12 Backpacking Tips for Beginners

12 Backpacking Tips for Beginners

Stop dreaming about a hike and make it real! Learning to backpack or hike can be very intimidating and you will hear pro hikers say “it’s easy” and some other enthusiastic and encouraging stuff. Though some might say it's true, for a beginner it could be tough and rough with jumping into a new sport, trying to muddle through the lingo and the gear, while all the way you huff and puff and attempt to not get lost on your trail. We’ll try to make it a tad bit easy for you, below are a few great and easy backpacking tips for beginners.

Let’s look at the top 12 backpacking tips for beginners:

Fitness / Get in Shape

This is the first step you need to get done to get you started with backpacking. Remember that you are climbing up the side of mountains and also carrying a backpack! Be aware of your fitness abilities and prepare yourself likewise. Start preparing by jogging for a few miles, squats and walking to get you in the groove.

Pick a Partner / Find a Group

Birds of the same feather flock together. Look for a partner or a group that’s enthusiastic about backpacking and hiking and are pro at it. This is probably the fastest way to become good at backpacking as you see and learn. A company that’s knowledgeable is good for peace of mind and it’s more fun to go backpacking in a group than solo. Experienced backpackers will help you with their ‘been there, done that’ advice and this will accelerate your learning curve.

12 Backpacking Tips for Beginners

Proto Credit: Ralph Marquez - Sometimes, we also climb with other group for a less hassle climb.

Gear

Don’t skimp on the backpacking gear. Buy them from a specialty store. The backpacking gear must haves is the Ten Essentials and ensure that you have the basics for safety and comfort, equipping you to handle emergencies. Also, think light; it’s easy to over stress and end up over packing. Aim for a weight that’s manageable.

Plan a day trip or one night trip instead of a multi-day hike

Since you’re new, ramp up slowly and steadily. Your initial goals should be to understand what’s working out for you and what you need to change. You may also consider hiking for a short distance.

Test Before You Go

Test your gear and tent before you actually hit the road. If you’re trekking with experienced hikers, you can get help, however, it’s best to try it out yourself first before taking it to the test. Practicing ahead will keep your mood blissful and you’ll be able to give your time and efforts into things that matter.

Wilderness Ethics and LNT

LNT stands for Leave No Trace and is the ethical code for the backcountry. It means you have to leave the area the exact same way when you arrived. Therefore, literally, it means no littering. In the wilderness, you have to clean up after yourselves, and leave no footprints. Ensure to keep the wilderness' beauty intact, untouched and inviting, just the way you would want to see it.

Guidebook & Map

Get hands on with reading maps, navigation and using the compass. Learn different backpacking routes, trails, and campsites in the area you plan to backpack in. You’ll also be able to understand weather patterns, terrains, wildlife and insect activity. Some also list the any passes or permits that you’ll need to carry.

Plan Carefully

Plan your trips with precision and make sure you’re through before you step out. Try to gain complete knowledge of what lies ahead and this will ensure that you achieve and maintain a positive and healthy attitude. Make sure to communicate your plans to family and friends so that they are aware. Give them the full download of your trip, location, time planned and when you expect to be back home. This becomes important in link to survival in case something goes wrong. Follow your gut instincts and know when it’s time to turn around and go back; whenever you feel unsure of anything - back off/out and contemplate your alternatives. Keep in mind that most times, just going along and ahead with it may seem ‘macho’ but may end up making you feel stupid and can have deadly consequences. Also, listen to what your body tells you and needs and act likewise.

12 Backpacking Tips for Beginners

Wyatt Maktrav playing with cooking utensils.

Meals

Keep it simple and as much as possible; try to bring meals that only require boiling. This helps to clean up quickly and easily as well.

Basic Skills

Learn some basic skills that may come handy in the outdoors like pitching your tent and lighting your stove. Also, learn to use the outdoors to relieve yourself - lose the bathroom anxiety. Learn good manners and think of yourself as a guest in the outdoors. You’ll never get lost if you stay attuned to your surroundings.

Learn to Pack

You should know how to pack things in a backpack. Make sure the heaviest items are in the center of the backpack and close to your spine. The sleeping bag goes at the very bottom. If the heavy stuff sits high, your backpack will feel wobbly and if the burlier items sit too low in the bottom, it will sag and weigh against your shoulders. You need to come up with a system that works for you, like if you need snacks handy, etc. A backpack is supposed to carry most of the weight on your hips so that your shoulders stay light. 

Communication

Be aware that there could be NO cell phone reception in the wilderness areas. You may expect cell towers near visitor centers, but in the backcountry, cell reception is rare. Therefore, you may include satellite phones, satellite messengers, 2-way radios and personal locator beacons. It’s also a good idea to carry portable power sources (solar) that can generate enough energy.

Now, what’s better than a day in the mountains? When you’re a beginner, the amount of information on the web can be overwhelming. To help out, read this comprehensive article about camping checklist and essential tips for campers. This should be your good-to-go guide.

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