Packing Guide

graphic showing how to load a pack with gear.
How to pack your backpack in regards to frame type.

A backpacking trip to Isle Royale can be the experience of a lifetime or an experience that takes a lifetime to forget. The deciding factor, which can greatly enhance the quality of any trip, is advance planning.

The following is a suggested list of gear to bring to Isle Royale and how to pack it, to be used when planning your trip.

Return to the Backpacking and Camping Overview.

Essential Equipment

  • Well broken-in boots
  • Good quality backpack that fits
  • Waterproof backpacking tent
  • Sleeping bag (rated to 20 degrees F) in a compression stuff sack
  • Raingear (breatheable)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter (0.4 microns or smaller)
  • 2 quart water botltes, minimum
  • Backpacking stove
  • Stove fuel in approved containers
  • Cooking gear
  • Food
  • Flashlights/headlamp (plus extra batteries)
  • Topographic map
  • First aid kit
  • Moleskin and foot powder
  • Repair kit (pack, stove, filter, etc.)
  • Plastic spade/toilet paper
  • Pocket knife
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Headnet
  • Empty Zip-Loc bags for trash
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Matches/lighter


*Cotton, poplar, and synthetic fibers such as fleece are quick-drying. Wool retains insulating properties even when wet, and polypropylene is easily dried and lightweight. These fabrics are ideal for Isle Royale's changeable climate.

  • Lightweight pants
  • Longsleeved shirt
  • T-shirt
  • Shorts
  • Hat
  • Bandana
  • Lightweight jacket
  • Sweater/fleece
  • Underwear
  • Wool and thin synthetic socks
  • Thermal underwear
  • Knit hat
  • Light gloves

Other Gear

  • Camp shoes/sandals
  • Plastic groundsheet for tent
  • Pack rain cover
  • Sunglasses/spare prescription glasses - with safety strap
  • 1 extra day of food
  • Eating utensils
  • Trail snacks (trail mix, bars)
  • Cup
  • Any current medications

Optional Items

  • 20 feet of nylon cord
  • Lightweight binoculars
  • Camera
  • Notebook and pencil/pen
  • Field guides
  • Fishing gear
  • Hiking staff/trekking poles
  • Small stuff sacks
  • Pack towel
  • Dramamine or other motion-sickenss treatment
  • Small folding camp chair
  • Swimsuit

Things Not to Bring

  • Radio/CD/MP3 player
  • Perfume/cologne/deoderant/cosmetics (attract bugs)
  • Firecrackers
  • Sporting equipment/frisbee/kite
  • Drone
Rear view of visitor with backpack on and hiking through grassy area.
Backpacker on Isle Royale.


How Much Should My Pack Weigh?

The general rule of thumb is that your pack should weigh no more than 30% of your body weight. This can vary by fitness level, as fitter backpackers can generally tolerate more weight. No matter how much you weigh, it is good to aim for a pack weighin less than fifty pounds.

If you weigh...

Your pack should weigh...

Under 50 pounds

Less than 15 pounds

50-75 pounds

No more than 15-22 pounds

75-100 pounds

No more than 22-30 pounds

100-125 pounds

No more than 30-37 pounds

125-150 pounds

No more than 37-45 pounds

150 pounds or more

No more than 45-50 pounds

Last updated: April 26, 2022

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