How to Choose The Best Camping Backpack

Camping Backpacks in Leafs

Your backpack is one of the essential gear items if you plan on doing any hiking or need to cover a great distance between where you park your vehicle and your campsite.

Many people actually practice what is commonly called backpack camping, which means that you don’t have a fixed campsite – instead you put everything into your pack and then camp at different locations every night.

This is a great way to see the countryside but it also means that you are going to have to carry around a fairly heavy pack and this does take some getting used to.

What Makes a Backpack For Camping Different

A backpack is a backpack right? Wrong! Camping backpacks are actually different from standard ones in several different ways.

Man Laying Next to Backpack

These are the differences between a camp backpack and one that you might carry your school books in.

  • Camping backpacks are heavy-duty. They are usually made of canvas that will stand up to a great deal more weight, both with the pack itself and the straps that hold it.
  • Camping backpacks are made to carry for long distances with as little wear and tear on your body as possible. Many have steel frames that make it easier to carry such a heavy load.
  • Camping backpacks are intended to mask the smell of food as to not attract wild animals as you are on the trail.
  • Camping backpacks have specific pockets and areas for common camp supplies. They are made for camping, designed by people who know the sport.

How to Choose The Best Backpack Camping Gear

When it comes to choosing backpack camping gear there are some specific steps that you want to follow. You need to make sure that everything you get will fit in your backpack and that you can carry it easily. Follow these steps and you’ll have fewer problems.

Different Hanging Camping Backpacks
  • Reduce your list to the very essential items you need. If you can wash your hands in the creek, you don’t need to bring along hand soap and baby wipes.
  • Always get the smallest sizes possible. Travel size or trial bottles of hygiene supplies work best. Put spices in tic-tac packages instead of bring the entire bottle.
  • Use items that serve more than one purpose whenever possible. If you are going with a friend, one of you can carry the tent instead of you both bringing one. Multi-tools like shovel-hammer-axes are better than bringing each individually. Cooking tools that serve more than purpose are essential as well.
  • Find out what other people are using and check out what experts are saying about the backpacking gear that you need and what is overrated or unnecessary.
  • Make sure that you check out the reviews and the ratings on all of the equipment that you are thinking about buying.

Backpack Camping Essentials You Can’t Live Without

When it comes to a backpack camping checklist, there are different variations depending upon what type of countryside you are camping in, how experienced you are and how you plan to camp.

Woman Hugging Backpack

The minimalist who plans on fishing or hunting in order to eat is going to need different gear than someone who has no plans for either, for example. However, this backpacking essentials list will get you started.

Sleeping Equipment

  • Sleeping bag
  • Hammock (very light and you can set up and sleep just about anywhere)
  • Travel or camp pillow


  • Lightweight Tent
  • Accessories like stakes, poles, frame, etc.
  • Tarp for rainy nights
Assembling Family Tent

Navigation Tools

  • Map (with plastic cover)
  • Safety Equipment
  • Signaling mirror
  • Compass
  • Orange vest for easy visibility
  • GPS (Smartphone if you get signal)
  • SOS beacon


  • Hiking boots
  • Sandals or Crocs
  • At least one extra set of clothing – especially socks


  • Flashlights
  • Lanterns
  • Extra batteries
Camping Gas Light Lantern

Fire Starting Equipment

  • Backup fire starting tool (flint and steel, striker or cigarette lighter)
  • Kindling
  • Matches (in waterproof container)

Emergency Equipment

  • Complete first aid kit
  • Snakebite kit
  • Bee sting kit
  • Epi pen (if anyone has allergic reactions that might happen outdoors)


  • Multi-tool (like a Swiss army knife)
  • Small hatchet
  • Small hammer
Camping Hatchet on Table

Food & Water

  • Water bottles to last several days (if rationed)
  • Enough food to last several days (if rationed)
  • Water purification system or tablets
  • Snares or traps for catching animals to eat (in an emergency)
  • Energy bars (to keep you moving if you get stranded)

Miscellaneous Items

  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • ​Bear spray
  • Insect repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Toilet paper
  • Chapstick
  • Earplugs
  • ​Personal locator beacon
  • Hygiene items
Man Using Using Binoculars

7 Easy Steps to Choosing The Best Camping Backpack

So, you want to find the perfect camping backpack. Here are seven steps that you can follow that will allow you to determine exactly what you need and which one of the thousands of backpacks out there will be perfect for what you are planning.

  • Decide when and where you will be camping and what items you will need to bring with you. For example, if you are camping in the winter, you are going to need to bring along heavier clothing than summer backpacking.
  • Determine how much space you will need to carry all of the gear that you will need for the camping you plan to do.
  • Find the lightest backpacks that you can that will hold all of the items that you need.
Men Wearing Backpacks
  • Buy from a retailer that has a great return policy so that you can send it back if it turns out not to meet your needs as expected.
  • Narrow down your choices so that you only have a few different backpacks to compare.
  • Do as much careful research as you can before you buy. Check out the online reviews for the items that you have chosen and determine which one is the best.
  • Buy the backpack and try it out on a short hike to ensure suitability.

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