I have planned hundreds of backpacking trips. Many have been personal outings, ranging from long weekends in nearby destinations to multi-month thru-hikes in faraway places. The rest have been guided, when I’ve been accountable to paying clients.
To maximize my working efficiency and to prevent oversights when getting backpacking trips out the door, I use a trip planning checklist — a spreadsheet, actually — of tasks that must be completed before I go.
This list represents the outer limit of things that can or must be done. If my trip is local, for example, I need not book airfare or a rental car. And for areas where I backpack regularly, it’s not as critical that I research the conditions and create a gear list prior to each trip.
Several of these tasks are quick and easy, but others like food preparation and gear lists can involve substantial time. Read this post for tips to decrease the stress and time associated with planning, preparing, and packing for a backpacking trip.
If you think there’s an important or helpful task missing from my list, please leave a comment below.
- Finalize trip dates
- Finalize and virtually connect group members
- Add vacation message to email and voicemail
- Backup hard drive
- Coordinate travel plans with group members
- Book airfare
- Book ground transportation
- Book pre-trip lodging
- Book post-trip lodging
- Research likely environmental & route conditions
- Create a gear list (use my template)
- Acquire all necessary gear
- Update settings for SPOT, inReach, or satellite phone
- Wash, renew, and repair gear, fabrics, and insulations that need it
Food & supplies
- Calculate food needs (use my recipes)
- Purchase food
- Prepare and package food
- Purchase stove fuel
- Assemble first aid, foot care, and repair kits
- Charge batteries, e.g. camera, phone, GPS watch, satellite messenger or phone, backup charger
- Finalize route
- Reserve backcountry permit or campsite(s)
- Create and print — or assemble — guidebooks, databooks, and topogrpahic maps
- Load digital files (e.g. GPX, topo maps) onto GPS or smartphone
The final pack-up
- Permits, maps, guidebooks, databooks
- Park pass
- Perishable food items, e.g. avocados, cheese, butter
- Personal items: fresh clothes, flip-flops, toiletries, electronics and chargers, e.g. phone, laptop, tablet, e-reader, driving GPS