The following is a description of required clothing and equipment for a one-week backpacking outing, which isn’t much different than the list for a three day trip.
Developing a pack list is a philosophical exercise and every trek leader and Troop have their own ideas about an acceptable pack list – so consider this a starting point for group trek planning.
Personal Gear (should weigh less than 15 pounds)
Backpack and rain cover (garbage bag sometimes OK)
Sleeping bag in a waterproof stuff sack
Sleeping pad (pillow optional)
Personal first aid kit
Two water bottles – minimum 2 liters total
Two small flashlights (check the batteries)
Toilet paper and cat hole shovel
Mess Kit (bowl, cup, utensils)
Light towel and/or bandanna
Personal Items (Toothbrush, soap, glasses, contact solution, medicines)
Emergency Kit in a bag: compass, pocket knife, sunscreen, chap stick, signaling devices (whistle and mirror), paper and pencil, map in a waterproof bag, matches in a waterproof bag, water purifier tablets, duct tape, insect repellent, two zip lock bags, two garbage bags
Nice to Have: Walking Sticks, Stool or Chair, Waterproof Watch, Camera, Mosquito Hat, Wire Saw, Spices for food, Fishing Pole
Clothing – including what you wear (Should weigh less than eight pounds):
Sturdy hiking boots (broken in)
Water shoes/camp shoes
2-3 pair non-cotton socks
2-3 pair sock liners (optional)
2 Hiking shorts or pants (one pair of long pants and something for swimming)
0-2 pair underwear
2 T-shirts and one long sleeve shirt
Rain gear or poncho
Hat or Cap (Wide Brim)
Warm heavy shirt, sweater, sweatshirt or jacket (no cotton)
Fleece pants or long underwear bottoms
Gloves or glove liners and warm hat
Many new backpackers bring too many clothes. The basic rule is wear one set of clothes and pack one change of clothes unless weather is a major consideration. (Some ultra light people do not bring any clothes except what they wear.)
Each Buddy Team:
Two-man tent (count the stakes) and ground cloth (optional)
Group Equipment – Distributed among hikers
Water filters – Water jugs/bottles/bags
Stove and fuel bottles
Large and/or medium cooking pots
Cook Kit: spatula, serving spoon and/or utensils, measuring cup, camp suds and sponge, bleach, scrubber, Purell
Stuff sacks for food
Bear bags and rope (50 ft ¼” braided nylon rope, 50 ft 1/8” parachute cord, 2 ft 1/8” nylon cord) or Bear Canisters in some areas
Repair Kit (sewing kit, small piece of cloth, safety pins, wire, pliers or Leatherman, superglue, sleeping pad repair, O rings for water filter, rope, and ??)
Troop First Aid Kit (check it every hike)
Permits, Maps, Medical Forms
Pack List Weights in pounds
No one should be carrying the “High Weight”. It is listed so you can see how much you can save if you are careful. It is even possible to be less than the “Low End Weight”, which is what you should be striving to make.
Clothing low-6.5 high-9.5
Personal Gear low-9.9 high-17.5
Tent Mate Gear low-3.1 high-4.1
Troop Gear (12 hikers) low-3.1 high-3.1
Optional Items low-0 high-6.0
Total Pack Weight before food and water
low-22.6 pounds high-40.2 pounds (this is crazy high!)
Items you wear are not included in the above totals, nor is food weight (estimated at 1.5 to 2.0 pounds per day, per hiker) or water (which adds 3-7 pounds per hiker). the three heaviest things are your backpack, tent, and sleeping bag, so if you want to save a lot of weight invest in these items.
There is lots of discussion about the proper amount of weight that a boy can carry safely. It varies wildly, depending on the attitude and strength of the boy. Arbitrary numbers (like 30% of his body weight) are interesting starting points for discussion, but the real determination is how much he can carry on the practice hikes.
Description of pack list items
Backpack: There are two main types of backpacks: the external frame and the internal frame. The conventional wisdom used to be that external frames are for trail hiking and internal frames are for off trail hiking. Most of our hiking is on trails, but the majority of Scouts and adult leaders prefer the internal frame and these have become the most commonly available packs. For extended treks the internal frame pack should have a volume over 3,000 cubic inches (50 liters), but less than 4,200 cubic inches (70 liters). The larger the pack, the greater the tendency to fill it with non-essentials.
The complete pack list is included in “Backpacking for Boys” which can be requested. Click on the Backpacking Manual Tab for more information.
Waterproof Pack Cover needs to be large enough to protect items strapped to the exterior of the pack. A couple of large garbage bags may be suitable for summer hiking in the Sierras, but if multiple rainy days are anticipated a dedicated pack cover is better. Some backpacks are waterproof, but like a tent, the seams need to be sealed. Check your cover, or backpack, for “waterproofness” prior to the trek.
Sleeping Bags are available in many sizes, fabric, fill, color, and price. A bag in the low-middle price range filled with synthetic material is recommended. Down bags are not good because they are ineffective when wet. The sleeping bag should have a comfort rating from 20° to 30° and should weigh no more than 3.5 pounds, but preferably less. Note: sleeping bags should not be stored in the stuff-sack at home, as this will mat the filling, causing a reduction in loft, and thus warmth. Bags are best stored in “cloth storage bags” or left laying as loose as possible.
Sleeping Pad & Pillow: A closed-cell type foam pad (e.g., insolite or the accordion style by Z-Rest work well) is good to keep out the cold and to preserve the sleeping bag. Shorter length pads can be purchased, or longer pads can be cut, to reduce the amount of bulk and weight (head to knee length is sufficient). Self-inflating pads are not good for Scouts because they can be punctured. A “backpacker’s pillow” is an optional added piece of comfort, or you can use your sleeping bag’s stuff sack filled with your fleece jacket and a tee shirt as a pillow case.
Personal First Aid Kit: The Troop gear includes a fully stocked first aid kit, but you should also carry a personal first aid kit to handle minor problems. Kits are typically “personalized”, but all kits should include moleskin (for blisters), several adhesive bandages of various sizes, a few gauze pads, adhesive tape, and disinfecting ointment. Save weight by building your own First Aid kit with a Ziplock bag and supplies.
Water Bottles: Two wide mouth plastic water bottles (32 ounce size) that fit inside the larger side pocket of most packs are great but there are lighter options. Small mouth bottles are difficult to clean and to fill with a water filter, or a drink mix. Some scouts and adults use a bladder system, such as Platypus or Camelbak, for easier access. Empty Gatorade bottles are lighter but don’t last as long.
Two flashlights with new batteries: Flashlights with two AA-cell alkaline batteries are good. A lightweight option is the micro photon light. The “coal miner’s” head mounted flashlight provides hands free use, but weighs more.
Scoop, toilet paper and cat hole shovel: A light weight plastic shovel for digging “cat holes” is required in wilderness areas. Store sufficient unscented toilet paper in a zip lock bag along with a small (2 ounce) bottle of hand sanitizer (“Purell”) for hand washing. The hand sanitizer should be stored in the bear bag at night. Paperless expeditions are becoming more common as backpackers become more sensitive to their environmental impact. Rocks and leaves or “squirt” water bottles can be substituted for toilet paper.
Mess Kit: Any light weight plastic bowl, or a plate with upturned sides, is sufficient. The disposable kitchen containers from Ziploc are convenient because they provide a lid (bowl) and a plate, and a place to keep your spoon. They are also shallow enough you can “lick” them clean, prior to washing. A Lexan plastic spoon, or “spork” is sufficient for all eating needs. Do not use the cheap disposable plastic spoons because they melt and break too easily. A plastic insulated cup is useful for hot drinks and can also be used as a bowl. A handle on the cup is nice to avoid burns.
Personal Items: This includes toothbrush, soap, and if needed medicine, eyeglasses, contacts and cleaning solution.
Bandanna or Small Towel: The Bandanna can be used to wipe sweat off while hiking, as a lightweight washcloth, or as a pot holder. A “Backpacker’s towel” or a very thin and small bath towel is useful for drying after a wash/swim, but a shirt can also serve this purpose.
Carabiner: A large carabiner is good for bear bags, river crossing, and stringing rope. You don’t need a mountain climber’s (expensive) carabiner, but don’t get the really cheap ones you see at the checkout counter either.
Emergency Food: This is the food you eat when you get separated from the group – or when you are just hungry and the group meal is not ready. Be careful that you don’t add too much weight here by bringing too much. Plan on one or two snacks a day and you will be alright. That usually means 7-8 power bars, granola bars, or candy bars.
Emergency Kit: Keeping all of your emergency items in a small bag is convenient. The kit should consist of; compass, small container of sunscreen, chap stick, paper (one sheet is enough), short pencil (w/ duct tape wrapped around it), map (in waterproof bag), matches (in waterproof container), small pocket knife, whistle, signaling mirror, iodine or sodium cloride tablets, insect repellent (Deet works best), two large garbage bags and two Ziploc gallon size bags can be used to hold gear, cover a pack, store wet clothes, wash clothes, or even collect garbage.
Clothing (including what you wear)
All clothing should be lightweight and synthetic or mixed cotton/synthetic (but no more than 20% cotton). The clothes listed below are for mild weather conditions. If cold or exceptionally wet conditions are expected, an extra change of clothes and/or warmer (and heavier) clothes may be appropriate.
Sturdy Hiking Boots: Taking care of your feet is critical. Backpacking boots should be purchased to fit you now, as opposed to buying boots you can “grow into.” Purchase boots with the socks that will be worn while hiking and break them in with a minimum of 20 miles of hiking, with a loaded pack. Scouts should not carry a pack if not wearing proper boots. It is very easy to sprain or break an ankle on the trail and tennis shoes provide little protection.
Camp Shoes: Light weight strap-on sandals (“Tevas” or “Crocs”) are helpful at river crossings and can be worn in camp.
Socks & Liners: Two or three pairs of heavy wool or synthetic hiking socks are sufficient. Some people also prefer two or three pairs of polypropylene sock liners. The liners “wick” perspiration away from the foot, and reduces friction to prevent blisters. (Try wearing a liner on one foot during a few of the practice hikes (especially on hot days) to see what works best for you.)
Pants or shorts: Two pair of pants and/or shorts, including one lightweight pair of long pants is good to have for a week-long expedition. Running or basketball shorts are OK as the second pair. The pants with the zip off legs are suitable and can double as a swim suit. Also bring one pair of fleece pants, or long underwear bottoms, for the evenings, and possibly for sleeping.
Underwear: Two pair of non-cotton underwear is sufficient (silk is good). Underwear can be eliminated if you wear shorts with liners, but you may want to bring one pair just for sleeping.
Shirts: Two synthetic tee shirts and one lightweight long sleeve shirt are sufficient. You may want to bring an additional tee shirt for sleeping.
Rain Gear: Your rain gear should be lightweight, waterproof and preferably breathable. A combination jacket and pants are better for some, but the pants are not required. A vinyl poncho is also acceptable. Test out your rain gear well before the trek. If significant rain (or hot sun) is expected an optional small, light weight umbrella can be very useful, as it provides a moveable tarp.
Hats & Gloves: One wide brim hat for hiking (baseball caps provide no ear or back of neck protection), and one lightweight knit pullover hat for warmth at night. A mosquito hat, or head net, weighs very little, and is really good to have when the mosquitoes are swarming. Also, bring one light weight pair of gloves or liners for cold mornings (not ski gloves).
Warm Jacket: A warm jacket, or pullover, (made of fleece, wool, or a heavier synthetic) should be relatively lightweight (suitable for most summer treks). Layering this with a tee shirt, long sleeve shirt, and rain jacket should keep you warm in most conditions.
Tent Mate Gear:
Tent with Fly, Stakes and Ground Cloth: The tent should be chosen and tested well before the trek. Make sure the seams are sealed and do not leak, you have the required number of stakes, poles are in good condition, and the ground cloth fits the tent. The tent also needs to be thoroughly cleaned, inside and out, to remove food smells, prior to the trek or else you may have a night time visitor weighing in at over 300 pounds.
Water Filters: A minimum of three water filters. Additional filters, or replacement cartridges, may be required for larger groups during extended treks, and depending on expected water clarity.
Water Bags: One or two (depending on the size and type of trek) collapsible plastic bags that hold about 2 gallons each and can be filled directly from the water filter. Check for leaks prior to trek.
Stoves & Fuel Bottles: One stove for every four hikers, with a three stove minimum. Fuel is a function of the number of cooked meals, the food being cooked, the weather, and the elevation. In a large group cooking twice a day, a reasonable estimate for fuel consumption is about 1/8 of a canister of butane/propane mixture, or 1/8 of a pint of white gas per person per day. Therefore, for 12 people you would need about 1.5 canisters or 1.5 white gas fuel bottles (16 ounces each) per day. Carrying 1 to 2 spares, depending on the trek size and duration might be wise.
Stuff sacks for food: Large nylon stuff sacks with handle straps to be clipped to the bear rope. The quantity depends on the number of hikers and the number of days hiking.
Cooking Pots: At least two 8-quart pots with lids and (maybe) one 2-quart pot with lid.
Cook Kit: A Ziploc bag with a large plastic serving spoon, ladle, spatula (if required), measuring cup, can opener (if required), extra matches in a water proof container, lighter, bottle of hand sanitizer for hand cleaning, and a garbage bag or piece of plastic to be used as a ground table/drying tarp. A Ziploc bag with a bottle of camp suds, scrub pads (cut into about 1″ squares sufficient for each cooked meal), and fine mesh screen (about 5” square) inside another zip lock bag for straining waste water.
First Aid Kit: This red bag marked with the Red Cross symbol should be checked and restocked before each trek by the trek medic or Troop doctor. The adult medic (often the Trek Leader) carries the bag in an easily accessible pack pocket also market with the Red Cross symbol. All hikers should know where this kit is kept.
Bear Bagging Kit: A mesh bag with one 50′ polypropylene rope (3/8″ diameter), two 50′ cords, two 2′ long cords tied in separate loops, two large carabiners, and one small throw bag. For a crew of 12 staying a week or more this gear needs to be doubled. Some areas (like Yosemite) require bear canisters.
Maps, Permits and Medical Forms: Two Ziploc bags, carried by that day’s Navigator and the Adult Trek Adviser, each holding good quality map(s) for the trek along with the trail profile. The Senior Patrol Leader will provide all hikers with a copy of the map for their personal use. All maps will be pre-marked for magnetic declination. The Adult Trek Advisor will also carry the hiking permit and medical forms.
Repair Kit: The fully stocked repair kit could include a nylon patch, rubber cement, super glue, brass tube (for tent pole splice), wire, sewing kit (with thread, needles, and safety pins), small piece of cloth for patching clothes, clevis pins, plastic tie straps, dental floss, a stove and water filter repair kit (including silicone and O rings), duct tape, a Leatherman tool, and 50′ of lightweight cord.
The complete pack list is included in “Backpacking for Boys” which is free for Scout Leaders. Click on the “Backpacking for Boys” tab above for more information or request a Google Doc link below. Be sure to include your email address, unit, and location.
For reviews and recommendations on individual pieces of gear, check out Gear Lobo.