Sunday, September 20, 2020

How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under How To Articles

How to prepare for a backpacking trip.

How to prepare for a backpacking trip.

Backpacking in the wilderness is an exciting adventure that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.  Spending time immersed in nature and surviving on only what you can carry on your back is exhilarating.  It can also bring a deep sense of inner calm and oneness with nature.

To get the maximum benefit from a backpacking trip, it’s important to be prepared and know what you’re doing.  Taking the time to learn about backpacking and to plan and prepare for each trip is the best way to ensure that a fun outing doesn’t turn into an uncomfortable or dangerous ordeal.

The best way to start out with backpacking is by gaining some camping experience.  Spend some time outdoors with friends or family members who are experienced campers.  There are also organizations and outdoor equipment stores that sponsor camping trips.  A couple of overnight camping trips will give you the chance to learn some valuable camping skills.

Another important preparation for backpacking is getting fit for hiking with a pack on your back.  A regular exercise program will help you get in shape for backpacking.  Take some day hikes and practice walking with a full pack on your back.

Once you’re ready to for backpacking, these are some guidelines on how to plan a backpacking trip.

  • Choose a destination. Talk to experienced backpackers and learn about different hiking destinations in your area.  After you choose a destination, find out if you need a permit or reservation.
  • Find one or more backpacking buddies. There’s safety in numbers when it comes to backpacking.  Don’t venture out alone.  Look for companions that you get along with and who are experienced backpackers.
  • Become familiar with your route. Obtain a topographical map of the area and learn to read it.  Invest in a good compass and a GPS it you can afford it and learn how to use each.  Don’t rely on trail markings to find your way – you’ll need to orient yourself from the map.
  • Learn about your destination.  Find out as much as you can about the area where you will be hiking, including expected weather conditions, terrain, vegetation and wildlife.  If possible, obtain a guidebook about the area.  Determine whether you’ll find water to filter on the trail or if you’ll have to carry all your water.
  • Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member. Before you depart, make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you plan on returning.   If you don’t return on time they can alert the authorities.

Once your itinerary and travel companions are established and you’ve learned about your destination, you can focus on gathering your equipment and packing your backpack.  If you’re borrowing or buying a backpack, make sure it fits properly.  You’ll also need a compact sleeping back and possibly a tent.  Ask an experienced backpacker to help you choose the best equipment.  You can also get help at your local sporting goods store or do some online research.

The first things to pack are the essential items that you’ll need for safety, survival and comfort.  Experienced backpackers and Boy Scouts call these The Ten Essentials.  Many backpackers place these items in a separate day pack or Ziploc bag for easy access.  These items include:

  1. Navigation items – map, compass, optional GPS.
  2. Water – water bottles and water filter system (determine how much you’ll need based on the length of your trip and the locale).
  3. Tools – a multifunctional pocket knife.
  4. Fire – waterproof matches or a small lighter and a fire starter.
  5. Light – a headlamp or small flashlight and extra batteries.
  6. Sun protection – lip balm and a small tube of sunscreen.
  7. First aid supplies – put together or purchase a small first aid kit, including a blister first aid kit.
  8. Weather protection – a small rain poncho and emergency blanket (which can serve as an emergency shelter) and extra jacket, pants, socks, gloves and hat.
  9. Emergency food – compact food items like nuts, beef jerky or a pouch of tuna.
  10. Emergency signal devices – a whistle and mirror to signal rescuers in case you get lost.

Once you’ve packed your Ten Essentials, it’s time to think about food.  Plan meals with lightweight, nutritious ingredients.  There are freeze dried meals available specifically for backpacking, but most experienced hikers like to save money and buy food at the grocery store.  Avoid food that needs to be refrigerated as well as cans, boxes and other packaging.  You can transfer the contents of cans to Ziploc bags before you leave home.  You’ll also need to pack a compact cooking kit and in areas where fires are not allowed you’ll need a lightweight camping stove.  Minimize the weight you carry by packing one bowl or cup and one spoon.

Now you can decide what else you have space for and will be able to carry.  Possible choices include a sleeping pad and a small pillow or stuff-able pillow case.  You will probably want to bring a camera and possibly small binoculars.  You’ll also want to bring a personal toiletry kit, dish washing soap and possibly a small towel.  If you’re with a group of people, two way radios can come in handy.  A cell phone might be useful, though chances are that you won’t get a signal in the wilderness.

If you’re going to be in the true wilderness you’ll need a small trowel and a roll of toilet paper.  Backpacker need to follow the principles of “leave no trace.”  This means that you should pack out all of your trash, including toilet paper.  Small opaque plastic bags are perfect for this purpose.  As you hike, stay on the trail and minimize your impact on the environment.  Leave the wilderness as pristine as you find it, ready to be enjoyed by all.

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One Response to “How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip”
  1. Explorer says:

    Exploring the exciting outdoors and everything it has to give.