Backcountry Camping Essentials you cannot Afford to Forget

A lit up city at night

If it’s your first time backpacking or if you’re wanting to get your backpacking gear dialed for your next trip, you’ve come to the right place. This 3-day backpacking checklist (tailored for women) covers all the basic essentials you’ll need to be comfortable on a weekend-long backpacking trip – nothing more, nothing less. I encourage you to adjust based on your own needs – but I also encourage you to try and stick to the essentials. You may be surprised at how little you need.

Backpacking Tent

A couple of people on a beach with a sunset in the background

The REI Quarter Dome SL 2 backpacking tent is a great lightweight option, especially for the price. In some cases, it’s hundreds of dollars cheaper than its competitors while coming in very close in weight. It has two large doors and vestibules so you and your tent partner can easily get in and out and have your own space to stash your gear – something I consider essential for a two-person backpacking tent. It’s spacious for a tent this lightweight and has handy features like interior organization pockets and vents to allow for airflow even with the fly on. If you’d like more details, you can read my complete review of this tent here. This tent comes in a 1-person version as well in case you’re camping solo and want to go as small and lightweight as possible.

Sleeping Bag

A tent with a mountain in the background

The sleeping bag I took on the John Muir Trail and many other backpacking trips, the REI Joule, has been discontinued, but REI’s new Magma sleeping bag looks like a great replacement. It’s lightweigh and at just over 2 pounds, it offers an amazing warmth to weight ratio. Made with water repellent RDS certified and bluesign approved down, it’s a great option for cold, damp conditions, yet still breathable in warmer temps.

Trekking Poles

On those uphill climbs, trekking poles help take some of the weight off your hips and legs by utilizing your arm strength. On the downhill, they help ease the pressure on your knees. And on those stream crossings, these puppies have saved me more times than I can count by helping me balance. The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles are Black Diamond’s lightest foldable poles made of carbon fiber and come in 4 sizes to meet your height.


I recently got the BioLite Headlamp 200 and it’s my new go-to headlamp for backpacking. It’s ultralight, low profile, and very bright with four lighting modes including red light so you won’t blind your basecamp buddies or compromise your night vision. I also love that it’s battery free and USB chargeable (just be sure to charge before you head out!).

Communication Device

I like to carry a tracking device with me that I can use to send a help signal in case of an emergency. The Garmin inReach Mini allows for two-way custom texting and also has GPS that you can use for navigating. The Mini is much smaller and lighter than the regular Garmin inReach so I prefer it for hiking and backpacking when every ounce matters.

First Aid Kit

You should always have a first aid kit when you are hiking in the backcountry. This ultralight, waterproof medical kit comes with the minimum supplies that you will need to address minor wounds, as well as travel-sized packs of some handy medications. In addition to what comes in this kit, you should supplement it with some extra blister band-aids and any medications that are specific to the hikers in your group.

These are a few backcountry camping essentials that you should try. 

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