By: Mikayla Koeltzow
Day and night, exploring the outdoors, breathing in the fresh air. The only sounds are your footsteps, the flowing river, and the wind rustling through the trees. Unplugged from technology and experiencing a calming solitude from your noisy life back home. There's no wonder why so many people love backpacking. However, with all of the specialized gear and planning that seems to go into it, getting into backpacking can feel a little overwhelming. This post is meant to help simplify that first overnight stay on the trail, so you can get out there and experience this new adventure for yourself! Here are 5 tips for your first time backpacking.
- Start with an Overnighter
Doing a single overnight backpacking trip first will make the packing simpler, while also allowing you to get a good feel for any backpacking trips you want to do in the future. To find a backpacking trail there are many great resources to choose from such as internet searches, adventure apps for your phone, or recommendations from anyone you know who has gone backpacking.
- Pick a Comfortable Distance
An ideal distance would be one that you are very comfortable completing in 2 days, keeping in mind that you are carrying significant extra weight in your pack compared to a regular hike. And though this is not a requirement, having a water source such as a lake or river along the trail is ideal so that you can carry less water throughout the hike, and especially so that you won’t have to worry about running out of water.
- Make a Packing List BEFORE You Start Buying
Start with the essentials. This includes shoes that you are comfortable hiking in, clothing to hike in and layers appropriate for the temperature highs and lows, an appropriate temperature rated sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a tent or hammock, a water container or water bladder, a portable water filter (if the trail has a water source), plenty of food, travel utensils and bowl, hygiene essentials including TP and a backpacking trowel, a resealable bag you can use for trash, and a backpack to carry it all in. Lastly, some additional comfort items to consider are extra clothes to sleep in, a change of socks, trekking poles, a blow-up pillow, and a hat.
- Opt for Lightweight Foods
The lightest and most convenient foods will be packaged freeze-dried meal pouches or any dehydrated foods such as pasta, ramen, and oatmeal. For these, you will need to bring along a backpacking stove with piezo ignition, and fuel. Snacks like nuts, fruit, dates, energy bars, and candy are nice for keeping your energy up while hiking. Just be sure you bring more food than you think you will need, to account for the extra calories burnt while hiking.
- Keep the Costs Low
You don’t need to go out and purchase all of the latest and greatest backpacking equipment before you even get out there. Especially for your first backpacking trip, there are many options to keep spending at a minimum. To reduce upfront costs: rent gear, shop around, watch for sales, and always check the second-hand market. Backpacking gear gets more expensive the lighter weight it is, but slightly heavier options are typically just as, if not more, effective. And remember, you can always upgrade your gear later on as needed! We hope these tips help you, and really highlight that the most important part, is just getting out there and experiencing backpacking firsthand!
About the Author: Mikayla Koeltzow
Mikayla is always looking to see new places and experience new things in order to slow life down and create unique memories. Photography and writing are her absolute favorite ways to document these moments. When not working or relaxing with her dog, you’ll most often find her (and her dog) hiking, backpacking, camping, road tripping, or hanging out with friends and family.