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Beginner backcountry camping checklist

Beginner backcountry camping checklist
Beginner backcountry camping checklist

First time backcountry camping and not sure what to bring? I’ve got you covered! Here’s my beginner backcountry camping checklist.

Last month, I went on my first backcountry camping trip to Strathcona Provincial Park. Read more about my adventures to Landslide Lake and Glacier Lake here. Having never gone backcountry camping, I was unsure of what to bring. I am also a chronic over-packer, which was clearly going to have to change if I would be carrying everything on my back.

There are many backcountry camping packing lists available online – some more comprehensive and in-depth than others. I was quickly overwhelmed by the potential gear, clothing, and other equipment required. I narrowed my sources down to 4 packing lists:

Beginner backcountry camping checklist

Tried and tested, here is my own beginner backcountry camping checklist. Click to download a printer-friendly version of the list to use for your next trip.


  • Backpack (I bought this 65L Woods pack in red at Canadian Tire)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad (I bought this self-inflating Woods mattress at Canadian Tire)
  • Travel pillow (these pillows came very highly recommended by an enthusiastic MEC staffer)
  • Daypack
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • Emergency blanket
  • Whistle
  • Pocket knife
  • Maps and trail directions (I screenshot directions on my iPhone and printed out copies)



  • Quick-dry towel
  • Biodegradable soap and shampoo (I bring Dr. Bronner’s and use it to wash dishes too)
  • Toilet paper
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Contact lenses, case, and solution
  • Brush
  • First aid kit
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Insect repellant


  • Down and/or waterproof jacket for evening use (I brought this jacket from Eddie Bauer)
  • Light jacket for day use
  • Warm clothes for evening: long sleeve, fleece-lined leggings, warm socks
  • Bathing suit
  • Hiking boots
  • Change of shoes for campsite
  • Hiking outfits: different outfit for each day is my personal preference
  • Extra socks and underwear
  • Warm hat
  • Hat for sun coverage
  • Mittens


  • Glasses and sunglasses
  • Sleep mask
  • Ear plugs
  • iPhone
  • Portable chargers
  • Waterproof case for iPhone
  • Book, cards, or games
  • 1-2 garbage bags
  • Cash

Click here to download a printer-friendly version of the list

Helpful packing tips

  • Leave extra water, snacks, and a change of clothes in the car
  • Coordinate with your camping partners when packing so you avoid bringing unnecessary, duplicate items. Example: tent, dishes, cooking supplies.
  • Bring extra garbage bags: pack-out garbage, lay a bag on the ground and put your pack on top, cover your pack if it rains
  • Bring extra shoes to wear at the campsite: I love my Native shoes
  • Bring coffee mugs with lids: avoid bugs flying into your coffee
  • Bring a variety of snacks and protein bars, so you don’t get totally sick of eating them
  • Have a hot meal at night, very satisfying after a long and hard day on the trails

Where to buy camping and hiking gear

There is, unsurprisingly, no shortage of places to buy camping and hiking gear in BC. The quality and price evidently vary. Here are a few places I shop at:

  • MEC: a great place for all your camping and hiking needs. While the quality of the gear is great, the prices can be high and the gear can be more intense than I need (i.e. weightless tents and sleeping bags made for the arctic).
  • Eddie Bauer: my new favourite place for outdoor clothing that is often on sale. I bought hiking socks, a down jacket (that fits in a tiny bag), a travel purse, and vacuum bags for packing.
  • Canadian Tire: a step-down in price from MEC, I bought my hiking pack, sleeping bag, water filter, waterproof matches, and sleeping pad here.
  • The North Face: I constantly wear my lightweight water-resistant jacket from the North Face. It is similar to this jacket.
  • RYU: I am a recent convert to their high-rise capris. Incredibly comfortable and stand-up well.
  • Lululemon: my go-to hiking outfit is a Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve Crew (nice to have your back and shoulders covered when wearing a pack and added sun-coverage) and the Pace Rival Crops (I store my iPhone in a side pocket to easily access for photos)
  • London Drugs: a good spot to pick up cheap hiking snacks, miscellaneous supplies, and toiletries

Don’t forget to download the free printable backcountry camping checklist here.

What can’t you leave home without when you go camping or hiking?

  • Lisa says:

    This is a great list for beginner backpackers! I think you nailed it. I love that you put together a pdf gear list, and that your recommendations aren’t ridiculously expensive (yay Canadian Tire!) Any idea how heavy your pack was going out?

    • Thanks Lisa! I definitely found there are so many gear lists out there and many recommend such expensive gear. My pack was around 35 lbs the first time and it definitely could have been lighter! I learned my lesson the second time around.

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