Backpacking for Beginners

Backpacking for BeginnersWhen you feel the call of the wild and want to answer it, backpacking is a fun and adventurous way to do so. If backpacking is new to you, however, there are some things you should consider before heading into the backcountry. Following some basic safety and outdoor guidelines will help you to smoothly enter the world of backpacking and enjoy it enough to come back for more.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Purchase the proper gear and attire. Having the right equipment and clothing is essential to the success of a first-time backpacker, but it doesn't mean you have to spend your life savings. You might be surprised to find that the best fit isn't always the most expensive item. Before you hit the trails, make sure and visit your local outdoor retailer to properly fit your backpack, shoes, clothing and sleeping gear. Doing so will ensure a safer and more comfortable journey.

After you have purchased all of your necessary items, do a test run with them. A short hike in full gear will test for rubbing, blistering and overall ease of use on the trail.
Step 2
Be prepared. Yes, that is the Boy Scout motto, but it is also just good common sense. Planning for and practicing proper safety on the trail and at your campsite are the key elements of an enjoyable backpacking trip. Make sure to pack a comprehensive first aid kit, plenty of water or a purifier, bug spray that contains deet, sunblock, waterproof matches, a reliable light source with extra batteries, a GPS unit, or a topo map and compass.

When practicing the principles of good safety, it is also important to know how to properly store food and other odorous items. Never keep lip balm, toothpaste, garbage, food or other scented items in your tent. The best way to store them is in a bear bag in a tree away from your camp.
Step 3
Know and understand your physical abilities and limitations. Backpacking requires you to be fairly physically fit, given that you will be encountering rough, uneven and often strenuous terrain, while carrying a backpack and being exposed for a long duration to the elements. Plan a trip that is suited to your abilities so that you have a good and comfortable experience in the backcountry. If you are unsure what length or level of hike is right for you, consult your doctor or an expert in the outdoor field.
Step 4
Be kind to the environment. Most seasoned backpackers are well versed in the "Leave No Trace" credo of the outdoors, but if it is your first backpacking experience, you might be unaware of certain outdoor ethics. Before you start on the trail, understand the importance of packing out everything you packed in, camping at a reasonable distance from water sources, staying on designated trails (even in the backcountry), using existing campsites where available and never taking items, such as rocks, wildflowers, bugs and animals, from their natural habitat.

Tips & Warnings

If you have never hiked in the backcountry before, it is a good idea to take a wilderness first aid course before you start on your excursion. Wilderness courses teach valuable skills that could mean the difference between life and death should an accident occur.

Article Written By Hollie Reina

Based in St. George, Utah, Hollie Reina recently started her professional writing career writing outdoor-related articles for She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.

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