So, a backpacking trip has been on your mind for some time now (ever since you heard Joey’s backpacking across Western Europe story, perhaps?), but don’t know how or where to start. Has the uncertainty of backcountry camping far outdone the thrill of the experience in your mind? Well, you are not alone. It is what keeps a lot of aspiring backpackers from living up that magical raw connect with nature. This thorough guide on essential backpacking tips and tricks and advice on how to prep and pack for your maiden outing in the wild will lend direction to your plans:
Choose an Easy Destination as Your First
Starting out with a hike that’s too ambitious for your level of skills and expertise can ruin the experience and put you off the whole backpacking game in the long run. If you are a first-timer or even a beginner, the handiest backpacking tip you could use is to keep it simple. Choose a destination with a relatively easier hike, preferably close to home, so that you don’t spend more time on the road than on the hike and have ample daylight hours to explore your surroundings.
Seek Feedback from Experienced Backpackers
In this day and age of internet, you don’t really need to have an experienced backpacker in your circle to get all the necessary dope on how to go about planning and executing your trip nor do you need to sign up at the local hiking club to make a start – although doing so won’t be a bad idea at all. There are several online sites and forums such as Backpacking Light, Backpackers’ Basecamp, TrailGroove Forum and Hiking Project from where you can pick up tons of useful backpacking tips and tricks. Hiking guidebooks are another great source of backpacking tips for beginners.
Pick an Established Campsite
Being out in the wild, all by yourself, can be a near terrifying experience for newbies. You are better off starting out with an established campsite at a lesser elevation, as the chances of having other backcountry campers around are fairly higher. This can prove to be a lifesaver should you run into any unforeseen difficulties. Another crucial but oft-overlooked backpacking tip for beginners is to look for a reliable natural source of water near your camping site. If the site has a river or lake nearby, you should be all right. However, if it is small stream or waterfall, it’s a good idea to check with locals whether they’d be water in these sources at the time of your hike, as such streams and waterfalls are mostly seasonal and can dry up.
Summer Is the Best Time to Go
Since mountainous regions are the chosen backdrop for most backpacking trips, summer is the best time to go. Unless the destination you have in mind has a hazard of raging wildfires or unusually hot climate, the one backpacking tip for beginners to swear by is planning your trip sometime mid-summer. The extended daylight hours we give you the luxury of reaching your destination, exploring the surroundings and pitching your tent for the night at your own pace, without being rushed by the trepidation of impending dusk.
Prepping for a backpacking trip is all about packing all the conceivable essentials that you may need out in the open and yet keep your gear light. You need to have a few pro backpacking tips and tricks up your sleeve to be able to strike that fine balance. The first thing you need, obviously, is a backpack. Before you go ahead to make a purchase, try renting or borrowing a few with a capacity of up to 15 kg and take a test hike with each of these backpacks. Choose the one that feels most comfortable around your shoulders, back and hips. In addition to this, you’d also need to invest in a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, kitchen accessories and water treatment supplies.
The one backpacking tip for beginners that any seasoned backpacker would reiterate is to rent as many of these essential for your maiden trip as possible since these amount to a substantial investment and one that’ll go waste if you are not in it for the long haul. A lot of newbies also skip basic essentials such as sleeping pads and water treatment supplies, thinking they are ‘tough enough’ to endure the wilderness or fooling themselves into thinking that these ‘cushy’ accessories take away from the rawness of the experience. However, sleeping pads can almost be the difference between life and death, as it gets terribly cold out there at night and the risk of developing hypothermia even in summer months is very real. Similarly, water from even the clearest of natural sources can be riddled with dangerous bacteria the can cause severe stomach infection.
The Right Clothes
As with other backpacking essentials, you don’t need to buy separate hiking clothes for your first-ever backpacking trip. If you have been a hiking regular, the clothes and footwear used for hikes will suit your backpacking needs perfectly. If not, any quick-drying workout clothes, like the popular Dri-FIT line-up, will do. These help keep moisture and sweat away from the skin and dry out quickly, thus, keeping you light and comfortable through your explorations. You must also pack a few fleece pullovers, puffy jackets, caps and gloves, as extremely cold night can follow reasonably hot days when you are out in the woods. It is also important to ensure that your shoes are comfortable and sturdy enough to endure long walks without falling part or causing you any strain or discomfort. A pro backpacking tip for beginners is to choose hiking shoes with high ankles to prevent insect and snake bites, and also scrapes and bruises from any thorny bushes along the way.
Food and Kitchen Supplies
You need to take the duration of your backpacking trip into account when putting together the amount of food you’d need to carry. Even if it is an overnight trip, you’d still need to cater for dinner, breakfast, lunch and a few light snacks, as all the walking around is sure to work up a great appetite. Freeze-dried backpacking food, cup noodles, rice entrees, instant coffee and tea mixes, dried fruit for instant energy, sugar and salt are some of the basic food essentials to load up on. These will satiate your appetite without adding a great deal of load to your backpack. A portable stove, a saucepan, bowl, spoon and tumbler are other kitchen essentials you possibly cannot do without.
Pick a Backpacking Buddy and Go
Another crucial backpacking tip for beginners that’ll you be thankful for at the end of your trip is to always have a partner to go on the trip with you. Being alone on your first few trips can be an overwhelming experience. From trying to figure out the directions to struggling with pitching the tent and just spending a night alone in the wilderness, there are just so many things that’d seem easier if you have a friend or a partner by your side. As you get more comfortable and experienced with the nuances of backpacking, you can definitely consider going solo.