Backpacking basics - Jason Pratt -Flickr Creative Commons

The Basics Of Backpacking That You Should Keep In Mind Before Heading Out

Backpacking basics - Jason Pratt -Flickr Creative Commons
Jason Pratt (Flickr Creative Commons)

Additional gear, area knowledge, trip planning and hiking skills are required in order to be prepared for overnight backpacking. Since summer is near, if you are considering giving this independent, adventurous and low-cost form of traveling a try, then here are some basics of backpacking travel that will come in handy.

Trip Planning
If you want all the surprises that you encounter during your travel to be happy ones, then make sure you at least spend an hour or so doing research via a guidebook and even give the park rangers for the area you will be traveling in a call for advice. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your backpacking destinations are always within driving distance so that rescheduling becomes possible if there is a threat of bad weather.  A Backpacking Checklist is an essential part of being able to plan an enjoyable outing.
Well-marked routes are always better because of an abundance of water, convenient terrain, and established campsites. As a rule of thumb plan to hike no more than 7 miles per day. Also learn if you need permits, what weather can be expected, where you will be able to find drinks, edibles, etc. Make sure you inform someone at home about your plans, and do not stray from your route so they may find you easily if necessary.

Backpacking Gear
Thanks to the equipment of today, ultralight backpacking is easily possible since your backpack will not weigh more than 35 pounds even if you load it with all your weekend supplies. If you are planning your first trip and are not sure if you will really like this type of adventure; you can cut down on your initial costs if you rent packs, shelter (tent), and other gear and you will be able to experiment before you decide to buy any of them. Make sure you wear slightly larger, lightweight boots and wool hiking socks when going backpacking, so that blisters and other foot problems are prevented.
Make sure that the clothes you pack will be enough for a 24-hour period, and if needed to limit overall pack weight you can just wear the same clothing all weekend. You will have to keep your feet happy, so make sure you carry enough extra socks. If you intended to cook for yourself during your travel, you will have to buy a lightweight canister stove and if it is going to be a long weekend, then a couple of standard fuel canisters too. Make sure to check off all of these items from your Backpacking Checklist before heading out.

Backpacking Food
How well you dine while traveling all depends how smartly you plan your menu. It will be best if you do as much preparation work as possible at home before leaving. A money saver tip is to use ingredients from your pantry that can be cooked quickly and are note to heavy. Lightweight plastic containers & bags work great as replacements for any heavy metal containers. Write down a menu for the entire trip, and make sure you do your grocery shopping beforehand. Suppose you are on a three-day trip with two other people. Here’s an example of a backpacking trip menu: For the two breakfasts you can carry cold cereal with powdered milk and four packs of instant oatmeal. For the three lunches, you can carry cheese and salami on a bagel, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and turkey sandwiches. For the two dinners, you can carry angel hair pasta with pesto sauce, burritos containing dehydrated beans, cheese, salsa, and tortillas. You can also carry chocolate, cookies, dried fruit, energy bars, and trail mix as snacks. Tip: Try to keep all of the snacks together in a large plastic ziplock bag and place them in the front pocket of your backpack. That way they are easy to get to and with all of them in one bag you can gauge how much you have for the whole week-end and remind you not to eat them all at once 🙂

Backpacking Fitness
Backpacking for a weekend should not be a problem for you if can hike for a couple of hours. However, if you want your second day to feel just like the first one, then you should do a bit of training. Do some hiking before hand (2 – 3 weeks before your trip) to get into shape. An ideal way to test your backpacking gear is to do a dry run packing all of your essential items and try 1 hour local hike even if it’s just around your neighborhood. It will help you get a feel for your backpack and what pace you can comfortably walk. Hiking trails uphill are much different than a stroll around the local park, so try to find some hills or walk at a pace faster than usual to push your muscles a little extra. You can also use a stair-climber to strengthen your hill-climbing muscles, namely your calves, hamstrings, and quads. If you can find a local place with 4 -5 flights of stairs and walk up and down them a few times a day, this will be of great help to get your leg muscles used to walking up hills.

Backpacking Skills
When going on a trip like this, you should be familiar with essential skills such as reading a trail map, using a compass, wilderness first-aid, digging a cathole, lighting a stove and pitching a tent. Take some time to review the trails of your planned trip on a good map. Look at the map and try to visualize the trip & what the elevation is like. Regardless of what others may think, test your gear beforehand in your backyard before heading out. Perhaps you might be a little anxious about attending to nature’s call out in the open, but there is no reason to fret because it is quite natural, and often there are outhouses in many backcountry campsites. Keep in mind, that camping is somewhat similar being a guest in another person’s house, so do not forget your manners. Be respectful of the area, clean-up after yourself, and pack-out everything you brought in.

Backpacking can be amazingly freeing and satisfying, you get to head out with nothing more than a backpack filled with everything that you need to survive. However, if you do not keep the above basics in mind, your trip could turn out to be more difficult than enjoyable. Remember the journey is the real reward not the destination, so start planning your trip today!