Two years ago I started backpacking again, on the Superior Hiking Trail along Minnesota’s North Shore. I have hiked half the SHT (about 150 miles) so far, 4–6 days at a time. There are many more experienced backpackers than me, so I make no claim to be an expert. But I will still share my checklist in case it helps someone getting started, and since I use it myself. I will continue to update and annotate it as I have done my winter camping checklist for the BWCAW.

A few notes, first.

  • I am not trying to go ultralight. Just light-ish.
  • I like gear but I’m not obsessed with it and I don’t think you should be, either. Find something that meets your needs and budget and fits in your backpack and go hiking!
  • The Superior Hiking Trail is well marked and well traveled, so I am unlikely to get badly lost or find myself in a desperate survival situation. This is reflected in the gear I choose to bring.

And a general tip. On each trip I make two lists:

  1. Things I didn’t bring that I wish I had.
  2. Things I brought that I didn’t use.

This has been extremely helpful for refining my packing list.


  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Pillow


  • Stove and fuel
  • Metal cup with lid (since I pack dehydrated meals for dinner this is all I need for cooking)
  • Spoon
  • Water bottle or bladder (if bringing a water bladder it’s nice to have a small water bottle for the tent)
  • Water filter
  • Trash bag


  • Instant coffee packets or tea bags
  • Breakfasts
  • Lunches
  • Dinners
  • 1 extra meal


  • 1 long-sleeved hiking shirt
  • 1 short-sleeved hiking shirt
  • 1 short-sleeved cotton blend T-shirt for sleeping (optional but recommended)
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 2 pair of underwear
  • 2 pair of socks
  • Shell
  • Rain pants
  • Fleece top
  • Base layer/long underwear bottoms (optional in summer)
  • Hiking hat
  • Bandana
  • Hiking boots/shoes
  • Flip-flops


  • Backpack
  • Power bank and cords
  • Ditty bag
    • Headlamp
    • Spare batteries
    • Paracord and carabiner for hanging food bag
    • Spare cord for clotheslines, etc.
    • Swiss army knife
    • Potable water tablets
    • Mini lighter
    • Matches in a waterproof case
    • Bug spray or lotion
    • Sunscreen
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste tablets
  • First aid kit
    • Band-aids
    • Gauze and tape
    • Moleskin/blister care
    • Bug bite cream (After Bite or Benadryl)
    • Antibiotic ointment
    • Athletic tape
  • Toilet paper
  • Trowel
  • Kindle
  • Cash
  • Clean clothes for the drive home

If You Bring a Dog

  • Dog pack
  • Collapsible dog bowl
  • Dog food in an even number of sturdy plastic/silicone bags
  • 2 water bags

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