Backpacking Basics For Beginners.

So you like the idea of really getting out into the wilds by starting to backpack? Its a pastime that more and more people world wide are starting to embrace and for good reason, just look at a few of the pictures in this article and you will see why.

Backpacking TrailsBackpacking trips can be as simple as a short overnight hike or as complex and difficult as hiking something like the Pacific Crest Trail or the Caminito del Rey which is regarded as one of the most difficult and dangerous trails in the world.

Starting to backpack from scratch requires that you follow a steep learning curve as there are many problems that you can easily avoid if you choose the right equipment and outfit yourself correctly. Not only that but having the right gear will mean a much more enjoyable trip so here is a great article I found on Camping Blogger that will get you pointed in the right direction… read on

A famous man with the last name Einstein once said “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” If you want to try something new, you will make a mistake. No matter what it is that you’re trying, mistakes are part of life.

When it comes to backpacking, this is especially true. Sometimes mistakes are as tiny as taking a wrong turn on the drive to the trailhead; other times backpacking mistakes can be much more serious (say, if you forget to seal up your dinner in a bear canister). I’ve been backpacking for many years now and I’d be lying if I said I never make mistakes anymore.

Over the years I’ve taken lots of people out into the backcountry on their first backpacking trips, and I’ve noticed a lot of common mistakes those people make. With summer rapidly approaching, chances are one of the readers of this post will be heading out for their first backpacking trip. If so, check out these common mistakes, so you can be sure you avoid them.

Choosing the Wrong Backpack

Large BackpackBeginning backpackers often underestimate the importance of choosing the right backpack. There are an infinite number of things that you should consider when choosing a backpack, but there are three main things to take into account:

1) Torso Length

Many people make the mistake of choosing a backpack relative to their overall height. This is in fact what you shouldn’t do, as you should instead choose your backpack relative to your torso. To make sure you get the best fitted backpack for your trek, visit a local outdoor supply store and get fitted for one.

2) Backpacking Style

Some backpackers prefer to sacrifice some comfort for the sake of a light backpack. Other backpackers prefer to have a heavier pack if it means more comfort at the campsite. This choice is completely up to you, and it’s something to keep in mind when choosing a pack.

If you are really serious about this then make sure you buy decent equipment, this does not mean it has to be hugely expensive, there is a lot of gear on places like amazon that you can get at good prices but make sure you do your research before you buy, it will make a world of difference it really will. Here is some more of the original article….

3) Trip Length

For shorter trips, you’ll want a smaller and lighter pack. For longer trips, you want a pack that can fit more gear. If you plan on backpacking a lot, I’d suggest purchasing two backpacks: one for short trips and one for long trips.

Consider all three of the above things when choosing a backpack, and you’ll be comfortable and efficient when you hit the backcountry. Don’t make the mistake of choosing the wrong one, like many backpackers before you have.

Being Over-Prepared

reasons to go backpacking The motto of the Boy Scouts is to “Be Prepared”. When backpacking, this advice is absolutely critical. Although, there is such thing as being over-prepared. I took my brother-in-law backpacking through the Sierras a few summers ago. It was an easy trek, just for two nights. He packed enough stuff to last a week.

My brother-in-law went out and bought all kinds of expensive, top-of-the-line gadgets that we just didn’t have any use for. All it meant for him was that he had to carry more stuff in his pack. While a USB powered camp stove is definitely cool, it’s a little much for the backcountry.

When prepping for your first backpacking trip, only take what you need; no more, no less. Find a backpacking checklist and make sure you’re not over-preparing. Even adding a small gadget to your pack might make a big difference if you’re going to be carrying it on your back for multiple miles.

Being Underprepared

On the flip side, many first time backpackers hit the trails underprepared. The effects of being underprepared can range from being uncomfortable to downright dangerous, which is why it’s important to make sure you review the backpacking checklist to make sure you’ve got what you need.

Make sure you have the right gear for the expedition you’re going on. This means making sure your sleeping bag will provide adequate warmth, your clothes are correct for the situation, and you’ve got a first aid kit that can handle anything that could happen. The last thing you want is to be up a creek without a paddle.

Ignoring the Forecast

I’ll admit: this is something that even I am still guilty of. I rarely let weather ruin a planned weekend in the backcountry, but if the forecast calls for serious weather than I typically rethink my plans. I’ve known some beginning backpackers that don’t, though.

If you’re a beginner, the forecast is especially important to pay attention to. Even a bit of light rain could mean you need to seriously reconsider what you’re packing. You might have to reconsider your clothes, your camping tents, and even the type of pack you’re bringing and its weight. Additionally, simply checking your iPhone weather app won’t cut it. Use the National Weather Service’s website in order to get the most accurate forecast.

Ok this really only touches on the basics of starting to backpack, really it’s something you should never stop learning and finding better ways and better equipment for but like anything the best way is to just get started. Find a decent store and go and look at gear even if you don’t buy there and then.

Here is a quick list of pretty essential equipment to start off with

Good Boots
Backpack That Fits Correctly
Quality Cooking Equipment- There is nothing worse than going hungry
Lightweight Tent – unless you plan on using huts on your route which some places have but this is pretty limiting.
Decent Layered Clothing- Depending on climate and time of year obviously.
A GPS if you can afford it but a Compass is essential

Good luck with your next trip, you are starting off on an adventure that can take you to many wonderful places all over the world and most likely you will meet just as many great people who like you enjoy the great outdoor places that we have on our doorsteps. Just take that first step…

Article from Camping Blogger
Images from Wikipedia Commons

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There Are 18 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Curtis says:

    It’s funny because I like hiking, though I haven’t visited any national park or a real hiking trail. But I feel like I have done quite a lot of backpacking…in the city. This is because I love my military grade 7-day Navy Seal pack, which I take everywhere within the city. It just makes it so convenient for me to carry my computer and a myriad of other things.

  2. Jermaine says:

    The thing I love about hiking / backpacking is that it does not need to be expensive, yet it can be a very interesting and fun thing to do with friends and family. And although you can plan an overnight camping trip, you don’t have to in order to bring the family and friends closer. Plus, it’s good exercise. You can even turn it into a BBQ or picnic and that is a lot of fun, when you come prepared with all the right equipment.

  3. Vaughn says:

    I think it is a good idea to get younger persons in touch with nature. And getting them into hiking is a way that anyone can get involved. Getting kids outside is more important than ever. TV, computer and video game addictions are replacing outdoor play time. Passive inside entertainment is contributing significantly to the national obesity epidemic! It’s time to get off the couch America! Get the kids outside!

  4. Jesus says:

    I do happen to know that hiking is good for your health. But do you know just how good it is? If you are heading out for a hike on a holiday such as Memorial Day weekend (or any other holiday), take note of all the good you are doing for your body. For adults, regular aerobic exercise such as hiking leads to: Improved cardio-respiratory fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels); Improved muscular fitness; Lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. And those are just a few of the benefits.

  5. John says:

    I have only two sizes of backpacks, but I rarely do I use the smaller one because I am always carrying enough stuff that it’s just too much for a small pack. I always use my full size back pack, which is not as large as a camper’s backpack. It is actually the perfect size, which may be why I use it to go everywhere, not just when I go the outdoors.

  6. Francis says:

    Spring is the perfect time of year to hit the hiking trails, break a sweat and commune with flourishing nature. Whether you’re hoping for a scenic stroll alongside a meandering stream, a jog through a lush, shady forest or a strenuous trek up a steep mountainside, there’s a hiking trail out there for everyone. After all, hundreds of hiking trails snake, twist and curve their way through woodlands, foothills, valleys and coastlines across the nation.

  7. Ronald says:

    Ten or nine or fifteen, the actual number doesn’t really matter but there is some equipment used for hiking that everyone really, really, really needs to have whenever they step outside. I would even say you should have most of these things with you whenever you are more than 5 minutes from home. Good judgment saves more people than any equipment. If dark clouds are approaching, go home. If your heel feels hot, stop hiking. Obey signs and guidelines and think about what you are going to do before you do it.

  8. Curtis says:

    This fluid / electrolyte loss can even exceed 2 quarts per hour if you hike uphill in the direct sunlight, and during the hottest time of the day. Because inner canyon air is so dry and hot, sweat evaporates instantly making its loss almost imperceptible. This evaporation allows our bodies to lose heat and keep cool. I mention this because you’re going to need a back pack that has enough storage space for enough drinks and some food, not to mention your gear.

  9. Karin says:

    I have always liked the idea of living in the mountains and having a horse so that I could ride the trails but I have thought about hiking them as well, until I see tragic accidents that happen to hikers and mountain climbers on the news. I don’t know if it is really worth it or not. You have some really good tips to get the beginner ready though.

  10. Waylon says:

    I love being outdoors, whether it is on a hiking trail or just having a picnic on the beach (day or night), only when I am prepared knowing that I have brought all the right equipment. Of all the interesting hiking equipment displayed through banner ads on this page, the most interesting one is that little gas tank powered stove top. I just might buy one so I can grill a steak on the beach with friends.

  11. Karin says:

    I’m actually ready to try backcountry camping after a recent inspiring visit to a certain national park. I know that one day, I want to introduce my kids to the great outdoors. My friend, on the other hand, is a longtime hiker who just needs a refresher after too much time away from the trails. The advice I would give him is to read the map regularly. Sure it sounds obvious, but many hikers look at the topo only when they’re lost.

  12. Karin says:

    Arriving at a hiking trip that you’re really not physically prepared for is no fun. But at the same time you don’t want to unnecessarily talk yourself out of a hiking trip that you might love. Having a realistic assessment of the match between what a trip requires and whether we are or can be in that kind of shape is important, and equally important is being prepared with the needed gear, and this site has some good links for that.

  13. Charles says:

    I know one thing for certain: I like hiking, or even a long stroll through the countryside, but how to build a vacation around it takes some decision making and planning. A walking or hiking trip is relatively easy to manage on your own, so doing-it-yourself can be a good option. You’ll save money and have total flexibility. On the other hand, you’ll have to do all the route planning and hotel reservations yourself. And shifting your base camp becomes a significant chore.

  14. Jeff says:

    If you’re not the outdoorsy type, taking your first dayhike can feel like a giant leap outside your comfort zone. But once you’re hooked on hiking, you’re only a few short steps from making — and enjoying — your first overnight backpacking trip, too. Turning yourself from a dayhiker into a beginning backpacker goes pretty much like this: You get a few pieces of new gear from a site like this, you learn how to use them… and that’s it. It really is that simple.

  15. Therese says:

    I know these people that went hiking all the time until one of them fell and broke their leg in three places. To me hiking is a beautiful thing to do and enjoy nature but it is also very dangerous so you have to make sure to start small and get the right equipment for the hike you are taking. This is a great post thank you for taking the time.

    • Kelly Campbell Kelly Campbell says:

      I think hiking in general is not a dangerous activity, however that depends on the type of hiking you enjoy. It can be over moderate terrain or very difficult terrain. Personally I enjoy the more difficult hikes as it is more of a challenge, but you are completely right, you have take necessary precautions with the right equipment etc
      Thanks for stopping by

  16. Mary says:

    In response or to add to what Therese said, you can’t not do something because there is some risk involved. If we live by that philosophy, none of us would ever leave the house. You take a risk the moment you leave your house, and even before that when you get out of bed. Life is full of risks, just as hiking is full of wonderful adventures and discoveries of nature. You may even learn something about yourself during the journey.

  17. Roberto says:

    The persons who hiked the Appalachian Trail for at least 7 days, and a certain length of hike (60 days) in 1997 were interviewed. At the end of their hike, subjects completed a questionnaire on injuries, illnesses, water purification methods, and hygiene practices. Of the 280 backpackers who responded (a combined 38,940 days of wilderness exposure), 69% achieved their goal. The most important reasons for ending a hike prematurely were injury, time limitation, and psychosocial reasons.

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