What to Wear Backpacking - Minimalist Packing list

The first time I went backpacking I had no clue what to bring for clothing. I just decided to wing it and to tell you the truth, it worked out but I freaking carried everything! When I got back from that trip I took out all my clothes that I had packed in and realized I didn’t wear like half of them. To be honest I was a little upset because my pack was super freaking heavy and the mountain kicked my ass. Now, I could have saved myself pounds just by not carrying all the clothes I didn’t wear. POUNDS PEOPLE! Every ounce counts, but when you are talking pounds! Ugh!

So from that moment forward I began really trying to whittle down the clothes I was going to bring.

Why pack light?

Like I was just talking about clothes are super heavy and can really add up in a hurry. You have to remember that you are carrying in everything on your back. Now, I would rather have one less tank top and be able to bring more jerky or more camera gear ;) Priorities am I right?

Ultimately, you want to pack as light as you can because #themountaindontcare . Yep, that is my motto. You see, the mountain doesn’t care if you are out of shape or if you packed too heavy. It doesn’t care about your excuses! It is still going to stand tall and proud. It will conquer you if you let it.

Now, packing light is essential because ultimately you want to have energy, you want to have fun, and you want to enjoy your trip. If you pack too heavy you are going to be whooped just from the hike in. It will leave you with no energy for your fun day hikes, for staying up late to watch the camp fire, or getting up early to capture that gorgeous sunrise. You need energy and the first way to ensure that you are going to have ample energy is by not bringing everything and the kitchen sink in your backpack.

You see, I learned the hard way. My first backpacking trip kicked my butt. It was rough. I was carrying about 50 pounds and climbing up the steepest mountain. I would walk about 100 feet and then stop cause I was so damn tired. I continued this 100 foot walk, 10 minute rest, 100 foot walk, 10 minute rest thing until I made it to the top. The entire time I felt like I was going to puke. I was almost certain of it. When I got to the top, I threw up my tent, and laid there for what seemed like hours. The entire rest of the trip I just felt drained. I didn’t want to move. When I got home, I was determined to get into better shape and to figure out how to get my pack down to 30lbs.

The very first thing to go was all the extra clothes :)

So, I am making this blog to help you not make the same mistake I did. I want you to freaking enjoy your backpacking trips and not feel like they are just this miserable thing.

Let’s get into it!

What To Wear Backpacking

Honestly, this really depends on when you are going, where you are going, and how long you are going for. I am going to assume that you are hiking in the summer time, no snow is on the ground, and the low temp of the night is going to be around the mid 40’s. This is pretty typical weather for the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the summertime. I am also going to assume that the backpacking trip is 3-4 nights meaning 4-5 days.

Essential accessories:

  1. Socks : Don’t go cheap on your socks. You really need to buy good ones! I love the Darn tough brand or the Farm to Feet. Also, just the REI brand is pretty awesome! I typically will carry 3 pairs of socks. 1 dirty sock, 1 camp sock, 1 extra just in case :) If I am going on a trip longer than 3 nights I will carry 4 socks. Now remember weight is important, so ankle socks or 3/4 socks are awesome!

  2. Beanie: You only need 1! Ladies I am talking to you. Only bring 1 beanie.

  3. Gloves: I honestly use my gloves about 30% of the time; however when I need them, I NEED THEM. So I always carry them cause I get pretty darn grouchy when I am cold lol.

  4. Sunglasses: Necessity! Let me just tell you, the sun is bright and can really damage your eyes. When you are in the back country the sun is reflecting off of all the granite and all the water. You need to get a good, sturdy pair of sun glasses. I love my Suncloud ones (linked below)

  5. Hat: Again, a necessity. Now, I love hats. I pretty much wear a hat 50% of the time. Not only is it awesome to protect your face from the sun, but it is also essential to not have to worry about how you look, or to do your hair. If you want some fun hairstyle ideas make sure to check out my post: Hiking hairstyles for long hair

Here are some of my recommendations. These are actual products that I use:


  1. Sports Bra: I will bring 2 sports bras. One is my dirty one, and one is my clean one. So I will hike in one and then take a swim. After swimming I will change into my clean one for the night. Come the next morning I will switch back into my dirty for hiking again :)

    I use my sports bra as my swim suit, so you want to make sure to use a sports bra that is going to dry quickly. I also prefer the ones that have a nice thick band on the bottom. It is just more comfy to hike in. You do not need a super uber supportive sports bra. You are not going to be jumping, so using a medium or light sports bra will be fine.

  2. Tank Top: I will bring 2. Again a dirty one and a clean one. One for hiking and one for chilling around camp. Make sure to bring tank tops that are light weight and dry quickly. You don’t want to bring an all spandex tank because it will never dry.

  3. Long Sleeve: This is for warmth during the evening. Once the sun starts to set, it gets a bit chilly. Only bring 1.

  4. Sun blocking long sleeve button up: This is for hiking, or really anytime you are going to be in the sun. These dry super quickly which is really nice. You only need 1.

Here are some of my recommendations. These are actual products that I use:


  1. Sport Shorts: These also double as my swim suit. So while swimming I wear my dirty sports bra and the sport shorts that I hiked in. Remember that you want these to dry quickly so keep that in mind when you are looking for shorts. It is really uncomfortable to hike in wet clothes and it totally sucks if you hike in clothes that do not dry fast. When you take a lunch break you will get super cold just cause your clothes are wet. NOT AWESOME! You only need to bring 1.

  2. Leggings: Once I go swimming, I will change out of my wet shorts and into my nice clean leggings. I use the leggings for around camp. You only need 1 pair.

    Now, the thing to remember is it is dirty out there and you don’t have anything to hold your snacks. So, you don’t want to bring light colored leggings or you will just look dirty the entire trip. You also want to get leggings that have pockets. I linked my favorite ones below. They are awesome!

  3. Hiking pants if desired: Now, I typically don’t bring hiking pants, but alot of girls don’t like leggings, so bring one or the other. You don’t need both. With that being said, if you get cold at night, you will want to sleep in leggins. So you have to decide if you want to bring hiking pants and leggings to sleep in. The weight will add up quickly so keep that in mind.

Here are some of my recommendations. These are actual products that I use:

Outer layers:

  1. Puffy aka a Down Jacket: Ladies, this is a necessity. Most guys actually don’t need it, but ladies seem to get cold easier. You need to be warm out there or else you are going to be miserable. So, spend the cash and get yourself a NICE down jacket. You want to make sure that the jacket is light weight and meant for warmth. Alot of puffy jackets are only for looks so just do your research on that. I love the Eddie Bauer ones and they typically have a 40% off sale every quarter or so. You can also find some of my faves linked below.

  2. Rain jacket: You will have to check the weather before you go to determine if you need a rain jacket. I have only ever needed to use mine on one trip. Just once, so don’t carry it if you don’t need it.

Here are some of my recommendations. These are actual products that I use:


  1. Camp shoes: This really depends on if you are hiking in stiff boots or if you are hiking in tennies. I love my zero drop barefoot tennies and that is what I always hike in. I created a full blog post about how I transitioned from boots to tennies, but I will never go back. So for me, I only bring 1 pair of shoes because they are so comfy. Now with that being said, bringing camp shoes is pretty awesome. It allows you to let your feet breath and stretch out. It goes without saying but you only need 1 pair.

  2. Boots or hiking shoes: This just depends on your style. Some people hike in boots, some in tennies, and some in sandals. I love hiking in tennies, but I use to hike in boots. It is really whatever works for you. I have linked some of my faves below. Again, you only need 1. Now, with all of that you also should bring 1 extra shoe lace just in case. If your shoe lace breaks you are kinda screwed, so bring one extra. You most likely will never ever use it, but if you need it you will really need it.

Here are some of my recommendations. These are actual products that I use:

Final thoughts:

We pack our fears. I have heard this saying more than once and I really believe it to be true. We pack what we are worried about, what we are afraid to not have, our insecurities, our fears. Alot of us pack way to many clothes. We get worried that people will judge us for wearing the same thing every day. We are worried that we will smell bad. We are concerned about social acceptance. blah blah blah. The thing is, back in the high county none of this exists. NO ONE CARES! Everyone else is doing the exact same thing so it is really just your own insecurities. Stop worrying so much.

With all that being said, my final tips are:

  • Really only bring what you are going to wear

  • Check the weather to make sure you are bringing warm enough clothes

  • Don’t worry about other peoples opinions

  • Bring clothes that will dry quickly

  • Make sure you are comfortable

I hope you all enjoyed this one and found it to be helpful. Do you have specific items that you bring and love? Make sure to comment below! This forum is meant to help each other and really be a community :) Lets help each other out by commenting below.

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