What to bring on an overnight backpacking trip with a group

An overnight backpacking trip doesn’t need to be complex, and you don’t need to weigh yourself down with a ton of gear. Things get simpler when you are with a group as well, as some gear can be shared. But unless you already know the group, certain things might not be shareable.

Let’s consider the case for a simple overnight trip, with a group. For food, let’s assume you are eating everything cold. A compass could be considered optional, especially in a group, but if it were me, I’d feel safer with one.

This list really boils down to tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, food, water, extra cloths, and something to carry it all in. Below expands on these basics.


  • If you are creative, you don’t need a big bag. Something like a 35L will probably work, but you will likely find yourself tying things to the outside of the bag when you run out of room in the bag. Aspire to get your tent and sleeping bag in the bag.
  • 50L is the usual size for an overnight. 60L+ is typical for more then one night.
  • What does the extra space get you? Room for more clothing and food.


Shelter & Sleeping

  • Sleeping bag. Last year the low was about 50ºF, and the average was 40ºF.
  • Sleeping pad, The ground can get cold if you don’t have a pad. You can get a cheap one for $15 at EMS, or get something that would be a little warmer for about $35. EMS has nice air filled sleeping pads from 50 and up. Long term, you want to get an insulated one.
  • Tent. Doesn’t have to be super light if it’s just an overnighter. So if your tent fits in or on your bag,  might not need to worry. Unless it’s a 50lbs behemoth! You can save weight on other things. Like not bringing a stove. Carrying 2L of water instead of 3L.


Food & Water

  • Food, unless you have a stove, plan for cold meals. It’s not such a hardship for an overnight. Trail mix, tuna packets, power bars, fruit snacks, baby food in squeezable containers are all great.
  • Dishes, like a bowl,  spork. Whatever you need to gobble your goodies.
  • 2L water. Water bladder like a Platypus or Camelback, Nalgene, or even clean gateraid bottles. Never drink water without filtering or treating it. Either bring or use a water filter, or use water treatment solution like Aquamira


  • Non cotton clothing, very important, but not vital for a short trip in the summer. That advice changes when the temp starts to dip. Make sure you have a change of clothing for sleeping in if you end up with cotton.
  • Socks, spare pair. You are going to be stepping through streams.
  • Wind breaker.
  • Something warm to put on if the temp drops.
  • Think layers.



  • Toilet paper
  • Potty Trowel (there is an outhouse both at the trail head and at the camp site. Good to be prepared though.)
  • A couple large garbage bags. Makes a neat water proof poncho, great for keeping your gear dry at night.
  • Extra zip lock bags.
  • Bug spray.
  • Sun screen.
  • Tampons (also great for fire kindle ;)
  • Moleskin for blister prevention, bandaids, pain killers.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Headlamp, or flashlight. Headlamps rock. They strap to your head. You get to see, and you have your hands free.
  • Spare batteries.
  • Compass. Not the $2 keychain versions either. Spend at least $10-20 for a good one. Look the other way if it’s an electronic one.
  • Map of where you are going, and the route. If you ever get separated from the group, your gonna thank yourself.

Disclaimer: This is what I have found during my own experiences. This isn’t to be considered expert survival advice by any stretch of the imagination.