Thursday, June 22, 2017 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

Backpacking Tips for Beginners

Thinking about trying a backpacking trip? Check out these tips for beginning backpackers from experienced backpackers. Be prepared so you can have the best, and safest, experience.

Backpacking is essentially a combination of hiking and camping. It’s more fun, more epic, and more work than either activity independently, and the result is more than worth it. If you really want to get out into nature and experience life in a new element, backpacking is the way to go! If you’ve never done it before, don’t worry—it’s pretty easy to get started. Here’s a starting guide for backpacking newbies.
 
Get In Shape

The first step to a successful backpacking trip is getting in shape. Remember, you’ll be walking for a long time, and you’ll have to carry everything you take with you. Can you hike up a slope with your tent, sleeping bag, food, and clothing strapped to you back? Start practicing! You’ll be amazed how quickly you can get in shape for backpacking. A good way to start is by hiking. If you’re not a habitual hiker, start hiking a few times a week. Once you’re comfortable with hiking, you can start adding some weight and increase your walking distance.
 
Get In Shape
Learn Camping Essentials

Do you know how to cook over an open fire? Can you sterilize water in a pinch? Do you know basic first-aid? If not, be sure to learn them! It’s no problem if you don’t have basic camping skills yet, because they’re pretty easy to learn. You can attend a first-aid class (you city may offer a free or low-cost class), and your outdoorsy friends can help you with other skills. Be sure you know how to prepare your food, take care of yourself, and set up your tent. Then you’ll be good to go!
 
Learn Camping Essentials
Get Your Gear

Your college backpack is not going to cut it for a trip like this. First, it’s probably too small. Unless you want to sleep on a yoga mat in the woods, you’ll need something bigger. Secondly, it will be too heavy. Invest in a nice backpack that distributes its own weight to your hips so that you don’t get a back injury in the process. You can find these for a relatively decent price at most sports stores, and of course, there are many options online.

Apart from a backpack, you’ll also need a place to sleep, things to wear, and food. Find a small, lightweight tent and a sleeping bag. Also pack enough clothing to stay warm at night, but not so much that you weigh your bag down. If you want to feel like a real explorer, you can wear the same clothes for the whole trip… although your backpacking buddies might not appreciate this. Don’t forget a good pair of shoes. They should have thick soles, ankle support, and traction. Make sure you break them in before you go. As far as food goes, bring nonperishable items with plenty of protein.
 
Get Your Gear
Stay Hydrated

Make plans to keep yourself hydrated during your backpacking trip. Unlike the great American explorers, you won’t have the ability to drink water from streams and rivers. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to risk drinking contaminated water, don’t get sick from dehydration. Bring plenty of your own water. Hydration packs that slip into your backpack are a good choice—the bigger, the better.
 
Stay Hydrated
Find a Backpacking Buddy

It’s not a very good idea to go backpacking alone, especially if this is your first excursion. Even if you think you know your way around pretty well, it’s always better to have someone else around. Not only is it more fun to tromp around the wilderness with other people, but it’s much safer. What happens if you twist your ankle, get sick, or can’t figure out where you are? Having a second person around minimizes your risks and builds camaraderie.
 
Find A Backpacking Buddy
Plan Your Excursion

Finally, plan your great backpacking adventure. Where are you going, and when? If you have a particular place in mind, find out the best time of the year to do it. For example, if you want to backpack through Seskatchewan, you probably want to do it in the summer! Don’t take on anything crazy in the cold months if this is your first trip.

Once you know where you want to go and when, you can plan your route. Generally, backpacking trips take several days. However, if you just have the weekend, you can do a short overnight trip where you hike to one location, stay the night, and hike back. If you do have enough time for a longer trip, decide the path you’ll take and where you want to stay. You may not always be able to make it to the exact locations you plan to camp, but it’s always a good idea to have some kind of a plan in place.

If you’re more comfortable being somewhat close to civilization, plan to camp just outside of nearby towns. If you want to be way out in the middle of nowhere, try to find good stopping spots along the way. The best way to figure out where to walk and where to sleep is to ask those who have gone before. If you have friends who have backpacked the area, talk to them about it. If not, the all-knowing Google can hook you up with some great blogs and articles about the area.
 
Plan Your Excursion
Get Out and Go!

Finally, go experience your epic backpacking trip! You’ve trained, budgeted, planned, and packed. Go enjoy your adventure! Who knows what you’ll find along the way? I can almost guarantee that while this may be your first backpacking trip, it won’t be your last.
 
Get Out And Go!
Rushing into a grueling hike with no preparation can lead to a disaster. Beginner backpackers should check out these backpacking tips from experienced hikers before hitting the trail. This post gives you everything you need to know before you take first backpacking trip. Have your own tips for beginning backpackers? Add them in the comments

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