Your summer backpacking checklist

Heading off for a backpacking trip and paranoid you'll forget something crucial? Here’s your easy one-stop list of the gear your need to stay comfortable and safe in all eventualities

Tourist on the peak of high rocks. Sport and active life concept

The great outdoors can be an unpredictable beast. The Met Office claimed recently that eight million Brits have found themselves caught out in danger situations because of the weather.


But go prepared and you’ll minimise the risk to yourself – and maximize your chances of spending your trip in comfort.

With that in mind, here’s our list of lightweight gear to take with you if you are heading off for a backpacking trip to the UK countryside this summer.

Let me know if there’s anything missing!

Comfort matters with a large-capacity pack, so try before you buy

1 Your pack

• Backpack

• Rain cover – most modern packs have an integral one, but they can be bought separately

• Waterproof dry bags – rucksacks are not waterproof

It only weighs a few grams but could save your life, so why go without?

2 Finding your way

IMAGE: compass

• Maps

• Waterproof map case

• Compass

Optional: Guide book

Optional: GPS device or Mapping app for your phone – but don’t rely on one, take a paper map too

Compact bins help you make the most of the landscape and wildlife around you

3 Accessories

• Sunglasses and rigid case

• Pen knife or multi-tool

Optional: Hiking poles – great for stability when carrying a load

Optional: Compact binoculars / Scope

Opt for a rain jacket in a breathable fabric, ideally with good vents to keep you cool on warm, wet days

4 Clothing

• Rain jacket

• Warm midlayer – eg fleece. Should be compact for packing.

• Warm hat – sometimes welcome on a cool summer night

• Waterproof over-trousers

• Peaked hat (to keep off sun and rain)

• Scarf to keep sun from burning your neck

• Convertible trousers ­– zip-off legs turn long trousers to shorts; alternatively, one pair shorts, one pair long trousers

• Quick-drying base layer

• Quick-drying underwear

• Two pairs of merino wool socks (low odour): always keep one pair dry

Optional: Gaiters – for wet or windy days

A spork combines knife, fork and spoon in one lightweight utensil

5 Food

• Spork or lightweight cutlery

• Compact stove – eg MSR, Primus, JetBoil, Alpkit

• Gas, + spare

• Lighter or waterproof matches

• Folding knife for food prep

• Food of your choice

• Food box – stops your grub getting wet or squished

• Sweets for energy lows

Optional: Dried trail food – often expensive but light and compact

Optional: Energy gels – expensive but deliver a quick burst of vitality

If you prefer to drink tea without the taint of your last meal, take a lightweight kettle, like this collapsible one

6 Drink

• Water carrier – bottle or rubber hydration system

• Water purification tablets – when tap water is not available

• Mug

• Tea/coffee

• Powdered milk

Optional: Water filter – to cleanse your water

Optional: Kettle – eg collapsible

Optional: Hip flask – for a warming tipple. Adults only, obv.

First aid kits for walkers are small and light, ideal for backpacking

7 Look after yourself

First aid kit, including paracetamol

• Blister plasters

• Suntan lotion

• Insect repellent

• Sting/bite cream

• Travel towel

• Antiseptic wet wipes – to keep hands clean

• Wash bag

• Soap/shower gel

• Toilet roll – in a waterproof bag

• Toiletries – your choice

• Small containers – recycle these and fill with shampoo etc

Head torches leave your hands free – much safer and more convenient, whethe you are on the trail or in camp

8 Electrical

• Head torch – leaves your hands free. Find a waterproof one

• Solar charger – to keep your mobile phone battery topped up

• Waterproof phone cover

• Phone charging lead

• Spare batteries for all your electrical devices, in a waterproof bag

Optional: Solar lantern – pleasant, homely light at night – and battery-free. Collapsible and lightweight

As the heaviest single item in your bag, it’s worth going for the lightest you can afford

9 Camp

• Tent

Optional: Tarp – for shade and shelter. Rig up using hiking poles, guys/parachute cord and a few pegs.

A tarp provides essential shelter from the elements

10 Bivouac

• Bivi bag – preferably made of a waterproof but breathable fabric to avoid condensation build-up inside

• Tarp – for protection from rain or sun

• Pegs

• Parachute cord – to help rig up your tarp, among many other things

Optional: Bungees – also useful in setting up a tarp shelter

Sleeping mats are warm and comfortable. Some roll up smaller than others – something to consider if you are struggling for space in your pack

11 Sleeping

• Sleeping mat – inflatable or semi-inflatable, light and compact

• Sleeping bag – lightweight and compact if possible

Optional: Inflatable pillow – because squashing a fleece in a stuff-sack is never quite as comfortable.

After a day on the trail, don’t you deserve a proper sit-down?

12 Luxuries

• Lightweight chair – it’s hard to find collapsible chairs that are small and light enough for backpacking, but the Helinox Ground Chair is just 622g and is great for lounging around in camp

• Book

• Notebook and pens – for keeping your diary, sketching, etc

• Playing cards – for those long evenings

• Flip-flops or similar: feel good in camp after a long day in boots

• Something to wear to bed: T-shirt and shorts or similar

• Seat pad – weighs next to nothing and provides that little bit of comfort when you are resting on rocky or damp terrain

Use a washable liner in your sleeping bag to keep it clean, or take it out and sleep in just the liner on really hot nights

13 For longer trips

• Sleeping bag liner – a washable liner keeps your sleeping bag clean, and is great on its own in hot weather

• Travel wash – keep your clothes clean and fresh

A few essentials help you to protect wild environments during your stay there

14 For wild and remote journeys

• Lightweight trowel, in lieu of a loo

Portable shower: fill the bag with water and hang above your head for a gravity-fed shower

Eco-wash: Chose an eco-friendly product to wash with in wild areas – or you might inadvertently pollute streams

• Midge-proof head net – essential for Highland trips in summer

• Waterproof gloves – because when its windy and wet and cool, the glorious UK summer can punish exposed hands, especially in the wildest parts of the country

Optional: Ground sheet protector – peg out beneath your tent on rough ground to prevent punctures

Optional: Portable shower

Fire steels are a useful way to light fires in challenging conditions

15 For campfires

Bearing in mind all the usual safety considerations on camp fires – and having ensured you have permission of the landowner to light one – you might want to bring the following:

• Fire steel – for instant sparks, even in damp conditions

• Kindling materials: eg cotton wool – kept safe in a tin, inside a dry-bag

• Folding saw – to trim dead wood

• Axe – to lop off wooden limbs, cut kindling etc

Main picture: Getty Images


Have I forgotten anything?

Drop me an email and I’ll add any forgotten essentials to the list ; )