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Backpacking for Beginners

One of the most inexpensive vacations you can take is to go backpacking. There’s just something really cool about putting all the stuff you need to live in a backpack and walking into the woods for three days. If you have ever considered doing this with your friends, there are some important tips you should know:


1. Don’t Skimp on the Backpack

A good fitting backpack is ESSENTIAL

It might seem obvious, but you really need to have a good backpack. You are going to be humping 50or 60 pounds of stuff for 72 hours or more. If your backpack does not fit right, your back will soon be telling you all about it.

It is a good idea to go to a local camping store, such as REI, and spend an hour being fitted for a backpack. Your sales assistant should do a variety of measurements on you to ensure the right fit. It is true that you will have to spend some money for a good backpack, but it will last you for a decade or more. Plus, after hiking 40 miles in the forest, your back won’t be shrieking at you – a big plus!


2. Remember Your Feet

Our daughter at a military college in Virginia recently did an 80-mile march (one of those crazy senior class traditions). It became very clear to me after talking to her that it is critical to really care for your feet. This means buying good, fitted hiking boots, or at least some good trail shoes.

It is also very important to wear good hiking socks, and to have band aids and moleskin in case you have any blisters. Another thing you can do is to take along a small roll of duct tape and tape up the parts of your feet that are most tender. This preventative maintenance kept our daughter from getting any blisters on her long hike.


3. Drink Lots of Water


It is important to keep sipping water all day as you hike. Staying fully hydrated is will make the long journey much easier. I am a big fan of the Camelbak, which is a little backpack-type canteen that you can strap on your backpack. It has a nice little sippy straw that you can drink from whenever you wish. The nice thing about the Camelbak is that the end that you drink from has been very specially designed to open easily in your mouth when you drink. But when you release it from your mouth, it does not leak. Very nice product to keep you hydrated without having to stop hiking.

You should either carry a water filter with you or make 100% sure you have access to clean drinking water on your route.


4. Pack Good Sleep Gear

You want to pack a very warm sleeping bag, and a lightweight tent that does not weigh more than 3-4 pounds. I also recommend you tote along a sleeping pad. It is light in weight and makes sleeping on the ground a lot more comfortable.


5. Bring Good Food

Hiking 30 miles with a 50 pound backpack burns a LOT of calories. You will need to have some handy, high protein snacks with you for munching on as you hike. Granola, power bars, beef jerky and nuts are good bets. In the evening, I like Mountain House meals, which are similar to military MREs (meals ready to eat) but a lot tastier. All you need to make one of these dinners is a pot of boiling water. This means you need to have basic cooking utensils and a little camping stove. Make sure you have several packs of waterproof matches and a lighter for back up.

After dinner, make sure you have some trash bags you can seal up for your trash to keep away animals. Also, you should carry a 50 foot rope with you so that you can hang your backpack about 10 feet up to keep the animals away.


6. Wear Practical Clothes

It depends on where you are hiking, but you often can run into serious temperature variations. 80 during the day and 40 at night is not unusual in the summer months in the hills. I like Under Armour gear because a thin layer keeps you warm, but not too warm, and the material breathes somewhat. A good warm North Face jacket is great for night time. Another good bet is a pair of pants that you can unzip and turn into shorts in the heat of the day.



Backpacking is a lot of fun, and is very inexpensive once you make your initial necessary purchases. By following these easy steps, your first backpacking trip should be a great success.





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