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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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Donna C
(leadfoot) - M

Locale: Middle Virginia
Re: Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/12/2011 15:11:41 MDT Print View

I think I would change out the slim-fitting support briefs. Is that the same as tighty-whiteys? : )

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/12/2011 16:11:32 MDT Print View

This is obviously a male gear list. We females need to substitute our own undies!

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/12/2011 16:26:58 MDT Print View

Thanks Ryan - the list strikes a nice balance of function, versatility, comfort and weight.

Where is Mike Clelland?

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/12/2011 17:13:35 MDT Print View

Ah, the ole "camera is journaling gear" or "camera is always being carried" routine where that weight has been transferred either off a gearlist (have seen on even some SUL lists) or transferred to carried weight.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: Re: Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/12/2011 17:22:01 MDT Print View

If it's good enough for Ryan does this mean everyone can not count camera gear? SUL here I come!

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/12/2011 17:43:39 MDT Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 15:51:31 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Camera weight on 10/12/2011 17:47:51 MDT Print View

I've seen a recent gear list of RJ's where the camera section said "Don't ask". :-)

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Re: Camera weight on 10/12/2011 18:10:03 MDT Print View

If my camera collection included an M9 and Zeiss Biogon 35mm 2.8C I'd happily forget about SUL every time I went into the bush :-)

John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/12/2011 19:19:25 MDT Print View

Great list, close to my set up, although for three days, I'd leave the stove at home and save the weight and hassle of cooking and enjoy the lighter load. YMMV.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Poles on 10/12/2011 22:14:46 MDT Print View

" LMF Ti Spork?!? You could save whopping 8 g by switching to Spork Original!"

The original LMF spork is no good. Too easy to snap and it melts if you try to fry anything. The ti version is well worth it, although you'll probably use the fork end of it so rarely that just a ti spoon would be best.

"Do you think the Gossamer Gear LT4 poles are robust enough for winter camping and backcountry skiing?"

No, you'll snap an LT4 backcountry skiing. My wife has broken 2 LT4's while hiking and I've broken one. All breaks occurred while falling on / sorta on the poles while hiking. They're fine for use while normal hiking, but you could break one easily if you crashed while skiing or if you just relied on one too hard. They're great poles, they just don't take much abuse and generally in the winter in the backcountry you don't want key pieces of gear like poles to be too fragile.

Ross Nicholson
(TogetherinParis) - F
Fine list! on 10/13/2011 01:52:56 MDT Print View

I'd add two pairs of nylon liner socks if you want to avoid blisters, though, and Thorlow hiking socks with good padding.
A plastic spoon from McDonalds works fine, too.
Cell phone is a must now days, too, preferably one with a radio for weather reports.
For older hikers:
The pad sleeps much better if it is a neo-air or a D.A.M air mattress from, I'd wager. And nothing beats a nice roomy to stay completely dry and comfortable on the trail in a sudden rain storm. That takes the weight up a couple of pounds, three actually, but the safety is sweet joy after a good night's sleep.

I've used the Gossamer gear trekking poles for 1000 miles of the AT, and no problems. They're great and they've saved me from many a fall. Tie them together and the bus and air lines will let you take them on board for free.

And there's nothing like Mountain House dried meals, too.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
A few missing things on 10/13/2011 08:03:44 MDT Print View

on first inspection, I miss a base-plate, magnetic compass to be able to work with the map. Also because I wouldn't like to rely exclusively on electronics for something so sensible, not even for a short trip.

I'd also miss clean sleeping clothes; at a minimum, socks and pants. I wouldn't want to expose the bag's shell to skin, not even clean skin, and the hiking socks and pants are bound to be too dirty for the task.

Someone else already mentioned but I stress: some kind of towel is very important. I use a kitchen wipe at less than an ounce. It's much more than a convenience item, with the particularly important mission of wiping shelter inner walls when condensation happens. In general, to wipe any excess wetness to speed up the drying for things you want to keep as dry as possible.

Finally, I'd miss some packing stuff: little packing for little items like sunglasses, tarp, stakes, small essentials, maps or food items. Some of these may be not carried at all, some might be not counted because their weight is small... if the list is focused on functionality, that's fine but if precise weight measures are the goal, they do add up enough to make the list.

Edited by inaki on 10/13/2011 08:06:10 MDT.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Stake bag = rock sack on 10/13/2011 10:21:33 MDT Print View

The Rock sack from the bear bag system can double as a stake sack.
The bearbag system had storage for food. I stick the map and sunglasses in my pants pocket or backpack pocket

Edited by Tjaard on 10/13/2011 10:23:54 MDT.

Sunny Waller
(dancer) - M

Locale: Southeast USA
Rock Sac-Stake Sac on 10/13/2011 11:19:11 MDT Print View

I never thought of using my stake sac as a rock sac...DUH... I still have to loose a few oz to make up for my Exped Synmat. Since I hike in the southeast my 3 season shelter includes bug mesh- I have a Zpacks Heximid Solo on order now for my next trip. It should weigh around 9oz with the bug mesh and the extended beak. I use the Esbitt Wing stove with the firelite 550 on weekend trips. On longer trips I too have gone to the dark side and take my Jetboil Ti.. I really like this list.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/13/2011 13:08:18 MDT Print View

The little bag for my stakes weighs less than 0.1 ounce so doesn't even register on my scale. Anyway, I weighed the stakes in the bag! The same is true for small items in tiny plastic bags such as pills--they get weighed with the bag. Note that Ryan's list lumps all his first aid items together, although I'm sure he analyzes them separately.

Ryan's waterproof maps don't need a plastic bag. However, I've found that waterproof paper maps are heavier than putting normal paper maps inside a gallon ziplock bag. The paper maps plus plastic bag fold a lot smaller, too. In that case, lower tech is lighter! I just make sure (before leaving my shelter in the mornings) that the map portion I need for the day can be read through the plastic bag.

After a detailed comparison with my own list, I was pleased to note that if I subtract from my base weight my camera and the additional weight (over what's on Ryan's list for the same items) of sleeping bag, clothing, pad and Ursack that I need because I'm an old lady with arthritic joints who gets COLD easily, I end up with a base weight very close to Ryan's. That makes me feel better!

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Good tips on 10/13/2011 21:30:03 MDT Print View

You really don't need a stuff sack for your sleeping bag, just put it in the bottom of your pack, then the other stuff on top. It'll also take up the slack if you don't have allot of other bulky stuff going in.

Sleep socks. Something warmer than a half sock. If your feet get cold, your just gonna get cold all over.

Some kind of very minimal light. Who needs a headlamp anyway? Most are too heavy.

I like the Rail Riders Ultralight Boxer Briefs. Never used them, but they look good. I get Everlast compressions shorts from Big5. They look pretty similar and can be had for $9.99 on sale. Way better than the REI stuff I've tried in the past.

Spork? Really? They are a genuine pain in the arsky to eat with. And for me, FBC is all I need for hot food and a long-handled Ti spoon works to get all the bits out of the bag and keep my hand fairly clean as well.

Though the new Jetboil is lighter, it's still too heavy. I can carry a cone with Esbit stove and enough fuel for five days and my setup is under seven ounces all out. That's lighter than the Jetboil alone, nevermind the heavy canister.

Matthew Or
(MattO) - F
excellent on 10/14/2011 00:30:29 MDT Print View

thank you!

Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: GL on 10/14/2011 01:14:50 MDT Print View

Weekend lists...


Richard DeLong
(Legkohod) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
Can be lightened further... on 10/14/2011 04:39:23 MDT Print View

Those are heavy pants, and not particularly warm. Are they for bushwhacking? My combo of Marmot PowerDry leggings (150 g) and sturdy windpants (90 g) is more versatile, warmer, and weighs less (240 g). Also, merino wool is a matter of personal choice, but it is not as warm as synthetics of similar weight. I have a full-zip hoody made of a PowerDry-like fabric that weighs the same as a merino long-sleeve top but is warmer and more versatile. With that, the full-size down jacket now becomes overkill, and a down vest (170 g) can replace the down jacket on this list. I've just cut 200 g off the list shown while achieving the same effect.

Raingear in this list is quite heavy (~400 g). I have a Roger Caffin-style mountain poncho that comes almost to the knee at 200 g. Chaps weigh another 60-70 g.

Where I'd personally add weight is in the sleeping pad department. Take chaps instead of rain pants and "spend" the extra 100 g or more on a second pad... it's well worth it!:) Invest 100 g shaved off the down jacket in 100 g more down to get the next bag up in the Katabatic product line.

Bravo for leaving the cell phone, mp3 player, and camera home :)) If not, there are now options to combine all of those in a 400 g package: iPhone + Solio charger. With this set you can drop the paper maps and use maps on the iPhone.

Just some ideas on how I would tweak this list to fit my individual preferences and style.

P. Scott Buhlinger
(pscottb) - MLife

Locale: feet OK, soul NM
Re: Backpacking Checklist (Gear List): 3-Season, 3-Day on 10/14/2011 13:34:30 MDT Print View

Curious, but why a wind shirt/hoody AND a light-weight rain jacket? Better breathability? If hiking and know I'll be in a deluge, I may go with a heavier rain shell and thus carry a wind shirt too, but usually my rain jacket doubles as my wind protection.