Superior Hiking Trail Packing List: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

The Superior Hiking Trail stretches over 300 miles, from Canada to Wisconsin, through Minnesota. It is marked by endless waterfalls, epic overlooks, expansive forest, hidden lakes, beautiful wildflowers and views of Lake Superior that will take your breath away.

This Superior Hiking Trail packing list is designed to balance feeling prepared with minimizing pack weight for a 5-day backpacking trip. It includes a complete breakdown of what I carried in my first 100+ miles, what I left behind and what I would do differently next time. This is a mega post – feel free to use the Table of Contents to skip to specific sections you’re most interested in.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more info, visit this page.

Where is the Superior Hiking Trail

The Superior Hiking Trail extends just over 300 miles from close to the border of Canada to Wisconsin along the ridgeline that overlooks Lake Superior in Minnesota. The trail takes you all along Minnesota’s north shore through Duluth and traverses through several Minnesota State Parks. 

The trail is designed to be easily hiked in sections, as day hikes, multi-day backpacking trips or a thru-hike. 

Map of Minnesota showing Minneapolis and St Paul in the south and the Superior Hiking Trail extending along Minnesota's north shore.
The Superior Hiking Trail extends 300+ miles from Canada to Wisconsin through Minnesota.

Common entry and exit points from the trail include Grand Marais, Lutsen, Tofte, Two Harbors, and Duluth. 

Superior Hiking Trail Conditions

Weather in Minnesota can be unpredictable, especially along Lake Superior. There are a few things to consider when deciding what time of year to backpack the Superior Hiking Trail.

  • Spring (March-May) will likely be snowy or very muddy.
  • The most popular months to hike the SHT are June through September.
  • Fall colors usually change in late September or October, but there is also sometimes snow in October.
  • Mosquitoes and ticks are generally the worst in June and early July.
  • The trail, especially sections in or near state parks, is busiest on weekends and holidays.
  • Some sections of the trail are fairly unsafe in the winter due to ice, wind and extremely low temperatures.

Considering all of these factors, I chose to backpack during the week in mid-August three years in a row. This worked well!

Pro Tip: Weather changes quickly on the north shore and can be drastically different year-to-year. Check the weather a week or two before you plan to backpack and adjust your gear accordingly. For instance, the first year I backpacked it was high 80’s in a drought with a fire ban. The second year I backpacked it was high 60’s with rainy and muddy conditions. Both of these were in mid-August.

5-Day Superior Hiking Trail Packing List

Wondering what to pack for 5 days backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail? Well, here’s a complete breakdown of what I took and what I’d leave behind.

Essential Equipment

There are several pieces of equipment and gear that are essential for any Superior Hiking Trail packing list. 

Lightweight Tent w/ Rain Cover

A yellow Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent has a gray rain fly over it at the North Little Brule River campsite on the Superior Hiking Trail.
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2-person backpacking tent with rain fly

The weight of your tent is important since you’ll be carrying it. So, if all you have is a heavier tent and you don’t mind carrying it, that’s just fine. Mine is the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL Solution Dyed 2 person tent, which weighs just 2 lbs 3 oz. 

Be sure to bring a rain cover and a footprint or tarp for underneath your tent in case it rains. 

Pro Tip: The SHT campsite guideline is to always make room for more at the campsite. This means that the tents can be very close together. Even if rain is not in the forecast, a rainfly will give you some privacy.

Sleeping Bag or Blanket

Personally, I hate sleeping bags so instead I use a Rumpl blanket. Read all about why in this blog post. Whatever you prefer, be sure to bring something to keep you warm at night. Because the temperature varies quite a bit throughout the year, check to make sure that your sleeping gear is suited for the temperatures expected during your hike. 

This year the nighttime temperature dropped into the mid 50’s in mid-August. At this temperature the Rumpl Nanoloft blanket worked fine for me with leggings, dry socks, a long sleeve layer and my raincoat on in my sleep. If it was much colder, I would’ve brought a sleeping bag rated for lower temps and/ or a wool hat to wear at night.

Sleeping Pad

Trust me, after a long day on the trail you will want the added comfort (and insulation) of a sleeping pad. There are so many options to choose from: foam, self-inflating, inflatable. 

I carried an inflatable sleeping pad that was lightweight and compact. It weighs about the same as my foam sleeping pad (~7 oz) but is much less bulky. One negative is that the inflatable sleeping pad makes noise when you move during the night. If you’re a light sleeper or move around a lot at night, you may prefer foam or self-inflating. Most self-inflating sleeping pads I have found weigh between 1-2 lbs, which is heavier than I wanted.

Straps to Secure Bulky Items

A woman walks away from the camera along Lake Superior on a foggy morning, carrying a backpack with a tent strapped securely at the bottom of it.
Two adjustable straps with clips are used to secure the tent to the outside of the backpack.

It’s common to secure bulky items like a tent or sleeping pad to the outside of your backpack. The last thing you want is for either of those items to flop around while you’re hiking. Not only is it annoying but it could also throw off your balance. 

My pack is a fairly old (15+ years) REI ultralight pack. I love it and will use it till it falls apart, but newer packs often have built-in clips and compartments to store bulky items. Be sure to look at your pack to figure out what, if any, straps you might need.

Bring a section of rope or straps to secure your items to your pack


It’s called backpacking, after all. Obviously, you need a backpack to carry your gear. For a 5-day backpacking trip in warmer weather I recommend a 45+10L pack at minimum. If you have ultralight gear, this will be plenty big. But, a safer bet so that you aren’t tight on space would be a 55+ or 60+L backpack.

Pro Tip: Before choosing a pack, visit a store like REI to get properly fitted. An ill-fitting pack can make backpacking excruciatingly painful due to poorly distributed weight, rubbing on either bones or skin/muscle, etc. Once you find packs that fit your body properly, then you can compare features like the layout of the compartments to see what suits your preference.

Trekking Poles

A woman is standing on a narrow wooden bridge over a stream holding a trekking pole in each hand, wearing  a backpack.
Trekking poles are helpful in navigating stream crossings and steep inclines/ declines on the Superior Hiking Trail.

There is a common misconception that Minnesota is flat. That is a lie! The Superior Hiking Trail has a total elevation gain of more than 37000 feet over it’s 309 miles – and almost the same elevation loss. That means that the trail is essentially a series of never-ending steep up and down sections.

Trekking poles, in my opinion, are essential for the Superior Hiking Trail. They help to distribute the weight away from your hips, legs and feet. Also, they help reduce impact on your knees and hips on downhill sections. Some sections of the SHT are technical, meaning you have to navigate up or down large boulders which are tricky (especially in the rain)!

Pro Tip: Look for poles that have cork handles. They absorb sweat without getting slippery. These are the ones I carry and love!

Rain Cover or Alternatives

A duck back cover is over my backpack while hiking the Superior Hiking Trail in the rain.
A duck back cover can be used over your backpack when hiking in the rain.

Aside from wanting to keep essentials like your clothes dry, the weight of your pack can increase exponentially if it gets wet. Plus, in humid conditions if your gear gets wet it can take days to properly dry out. 

There are several options for rain covers. 

  1. Many new packs come with rain covers embedded in the very bottom of the pack. Check to see if your pack has one!
  2. Buy a generic rain cover. The size is based on the liter capacity of your backpack.
  3. Carry a rain poncho that can fit over you and your bag
  4. Line your pack with a heavy duty garbage bag (though the exterior of your bag will still be exposed) 
  5. Rig an umbrella between your pack and body (this is a handy idea but one I haven’t personally tried)

Dry Bag for Electronics

An ultralight dry bag is a great option for protecting essential electronics, medicine and other gear. I carry a 3L dry bag for my power bank, phone cords, lighter, money, medicine and duct tape.

Emergency & Safety Gear

When backpacking, you should always carry the ten essentials, which I explain in this blog post. These items are all meant to keep you safe and sound on the trail!

Superior Hiking Trail Map

Superior Hiking Trail maps laying flat on a wooden table with a potted cactus along the top of the frame.
Bring a paper trail map for the sections of the Superior Hiking Trail you plan to hike.

Cell phone service is unreliable on the SHT. While the trail is well marked, it’s a good idea to bring a paper trail map. I find it most helpful for finding the next water source. To minimize weight, leave the SHT trail guide at home (or take photos of the relevant pages) and just bring the map for the sections you plan to be hiking.

For extra security, download the SHT trail maps in the Avenza app. Each section’s map is just a few dollars and you can view your location on the map offline (i.e. without cell service). Some sections of the SHT are on AllTrails. If you have a Pro subscription you can track your location and view the maps in AllTrails offline (without cell service).

Pro Tip: Bring your paper map in a ziploc bag to keep it dry!


Hopefully you won’t need it, but a compass is part of the ten essentials and weighs almost nothing.

Emergency Whistle

In the event that you get lost or injured, a whistle is a helpful way for others to find you. Before you go out and buy one, check to see if your backpack has one built in. Osprey and several other brands have one built into the chest strap buckle.

Headlamp with Extra Batteries

A headlamp is essential for getting around the campsite at night or early morning. Bring an extra set of batteries or put fresh batteries in your headlamp before you go! (I keep a spare set in my dry bag.)

First Aid Kit

A woman's foot is hanging off of a wooden bench next to a first aid kit and a package of moleskin which is used for blisters.
Supplement a prepackaged first aid kit with additional items, such as moleskin which is perfect for blisters and hot spots.

Getting hurt is never part of the plan, but anything can happen. There are pre-packaged first aid kits available or you can create your own. I purchased this first aid kit and supplemented it with additional items, including:

  • Neosporin spray – to prevent infection and clean wounds (and the safety pin)
  • Antihistamine – in case of an allergic reaction, also helps me sleep
  • Ibuprofen – for inflammation and pain relief
  • Anti-diarrhea pills – because no one wants to have diarrhea on a backpacking trip
  • Moleskin – either precut or with scissors so you can cut to size for blisters and hot spots
  • Blister pads – cushioned pads that help blisters heal faster. Note that I specifically recommend Compeed or BandAid brands as they have proven to be extremely durable and stay in place even on your feet.
  • KT tape – to keep bandages and moleskin in place (I prefer over moleskin)
  • Safety pin – to drain fluid from larger blisters, if needed
  • Scissors – a small pair is helpful for cutting moleskin and KT tape, some first aid kits come with a pair


A knife can be used for so many different things on the trail including food prep, first aid, and gear repair. Also, as a woman who often hikes alone, carrying a knife gives me some peace of mind in case I come across a dangerous situation (or person) on the trail. I often clip it to my waistband or keep it in my pocket so it’s easily accessible.

Duct Tape

I cannot tell you the number of times duct tape has saved me, both on the trail and when traveling. Buy a small roll of it at most outdoors stores or roll some duct tape around a pen that you plan to carry with you.

Mosquito, Tick and Deer Fly Repellant

There is an ongoing joke among Minnesotan hikers where everyone asks for a ‘bug report’ and it’s almost always ‘really bad’. There isn’t a warmer month that will be bug-free on the SHT, so it’s best to come prepared.

I don’t love using harsh chemicals on my body, but mosquitoes seem to love me so I make an exception. Permethrin spray can be used on hiking clothes and socks to keep mosquitoes and ticks away. It lasts multiple wash cycles so you only have to do it once or twice per year.

Click to read my complete breakdown of what bug repellants work (and which ones don’t).

Sun Protection

Much of the Superior Hiking Trail is shaded, but there are sections that are exposed. Be sure to bring whatever sun protection works best for you body. Some common methods of sun protection include sunscreen, SPF-rated lip balm, sunglasses, hat, and UPF-rated clothing.

Check out my specific recommendations on what to wear for hiking in summer, which covers sun protection gear in more detail. Also, read about my favorite brand of polarized sunglasses for hiking on my list of recommended outdoor travel gear!


Left: Woman hiking in purple tank top, black leggings and hiking boots with a hat on.  Right: Same woman hiking in a short sleeve breathable button down shirt, black shorts, and hiking boots with a hat. Two different outfits for backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail.
Examples of clothing worn while backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail in August.

To minimize my pack weight, I carried as little clothing as possible. So, if you are willing to carry more, add in additional items based on your preference. All clothing should be breathable and lightweight. Here are all of my tips on what to wear for hiking in the summer.

Before selecting your clothing, be sure to check the latest weather forecast. For instance, if it’s warmer (80F+), make sure you have at least one pair of shorts. If it’s higher humidity (60%+), your socks won’t dry overnight so consider bringing extra socks to keep your feet dry and blister free.

For a 5-day backpacking trip on the SHT, plan to pack:

  • Underwear x3-4 (See Pro Tip below)
  • Socks x3 (one dry pair to wear at night, rotate the other pairs, consider increasing if wet conditions expected)
  • Sports bras x2
  • Rain jacket x1
  • Lightweight long sleeve layer x1
  • Short sleeve layer x1-2
  • Tank top x2
  • Hiking pants/ leggings/ shorts x2 (add leggings to sleep in if expected to be cold)
  • Hiking boots/ shoes
  • Sandals or camp shoes
  • Hat 
  • Sunglasses
  • Compression bag for clothes – 12L was perfect for 5 days
  • OPTIONAL: Lightweight warmer layer and wool hat for nighttime if expected to be <55F

Pro Tip: If you bring running shorts with built-in underwear, you can wear those one day without underwear to make your clothing stretch.

Unless the temperatures are going to be really low (<55F), a lightweight long sleeve layer can be combined with your rain jacket to keep you warm. This means you can leave behind bulkier and heavier layers. I was glad I threw in my lightweight Eddie Bauer fleece sweatshirt at the last minute for the nights that dipped into the mid 50’s.

Rain pants are not required, but be sure to check the forecast before you leave. If it calls for rain, a pair of rain pants could be well worth carrying.

I did not bring sandals the first year because my Chaco’s weighed almost 2 lbs, but I wished I had some at camp to let my feet breathe and recover from the day. The second year I carried lightweight sandals like these and loved them!

Hygiene & Toiletries

For a 5-day backpacking trip, it’s likely you won’t have access to or plan to take a shower. So, I’ve left shampoo and body wash off of this list. Unless there is a drought, there will be several water sources to rinse off in but be sure to Leave No Trace by not using soap or other chemicals when doing so.

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste tabs
  • Unscented baby wipes 
  • Cathole trowel (for going to the bathroom when there isn’t a latrine nearby)
  • Small amount of toilet paper in resealable bag
  • Kula cloth
  • Face wipes (I only bring the quantity I need, not an entire pack)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Travel pack of Kleenex
  • Comb
  • Travel-size deodorant
  • Prescriptions (including eyeglasses, if needed)
  • Hair ties
  • Contact and contact solution (if needed)

Pro Tip: Since you’ll be hiking in bear country, wherever possible bring unscented toiletries and keep scented items in your bear bag or bin (not in your tent).

The Superior Hiking Trail extends into the forest. One tree on the right of the trail is marked with a small SHT trail marker.
The Superior Hiking Trail is well-marked with signage (shown here) and blue blazes or stripes.

Electronics & Other Essentials

Many people venture out onto the Superior Hiking Trail in order to disconnect. But, realistically most people still carry their cell phone and/ or wearables, such as Garmin or Apple Watch, to track their distance and elevation. 

Cell Phone with Charging Cable(s)

Whether you plan to use your phone as a camera, to stay connected or just in case you have an emergency, be sure to bring your charging cable!

Pro Tip: To make your cell phone battery last longer, put it into airplane mode OR go into your cellular settings and turn off cellular data for any apps you won’t need on the trail.

Power pack

For 5 days, I recommend a minimum of 20,000mAh power pack which equates to about 5 charges.

Pro Tip: Batteries drain more quickly in cold temperatures. If staying connected is important to you and the temperatures are cold, consider sleeping with your power pack/ cell phone inside your sleeping bag to keep it warm.

Other Essentials

Whether it’s for an emergency or just for getting to and from the trail, don’t forget to bring your photo ID, a debit or credit card, some cash and a health insurance card. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to download books, podcasts, shows or movies you may want to access before you head out on the trail. Perfect for a rainy day or to relax around the campsite!

Food Prep & Water

On a normal year, there are plenty of water sources along the Superior Hiking Trail. However, there are years (like 2021) with extreme drought conditions where many of the water sources are dry. Do some research before you go to find out what the current conditions are before you hit the trail. My go-to sources are the Superior Hiking Trail Association website and Facebook group.

Bear Bag or Bin

The Superior Hiking Trail is in bear country. Black bears are very common along the trail, even though they generally aren’t interested in humans it is necessary to take the appropriate precautions. 

Currently, a bear bin or bear bag are acceptable. To minimize weight, I recommend going with a Ursack bear and critter proof bag. A 10L Ursack All Mitey was just the right size for 5 days backpacking on the SHT. 

Pro Tip: When packing your bear bag, leave room for your scented toiletries, cookware, and trash each night. Bears cannot distinguish between food and toiletries, so all items you carry that have a scent should be stored in your bear proof container away from camp.

Scent-Proof Bags

To further minimize scent inside of your bear bag, the use of scent-proof bags is recommended. Opsak is the brand I used, but there are several options if you search Amazon or other online stores. For 5 days, I brought (2) 7″x7″ and (4) 9″x10″. There are also large ~10L size versions that essentially fit inside of the Ursack and all of your scented items could go into that one bag.

Freezer Bags

Did you know that you can pour boiling water into freezer bags? I try to avoid single use plastic, but carrying a few freezer bags of different sizes is super helpful on the trail. Use them to store trash, dirty clothes or even to cook in!

Water Bottle(s)

Staying hydrated is so important when backpacking! At a minimum, be sure to have 2 liters with you most of the time. If you plan to make meals that require water or coffee, be sure to carry enough to drink plus prepare those items. Not all Superior Hiking Trail campsites have access to water. Check the guidebook in advance in case you need to filter water before you reach camp.

Unfortunately, most reusable water bottles are heavy. If you are looking for a lightweight alternative, Smartwater 1L water bottles are very lightweight and fit the Sawyer Squeeze water filter attachments. I reuse mine to minimize waste. 

Collapsible water containers are a great lightweight option to carry with you for sections where you need to carry more water. I carried 2 of these (that came with my Sawyer water filter) as ‘overflow’ on dry sections of the trail.

Pro Tip: The Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail is a helpful resource published by the Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA). For each section and campsite, it breaks down where you can expect to find water! Find an electronic version on Amazon or paperback through the SHTA website.

Water Filtration

A woman is filtering water with a Sawyer Squeeze filter into a water bottle along the shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota.
Filtering cold water from Lake Superior on the Lake Walk section of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Have you ever drank water from a mucky beaver pond during a drought? The water looked disgusting, but it was all that was available. There were minnows, algae and even leeches right near the surface. But, my Sawyer Squeeze filtered it all out. 

The Sawyer Squeeze comes with 2 collapsible containers. Most of the time the 2x 1L Smart Water bottles were plenty, but in situations where my campsite didn’t have access to water, I use the collapsible containers to carry extra for rehydrating my dinner, making coffee, and drinking.

Another popular water filter is the Katadyn BeFree. It’s comparable in size and weight, but reviews share that the life of the filter is relatively short compared to Sawyer.

Pro Tip: Always backflush your Sawyer Squeeze when you return from your trip. This removes buildup and extends the life of the filter. If you will be on the trail for longer than 5 days, consider bringing the backflush syringe with you.

Water Purification

Some might say this is optional, but I recommend carrying a form of water purification. That mucky leech-filled beaver pond water was slightly brown, even after filtering. Water purification is an added layer of protection if you are unsure whether the water might be contaminated. 

Aquamira is a two part chemical treatment that takes under 30 minutes to treat a liter of water. After filtering the water, add the treatment and hit the trail. In 30 minutes your water is ready to drink!

Stove with Fuel

The MSR Windburner backpacking stove sits on a wooden table fully assembled with a red insulated container and wind shield.
The MSR Windburner backpacking stove includes an insulated container to boil water in and has a shield to protect the flame in windy conditions.

A lightweight backpacking stove is essential for the Superior Hiking Trail. The most popular backpacking stoves are the MSR PocketRocket (REI or Amazon) and Jetboil MightyMo (REI or Amazon). Both are super lightweight and compact. However, they do not come with a container to boil or cook in. I carry the MSR WindBurner (REI or Amazon). It’s got a built in insulated container, adjustable flame and wind protection plus the fuel canister fits right inside of it. 

Be sure to bring enough fuel for the length of your backpacking trip. For 5 days, I brought (2) 4-ounce canisters which I partially shared with three other people. I used just over one full canister.


Don’t forget to bring something to light your stove with! Some stoves come with a built-in lighter, but many do not. Be sure to check and test your stove lighter before you go!

Mug or Bowl

Depending on your food plan, you may need some sort of lightweight mug or bowl. All of my ‘big’ meals were the kind you cook inside a bag, so no bowl needed. But I do like to drink coffee and sip tequila (not at the same time, that would be weird). So, I carried a mug with me.

If you plan to carry a bowl, look for a collapsible bowl to minimize space and weight!


Pretty much anything you eat on the trail can be consumed with a spoon or a fork. Lighten your load by carrying a spork for a utensil! A long handle is helpful for eating dehydrated meals out of the package.


Most people would call this optional but I’m a big fan of treating yo’ self after a long day on the trail. I carry a lightweight flask with tequila, which I sip with water and True Lime (dehydrated lime juice) around the campsite. 

Trash Container

Aside from when you pass through a state park, there are no trash containers along the Superior Hiking Trail. So, it’s important that you plan to pack out what you carry in. Bring a bag or container to use for your trash, remembering to keep your trash scent-proof just like you do your food. 

Pro Tip: I organize my food into a ziploc bag for each day’s snacks and lunch. This allows me to easily know how many calories I need to eat day and then each day I put the day’s trash into one of the ziplocs.

Meal Plan

A large portion of your pack weight will be dedicated to food. Planning meals that are nutrient and calorie dense is important for maintaining your energy on the trail. Before you even start planning your meals, do some research to figure out how many calories per day you need. For my body weight, size and fitness I planned to carry 2200-2500 calories per day with some extra calories just in case. This was perfect for me, but may not work for your body.

Four medium scent proof bags contain food for each day, one small scent proof bag contains toiletries, and there are three dehydrated meals.
Each day’s breakfast, lunch and snacks preportioned into a separate scent-proof bag. A separate scent-proof bag holds toiletries.


My target was around 400 calories per day for breakfast. This included a GoMacro bar, instant coffee and some collagen protein powder. Other common breakfast items are protein bars or instant oatmeal.


For lunch, I planned an on-the-go ~600 calorie meal. My go-to is a pouch of tuna/chicken, a mayo packet, and string cheese on a tortilla. This year, I added fresh carrots and snap peas into the tortilla for some crunch. I would usually supplement this with a meat stick, dried fruit and/ or nuts. On some days I replaced the tortilla with gluten-free wasa crackers – the gluten free versions are more sturdy for backpacking, in my opinion. 

For my second year, I made dehydrated pasta and vegetables that I cold soaked on the trail and added a tuna pouch or dehydrated chicken and mayo to for lunch.

I really enjoyed all of these meals and found them to be satisfying.

Pro Tip: As someone who worked in food manufacturing for over a decade, I take food safety seriously. After much research I learned that low moisture cheeses such as string cheese are (relatively) safe to eat unrefrigerated for up to a week. 


For dinner, I planned about 700 calories per day. All of my dinners were dehydrated meals that just required boiling water. My favorite store-bought brand was Camp Chow, which is based in Minnesota. Look for dehydrated meals that sound comforting to you. After a long day of hiking you will be craving a comforting meal.

For my second year, I dehydrated all of my own meals. Find my beginners dehydration tips and recipes here.

Pro Tip: Plan to carry at least one extra dehydrated meal just in case your body needs more calories on one day or just in case (like a critter gets into your food). I ended up eating mine on my longest mileage day.


Every day I planned for about 600 calories of snacks. I prepackaged a ziploc bag for each day with a mix of snacks and electrolyte powder that met my calorie goal so I knew I needed to eat what was in the bag.

My snack bags included a mix of dried mango, dried apricots, nuts, meat sticks, candy (Mike-N-Ikes or Sour Patch Kids are my favorite), and protein/ granola bars.


Whatever your daily meal plan, I strongly recommend carrying some overflow calories. My overflow consisted of one dehydrated meal and a combination of snacks. I also brought some chocolate-based granola bars to have as dessert some nights. 

Not-So-Essential Superior Hiking Trail Packing List Items

This Superior Hiking Trail backpacking packing list is pretty bare bones so far. If you’re wondering what other options you might want to consider carrying with you, here you go! These are all items I originally planned to carry and either brought with me or left behind. 

A woman is wearing a backpack while looking over a wooden railing towards a double waterfall along the Superior Hiking Trail.
Enjoying the view of Devil’s Kettle Falls at Judge C.R. Magney State Park along the Superior Hiking Trail.

Portable GPS with Emergency Locator – Brought

Portable GPS can give you extra peace of mind while backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail. Some, like the Garmin InReach, allow you to setup a few prewritten messages that go by text along with your GPS coordinates to a phone number you choose.

Buff or Handkerchief – Brought

I tie a handkerchief around the pressure point on my wrist. In hot weather, I wet the handkerchief, which helps cool my body. It’s also helpful for wiping sweat off of my forehead (girls with bangs will understand) and can be used as a washcloth.

Lightweight Chair or Stool – Left Behind

All of the SHT campsites have benches to sit on around a campfire. These were more than suitable for what I needed to be comfortable after a long day on the trail. However, if you are hiking shorter days and plan to be at camp for longer periods of time, you may want to bring a lightweight chair, stool or hammock. Here’s a chair that weighs just 1 lb!

Bear Spray – Left Behind

Yes, the Superior Hiking Trail takes you through bear country. But, also, black bears generally  will leave you alone. So, if you take the appropriate precautions by using a bear bag/ bin and scent proof bags for scented items, you really don’t need bear spray

I tend to err on the side of extreme caution when it comes to bear safety, so it was difficult for me to leave my bear spray behind. But, realistically, I feel very safe without it.

Lantern – Left Behind

A headlamp is all you need. I would bring spare batteries for your head lamp over packing a lantern.

Towel – Left Behind, Brought 2nd year

A sustainably made towel, like Lava Linens, used to wipe the mud off of my legs in a stream after a day on the Superior Hiking Trail.
Laval Linens towels are lightweight and sustainably made, perfect for wiping off mud after a day on the Superior Hiking Trail.

For a 5-day backpacking trip, a towel is optional. I did not have an actual shower over the 5 days but did use unscented baby wipes to freshen up. For a trip longer than 5 days or if you plan to shower or swim, you may want to bring a lightweight sustainably made towel (use code THISBIGWILDWORLD for 15% off your purchase).

Bathing Suit – Left Behind

Since I was hiking during a drought, it didn’t make sense to bring a bathing suit. Even in normal conditions I would tend to bring a sports bra and underwear or shorts I was comfortable wearing in the water over carrying a bathing suit.

Clothes to Sleep In – Left Behind

For my first year on the trail, I had planned on having a clean pair of clothes to wear to bed each night. But as I weighed my pack, I realized that I didn’t want the extra weight. Would it have been nice? Yes. Was it worth it to me? No. 

Instead, I have a baby wipe shower in my tent before bed and, if I plan to wear clean clothes the next day, to change into them before bed. This worked ok the first year because the temperatures were high. On several nights I opted to sleep in my sports bra and underwear so that I wouldn’t have to wear dirty clothes to bed. 

However, this doesn’t work well if it is expected to get cold at night. In this case, I bring one pair of leggings/ pants to sleep in, a warmer layer and a pair of clean, dry socks for sleeping.

Mosquito Net – Left Behind, Brought 2nd year

Because I backpacked during a drought the first year, there were practically zero bugs. During a normal year, mosquitoes and flies can be really bad. The second year was more “normal” as far as bugs so I did carry a mosquito net for my head.

Pro Tip: Not all mosquito head nets are created equal. Pay particular attention to the mesh size. Make sure the mesh size is rated for the actual types of bugs expected on the trail. I don’t recommend overdoing it here as smaller mesh is harder to see and breathe through.

Basic Makeup – Brought

Even on a backpacking trip, I bring a basic set of makeup. I know a lot of people would say this isn’t essential but it makes me feel better, especially when I plan to take photos of myself. My basic makeup includes concealer, blush cream and eyeliner.

Dry Shampoo – Brought

Five days is a long stretch without a shower, so I brought dry shampoo to to keep my hair from becoming a greasy mess. My favorite brand of dry shampoo is by Lush. It’s powder (not a spray), so it’s easy to just bring a small amount with me.

Headphones – Left Behind

When I’m backpacking I like to be alert and aware of my surroundings. However, some people enjoy listening to a podcast, audiobook or music in their tent before bed. I left my headphones behind and didn’t miss them.

Cards & Games – Left Behind

A fellow hiker brought a game called Farkle. It was really fun to play it at the campsite at night and super lightweight. I wouldn’t have carried it but I did appreciate that she brought it!

Rope – Left Behind

Rope can come in handy for so many things when backpacking, but the most common use on the SHT is for hanging your bear bag. After much research, I learned that doing a proper bear bag hang is really difficult and many campsites along the SHT don’t have great trees to hang from. So, knowing my own limits, I chose to not hang mine. Instead, I tied mine to a tree trunk well away from camp every night. Both of these are acceptable options according the US Forest Service.

Superior Hiking Trail Backpacking Essentials

There are a lot of things to consider when packing for a Superior Hiking Trail backpacking trip. This Prepared Girl’s Guide is meant to help you balance feeling prepared and confident with minimizing how much weight you are carrying. Hope you have an amazing time exploring some of the most beautiful parts of Minnesota along the Superior Hiking Trail!

Related content to read next:

10 Outdoor Adventures for Your Minnesota Bucket List

Day Hike Packing List: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

20 Essential Outdoor Adventure Safety Tips

Check out my Minnesota travel page for even more inspiration and tips!

Did you find this article helpful? Save it for later or share it on social media!

5 thoughts on “Superior Hiking Trail Packing List: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

  1. This Big Wild World says:

    Great idea to use the Ziploc bag for your phone while it’s raining! Thanks for sharing that, Kez!

  2. This Big Wild World says:

    Yep, Minnesota is black bear country (especially up north near the border of Canada). Compared to grizzlies, they aren’t a huge risk but it is important to still take precautions.

    Completely agree that tent time is private time! As much as I love looking up at the stars at night, that thin layer of fabric is a welcome piece of privacy.

    Hope you make it over this way sometime and get to explore this trail!

  3. Kez says:

    What a comprehensive guide and useful list. Ziploc bags always come in handy. I find them good for you phone when it’s raining but you still want to be able use the phone.

    I probably would’ve taken the earphones and barely ended up using them, haha.

  4. Claire says:

    I actually had no idea this was bear country! I know what you mean about leaving bear spray behind. There’s that part of your brain that asks “is this a mistake?”, but if there’s not been reports of negative bear encounters, the other side of my brain asks “would bringing this be overkill?”

    I love your style with the flask, haha. I’ve never used a compression bag for my clothes before, that’s an awesome idea. I do always put my rain fly up no matter what. When someone else in the campsite is just baring all, I’m like….why do you want us to see you? Lol. Tent time is private time.

    This trail sounds awesome! Very unique route; I love how it follows along the water. I’d love to make it up that way sometime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.