The Backpack Cheat Sheet

Do you know what size pack you need for your next trip? Or, do you even know how to load your backpack? Perhaps you’re wondering whether or not you should bring along the kitchen sink on your next backpacking trip?

We got down and dirty, with some of our most experienced backpackers, and answered all of these questions and more, in our super easy-to-follow backpacking infographic. Please excuse our doodles at the bottom of the page. We were feeling like we were back in school again, taking notes. Take a look, and please give us your feedback. Be sure to share this with your fellow backpacking friends as well; hey share it with mom and dad, too! You can tell them all about what you learned from Campmor, today!

We’re getting ready to break into April, and are looking forward to a wonderful spring, with many backpacking trips. We’re drooling, after checking out our spring backpack selection; lots of packs providing more comfort with lighter weight. We are so ready to hit the trail. Speaking of kicking off April don’t forget to stop by the store tonight or tomorrow and catch Andrew Skurka!

Where are you headed, on your next backpacking trip?

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  • Thanks for the cheat sheet.

    Martin Hunley

  • Father Nature

    Nice list! I’d like to add a few things. 1. Carry a pair of old sneakers or water shoes or water sandals for fording streams. Toss them back across for the next person to use. Why soak your boots or jam a toe on a slippery rock? 2. Put everything in your pack in a twist-tied garbage bag, even the stuff in the side pockets. Clothes in one, food in another, garbage in a third, toilet paper in a fourth, etc. Use heavy-duty lawn and leaf bags for the big stuff, lighter ones for the little. Carry spares. The bags weigh next to nothing, cost very little, and you don’t have to worry about expensive waterproof coverings which always leak anyhow. Besides, it’s a lot more comforting to slouch off into the bushes to dig yourself a cat hole if the TP is in a plastic bag instead of becoming a half-sodden lump. 3. While we’re on the topic of TP, yank out the cardboard tubes before you leave. A roll scrunches down better without it. Then use it for everything – blowing your nose, pre-cleaning your pots and pans, etc. We used to call it All-Purpose (AP) paper. 4. When you crash for the night, unzip everything on your pack and open all compartments. Your food and garbage are already in the bear-bag hanging from a high, spindly tree branch, remember? Lean your pack against the nearest tree and pull a big garbage bag over it, top to bottom. That way, the little critters who come investigating at 2 AM can crawl in and out to sniff what they want to sniff without chewing holes in your pack, drat ’em. In the morning unload it, shake out the mouse poo, load it back up and be on your way.

    • Agrigento

      Great list and great advice. In preparing to walk or or part of the Camino de Santiago, do you have any suggestions ? I am looking to do 12-15 miles per day, between hamlets. I’d like to have the pack and supplies to be no more than 20-25 lbs.

      Thank you for your input.

      • Darin

        Hi Agrigento,

        The Camino is a wonderful adventure. My best advice for you is take the absolute lightest load you can live with. IMO, 20# is still too heavy. I started with 22# and ended up mailing all kinds of stuff to myself in SdC along the way. I ended up with about 12# and that seemed perfect. I found out that all of the stuff I thought I’d like to have or “just in case” was never missed.

    • Oldsparkey

      As Father Nature said, Take your bag and shake it out in the morning to get rid of the mouse poo. Sometimes you will get rid of more ….The Mouse.
      One decided to homestead in my pack overnight and was evicted in the morning when shaking the bag out.

    • Jimbo

      The voice of experience. Good tips, Father. I’ve been doing the garbage bag thing for years, good idea on the old sneaks for creek fording.

    • Brady

      Good advice! Can’t wait for my next trip!

    • Allen

      Redundent waterproofing: I pack everything small enough in doubled up ziplock bags. Both for organization and keeping dry. Then into waterproof bags then garbage bags as you suggested. I was in the military and basically lived outdoors for years out of a rucksack and know firsthand that getting your clothes and gear wet can be devestating, even life threatening. You can live on very little if you really have to. Keep dry what you carry.

    • The Backpacker

      Those are great tips! thanks!

  • Great advice regarding backpack adjusting. I leave on my Camino de Santiago in 11 days, and these last minute tips are good stuff!

  • john

    how do I print this?

    • John

      To print, left mouse click on the list. a screen will open showing a thin long strip of the list, left mouse click again on this list and it will open again but larger. Go to your file tab, usually top left corner, left mouse click on print review. Now you should see what you are about to print, If you like what you see click print. Good Luck.

    • Campmor

      John – we also have a Backpacking Checklist available at which includes an easy to print PDF. Do note that it doesn’t include everything you see above.

    • digginya

      or Copy & Paste it for now. Print it with ALL other things at 1 time
      so you have it all together & you can bind it in a waterproof binder
      Copy & Paste to Word or even to “Word Pad”. I have a bunch to
      print. I’ll copy to a CD/DVD & Print to paper. I’m bringing a small
      laptop or smaller. peace & I hope we Never need this stuff but I’ll
      sleep better knowing I’ve got it all

  • je

    You forgot bear canister. For any overnight hikes. WHere I hike they are required. they do come in dif sizes and there is a lighter wt one. Put toothpaste and also your backpack snacks in it too. Critters can chew right through garbage bags. THere are even bear canister holders to hang from your pack as you make your way in to your base camp.

  • Connie

    Is there a printable form of this?

  • mixedprairie

    One invaluable item I don’t see on the list – duct tape! Make a small roll of it and tuck it in. I wouldn’t leave home without it! I also much prefer ziplocks for smaller items (and food)to organize everything over stuff bags – much easier to find what you are looking for. I use the 2 gal. to put many One invaluable item I don’t see on the list: 1) duct tape! Make a little roll of it and tsmall ones in to keep it all manageable. I use the garbage bags like Father Nature suggested – things always stay dry no matter what the weather, and the light-weight water sandals too.

    • mixedprairie

      sorry, I cut and pasted, but obviously something went wrong . . . 🙁 should have read:
      One invaluable item I don’t see on the list – duct tape! Make a small roll of it and tuck it in. I wouldn’t leave home without it! I also much prefer ziplocks for smaller items (and food) to organize everything over stuff bags – much easier to find what you are looking for. I use the 2 put small ones in to keep it all manageable. I use the large garbage bags like Father Nature suggested – things always stay dry no matter what the weather, and the light-weight water sandals too. Extra weight but worth it, even if just to have something different to put on around camp.

  • karen

    what do you suggest for the day pack for side trips? one with a bladder is preferred, but they all seem bulky and heavy

  • Brady

    I’ve found taking an empty 1 gallon milk jug for holding filtered water is very convenient. Very little weight and easily strapped onto the outside of your pack…

  • Shane

    Copy and Paste…

  • Runbot

    Add a .44 snubbie revolver for signaling.

  • JMo

    Trash compactor bags are the sturdiest and most reliable for keeping your sleeping bag and clothes dry.

    I roll my duct tape around my walking sticks; about 2 feet on each one.

  • DGMBoomer

    I have found a pair of open water rated sandals work better for wet crossings (ones with toe protection). Better grip, lighter, dries faster & good for relaxing foot wear in the evening. Wear a pair of high-tec socks for a little warmth.

  • Keith

    One of the better tips I’ve gotten: When mounting a pack use the grab loop to lift and get into the first shoulder strap. Then shrug into the second strap. It not only takes less throwing around energy, it also protects the shoulder strap attachments from stress. If you have a heavy pack the stress from being jerked up to the shoulder can be considerable. All three of my packs, day, overnight and the 30 year old frame pack, have grab loops.

  • patrick

    great list. it is one giant long jpeg though, which is pretty unprintable. any chance you can cut it into a pdf for us?

  • backpckr

    This is great but it won’t print.

  • Natz

    Instead of lugging a heavy suitcase on trips where I have to check baggage, I use my Mountainsmith Scarlet pack with protective cover. After retrieving from the baggage carousel, I remove and stash the cover, and am away with the pack with no problems maneuvering on shuttles or transfers!

  • big feller

    GREAT READ thanks campmore and all those who post ,but I would never BP with a .44 a .380 is much lighter lol have fun all b safe:]

  • Jim Meyer

    Thinking of backpacking the Rampart Pass–Ishawooa Pass trail (Teton/Shoshone parks) in early Sept 2013. Any thoughts? Thank you,

  • MinnetonkaBoater

    To print with Windows:
    Go to search on your start menu, type in Snipping Tool
    Drag the crosshair corner to corner on the document and click the copy icon.
    Open a Word doc and paste
    Print as normal.

  • Bill Harrison

    Those are some giant backpacks. 20 – 40 liters for a day trip is about four times too big as it needs to be. Otherwise, good infographic.