Backpacking can look really thrilling. Somehow it can also seem threatening – especially for a beginner. It’s easy to get lost in the details – there are things to pack, gears to buy and more importantly, a body to train, and a literal mountain to climb.
Fortunately, this sort of fear doesn’t last long past the planning. Once you get started, you’ll find certainly your way. Maybe not literally though – depends, what are your map skills like?
Embarking on an adventure in the great outdoors is a rewarding experience that might well change your life. To make this journey a bit less intimidating, we’ve collected expert backpacking tips for beginners; make sure to take note of these reminders before you hit the road – or rather, the trail!
#1 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
Make sure you go with a buddy
Backpacking is the kind of risk some outdoor enthusiasts are willing to sink their teeth into alone, but perhaps not on their very first journey.
You can guess the reasons behind this; bringing a friend with you not only ensures that the hike remains fun and social, but it also acts as a crucial backup plan just in case things go south. It’ll also go some way to calming down the parents.
Ideally, you’ll pick out someone who is a little more experienced than you – someone who can teach you what to pack and what to do along the way. Or at least someone with more than a teaspoon of common sense – after all, you can’t have everything. If both of you are still starting out, it may help your confidence and resolve to stick to shorter trips and defined itineraries until you are comfortable taking on bigger journeys.
#2 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
An initial weekend trip is a great way to build expertise and endurance, especially for beginning backpackers. This is one way of testing the grounds; you don’t have to force yourself into tackling terrains you aren’t physically ready for yet, and you can discover whether backpacking is definitely the travel type for you. At best, you’ll be walking in trails instead of meandering in the great wild. This helps you gain intuition and expertise as you take on more trips.
Plus, shorter routes are also a good break-in for your gear. You want to feel at ease with your hiking boots, your tent, and the idea of living outdoors minus the comforts of your home.
#3 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
Create a Backpacking Checklist
The success of your backpacking experience partly depends on the things you choose to bring on your journey. Decide on your items wisely you’d be lugging around with a heavy gear for hours in different trail conditions, and you want to be equipped with the right gear. Generally, the things you’ll need are:
- Flashlight and spare batteries
- Sleeping essentials (sleeping bag/sleeping pad)
- Navigation equipment (map, compass or a GPS)
- Sun protection
- First Aid kit
- Food and cooking/eating utensils
- Hiking boots
- Hygiene products
- Emergency snack (sounds like a joke, but bring rations with a high sugar content in case of emergency)
When choosing clothes, pick the ones with wicking qualities to keep your body cool no matter what the weather. Make sure you pack waterproof rainwear especially in humid, tropical places. Remember, rather like camping, backpacking requires smaller, durable pieces. Slimming down your essentials can help you tread on the route lighter, but you want to cover up all your bases within your days of living outdoors.
#4 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
Understand your Limits
Important backpacking tip for beginners: do not dive into a route you can’t handle. Hiking with a heavy backpack is much more difficult than long walks carrying a water bottle. What you can do is to test your strength on daily walks with a backpack complete with gear. Plus, other people may well enjoy the sight of you walking through the town center with your mountain gear on – time to become a legend.
Before planning your trip, test out how many miles you can cross at how many hours; generally, it takes one 20 minutes to go through a mileage of a flat terrain. When you add different topographical elements and weather changes, that time stretches further. You should have a rough schedule so that family or friends know when they should expect you or expect to hear from you.
#5 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
Pick energy-rich Foods during your Trip
You will need high-protein, high-energy rich foods as you trek different terrains, and your favorite PB&J might not make the cut. What you need are lightweight, nutritious varieties that will help your body keep up with the needs of hiking. Some things you can pack: energy bars, instant coffee, trail mix, oatmeal and dehydrated meals.
If you think it’ll help you, tuck a few treats to nibble on as your reward after the long walk. Note that it’s a good idea to pack an additional day’s food (and underwear actually).
#6 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
Do not forget to pack water
Backpacking demands your body to be completely hydrated for the task. Plan to bring some water, at least in a handy thermos. If you carry a stove, you can gather and treat water from sources along the way. Make sure you carry extra fuel for boiling your drinking water at least for a minute.
Before you start strapping a stove on your back though, remember that you can buy water purifying tablets from a good gear shop.
#7 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
Know the way
Even if you have no plans of wandering away from the trail, it is best to always carry a map, and no, Google Maps doesn’t cut it. You want to learn how to read the topography as this is a skill you will use in your consequent backpacking trips.
Topographic maps are helpful as they show the geographical contours that depict the location’s surface, even letting you know how steep a valley is. Try to start reading maps before leaving. While relying on a GPS is much more convenient, do not forget that technology has the annoying tendency to fail.
#8 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
Carry other emergency supplies along the way
When packing, make sure you include duct tape. It works perfectly for treating emergency damages. This tends to be bulky, so instead of carrying a roll, wrap a few yards of it around a small strip of the board. Dry bags are also useful; they help protect your items, especially your essentials and electronics, from getting soaked in unexpected downpours. A utility pen knife is something that you must always have in your pocket; this handy tool covers all your cutting and repair needs while you’re outdoors.
#9 Backpacking Tips for Beginners
Tell your family and friends where you’re going, and how long you’ll be gone, as well as when they can expect to hear from you throughout. If they won’t be hearing from you during the whole stretch of the trip, it’s important to ease their mind of worry – even if it’s just for the weekend. Be aware of animals along the way and avoid dangerous encounters by researching how to respond to species you’d be most likely see. Proper food storage can help keep hungry animals at bay.
The best trip of your life is waiting for you!
With these backpacking tips for beginners in mind, you can have an outdoor adventure of a lifetime – something you may want to do all over again. Remember to take photos of the incredible spectacles along the way; keep them as souvenirs for you to cherish with your backpacking friends or send them as personalized postcards to friends and family directly from your phone when you reach wifi. Make sure you protect your gear along the way!