Maybe you’ve been invited to go on a backpacking trip by your friends, or perhaps you decided that you want to include backpacking in your list of hobbies. Whatever your reason may be, know that you are about to embark on a wonderful adventure that will open your eyes to the beauty of the outdoors. Yet, there may be several questions running through your mind. What do I bring? Can I actually climb up the mountain? Are there bears and snakes in the area? Many beginning backpackers have asked themselves these questions and more, and fortunately, the answers aren’t as daunting as they first thought they’d be. In general, it’s all about being prepared for the adventure, and if you’re ready to learn how to backpack in the wilderness, here’s a handy guide about backpacking for beginners to help you get started.
Choose Your Destination
You don’t need to hop into a plane and fly to another continent just to go backpacking. There are many jaw-dropping and exciting destinations right here in the country just waiting to be discovered. And the best part is that many of these are ideal for beginners who want to start easy or people who just want to give backpacking a try.
For your first backpacking trip, choose a destination that is not too challenging and close to home. This should give you the chance to test your abilities and at the same time allow you to turn back if you need or want to. You should also choose a well-established trail and campsite with other hikers and campers. This way, you feel less worried since you know that help is available should you need it. As you gain more knowledge and experience, you can start scouring for more challenging terrains and destinations.
Get the Right Clothes
There are a few things that you need to consider when choosing clothes to wear on a backpacking adventure. First would be comforting. For instance, many backpackers agree that wearing nylon or polyester shirts is a good idea since they have moisture-wicking abilities so you don’t have to endure wearing a sweat-soaked shirt while exploring.
Another consideration is functionality. Let’s take the case of hiking pants for example. Many hiking pants are convertible, with zippers that allow you to turn into shorts at a moment’s notice. Roll-up pants are also a popular option, with button tabs above the ankle or near the knee. In any case, avoid using your favorite jeans. Jeans are never a good choice for backpacking because they limit movement and are made of cotton, a material that is heavy and takes a long time to dry.
Aside from shirts, pants, and other essentials, you’ll also need a base layer or a long undergarment which can double as a pajama, a lightweight but warm jacket, and a sun hat for hot days, and a beanie for cold nights.
Whether you’re going backpacking for one night over the weekend or one week on a backcountry trail, you’ll need basically the same fundamental pieces of clothing, with variations to address the specific weather or environmental conditions you’re likely to encounter.
Know how to Layer
Layering is a key concept that every beginning backpacker should know. The beauty of layering is that it lets you quickly adapt to changing conditions. You can stop and remove a layer when you start to feel warm and add a layer when you start to feel cold. It also lets you put together a robust defense against unexpected storms that bring cold winds and rain.
Get a Good Pair of Walking or Hiking Boots
Your shoes will be one of the most important pieces of gear on your trip. Trail shoes are appropriate sometimes, but waterproof hiking boots are much better. In any case, try them on in person and to make sure that they fit you well and are comfortable. Also, choose something durable and light.
Aside from that, make sure that you break in your hiking boots or shoes before you take them on a long hike. Do a few hikes in the hills near your home or take some walks around your neighborhood. Doing this allows them to better mold to your feet and reduce your chance of getting blisters.
Plan What to Bring
Planning what to bring is essential. Remember, you’ll be walking for several miles with a pack on your back. Your bag might feel light now, but miles into your trek you’ll feel like you’re carrying around a bag of bricks, especially when exhaustion starts to set in. Thus, only pack what is necessary and find the lightest supplies in each category. Knowing how to pack a backpack properly for a trip can also help make the weight much more bearable.
How much you pack depends on how long you’ll be away. Regardless, always try to pack as light as possible. Avoid the urge to throw extra supplies or luxury items in your backpack since it can soon add a lot of weight and make it difficult to carry. So go light on the clothes, pick a light sleeping bag and tent and try to take only one or two pieces of cookware.
Invest in a Good Backpack
Experts will generally recommend that you first purchase all of the gear for your backpacking adventures before purchasing the backpack. This is because if you buy the backpack first, you may find that it is either too large or too small for the gears you’ll buy later.
There are several things to consider when it comes to buying a backpack. First of course would be the capacity, then the materials and construction as well as the style. In any case, choose a backpack that fits your size and has a supportive structure. You should also consider getting a water-resistant or waterproof backpack. You can also get a backpack rain cover for added protection against moisture.
Find the Best Food for Backpacking
When it comes to food, the major concern for first-time backpackers is how much to bring. However, aside from the quantity, it is also advised that you focus on the quality of the food you’ll be carrying. So choose good and nutritious foods that will keep your body adequately fueled during your trip.
For your main meals, consider bringing quick and easy to prepare meals like cup noodles, porridge packets, or dehydrated food packs. You should also bring some energy bars and trail mix to chew on while you’re on the move. If you simply can’t live without your caffeine fix, tea bags and instant coffee mixes are the way to go. And to save space in your backpack, remove them from their packaging boxes and transfer them to zip lock bags.
Know-How to Purify Water
You don’t ever want to get diarrhea or any gastrointestinal illness while you’re out on the trail, and since it can be very challenging to lug around gallons of clean water while hiking, you’ll need to learn how to purify water from rivers and streams. To do this, you simply need to boil the water for at least two minutes which is time enough to kill most bacteria. You can also use a small filtration system or bring some water-purifying tablets. The water may taste a bit funny, but at least it’s safe for consumption.
Learn How to Use a Map and a Compass
Once you’ve decided where to go, buy a local guidebook about the backpacking trails, routes, and campsites in your destination. Aside from these, they also contain information about what the terrains are like, local weather patterns, wildlife in the area, and other pertinent information that is useful for beginning backpackers. These guidebooks are also often sold with waterproof maps and even some with a compass, so make sure that you get those as well.
More important than having these though is learning how to use them properly. You can go online and watch some tutorials about how to read and use these items, or you can talk to your local outdoors shop and ask them for help.
Get Physically Ready
Once you have collected the necessary gear and equipment, it’s time to get yourself ready. The best way to prepare for a backpacking adventure is to go hiking. You can fill your backpack with the necessary items you’ll bring to your trip, drive to a nearby hill, and start walking with your pack on your back. When you get back home, try sleeping on your sleeping bag and tent at night.
Like any other activity, there’s no better preparation than actually doing the real thing (or something close to it). Aside from that, doing this will also allow you to inspect and test your gears and equipment. Thus, you should be able to see what adjustments you need to make before the big trip.
Learn and Practice the “Leave No Trace” Principles
The “Leave No Trace” Principles apply to anybody who wishes to hike or camp in the wilderness. These principles serve as an ethical framework from which to shape your perspective and actions while in the outdoors. These are simply guidelines that will educate us about the best ways to preserve and protect our environment.
Backpacking, hiking, and camping certainly have their impacts on the environment, and these “Leave No Trace” principles teach us how to minimize these impacts so that we and those who come after us will still be able to enjoy nature in the future.
Always Check the Weather
There is nothing worse than being deep in the wilderness when heavy rains start pouring. In many cases, you’re campsite and all your supplies may end up getting wet, and if the rain is accompanied by really strong winds, you may need to pack up, carry your soggy (and consequently heavier) gears and equipment on your back, and hike in the rain.
That said, be sure to check the weather forecast on your intended destination before you set out for your trip. You can go online, call up the local forest ranger offices, or talk to the locals and guides for additional insight into the place’s weather conditions. And if the weather looks like it may turn bad, consider postponing the trip for another day. After all, the mountain (or wherever you plan to backpack) won’t be going anywhere.
Be Prepared and Always Put Safety First
Although backpacking can be fun, it is not without its dangers. From getting lost, being attacked by wildlife, or even falling over the side of a hill or a cliff, all of these are possible if you venture into the wilderness unprepared. And when unprepared backpackers get themselves into a situation that could have otherwise been avoided, it often results in a search and rescue situation.
Although there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you really need it, you need to consider that many of these rescuers will also be putting their safety at risk by helping you. Besides, many of their equipment like trucks and ATVs will come roaring through the trails which can also harm the environment. Also, all the commotion is bound to disturb the wildlife and other campers in the area. As such, always be prepared and err on the side of safety.
When backpacking into the wilderness, it is your responsibility to be adequately prepared (like bringing your own hiking first aid kit) to avoid unfortunate scenarios. Of course, accidents can still happen regardless of how much preparation you make, and when it does don’t hesitate to call for help.
Also, you should make it a point to tell your family or your friends where you’re going and when they can expect you to be back. Leave a designated trail or itinerary for them to refer to in case they need to send for help.
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Although we’ve covered a ton of materials in these articles, there’s still a substantial amount of information about backpacking that needs to be discussed in a more in-depth manner. That said, apply due diligence and continue learning more about backpacking and other related subjects to further increase your knowledge about backpacking for beginners, how to backpack, purchasing the correct equipment and gear, and other pertinent topics. More importantly, remember to have fun and enjoy the journey. Completing a backpacking adventure in the stunning and beautiful outdoors is bound to be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.
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