Backpack Shakedown: Here’s What 7 Real Backpackers Carry in their Packs

Want to know what to pack for a backpacking trip?  There are all sorts of lists available.  But there are also a lot of styles of backpacking out there. An ultra-lightweight backpacker isn’t going to carry the same gear that I take on trips with my preschooler! 

To give you an idea of what gear you need to pack for backpacking (and how much space it is going to take up in your backpack), here are 7 photos from real backpackers showing what’s in their packs.

Pack 1: 5 Day Rim-to-Rim Hike, Grand Canyon National Park

Backpack shakedown 1

Brewbooks was able to shave weight and space from his pack by using a bivy bag + tarp setup instead of a tent.  He could have saved more weight/space by repacking the big canister of electrolytes and using a Kindle instead of taking along two big books.

Gear List:

  • Tarp
  • Exped DownMat 9 Air Pad
  • Clothes for 5 days + 5 pairs of socks
  • Outdoor Research Goretex bivy bag
  • Lafuma light down bag
  • Scarpa boots
  • Jetboil stove
  • Poncho
  • Teva sandals
  • Two books
  • First aid kit
  • Toilet paper and toiletry kit
  • Knife
  • Flashlight
  • Four 1-liter water bottles
  • 5 freeze dried dinners for 2, food bars, trail mix
  • Electrolyte powder
  • Hiking poles
  • Camera bag, camera, spare battery and SD card
  • Sunglasses
  • Osprey Pack Aether 70

Image credit: “What’s in My Bag – Pack Shakedown” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by brewbooks


Pack 2: Winter Camping Setup

backpack shakedown 2

Guo Chai says that he is “Still in the early stages of trying to go ultralight.”  But, for a winter camping setup, this is pretty light!

Gear List:

Image credit: “My winter camping setup.” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by guochai


Pack 3: 5 Day Yosemite Backpacking Trip

backpack shakedown 3

Who says that allergies are going to stop you from enjoying nature? 😉  That first aid kit is a bit bulky though!

Gear List:

  • Backpack
  • Tent and tarp
  • Sleeping bag
  • Foam pad
  • First aid kit
  • snakebite kit
  • Deet
  • toe warmers
  • Camera and video camera
  • Watch
  • Flashlight, head lamp, glow sticks
  • Pepper spray
  • Permanent marker, pen
  • Sunglass
  • Matches
  • Inhaler, eyedrops, allergy medicines
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Swiss army knife
  • Toothbrush and paste, q-tips
  • Water filter
  • Shovel
  • Cell phone and holster
  • Clothes, food (not pictured)

Image credit: “Yosemite Camping Gear” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by phoenixar


Pack 4: Overnight Trip at Delaware Water Gap

backpack shakedown 4

Note that this guy brought a quilt instead of a sleeping bag – a risky move if it were to get cold at night! It also means a much bulkier pack, but that isn’t too much of an issue when it is just for a 1 night trip.

Gear List:

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Kindle
  • Trowel
  • Jacks R Better Sierra Stealth quilt
  • Extra shirt, socks, sock liners, underwear
  • Food bars
  • Headlamp
  • Leatherman Juice PS4
  • Water filtration kit
  • Collapsible canteen and drinking straw
  • First aid kit
  • Jetboil stove
  • Sleeping pad
  • Toiletry kit
  • Headphones
  • Wool/cotton blend long underwear
  • Tent, tent stakes and tent footprint

Image credit: “Packing List” (CC BY 2.0) by srslyguys


Pack 5: Climber’s Pack

backpack shakedown 5

Jake is a climber, so he’s got to lug around a lot of extra gear that other backpackers wouldn’t have – but he also says that he’ll leave a lot of it at the trailhead so doesn’t have to carry it all the entire trip.

Gear List:

  • Bear box
  • iPad
  • Day pack
  • Nalgene bottles
  • La Sportiva Tarantulas climbing shoes
  • Chalk bag, belay device, draws, webbing, harness
  • Sleeping bag, tent, sleeping pad
  • Rope, rope bag
  • Backpack
  • Boots
  • Gas canister
  • Mountain Hardware pants and basketball shorts
  • Marmot Oracle jacket and Old Navy fleece
  • Flashlight, headlamp, and other small items
  • Water filter
  • Little Book of Mormon
  • Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range
  • Cup, bowl
  • Inhaler
  • Chapstick
  • Stove
  • Hat
  • Instant meals
  • T-shirts, underwear
  • Helmet

Image credit: “Gear for the Teton trip.” (CC BY 2.0) by Jake Spurlock


Pack 6: Overnight Grand Canyon Trip in March

backpack shakedown 6

Yes, all of this will fit into a 34L Deuter backpack!  Those compression packs help shrink down all of the bulky gear needed for cold weather.

Gear List:

  • Isis Whisper Down hoodie
  • Patagonia Down Sweater vest
  • Long pants, capris, REI long underwear, socks, undies
  • Handi-wipes
  • Quick-dry camping towel
  • Sunglasses
  • Deuter Futura Pro 34L women’s backpack
  • REI rain/wind shell
  • Gloves, fleece-lined cap
  • Compressible pillow (her “luxury item”)
  • Big Bertha insulated, non-self-inflating sleeping pad
  • LL Bean 25 degree sleeping bag
  • Mac and Cheese camp dinner
  • Vasque boots
  • Bandana
  • Headlamp
  • Small camera
  • Compression packs

Image credit: “Camping gear” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by F. Tronchin


Pack 7: Mom and Daughter 7-Day Backpacking/Camping Trip

backpack shakedown 7

This is what I packed for going camping in Greece with my daughter.  Since she was 5 at the time, I end up carrying most of the gear but some does go into her pack. I’ve since updated to a better stove and love the extra space it gives me.  Yeah, it is far from being lightweight but we have everything to enjoy ourselves safely!

Gear List:

  • Lowe Alpine Cholatse II backpack
  • McKinley child’s pack (my daughter carries it and we also use it as a daypack)
  • 2 sleeping pads
  • Clothes (1 sweater, 2 t-shirts, 1 long-sleeve shirt, shorts, long underwear, pajamas, bathing suit, socks, underwear, hat, and rain jacket – per person)
  • Cheap gas stove, spare fuel
  • Food for 7 days (see exactly what food here)
  • Sawyer Mini water filter, water bladder, water bottles
  • Microfiber towel
  • Small items: headlamps, multitool, knife, whistle, flashlight, rope
  • Toilet paper and toiletry kit
  • Stuffed animal penguin
  • McKinley sleeping bags – 1 adult, 1 child
  • 2 pairs of sandals
  • McKinley 2-Person Tent (not pictured)
  • Hiking boots (not pictured)

What’s in your pack?


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