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Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day

An example of what a lightweight backpacker might take on a 3-day outing.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2011-10-11 03:00:00-06

Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day

Revised and Updated: October 2011

Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall
Length of Trip: 3-Day Weekend

Context: The gear list provided below is an example of how a lightweight backpacker might select equipment for a 3-day weekend outing. Generally, the choices below are suitable for most 'three-season' conditions in the mountain ranges of continental U.S., recognizing that some level of skill and experience is required to successfully use this equipment kit in inclement conditions. More experienced backpackers can trim weight even further from this list, while less experienced backpackers will find that an extra pound or two of clothing, shelter, and/or food will give them a more acceptable level of comfort and safety.

Some examples of brands and models/styles are listed below for reference only. They neither represent an endorsement of that particular product nor a suggestion that the product listed is the best choice in the context of any particular situation.

(Right) Participants in Backpacking Light's Wilderness Trekking School "2011 Ultralight Backpacking Boot Camp" travel for a week on Montana's Beartooth Plateau with starting pack weights of less than twenty pounds. Ryan Jordan photo.

Clothing Worn

hat with brim wide-brimmed water-resistant nylon hat REI Lightweight Fitness Runner's Cap 2.0 oz (57 g)
hiking shirt lightweight merino wool long sleeve crew Patagonia Wool 2 Merino Crew 7.4 oz (210 g)
underwear trim-fitting support shorts, boxer-style Rail Riders Ultralight Boxer Briefs 3.0 oz (85 g)
hiking pants soft shell stretchwoven long pants Patagonia Rock Guide Pants 10.5 oz (298 g)
hiking socks lightweight merino wool trail running socks Darn Tough Merino Wool Micro Crew 1.5 oz (43 g)
hiking shoes breathable synthetic trail running shoes Inov-8 X-Talon 212 16.0 oz (454 g)

Other Items Worn / Carried

trekking poles adjustable, carbon fiber Gossamer Gear LT4 7.2 oz (204 g)
whistle pealess whistle on Spectra cord ACR Whistle, AirCore Spectra cord lanyard 1.0 oz (28 g)
watch compass / altimeter watch Suunto Core 1.6 oz (45 g)

Other Clothing

wind shirt thin, breathable full zip, hooded wind shirt Patagonia Houdini 4.3 oz (122 g)
insulation layer high loft synthetic or down jacket Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket 9.0 oz (255 g)
rain jacket waterproof-breathable, full zip hooded jacket GoLite Malpais Trinity 7.5 oz (213 g)
rain pants waterproof-breathable, simple pull-on GoLite Tumalo 7.0 oz (198 g)
warm hat light fleece balaclava Outdoor Research Wind Pro Balaclava 2.0 oz (57 g)
warm gloves wool liner gloves Outdoor Research Omni Gloves 1.5 oz (43 g)
rain mitts waterproof-breathable shell mitts Mountain Laurel Designs eVENT Rain Mitts 1.0 oz (28 g)

Sleep System

overhead shelter solo tarp shelter Mountain Laurel Designs Silnylon Solomid 13.0 oz (369 g)
tent stakes titanium skewer style Gossamer Gear Tite-Lite (8) 1.6 oz (45 g)
ground cloth pallet shrink wrapping or similar ultralight/ultratough material Gossamer Gear Polycro 1.6 oz (45 g)
sleeping bag variable girth down bag Katabatic Gear Palisade Down Quilt 17.5 oz (496 g)
sleeping pad torso sized closed cell foam or inflatable pad Gossamer Gear Nightlight Torso 3.5 oz (99 g)


backpack lightweight internal frame pack Hyperlight Mountain Gear Windrider 25.6 oz (726 g)
stuff sacks Three (3) for insulating clothing, sleeping bag, storm clothing Hyperlite Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber L & XL Stuff Sacks 1.1 oz (31 g)

Cooking and Water

stove & cookpot integrated canister cookset Jetboil SOL Ti 8.5 oz (241 g)
fuel container canister, small size Jetboil 100g fuel canister (empty) 3.5 oz (99 g)
utensil spork Light My Fire Titanium Spork 0.6 oz (17 g)
water bottles 1L soft side bladders Platypus 1L (two) 1.8 oz (51 g)
water treatment chlorine dioxide Aqua Mira Kit 1.1 oz (31 g)
food storage bear bag Zpacks "Blast" Food Bag, 12.5 x 20.5 O.P. Sak, 6" x 6" stuff sack for "rock", and 50 ft 2.5 mm Spectra Rope 3.0 oz (85 g)

Other Essentials

maps custom printed on waterproof paper National Geographic Topo! 2.0 oz (57 g)
light LED headlamp Petzl e-Lite 1.0 oz (28 g)
first aid minor wound care & meds assorted wound & blister care and medicines 2.0 oz (57 g)
firestarting emergency firestarting - waterproof Light My Fire Firesteel Mini + Four Seasons Survival Tinder-Quik Tabs in 4"x5" Aloksak 1.0 oz (28 g)
sunglasses 100% UV blocking, plastic lenses/frames any old pair will do 1.0 oz (28 g)
sunscreen 100% UV blocking, waterproof, paste SPF 30+ in tiny tubes 1.0 oz (28 g)
insect repellent 100% DEET repackaged in tiny dropper bottle 0.5 oz (14 g)
personal hygiene assorted toiletries toothbrush, soap, toilet paper, alcohol hand gel, in 4" x 7" Aloksak 2.0 oz (47 g)


fuel canister, small size Jetboil, 100g 3.5 oz (100 g)
food 2.5 days 22 oz / day 55.0 oz (1559 g)
water average carried half quart 16.0 oz (454 g)

Weight Summary

(1) Total Weight Worn or Carried 3.14 lb (1.42 kg)
(2) Total Base Weight in Pack 7.83 lb (3.55 kg)
(3) Total Weight of Consumables 4.66 lb (2.11 kg)
(4) Total Initial Pack Weight (2) + (3) 12.49 lb (5.66 kg)
(5) Full Skin Out Weight (1) + (2) + (3) 15.63 lb (7.08 kg)


"Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2011-10-11 03:00:00-06.


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Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/11/2011 09:47:10 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day

Revised and updated for 2011.

Edited by ryan on 10/11/2011 09:48:29 MDT.

Justin C
(paintballr4life) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Updated list on 10/11/2011 10:09:57 MDT Print View

It looks good.

Edited by paintballr4life on 10/11/2011 10:13:01 MDT.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Pat 2 on 10/11/2011 11:20:04 MDT Print View

never mind

Edited by mariposa on 10/12/2011 15:17:54 MDT.

Michael Johnstone
(mjohnstone) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Thanks for the Updated List on 10/11/2011 19:18:56 MDT Print View

I appreciate the updated suggestions, Ryan. I searched for items in your book and previous articles in BPL, but they are difficult if not impossible to find. Your easy to find examples are a great help. Thanks.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Thanks for the Updated List on 10/12/2011 09:20:48 MDT Print View

No bug protections? Or did I miss it?

Philip Werner
(earlylite) - F - MLife

Locale: New England
Jetboil on 10/12/2011 10:21:58 MDT Print View

Ryan - a canister stove! you're getting soft in your old age. No seriously, I carry one too. they are really convenient on shorter trips.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Jetboil on 10/12/2011 10:32:27 MDT Print View

A canister stove generally wins out in weight versus an alcohol stove on trips longer than 2-3 days when cooking for two, and 5ish days when cooking solo.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Updated list on 10/12/2011 10:52:10 MDT Print View

@Ryan: Thanks for the updated list.

@David: There's DEET on the list, but no bugproof shelter. That bugs me too. ;)

Michael Byrne
(mikerbyrne) - F

Locale: New York
nice list on 10/12/2011 12:13:18 MDT Print View

Great list thanks. Do you think the Gossamer Gear LT4 poles are robust enough for winter camping and backcountry skiing? I have a set of black diamond alpine carbon cork which are robust enough for winter activities but are 16 oz.

Mike B

Edited by mikerbyrne on 10/12/2011 12:18:02 MDT.

Gabe Joyes
(gabe_joyes) - F

Locale: Lander, WY
good list on 10/12/2011 12:23:02 MDT Print View

Looks like an all around solid list to me. Good article.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Jetboil on 10/12/2011 12:23:55 MDT Print View

> A canister stove generally wins out in weight versus an alcohol stove on trips longer than 2-3 days when cooking for two, and 5ish days when cooking solo.

But this was a 2-night, 3-day list. I'll take a canister with Scouts or in winter.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Jetboil on 10/12/2011 12:29:36 MDT Print View

Yeah, it is. It really comes down to number of boils, but Ryan REALLY likes the new Sol Ti.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Jetboil on 10/12/2011 12:45:03 MDT Print View

I used one on a recent test. We had two folks that were showing early signs of hypothermia. The easy set up, quick to ignite, and rocket fast boiling was a godsend - instant hot food, instant hot drinks.

(don't let Eric see this note, but I like mine)

Rich Mendelowitz
(mendelowitz) - MLife

Locale: Arlington, VA
Great list but how about a knife? on 10/12/2011 13:11:41 MDT Print View

Wonderful list and well thought out presentation. Thank you

How about a knife. I never leave home without one no less head out onto the trail without one.

joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
Good work on 10/12/2011 13:15:19 MDT Print View

Nice work lads! That's a solid, easily accessible list that I'd be perfectly happy to use without any substitutions.

(but I'd swap out one stuff sack for a head-net...)

Joseph R
(Dianoda) - MLife

Locale: Chicago, IL
Re: Re: Updated list on 10/12/2011 13:21:52 MDT Print View

For bug protection, just replace or supplement the ground cloth with a net-tent and you're all set; depending on the destination the 5-7oz hit is completely worth it for the comfort provided (no one wants to wake up covered in mosquito bites). Or do what I do and try a bivy - I've been using a full net hood Ti Goat Ptarmigan bivy plus Golite poncho tarp for most of this past season and the combination has been great.

Benefits of the bivy are many:
- you can avoid setting up your tarp/shelter altogether when the weather is cooperative. Cowboy camping is something everyone should experience at least once.
- bivy adds warmth/wind resistance
- bug protection works
- additional spray protection in inclement weather (this becomes more important when using a small tarp)

- ingress/egress can be difficult when vertical space is limited (ie., under a low-pitched tarp)
- not necessarily the best solution for those who have trouble with the concept of sleeping in a relatively enclosed space.

Perry Hock
(hphock) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Thanks for the updated list! on 10/12/2011 13:32:59 MDT Print View

Thanks for the update. I have referenced these lists many times.

Right now my only hiking partner is my 11 yr old son, so there are things we carry that make life easier for him and I (any two of the three: deck of plastic cards, a tiny word search book and pencil, yatzee), as well as things 'he can do as we setup camp' The platypus gravity is one of those things he can easily do. We leave the clean bag at home, filtering into the his platy 1 liter and my 1/2 liter bags.

I love my Ti Alc stove, but I find I go through a lot of fuel to heat enough water for my son and I. So I pack a pocket rocket and GSR 2 person for him and I. One thing we have done to make life easier is elminating the bowls, cups, and sporks that came with the GSR, and carry Ti cups, and Ti sporks so we eat out of the bags.

I know I'll get hissed at, but I love my Tarptent (Henry Shires).

I NEVER thought I would say this, but the TP can be left behind. I forced myself on the AT to leave it behind and to be honest, I'm still alive. My son still carries his TP though... The only thing was trying to find something in Yellowstone, other than the shrub brush that was all around us, when the urge hit. I tried to use a whistle pig, but couldn't catch one. (obv. joking).

I know someone will say use a stick, but I carry a metal trowl (homemade) to dig the hole, not all soil is easily dug in with a stick! Our food tends to be heavier... I guess we just like to eat.

Väinö Vähäsarja
(vvsrj) - MLife
Spork on 10/12/2011 13:44:46 MDT Print View

Great list! But LMF Ti Spork?!? You could save whopping 8 g by switching to Spork Original! ;) Or even 10 g with Spork Little :D

Edited by vvsrj on 10/12/2011 13:53:25 MDT.

David Link
(sierracanon) - F
Ultralight checklist on 10/12/2011 14:02:46 MDT Print View

Re: Merino wool shirts. I usually carry a short-sleeved light or mid-weight merino t-shirt, and then merino armwarmers (Smartwool) which are lighter than carrying a separate long-sleeved top. Works great.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/12/2011 15:04:41 MDT Print View

Missing a few things that most people carry: Extra pair of socks in "Other Clothing." Bug protection while sleeping. In "Other," no bandanna or piece of pack towel. And I never understood why nearly all gear lists omit a camera yet show photos of the trip!

Interesting to see the differences between this list and the one in "Lightweight Backpacking and Camping" (2006). "Mid" and ground sheet instead of tarp and bivy, framed pack instead of frameless, ball cap instead of wide-brim sun hat, much heavier stove and cook pot combo.

It did give me a few ideas to pare half a pound off my base weight, though!