Backpacking for the first time?

Some basic tips to go a long way and ensure that you and your group have a great time.

Before venturing out into the wilderness, make a backpacking checklist (which includes the ten essentials) and make sure you know how to use the gear you'll be carrying.

Choose an experienced travel companion

Form a team with an experienced friend. A connoisseur of the route is good for peace of mind, and a shared backpacking experience is often more fun than going solo.

Choose an appropriate destination

You'll want to take into account factors such as the length of your trip and difficulties, as well as special considerations (hiking with dogs or children) or interests (wildflowers, waterfalls, history, etc.).

Travel distance

An overnight trip is meaningless for beginners. Keep the round trip distance 10 miles or less. It is reassuring to know that civilization is not too far out of reach.

Do you stay camping? Consider this: Establish a camp On the first night, use the next day to relax or take a day trip to a nice place, then return to your base camp that night.

Travel information

There are several good sources of travel information.

Guides: Some trips have quality scenic routes, and being advised can be very useful to choose a path at the best time. Its 5-star venues usually draw crowds, so don't expect solitude unless you visit midweek.

Websites, Magazines: Websites Hiking They are plentiful and can be good resources, although reliability can vary. Magazines are solid sources, and some national parks and forests keep trail reports online.

Experienced friends. They can point you to destinations that match your tastes and abilities.

Ranger Services: You should be able to find ranger information or park websites in the area that you are interested in exploring.

Choose your backpacking outfit.

According to the environment and temperatures that you are going to visit.

Check out a Backpacking checklist

There is a very useful checklist on the website that includes more items than you will ever take on a single trip, but it helps you not forget anything important.

Actually, don't rush. Many comforts of home also come in extraordinarily lightweight backpacking forms: stoves, sleeping pills, fluffy camp pillows.

Think light.

It's easy to overload. Yes, bring a camera, toilet paper, flashlight and sunscreen. But try to use the smallest and necessary sizes, not carry a third bottle of water (bring a water filter in place and refuel on the go). Calculate exactly the amount of food, do not take more. Try to maintain a backpack weight that is manageable. Let's say about 30 pounds.

Borrow or rent.

Try expensive items (bags, tents) before making a purchase to better understand your preferences.

How to Choose and Pack a Backpack

Here are some brief guidelines:

Capacity. The number on the backpack models generally refer to the volume of the package in liters. A common size for weekend trips (1-3 nights) is 35-50 liters. Multi-day trips (3-5 nights) require 50-80 liter packages. For longer trips, or if you're toting a lot of winter or kids gear, choose 70 and above.

Size: Backpacks are sized according to torso length, not a person's height. The best way to get the right size pack is to visit an REI store and get expert help. If that's not practical, you can get a friend to measure your torso length, determined by measuring the distance between the top of your hips to your C7-vertebrae that bony bulge near the base of your neck.

Carrying and adjusting a backpack. A backpack is designed to carry most of the load on your hips, while your shoulders carry less. Keep heavy equipment close to your back and close to your shoulders. See our articles on how to pack a backpack and pack-fit tips for more details.

Backpacking Clothing

Base coat. Sweaty cotton takes forever to dry, so choose a "technical" fabric, such as moisture-wicking polyester or wool, for your underwear and long underwear.

Pants or shorts. Convertible pants are popular. Your lower leg portions can zip off if you want more air and sun.

Footwear. Full or mid-cut boots are traditional backpacking options, although some people prefer hiking shoes or even mountain runners. Tennis shoes and urban / athletic footwear are too flexible for roots and rocks on the trails. Sandals to rest in the camp are a luxury, if you do not mind carrying the weight. For more information, see our article on choosing hiking boots.

Socks. Avoid cotton. Wearing cotton on the trail is asking for blisters. Choose wool or synthetic hiking socks in a weight or thickness compatible with your footwear.

Head cover.

Wide-brimmed hats, caps, buffs, bandanas, it's smart to protect your scalp from sun exposure throughout the day. Bring ample sun protection for exposed skin.

Winter clothes. Although dry weather is anticipated, a rain jacket keeps insects off your arms and torso while at camp. An insulating layer (jacket or vest) drives away chills early or late in the day.

Food and packaging

Dinner. For simplicity, choose dehydrated food that requires only a few cups of boiling water and a 10-minute wait time. If you have a dehydrator at home, you can get creative while lightening your load.

The rest of the day. Some backpackers take time to cook breakfast; others save time with ready-to-eat items. Lunch can be one meal or multiple snack breaks such as trail mix, dried meat, dried fruit, chunks of cheese, and energy foods (bars, chews, and gels).

Coffee. If you can't start the morning without coffee, bring instant coffee instead of a whole pot.

Food storage. Never leave food unattended. You are likely to lose it, and animals are less inclined to try to pry.

Backpacking with children?

Adjust your expectations. You can travel slower and shorter distances, but it's done right (with compassion and patience) you can cultivate a love of outdoor adventure in little ones.

Teach respect for the land. Encourage children to stay on the trails and not cut zigzags. Ask them not to pick flowers, tag rocks, or carve their names into tree trunks.

Electronic communication

Don't count on getting cell phone reception in wilderness areas. Cell towers can be found near visitor centers in a handful of national parks, but in the countryside, cell reception is rare.

Other communication options include satellite phones (expensive, but your best bet if on-demand access to civilization is a must), satellite messengers (capable of transmitting 1-way or even 2-way text messages), 2-way radios (best for groups spread over a large area; average range is 2 miles) and beacon-type personal locators (to send a distress signal).

Portable Power Sources (such as solar chargers) can generate enough power to fully charge a smartphone.

Before you leave

Practice at home or a campsite. Set up your tent in your backyard. Inflate your mat. Turn on the stove. Take a look at your lighthouse. Knowing how things work in a comfortable place before you are under pressure in unfamiliar surroundings.

Call ahead. Avoid surprises. Contact a ranger office at or near your destination. Ask about road closures, trail conditions, clearance requirements, animal activity, and time restrictions. Check the weather.

Share your plans with a friend. Leave an itinerary with a friend who will stay in town. If you don't return the designated time, your friend can notify the park rangers that they may need help.

If you get lost Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.

Stop: If you are uncomfortable with your situation, go no further. Don't panic, either. The rule changes if the area is unsafe or someone in your group needs medical attention. Count to 10, drink water or eat some food. These acts often give you a new perspective and help you better assess your situation.

Think: Where were you when you were last determined of your location? Can you navigate back to that point? Can you hear or see useful landmarks like a road or trail? If so, carefully return to that location and re-evaluate your options.

Note: Put your senses on high alert. Picture in your mind all the distinctive features you spotted from where you came to your current position. Can it be used as landmarks to guide you back to a place where you were sure of your location? If so, go back to that place. Can you connect to a known trail from that point? Do what. If not, stay. It's easier for rescue teams to find you close to your original line of march.

Plan: If you are with others, talk about a plan. If not, it may be helpful to say the plan out loud as if you were explaining it to someone else. If it makes sense, then follow your plan. If not, review your plan. If the situation changes as you follow this plan, use "STOP" again to improve your chances of a safe recovery.

Hiker ethics

Pick up your garbage, do not leave residues or traces of your passage through the environments. Neither souvenir collections as you pass along the way.

Understand that out of town is wild and unpredictable, not a theme park. In the desert or forest, you will find no handrails, no courtesy phones, no attendants, no toilets, no water fountains, no bars. It is a potentially dangerous place. That is part of their lands to the wild appeal are a different world. Self-reliance is a vital skill to appreciate them. Keep in mind that you will have to adjust to the unexpected.

This is not a disco. Realize most people head to the woods for peace and serenity, an escape from the noisy urban norm. Have fun; Just please self-regulate your noise level.

Ultimately, relax and enjoy. Stay committed to being nice to other backpackers, the animals, and the land. Take a deep breath, take in the sights and immerse yourself in a whole new world.


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