On a trip planning checklist, what’s the most time-consuming task? Making travel plans, preparing food, selecting a route — yes, they can all rank up there. But gear selection probably tops the list, especially for new backpackers and for veteran backpackers without experience in a particular location or season.
A gear list will make this process much easier, for current and future trips. In its most basic form, it’s a grocery list of equipment that is either worn or carried. But with some additional organization and columns, it can be much more.
(If you’ve never created a gear list before or if you simply want a better one, consider using my backpacking gear list template. It is user-friendly, comprehensive, and downloadable.)
An explosion of gear may not be well received if you do not have a spare room or man cave. In contrast, a spreadsheet takes up no space, is accessible with a cloud-synced device from anywhere (e.g. home office, commuter train), and can be edited quickly.
Even a stripped-down kit will have 50+ individual items in it, and 75 to 1oo is probably the norm. By categorizing the gear into distinct systems — e.g. Clothing, Footwear, Shelter, Sleep, Packing, Tools & Utility, Personal Items, etc. — the task at hand seems more manageable. It is easier to concentrate on 5 to 10 items than ten times that amount.
Pack weight calculator
Little can be done at the trailhead if your pack is uncomfortably heavy. Weigh all your gear beforehand using the AWS Table Top Postal Scale (or similar) and tally these weights in the gear list. To reduce pack weight, eliminate unnecessary items, or replace necessary items with lighter alternatives.
Track, budget, and fix gear
Mark items that must be purchased, that have been ordered but that have not yet arrived, and that need to be repaired before field use. Add the expected cost, to help compile a budget.
Collaborate with group members
By sharing a virtual spreadsheet — like via Google Drive or Microsoft Office 360 — you can collaborate with group members. This allows you to monitor others’ progress, to compare selections, and to create lists of shared systems like for shelter, stove, and navigation.
A check list
During the final pack-up, use the gear list as a check list to confirm that you have everything. It’s frustrating to discover on the trail that you forgot to put back your liner gloves after using them earlier in the week on brisk morning run, or that your spouse needed some of your OTC medications.
Justify your selections, and create a reference for future trips
Unless you enjoy making the same mistakes twice, take notes of why you selected a particular item and how that item actually performed in the field. When you’re preparing for your next trip, you’ll have a record of whether it excelled or failed, or was critical or unnecessary.