Completing a gear list is one of the most important and most beneficial steps in preparing for a backpacking trip. A fully featured gear list can be used to:
- Pack virtually (and avoid a gear explosion in the guest room),
- Organize systems (e.g. clothing, shelter, kitchen),
- Calculate pack weight,
- Budget and track new purchases,
- Prepare trips in the future, and
- Check immediately pre-trip that all items are packed.
Since 2011 every client on my guided trips has been required to submit a gear list for review. To assist them in this process, I provide them with the gear list template below, which I update/refine annually and which has now been used by over 1,000 clients on 124 trips.
Compared to other gear lists available, I believe it does two things better:
1. It’s broadly applicable, so it can be used for all 3-seasons, all North American locations, all trip lengths, all ages and genders, all ability levels, and most backpacking styles.
2. It’s instructive, not just a list. It includes helpful comments, examples, and links to more information.
Backpacking Gear List Template & Checklist
View the Template + Checklist in a dedicated tab
Written how-to-use instructions are below, but this video may help better explain the organization, features, and best uses of the template.
How to use the template
If you need just a backpacking checklist, download the template as a PDF.
To use this spreadsheet as a template for your own gear list, you must make your own copy:
Start by opening the file, Backpacking Gear List Template & Checklist.
If you are logged into your Google account and if Google Sheets is your go-to spreadsheet software, select File > Make a copy.
If you are not logged into your Google account and/or if you prefer another spreadsheet software, select File > Download as, and choose either the Excel or CSV format.
Instructions after download
Erase sample cells
In cells F3:P11, I included sample information to demonstrate how the template should be used. Erase these cells and fill them back in with your own selections.
Cells B1:E137 contain instructive and universally true information, and I think most users will find them to be a useful reference. But they could be erased outright so that you can focus on the cells specific to you (columns A, then F:P) or just hide them.
Think twice before adding rows
This template has been extensively tested, and space for all reasonable items has already been included. You should not need to add rows for additional items or categories.
That said, it’s your gear list, so do what you want. If you think my template is missing something though, please leave a comment — I’m open to additional edits.
If rows are rearranged, the weight calculators must be redone
With basic spreadsheet know-how, this is straightforward. If the SUM function means nothing to you, however, my recommendation is to leave the rows organized as-is.
IMPORTANT: Don’t pack everything on the list!
Gear selection should be dictated by:
- Your backpacking style, i.e. ratio of hiking versus camping; and,
- When, where, and for how long you are going, i.e. environmental and route conditions.
So that this template is broadly applicable, it includes many items that would be optional or completely unnecessary for your specific trip — but critical for others. For example, for a summertime Appalachian Trail section-hike, you don’t need insulated pants or an ice axe, but you may want both for a John Muir Trail thru-hike in early-June.
To determine the relevance of each product category, research the likely conditions, review trip-specific gear lists, and seek commentary on your selections.
How can I make this template + checklist more useful for you? Share your ideas, and tell me what you think of it.
Disclosure. I strive to offer field-tested and trustworthy information, insights, and advice. I have no financial affiliations with or interests in any brands or products, and I do not publish sponsored content
This website is supported by affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors like Amazon or REI, at no cost to the reader. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
As a beginner backpacker planning a first time thru hike of the superior hiking trail this summer, you make all aspects of diving into this sport/activity a lot less intimidating through all of the material you’re constantly putting out. Very much appreciate everything you’re doing with this website
Thanks, glad the information is helpful. It can be a very overwhelming process, with literally hundreds of decisions and thousands of options. The variety of online opinions and the number of so-described experts does not help matters.
Hope your thru-hike is successful.
Thanks Andrew, I’m hoping to take my Great Dane along with me but not sure if he’ll be good for the distance or not. I’ll make the call closer to the date after seeing how he does on some weekend hikes. And at this point I’ve decided to do as much research as I can on the different options but the reality of it is I won’t really know what is going to work best for me until I actually get it out on the trail. Your website/book has been immesurably helpful however so if the thru-hike is successful it will be largely thanks to you.
Good of you to recognize the limits of virtual preparation. You’ll lean more during a long weekend in the field than you will through weeks of online research.
hi chad. Just a word of caution about taking your great dane with you along lake superior. I took my newfoundland dog with me to the coastal trail along lake superior near Wawa, Ontario. Now I don’t know if the terrain would be the exact same on the trail your taking but i would imagine it would be similar. It turned out to be a big mistake taking my dog with me on this trip and he has been on many trails through hundreds of kilometres.
His paws could not take the constant beating of jumping from granite rock to granite rock. I tried to put his dog boots on him which work well for most terrain but he would now slip on the wet rocks. There was nothing fun about having a 150lb dog with sore paws stuck on a rock, afraid to jump anymore. If I was you especially just getting into this I would leave the dog (as hard as that is) and hike the trail. While hiking think about certain parts and if your dog could cope with it. I wouldn’t take him not knowing the terrain. Enjoy your trip though!
FYI for those using Apple Numbers for spreadsheets: Numbers will successfully convert the Microsoft Excel version posted here into a format your mac, iPad and iPhone can use. However, some of the fonts and formatting are changed which shouldn’t alter the spreadsheets use. Check the SUM function in each weight column because only some of the cells are included in several areas. This will take a minor tweak to include the entire column. Thanks Andrew for the post. I might post more after I get a chance to use it a bit.
Thanks for the IT tips. I’m open for further editing this template, so let me know if there are ways I can make it more useful, including cross-platform compatibility.
Thank you so much for sharing these invaluable tools, resources and insights, your knowledge and expertise is highly regarded in the backpacking community. Keep up the good work and one of these days I hope to join you on an excursion. #lighterfasterfurther
My gear list, in excel, is similar except that it includes absolutely all my gear (categorized) as well as a column where, for each trip, I indicate the number of a particular item I’m bringing. When I am planning a trip, I scroll through the list quickly indicating 0 or 1 (or sometimes multiples) and then, with a quick sort, I can isolate what I am bringing and need to pack on the trip. For example if I’ve got several tent/tarp/hammock options, then I’ll mark 0 for all but the one I’m using. It makes it really easy to replicate and organize. FWIW.
What version of the Luke’s Ultralight over-mitts do you recommend? The 3 colors/fabrics sound alike to me. Is your version seam taped?
You definitely want seam-taped rain mitts. Without tape, they will leak quickly.
The CF gloves are seam-taped and cost $80. The other versions are $60 with seam tape. In the scheme of things, I would not factor price heavily into my decision.
As far as fabics, I would consider the environment (temps, humidity, rainfall intensity) and your individual hands. In the Mountain West, rain events tend be to fast and furious, and humidity is never high; personally, my hands generally run cold and hand sweat is not typically a concern. So the CF mitts (which don’t breathe) are a reasonable choice.
In more humid weather and/or with hotter hands, the Gore-Tex or Pertex Shield may be a better choice. Even though fabric breathability is much less than the fabric manufacturers make it out to be (Gore-Tex pretends like their jackets are as breathable as a cotton t-shirt), without some breathability you’ll be pretty quick to wet them out from the inside.
I would generally stay away from Pertex Endurance for rain mitts, since that fabric is more of a “wind shirt”-type material: breathes reasonably well, but not much water resistance, especially when they are no longer new.
I live in the PNW, it rains/snows a lot but never gets super cold.
I do have hot hands, so even a little breathability will be helpful for me (no CF).
I just purchased the Black Pertex Shield over-mitts from Luke’s. Thanks for the advice.
as always, great post and resource! I’ve been using your approach to gear lists ever since I got bough a copy of your book.
My question regards shared items when traveling in a group. How do you work this into the current version of the spreadsheet? Perhaps adding a line total that divides the line weight by the number of participants would help.
Thanks for the feedback.
I debated about adding a feature like this, plus a few others, but opted to keep it simple for now. For now, two ways you can handle group gear:
1. Ultimately, everything must go in “a” backpack. In the gear list, divy up that weight accordingly, e.g. Nicolas is carrying the tent body and I’m carrying the poles.
2. Download the spreadsheet and create your own version of it that divides group weight more evenly.
I never thought about the Go-Suit concept. Very interesting list.
I want to first say THANK YOU! for all the time that you have vested in helping others like myself to be able to get the right equipment and truly enjoy the time on the trail.
My husband and I are planning our first thru-hike on the CT next summer.. super excited!!!! There are so many options and we could truly spend hours and days doing research and still not get through it all. It can be so overwhelming. We have spent a lot of time looking at the big 4 and we are happy with the choices that we have made thus far.
Saved your spreadsheet to our Google Doc and are excited to look it over, as I am sure it will be very helpful!
Thank you again for your expert guidance
Tip: put a copy on your online Microsoft OneDrive for even wider spreading and cooperation/sharing.
Andrew, Just tried out your template preplanning for the Overland Track, Tasmania during April. Great Template! Far better than my old system. Made a few minor mods for my own style but you provided a great start that can be easily personalized. Great Job! Thanks
Glad it’s worked so well for you.
I’m curious: What were the tweaks you made? Tasmania has a very different environment than my norms, so perhaps I just don’t yet have the perspective to account for those conditions. Or, maybe I missed something that was more obvious. What was it?
I didn’t mean to imply I tweaked your template because of Tasmania. I adjusted it for my own camping style. I combined the “Tools” section with the “Personal” because that’s the way my mind works. I dropped the “Alternate” column because I just decide what to take. Added a couple rows here and there. Sixty-five percent of my overnights in the west are either treeless desert or alpine so I’m a ground dweller, and a I’m tenter for Tasmania because my wife likes the feeling of being inside at night, especially after she heard of 6 inch spiders, – adjustments we make because we’re all different.
I think your template is a great tool that newbies can use as is. I’m 57 years old, been backpacking since going ultralight meant lopping another two inches from your Levi cutoffs. Rather set in my ways I’m afraid. So its easier for me to tweak the template than tweak myself – though maybe not as fun.
I’ve never been to Tasmania but based upon my research I imagine the April weather will be a lot like hiking Olympic National Park top to bottom in Fall. Alpine to rainforest with morning frost or light snow possible, rain probable. Only with wallabies instead of marmots. Plants will certainly be different. I understand the camp robber species are a bit different as well. I’ll learn more when I get there but currently my planned basic kit is the same as it would be for Olympic.
May I suggest for women as a suggested item a hair brush or comb and extra hair ties. I have long curly hair. While I can go 2-3 days without brushing it, by day 4 it is in serious snarls. Hair ties are a definite necessity, especially in warmer climates to keep my hair off my neck and back.
Great recommendation. Any other female-specific items I missed? I thought I did a reasonably good job in making the gear list gender-neutral, but it’s not my expertise.
You could maybe add a reminder about menstrual needs under C121 or C123. Wouldn’t want to leave that unchecked in the N column!
Very helpful tool, thank you for making it available.
Yup, definitely whatever it takes to put up your hair! Mine is mid-back, thick and curly, so a few hair bands and barrettes are an absolute. I also pack individual feminine wipes – Dr. Bronners and standard wipes can cause uncomfortable problems if on a longer trip. 🙁 Otherwise, standard stuff is great! 🙂
I am looking for a backpack, love your gear list! Which backpacks would you recommend now that Golite Pinnacle is sadly out of business? I especially liked that this backpack is so lightweight and compressible, good for one day hike or weekend in the bush.
If you can wait until late-August, my recommendation is the Flex Capacitor, which I co-developed with Sierra Designs. I’ll post a more lengthy teaser soon, but for now you can read about it here.
If you can’t wait until then, my general recommendation is a backpack from ULA Equipment. Their lineup is extensive without being overwhelming. My experience, and that of many others I have encouraged to get a ULA pack, have been very positive.
Hi, I was wondering what postal scale you use?
Salter Brecknell Model 311
It’s reasonably priced, and I can personally attest to its longevity. I’ve had mine for years and use it extensively — everyday when making coffee or calculating postage, plus dozens of trips, for many of which I’ve packed up to a week’s worth of breakfasts and dinners for ten people.
Andrew – Why does your calculator subtract the trekking poles from the base weight? The trekking poles are never counted in the TOOLs category, yet you’re formula gives people a bonus subtraction (trekking poles).
I just looked at the weight formulas, and I think they’re okay. They are definitely a bit wonky, because I choose to organize most of the list by category rather than by base weight vs pack weight.
With specific regard to trekking poles, they are included in the first row, “Go Suit + Footwear + Trekking Poles.” After adding up all of the weights, I subtracted these three categories to arrive at a Base Weight.
If you still think I’m wrong, tell me what the formulas should be and I’ll take a look.
Andrew: The formula in cell H144 should be as follows: =H11+H21+H33+H41+H52+H62+H69+H84+H92+H104+H125+H139-H11-H15-H17
This formula doesn’t subtract the trekking poles when getting the base weight sum. The sum in cell H125 does not add trekking poles into its sum; thus, by later adding the sums in H144 and also subtracting these sums from H143 would erroneously give a user an extra subtraction of weight. Hope this helps.
Like the spreadsheet 🙂 When filling it out for a trip, how do you remember the weights to fill in if you have more than one option for a given item, such as a tent? Do you just keep a separate list of weights?
If you have multiple go-to systems or multiple feasible items, you can add them below the gear list, then drag them up when they’re needed. This would be better than a second tab, because you won’t have to worry about having identical column formatting on each tab.
If you are a spreadsheet dork, the ultimate solution is to have a second tab that lists all of your gear and its weight. Then, reformulate the main gear list rows to pull information based on input values. For example, on the gear list tab you could enter “Sierra Designs High Route Tent” and the weight value would pull up automatically in another tab. You could use the SUMIF or VLOOKUP functions for this.
I might be a spreadsheet dork 🙂 I thought of doing what you suggested but didn’t want to overcomplicate things. Thank you for the reply and thanks again for the nice spreadsheet 🙂
Andrew, just wanted to thank you for the spreadsheet. Great idea. I’m fairly inexperienced and I just did an 14 mile walk over two days and never once said “Darn, I forgot…” whatever. Great feeling, knowing I had everything I needed on me.
Also great, being inexperienced, to start with a fairly minimal list like yours, and add things as I think I need them, rather than start with the kitchen sink and start to realize that there are things I’m not using. My pack was under 20 lbs base weight, could have been much worse.
Excellent, glad it was useful.
Out of curiosity, What items do you think you might add to to this list? It’s intentionally devoid of what I believe to be purely discretionary items, e.g. musical instrument, camera tripod, fishing pole. But I want to be sure that it includes the essentials and then some.
I’m not sure I will add anything to the list, that was probably just a poorly phrased thought early in the morning.
I guess I feel like as a beginner it could (or should) have been much harder than it was to get myself dialed in under 20 lbs. base weight. And I’m already planning on trading in my synthetic hammock quilts for some down quilts and cutting an estimated 3 lbs. and some bulk in my pack.
My advantage (if it’s an advantage) is that I’m starting this journey fairly late in life and I tend to do tons of research prior to jumping in to things. So I’ve got the benefit of having read your blog, Paul Magnanti’s blog, Backpackinglight etc. I read stories of people carrying 40, 50 or more pounds and I just can’t imagine what it is they’re toting around in that giant pack.
Anyway, I’m starting to ramble. If you read this far, thanks again for the spreadsheet and other great resources.
First I’d like to say thank you for the spreadsheet but I’m confused about the “skin out weight” as it appears to add extra weight based off the way it calculates items twice, could you please help a noob understand?
Skin-out-weight refers to the weight of everything.
Base weight refers to the weight of everything except clothing and items that you wear or carry (e.g. watch, sunglasses, trekking poles).
Give uniqlo’s (blocktech) warm lined pants a try.
should not disappoint for the warmth, cost and weight.
Thank you very much for this Template…I’m retired military and am used to lists, lists lists and being organized so this is a big help..I am just starting to get my mind wrapped around longer distance thru hiking and this will work great to keep my thoughts and gear organized…..
If you like lists, you will like this website, if you have not concluded that already.
HI, Andrew. I’m interested in the Sierra Designs Tioga Hoodie but can’t seem to find any reviews about this jacket anywhere. Any chance you will review it? Jacket will be used mainly for AT sections and some Sierra Nevada trails. Love your book, thanks in advance. –JY
It’s a new product so you won’t find much yet about it.
The Tioga and Tuolumne are simple synthetic jackets with one headline: great prices. They are in the 1-lb range, which makes them heavy relative to other insulated jackets of similar warmth. However, you’ll be paying $250+ for those, and you’ll have to give up the durable 40d shell fabrics.
I’ll see if I can get both products from the office and take them out, at least for a preview, if not a review.
Definitely a bit late to this conversation, but I just wanted to say “THANK YOU”; esp for considering a woman’s needs in the backcountry.
I’ve been visiting your site, for years, even more lately to prep for some western trips that I’ve never been exposed to before.
The templates are excellent and I don’t see any way you could possibly invest more time into sharing this information with the rest of the community.
Thanks again Andrew for spending so much of your time to further everyone’s safety and fun while out for weekends or months.
Thank you. I try, imperfectly, but it’s hard for a guy. At least I listen.
This is an awesome tool! My husband and I have developed something similar for our own use. We used our digital kitchen scale to weigh all our gear. The big difference in our spreadsheet is that it allows us to assign who is carrying certain items. The spreadsheet then adds up the weight of each of our packs. It allows us to distribute the weight of shared gear evenly across our packs. A future iteration of this tool could allow you to assign gear across 2-4 people so you could see how it all splits out. Thanks for all the great content – I enjoy going down rabbit holes in your site every so often!
Hi Andrew, small fix:
While reconciling my measured pack weight with the spreadsheet base weight, I noticed that the base weight calculation includes H108 in the sum, which by extension includes the weight of a watch (row 103), which (I presume) should only be included in worn weight.
Damn Ambit weighs 3 oz, else I wouldn’t have noticed.
(In an earlier comment, you wrote “base weight refers to the weight of everything except clothing and items that you wear or carry (e.g. watch, sunglasses, trekking poles).”)
Ha, you are correct! A watch technically should be in “worn weight.” I hope this error didn’t preclude anyone from breaking the magical 15- or 10-lb barriers so that they could be considered a true lightweight or ultralight hiker.
Hello Andrew, I noticed this got reposted in the blog feed. Is this because of an update (and if so, what), or just to highlight it?
I updated the template and the post today, in advance of sending it to my guided groups in Utah and West Virginia.
Thanks for the update! Looks like there’s an issue with the link or file though? I’m getting an error when trying to open.
Looks like I broke a code snippet yesterday, should be fixed now.
Thanks a lot for this site! It’s really great for people like me who are just getting started and feel overwhelmed. I live in Japan so it’s a little hard for me to take training courses (language barrier) and this has been so educational for me.
One thing I do with my gear spreadsheets is add a checkbox next to each item labeled “used.” After the trip, I tick it off if I actually used the item. All the used items get totaled & the “packed weight” vs the “used weight” get compared so I can see how much weight I could’ve shaved off. It’s a great motivator for me to pack lighter / smarter next time.
Anyway, thanks again!
Looking at the list for an upcoming trip, I am wondering why shoes, hiking socks A , and (maybe) gaiters are not in the Go Suit Clothing category? These are also worn all the time. Thanks.
Footwear is counted in “worn weight” in the bottom of the sheet, but there are enough pieces in Footwear that I decided in deserved its own category.
One critical missing item (to me) is a sleeping mask. Mine weighs only 1.3 oz, and since I need it DARK to sleep well, it’s well worth the minimal weight. It falls in the same general category as ear plugs, which you have listed.
Even bright moonlight is enough to keep me from falling asleep easily. Not everyone has this challenge, but I’m sure I am not the only one. I use it in motel rooms, too.
I didn’t see a trowel, either, like my 0.6 oz Deuce of Spades. Do you improvise with trekking poles or some other multi-purpose item? Or does this fall under Bathroom Assistance?
That’s a good suggestion. I think I’ll add it.
Normally I use my Buff as a night shade when the moon is bright. Or, on trips way far north when there’s too much daylight (up to 24 hours), I carry a dedicated sleep mask and enter it in the “light” row.
Thank you Bec for your review of my gear list. You mentioned that I could save some weight with a different pack, what are your suggestions for a lighter pack. I tried everything in REI and this was the best fit so far, but can take it back, so would love some suggestions from other classmates and instructors. I am 5’6″ and they fitted me for a small frame.
Hey Andrew, I am also curious about the omission of a trowel. Do you use something else on the list for digging small holes?
I look for a soft, biologically rich, and out-of-the-way spot, and then I use my heel.
I’m considering a lighter sleeping pad but have a serious problem with the noise of xtherm/xlite, and reliability of the Uberlight specifically and these 3 in general. What is your opinion of the Nemo Tensor which has no noise problem?
Haven’t used the Tensor, and haven’t seen many clients with it in the field.
If you have “a serious problem” with the noise of the Thermarest pads and if the Tensor makes no noise, seems like you already have your answer though.
Thanks Andrew, I’m a bit concerned on the reliability of the Tensor but some reviews have said they were manufacturing issues you will detect the first time you inflate.
Brandon replied positively on the Tensor in my trip gear thread so I am going to give it a shot and good test at home.