One of the best ways to experience the outdoors is on foot. A great way to do that is backpacking, the art of traveling or hiking through the outdoors by carrying one’s belongings solely in a pack. As you can imagine, this activity takes a lot of preparation, planning, and experience in order to take advantage of all it has to offer.
How do you get started backpacking if you've never done it before? Here are some tips to help you not feel overwhelmed:
Get Some Assistance – There are many knowledgeable experts out there who can give you advice and point you in the right direction in terms of gear, destinations, and preparation. It makes sense to go with a group or an experienced friend at first. The wilderness can be a dangerous place and you can easily fall into a life or death situation without realizing it. As a beginner, play it safe by getting help until you acquire the necessary experience.
Pick a Destination - Know where you want to go, how to get to the trailhead, and be familiar with your own abilities. There are a variety of guidebooks, magazines, and websites that rate different trails according to difficulty. It also helps to ask other backpackers in your local area what they recommend. For beginners, be aware of your own physical abilities and limitations as well as what wilderness skills you need.
Decide Duration and Distance - Those new to backpacking should consider staying only one night in the backcountry in the beginning and keep the distance to 10 miles or less roundtrip. That way you can grow more comfortable and confident with backpacking before taking longer trips that require extensive preparation and planning. If you want to spend more than one night, try setting up a base camp and returning to that each day.
Be Ready Physically – Any athlete knows that to prepare for a competition, they have to put their body under conditions similar to what they will face. The same goes for backpacking. Before the actual trip, spend some time taking day trips and training hikes with challenging elevation changes. These are also good ways to test out your fully loaded backpack before the actual hike.
Choose the Right Gear - It always helps to get gear recommendations for tents, backpacks, food, and many more essentials. When deciding what to wear, it comes to down to packing and dressing in synthetic layers. Unpredictable weather means you need to have the ability to adapt to a variety of conditions. In terms of equipment, be sure to test out each piece of gear. Practice setting up your tent in your backyard, roll out your sleeping bag, and cook with your stove. Load up your backpack so you can practice packing it correctly.
Communication - Before you head out on your trip, let others know of your plans. Contact rangers ahead of time to find out about any restrictions, permits, or road closures.