Backcountry Camping Tips

Backcountry Camping Tips
You've already tried car and RV camping. You've camped at commercial campsites that had a convenient restroom and water supply. Now, you want to explore the road less traveled. Backcountry camping, also known as primitive camping, is a wonderful way to explore the remote and secluded areas of our national forests. However, it requires some advanced camping skills.

Develop a Camping-Specific Fitness Program

Unlike traditional camping, most backcountry camping trips involve moving from site to site. Climbing uphill while wearing a backpack involves, strength, endurance and balance. So, about two months prior to your backcountry camping trip, you should begin a camping-specific fitness program, which involves strength, endurance and balance exercises. Some people put the treadmill on an incline, and wear a backpack while training.

Pack a Detailed Trail Map          

Keep in mind that in backcountry camping, you are less likely to hike on paved or marked trails so its easy to get lost. If possible, use a topographical map and learn how to read it. Check the map periodically.

Pack a First Aid Kit

While commercial first aid kits are fine, you might want to add additional items, such as rubber gloves and a CPR mask. You should also consider bringing along a mountain first aid book.

The Backpack

The backpack is the number one thing to carry into the backcountry because almost all of your gear will either be inside it or strapped to it. Backpacks of this type need to be able to carry 50 pounds or more, but 80 pounds or more is preferable. The backpack should have a belt, adjustable frame and adjustable straps so it can be configured to transfer two-thirds of its weight onto your hips.


Bedding is about more than just having the right sleeping bag. You also need either a bed mat or an air mattress to provide insulation from the ground. 


You should not set out into the backcountry with an ordinary pair of hiking boots. Backcountry travel is off-trail and made with heavy loads, so you need boots with good ankle support. These boots should be broken in prior to your first backcountry trip to prevent more blisters than are absolutely necessary. As a guard against blisters, pack mole skins and two pairs of good hiking socks.


A basic kit of cooking utensils, an all-in-one utility tool, a sheath knife, a military-style entrenching tool and a camping stove are good items to have on a backcountry checklist. The all-in-one utility tool is handy, but not a proper knife, which is why you need a sheath knife or large buck knife as well. The entrenching tool is needed for digging latrines. Finally, most U.S. national parks ban campfires, so a camping stove is required to cook meals in the backcountry. 

Water Tips

Remember to bring along water filters, because drinking directly from the stream could be dangerous. Cooking water should be boiled for five minutes and treated with purifying tablets. Backcountry camping always means treating local water supplies. Just sitting around doing nothing all day requires a half gallon of water which weighs just over four pounds. The water requirements for a backcountry camping trip are such that no one can bring all the necessary gear and all the bottled water required for even a short trip. Either a camping water filter approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for backcountry use, or a carbon filter combined with boiling, iodine tablets or chlorine drops is required.


Do not chop down trees for firewood. Use the wood from trees that have already been downed.

Beware of Bears

Pack your food in bear-safe containers, which can be found at camping stores.

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