So much goes into a great backpacking trip-preparing food, getting gear, getting in shape-that it's no surprise that newbies sometimes feel apprehensive about jumping in. Never fear: Read these 21 tips on hiking for beginners, and you'll have a solid base to start hitting the trail.
Plan Your Backpacking Trip
- An hour of guidebook research and a phone call to the rangers can make all your surprises happy ones.
- Choose a destination within driving distance, so you can reschedule if bad weather threatens.
- Plan on hiking no more than 5 to 7 miles a day.
- Let someone at home know your plans, and stick to your route so you'll be easy to find if necessary.
Pick the Best Backpacking Gear
- Grab some great quality Trekking Poles and save your knees!
- Many outfitters rent shelter, packs, and other gear.
- It cuts initial costs and lets you experiment before buying.
- Prevent blisters and other foot woes by getting lightweight boots that are slightly larger than your street shoes and matching them with wool hiking socks.
- Pack clothes for a 24-hour period, on trail and in camp, and wear the same stuff all weekend.
- Throw in extra socks to keep your feet happy.
- Get a lightweight canister stove and one or two standard fuel canisters for a long weekend.
- Bed down on a sleeping pad that's 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches thick, and with dimensions that don't leave your limbs dangling off the sides.
- Your bag should match your frame--try it in the store--and should be rated at least 10°F warmer than the temperatures you expect.
- Sneak a luxury item into your pack: a deck of cards, a Lexan bottle of vino, a good book, or camera gear.
Prepare Your Backpacking Meals
- Fine dining is simply a matter of smart menu planning: Use quick-cooking ingredients from your pantry and do prep work at home.
- Write out a menu for the whole trip, and don't put off shopping until the last moment.
- At home, repackage food and spices, leaving behind bulky, heavy containers.
- Dehydrated food is fast, easy, and better than you think.
- Bring your favorite dark roast and a lightweight filter for breakfast, plus an after-dinner something to toast your successful adventure.
Get Fit for Backpacking
- If you can hike for a few hours, you can backpack for a weekend.
- Hike yourself into shape: The best way to train for any sport is to do it.
- Carry a full pack on your routine dayhikes--it's also a great way to test your gear.
- Master the mountains: There's a reason hikers flock to alpine country.
Develop Backpacking Skills
- Don't get caught with your pants down and no shovel.
- Ignore the neighbors and give your gear a test run in the backyard: Pitch your tent, light your stove, use your water filter.
- Pooping in the outdoors is as natural as walking, and many backcountry campsites have outhouses.
- Think of camping like being a guest in someone else's house: Don't mess it up.
- Camp on bare ground or rock, don't do dishes in the creek, and leave plants and animals alone.
- For more tips, check out Leave No Trace.
- You'll never get lost if you stay attuned to your surroundings from the beginning.
- Locate yourself on a map, then stay oriented as you hike.