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Ultralight Backpacking Checklist

two ultralight backpackers on the Appalachian Trail

Choose the lightest-weight versions of the items on this list that you can find, afford or feel comfortable with. Organizing your gear into systems can be a good way to remember to pack what you need.

Hiking System

Navigation System

Shelter System

  • Tent, tarp, bivy or hammock
  • Guylines and stakes (if needed)
  • Insect mesh for hammock (if needed)
  • Ground cloth  (opt.)

Sleep System

Cooking System

Food Storage System

Water System

Clothing Systems

For Hiking:

  • Hiking or trail-running shoes
  • Synthetic or wool T-shirt
  • Hiking or running shorts (1 pair)
  • Hiking pants (1 pair)
  • Synthetic or wool underwear (2 pairs)
  • Sports bra
  • Synthetic or wool socks (2 pairs)
  • Sun-protective hat
  • Sun-protective gloves (opt.)
  • Bandana

For Camp:

  • Long-underwear top
  • Long-underwear bottoms
  • Warm hat
  • Wool or synthetic socks for sleep
  • Puffy insulated jacket or vest
  • Sandals (opt.)

For Foul Weather:

  • Waterproof rain jacket
  • Waterproof rain pants
  • Warm gloves
  • Waterproof gloves/mitts

Hygiene/Toiletries System

Bring only as much as you anticipate needing.

  • Zip-top bags (varied sizes for waste, food, etc.)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothpaste or baking soda
  • Small toothbrush
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Toilet paper (2-4 squares per day)
  • Pre-moistened wipes (2 per day)
  • Sanitation trowel
  • Menstrual products
  • Women’s pee funnel
  • Women’s pee rag (1/4 cotton bandana)
  • Prescription medications

First-Aid Kit

  • Blister pads
  • Gauze pads
  • Bandages
  • Antibiotic ointment (small packet)
  • Pain-relief pills


  • Headlamp or microlight with fresh batteries
  • Extra batteries (opt.)
  • Safety whistle (with neck cord)
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat with insect-mesh (opt.)
  • Gaiters (if needed)
  • Ice traction devices (if needed)
  • Ice axe (if needed)
  • Small amount of cash
  • Credit card
  • Itinerary copies (for friend + under car seat)

Repair Kit

Bring only as much as you anticipate needing.

  • Gear-repair and/or duct tape
  • Sewing needle and nylon thread
  • Razor blade or small knife

Luxury Items

  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Journal or sketchbook
  • Pen or pencil

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