So I have spent the last few month focusing on rock climbing and training for alpine climbing but one of my favorite things is backpacking. There is just something so freeing and simple about carrying everything you need on your back and heading into some far away place on your own two feet. It’s about pushing your body, escaping the crowds, spending time with good friends and experiencing the most amazing places.
Now is the time of year that we are getting ready for backpacking season here in the PNW. If you are a day hiker who has ever thought about trying out backpacking, you should absolutely go for it! That said, there are a few things to consider. There are some common mistakes that beginner backpackers make and can easily be avoided. Here are a few tips I have picked up over the years, which I hope will help your first backpacking trip be enjoyable and successful.
- Don’t overpack (see my post “How Not to Backpack). What you bring on a trip is highly dependent on your planned destination. Are you gaining a lot of distance/elevation? Peakbagging? Fishing at an alpine lake? Bringing the kids? The key is to think objectively about what you actually need. Try not to overpack those “just in case” things. If there is a slim chance of encountering snow, do you really need traction devices? Is it really necessary to carry a new set of clothes for each day or can you wear the same pants all weekend? You have to carry what you bring so think carefully about each thing. This goes into the next step, which is…
- Do your homework. Just like with day hiking, researching your planned trip will help you decide what gear and skills you will need. Make sure you understand the mileage and elevation gain. You might be able to hike 10 miles with a day pack, but if you have never carried an overnight pack, plan your first backpacking trip conservatively. Read recent trip reports. Check the weather. Don’t bring that heavy puffy jacket if the temps are most likely going to be warm.If there is a very slim chance of rain, you may not need a full set of rain gear. How much water is on the route? Will you need to carry a lot or can you filter? Plan for what you are most likely to encounter.
- Consider the group. Are you going solo? Bringing kids? With your hardcore hiking buddies? Plan a trip that will be doable and enjoyable for all involved. If in doubt, plan on the conservative side. If you are with kids, you will be carrying much of their gear. Your out of shape friend might only be able to travel a short distance on easy ground. Choose your trip accordingly.
- Share Gear. This goes along with not overpacking. In a group, much of the group gear can be shared to save weight. Things such as stoves, water filters and tents can easily be shared. This will save a lot of unnecessary weight.
- Have fun! Now that we have talked about condensing weight and planning your trip to be safe, remember to plan for a good time too. After all, that is why you are there! This is not car camping, and you do have to carry anything you take, but for easier or more casual trips, you might consider bringing some items that are purely for luxury or fun. Some examples could be a camp chair, wine bladder, games or gourmet food. For example, on some trips I think the extra weight of my chair is worth it, and I might leave something else behind to compensate.
Now it’s time to plan your trip and get out there! Have fun and be safe! I’d love to see some pics from your first or favorite backpacking trip. Happy hiking!