How To: Gear Lists

Why Use a Gear List?

It may seem tedious to get started, but plenty of backpackers keep a gear list. There are a number of reasons a gear list can be helpful.

To Remember What You Have

The gear you use in the summer won’t be the same gear you use in the fall, spring, or winter. Save yourself the time of remembering and keep a gear list to document what worked for you in which season. Instead of shuffling through your gear closet or box while you try to decide what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to know exactly what you’re looking for, because you’ve written it down!

To Remember What Worked

Let’s say you’re trying to save weight. You went out on a weekend trip and you had an item which you once considered indispensable, but you ended up not using it at all. When you return home on Sunday evening, simply make a note in your gear list that you didn’t really use the item and you probably don’t need to bring it next time.

Note that this does not work for things like first aid kits and rescue supplies! You should always bring those with the hope that you won’t need to use them.

To Track Weight and Other Things

Your gear list need not be simply a list of items. You can add additional notes, like how much the item weighs, to get a total of your base weight. You might also keep notes about when you bought it, what you like about it, or how much you paid for it.

You might never remember to bring an umbrella unless you listed it on your gear list. Photo credit: Carlos C.

As a Safety Measure

First time backpacking in freezing temperatures? First time backpacking in the desert? First time backpacking at all? It’s a good idea to have a gear list and have someone with more experience look over it for you. That way you’ll know that you’re going out into the field well-prepared to handle any chaos that might come your way.

How to Organize

Everyone has a different system. It will be important to find something that works for you and that you have the energy to maintain.

Merritt D.’s impressive gear list includes categories. In addition to the backpack, sleep system, and shelter, he lists tools, storage, cooking, personal, and hygiene items.

Andrew L’s gear list is simple, but keeps detailed weights for each item.

Alex B.’s list has aesthetic appeal. He uses LighterPack to keep an updated document that breaks out his gear into pre-determined categories. Check out Alex B.’s gear lists:

2020-06-27 12_00_35-Window

You don’t have to get complicated. Start by keeping a spreadsheet. Here are some tools geared at backpackers that you might like to try.

Tools – Apps


GearGrams is an app to help you organize all the stuff you take. It allows for visualization and sharing. It has an app and a web platform.

Gram Weenie

Gram Weenie lets you keep a master list of gear and create trip lists to customize and calculate weight.


TrekPack allows you to create and manage lists of items and flag packed items to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

Other Tools

Google Drive

Andrew Skurka provides a PDF checklist and Google Drive template that you can make a copy of.


LighterPack lets you keep many different lists, visualize your weight in categories, and share your lists with others.

Again with the gear you might never bring unless you remember how well it worked. Photo credit: Karan G.

Read More

There’s plenty more reading to do if you have the time and interest.

Jen’s Gear List

Gossamer Gear wrote a feature of Jen A.’s winter gear list in 2014.

Adventure Alan

Adventure Alan has a couple of different kinds of gear lists depending on your goals.

Section Hiker

Section Hiker has gear lists for packrafting, backpacking, and specific trips.

How do you keep your gear list? What information have you found helpful to write down? Share your ideas with us!


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