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
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
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