8 Tips For a Newbie Backpacker

If you've never gone back-country camping, before heading out into the great wide open, educate yourself on the basics.

Now that glamping is part of our every day vernacular, America has renewed its love affair with the great outdoors. If you’re tired of sitting around the campfire, hit the trail. But wait, Tenzing Norgay. Sleeping in the comforts of a shiny Airstream versus on the ground in a nylon tent are two completely different animals.

Even the most experienced hiker will admit that they learn something new every time they venture out. We’ve compiled some tips so that your backpacking adventure will prove more rewarding.

Beg, Borrow, Steal

Don’t really steal, but don’t go out and buy a bunch of new gear. Ask your friends/social media hive to borrow theirs. Chances are they’ll tell you what you need and how to use it. When shopping, patronize stores with flexible return policies, like REI or browse the web for used gear. Gear Trade, eBay, Craigslist can be great sources as is your local Goodwill.

travel equipment

travel equipment

travel equipment set

Do a Dry Run

Test every piece of equipment before you hit the trail. Pitch your tent in the backyard or living room. And if you’re buying new shoes, load your pack and take it to the store. 30 extra pounds on the wrong shoes can make a world of difference. Break them in as much as possible before your trip. 

Treat Your Feet

Quality, waterproofed footwear is a must. Some are advocates for hardcore hiking boots while others swear by trail runners. Mostly it’s a personal preference but ankle strength, foot shape and environment are all factors. Boots are great in colder weather while runners can prove better in hotter climes. Keep your feet as dry as possible and never wear cotton socks, only wool or a synthetic blend. 

Don’t Over Pack

Make a list and stick to it. You will not need a new outfit for every day. This isn’t a cruise. Weigh your pack. If it weighs 35 pounds or more, edit. Do not leave water, a filtration device, fresh socks, rain gear and something to keep you warm at night behind. You will get thirsty, wet and cold.

Campfire Stories

Unless you’re a caveman being around an open fire isn’t an every day thing. Respect the fire. Do not leave anything in it or around it unattended. Things like shoes, socks and that precious dinner you carried into the forest can burn in a flash. 

Mind the Gap

Hopefully you checked the weather and are expecting clear skies. Get over it. The weather can change quicker than you can say Boo Boo and Yogi. Camp where there is adequate drainage and as far away from lakes and streams as possible. Flat is not always good either. One overnight shower and you could wake up in a puddle.

Waste Not, Want Not

Leave absolutely nothing behind. No banana peels, orange skins, lemon rinds, nothing. But what about number 1 and 2, you ask. Never relieve yourself within 200 feet of a water source or your campsite because, because gross. Dig a 6”x 8” hole with a trowel and cop a squat. Whatever cleansing method you prefer, zip it up in a freezer bag. Flushing in this case means covering your hole.

Final Thoughts + Must-Haves

Brush up on your map skills and bring a compass. If you think you’re lost, stop walking and go back to the place where you feel less lost. Store your food tightly. Don’t ever feed the animals and no, you don’t spray bear repellant around your campsite though you will need a good one for yourself. Lastly, tell someone where you’re going.

 hiker studying the map

hiker studying the map

Pensive beard hiker with backpack studying the map

Photo by: alessandro guerriero

alessandro guerriero

Oh, and have fun! Our national and state parks make up 10% of the world’s protected areas proving that we truly are America, the beautiful. 

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