me down. It contains pliers, wire cutters, a blade, scissors, screwdrivers, tweezers, a file, a unique blade for cutting/scoring packaging and a bottle opener. Everything you could possibly need. This great little piece of gear is made with 3Cr13 stainless steel and is capable of many day to day tasks you may have on your trip.
Benchmade 585 Mini Barrage Knife
This knife gets the job done. The partially serrated blade is made of stainless steel and the spring-loaded AXIS locking mechanism is reliable and easy to use. It stays sharp and is so compact you’ll barely notice it’s with you until you need it most. It’s comfortable to handle and weighs in at 3.4 oz. This little workhorse can take the abuse.
Light My Fire Firesteel
The Light My Fire Firesteel is one that I have used for years. It’s reliable in windy, wet conditions, at any altitude and for everyday use. It’s a great way to get a fire going or to light your backpacking stove and provides 3,000 strikes before it needs replacement. The rod emits 5,400°F sparks which can ignite a variety of tinder. It weighs 1 oz.
UCO Waterproof Matches