5 Tips From a Beginner Backpacker

You’ve tried camping and glamping, and maybe you’ve considered giving backpacking a shot. Here are five tips from a beginner backpacker: I was a bit nervous to backpack, but it all worked out in the end, so if you need a sign to get you out there to do it, this is your sign to dive right in and go for it!

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5 Tips From a Beginner Backpacker

Preparation is Key, But There is no Secret to Being a Backpacker

There is no magical ingredient to being a great backpacker, and if you ask people who often do it, you will notice everyone does it a bit differently, and you mostly learn as you go. Essentially, there are standard components to what you should bring, and you will pack not only what is required but you will also want to bring things that work for YOU. We all have our style of doing things in the wilderness, so don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or what they have –  your journey will look different as time goes on.

5 Tips for Beginning Backpacking:

1. Go With Someone Who Has Some Experience:

If you go with someone who has never backpacked either, that’s no problem, but it certainly helps. When you go with someone who has had prior experience, you can learn many things from them but can also share the weight among your group, especially when it comes to the food portion or shelter. I was fortunate to have my friend carry the bear canister and the tent, which was less weight for me for the first time. Make sure you go with someone you can rely on and who is good company; this will also ensure you have a better experience as your first time backpacking.

5 Tips From a Beginner Backpacker

Hiking Gear for Your Adventure

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2. Borrow or Rent Gear if Possible: 

Outdoor gear is expensive, and you will want to get a feel for things that work and don’t. I’ve had friends who have been fortunate enough to let me borrow a few things this year, and it has been a lifesaver! Don’t buy all your things immediately if you can avoid doing that. Testing gear before you buy your own can also reveal what you like or dislike. You can also rent gear from places like REI or check your local outdoor recreation store and see if they have a program that offers something similar. Another tip to remember is that if you buy your gear, remember that there are so many options, but paying a little extra could cost you less in the end – the gear will last longer and be more durable.

5 Tips From a Beginner Backpacker

3. Backpack, Tent & Sleeping Bag are the BIG 3

These are the big three because they are the most important to ensure you have a good night’s sleep and feel comfortable along your journey.

The backpack will hold it all together, so you will want it to be comfortable. How much weight you bring depends on the length of your trip and where you are backpacking, too.  If you are unsure about the backpack portion, go to REI: they will measure you to find your backpack size, show you the backpacks they offer, and add weight to determine what is most comfortable.

Your shelter will also be essential, so having a good tent is key. One of the biggest areas where backpackers can decrease weight is with their tent. Tents can weigh anywhere from 1 to 6 lbs. Read here to learn more about tents. I have a few friends who have the Big Agnes tents, and although they are pricey if you can afford one, they are a well-known brand, and they have the biggest selection of tents that weigh less for backpacking.

A sleeping bag is one item I recommend getting right. If you are always cold like me, I suggest getting a sleeping bag that keeps you warm, especially if you are backpacking in higher elevation areas. In the summertime, the mountains are always cooler, so do your research on the various sleeping bag temperatures, and if you are too hesitant to get one right away, you can also rent one from REI.


4. Trekking Poles, Hiking Boots, Layers and Trails

Most people prefer trekking poles for backpacking, but some people don’t. I recommend trying them first; they are great for incline and higher elevation trails. They will help your ankles and knees while you have all that extra weight on your back, and you feel a good balance along the way when you are using them.

Hiking boots are great for backpacking tougher terrain; although trail runners are lighter, boots are safer on the trails, especially when going for miles through the mountains. Go with whatever you find more comfortable, but know that with a boot, you may get better foot coverage up to your ankles paired with a suitable wool sock that provides the ultimate comfort. 

When you are backpacking, you never know what you will get as far as the weather goes, so you will want to have some good layers with you in case the weather gets too cold or turns wet. I suggest getting a lightweight waterproof jacket or an insulated light jacket for cold weather. You may not need one, but it will be good to have, and you won’t regret it if you decide you need it after all.

Since it will be your first time backpacking regarding the type of trail and how many miles to trek, this will be all up to you. My advice is to start small and not push yourself too hard. There is this expectation that backpacking has to be this long, crazy thru-hike, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you choose to do 18 miles or 6 miles, it doesn’t matter. Do what is most comfortable for you!

Eastern Sierras Backpacking

5. A water filter is a must

Water is an essential part of life, but on the trails, the stakes are high, and you do not want to fall short of this because it can become life-threatening. Filters come in handy for these long treks for drinking and making meals. You can get water from most bodies of water in the wilderness, but there are exceptions, so read here for more information.

Backpacking in the Sierras

Wait, don’t forget…

Lastly, do your research before heading out. Check the weather and road conditions, have maps prepped, lay everything out, and ensure you have all you need before packing it. I also suggest watching a few YouTube videos on how to pack your backpack because there is a proper way to pack as far as weight goes, and you will want to follow that closely so you don’t come across an issue. Remember to Leave No Trace and leave it better than you found it. Happy Trekking, friends.

Backpacking 101
5 Tips From a Beginner Backpacker

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