A Beginner’s Guide To Backpacking
Have you been itching to slip on your hiking boots and venture out into the woods for a little backpacking trip, but you’re not sure exactly where to start? That’s okay! Because we’ve got you covered on all the backpacking basics. These are all of the things you need to know as a backpacking beginner!
Stay Close To Home
This is only for your very first time but try to stick close-ish to where you live. Find an overnight trail that’s not too far away and try for just a night. This will make you feel more safe and secure, and you won’t have to take along quite as much gear during your first attempt. You load will be lighter and you can work up to a more strenuous trip over time. As you get more comfortable backpacking, then you can start to travel a bit further!
Backpacking isn’t an activity for the faint of heart; you need to make sure you know where you’re going, where you’re camping out, where to find water, etc. Make sure to read up on the trail you’re hiking on so that you can prep for your journey in advance!
Planning also involves plotting a route, figuring out when you’re going to go, who you’re going with, and what you’re going to bring along. Try making a checklist before you head out so that you can feel totally prepared!
Get Physically Prepared
If you’re not used to any sort of strenuous physical activity, start working out a bit to build up your endurance. Walking on the treadmill at an incline is a great way to prepare for a backpacking trip or a longer hike; you’ll feel like you’re in better shape and the trail won’t seem as difficult when you actually begin your trip.
If you’re worried about the extra weight you’ll be carrying around in your pack, strap in on for your next workout! Walk on that treadmill as though you’re on the actual trail and your trip will be a piece of cake when it’s time to go.
The wilderness, while beautiful, can sometimes also be dangerous. It’s very important to bring along a first aid kit with all the basics. You never know what could happen in the woods, and there are no hospitals close by. Make sure you know some basic first aid and stay safe and careful when you’re on the trails.
It’s also important to note that if you’re by yourself on this trip, you likely will run into other backpackers. Be on the lookout for strange behaviors, and probably bring someone along if it is your very first time backpacking.
Know Your Food!
When you’re backpacking, you really can’t bring along lots of cooking supplies, or even much food in general. You need to make sure to bring foods that will nourish you properly and give you energy, while also not taking up too much space. Here are some great snacks and meals to bring:
- Beef jerky and other dried meats
- Trail mix (nuts and dried fruit)
- Granola/protein bars
- Peanut butter
- Oatmeal packets
- Ramen noodles
With a small stove and some packaged food, you can have a pretty nice meal! Also, when it comes to beverages, bring as much water as you can and make sure to either figure out where you can get clean water along the trail or bring a filtration system along. Hydration is super important when you’re hiking! Also, as a pro tip, bring along instant coffee packets so you can still have your morning cup of joe.
Bring The Essential Gear
If this is your very first time backpacking and you don’t have any gear, fear not! There are plenty of low-cost essentials out there, and some stores (such as REI) even let you rent gear! When you’re thinking about the things you need to bring along on your trip, you need to make sure to pack the following:
- Water (or water filtration system)
- Sleeping bag (or other)
- Shelter (e.g., a tent)
- Toiletries (if needed)
- Some way to start a fire
- Flashlight or headlamp
- First aid kit
- Comfortable clothes and shoes
These are the basic essentials you’ll need on any backpacking trip, and when you’re first starting out, it’s okay to only go for a night or two and pack really light just to test the waters!
Create Your Perfect Campsite
Backpacking is supposed to fun, chill, and enjoyable! Yes, it’s a great form of exercise and an interesting activity, but you should also take time to kick back and relax. Part of this is setting up your ideal campsite. Try to find a location not too close to the trail to set up your tent at; privacy can be really nice out in the woods!
Once you’ve set up your shelter, get cozy and make some food. Enjoy this because you have absolutely earned it! Sitting by the fire at night with the beauty of nature all around you truly is a sight to behold.
Take Care Of Nature
When you’re backpacking and camping out, it’s important to try to leave the space as it was when you found it. If you’ve made a fire, be sure to put it out and bury it before you head back onto the trail. Also, don’t leave any waste or litter behind. Pick up after yourself and take care of the beautiful earth!
This is also includes being respectful of plants and wildlife. Observe animals from a distance and leave plants where you found them in order to preserve them for future backpackers!
Take Advantage Of The Peace
Use this as an opportunity get more in touch with yourself and your thoughts; being out in the woods can provide a lot of peace and enlightenment, so take along a book or a journal and use your downtime as a way to clear your head and really listen to what’s going on both inside of you and in the world around you.