Overnight Backpacking Gear List
Published by Maggie Slepian
Overnight backpacking gear leaves room for some trial and error, which means it’s a great time to hone your system. If you have enough to stay warm / sheltered for one night, food, and a way to treat water, you’ll be fine. No need to get all fancy and ultralight. While longer trips necessitate a deeper dive, overnights have some wiggle room. If you hate what you brought, you’ll likely have an uncomfortable night and then be on your way the next morning with another life lesson in your back pocket. Obviously there are some caveats—a winter overnight without adequate gear is a recipe for disaster, but as long as you’re reasonably prepared for three-season outings, you can play somewhat fast and loose with your overnight gear.
Overnights are also a fun place to add in extra goodies. You’ll be back at the trailhead the next day, so throwing a few fun items in your pack will have less impact. I use overnights as a chance to bring cooking gear into the backcountry—normally I can’t be bothered to cook while I’m backpacking. I also always bring a pillow and camp shoes, small items that I forgo for longer trips where my pack weight matters more. If I’m testing new gear, overnights are the place to do it. Jeff brings containers of salsa, bags of chips, and once, a cast-iron skillet.
Additionally, overnight backpacking trips are one of the best ways to get into backpacking. We have a lovely list of routes under 50 miles, and a roundup of overnights across the country under 30 miles. Here are my recommendations for gear to take on an overnight, as well as some specific items I’ve been carrying.
A 20% DEET Premium Controlled-Release Lotion will work well against mosquitoes, but Dr. Zimring says he prefers the 20% Picaridin lotion since it also protects against ticks, gnats, chiggers, and flies. (In both instances, he recommends Sawyer brand.)
Part of spending time outside means battling ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. For this, Nelson swears by permethrin.
And out of the products we tested, Dr. Zeichner highly recommends Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent.