First-time backpacking? No worries. Today I’ll take through the basics down right to the essentials on how to best plan for an amazing outdoor experience. It’s great that you’ve decided to get away from the metropolitan hassles and just take some time off. No more heavy traffic jams, loud noises or crowded streets. What’s not to love about the open? Planning for an outdoor excursion is a critical phase that should be carefully done. With that, let’s see what it involves and you’ll be on your way to some of the best outdoor memories of your life.
First step to any backpacking is to pick a place. You’ll want to pick a place that is convenient for you in terms of time constraints, budget and outdoor skill set. If you are new to this, then consider picking a place not so far from civilization. 5-10 miles near a town is a good start for beginners. You’ll also want to do your research about where you’re going. Whether you are visiting your local national park or a nearby reserve, be sure to do a little digging. Use blogs, outdoor magazines, online forums, guide books or even ask your travelling friends. These resources can be of great help when choosing a suitable destination and routes.
Try to determine the best time to visit the area. For those looking for a hot weather vacation, midsummer is usually best. Be sure to check your local forecasts to see if they are expecting any changes in weather but don’t rely on them too much.
There’s nothing wrong with going solo. In fact, I’ve been to a couple of solo trips myself. Nonetheless, for your first outdoor experience, be sure to go with someone. Having some company always has its rewards. First is the peace of mind that comes with it not to mention you get some amazing memories when in groups. You also get to learn a lot by sharing outdoor wisdom with friends.
Having done all the above, you should be in a position to know what to carry. Much of what you’ll put in your bag is dependent on the weather you’re most likely to encounter and where you’re going. Make sure everything you carry falls in either of the following categories: Clothing, Cooking Items, Emergency or Essentials and Sleeping (tent included).
Below are some of the essentials you’ll need on your trip:
1. A backpacking pack to carry everything else.
2. Hiking pants- It’s really not a good idea to hike with jeans or a dress.
3. First Aid Kit- Remember you’re in the wild and you need to be prepared for anything.
4. Maps and Compass- It’s always good to have one around especially when camping in a new area. You can use it to find alternative routes or nearby water sources, towns, caves etc.
5. Waterproof Jacket- Always a good idea to be prepared. You never know when it may rain.
6. Camera- To preserve those fireplace moments.
7. Synthetic Sleeping bag
8. A good and reliable 3-Season tent and all its accessories e.g. poles, stakes and rainfly
9. Solar Charger- Comes in handy when you decide to carry your smartphone
10. Inflatable foam pad- Some tents come with lousy floors
11. Socks- A pair a day is recommended
12. Sandals or Camp shoes
13. Synthetic T-Shirts
14. Spoons, knifes, cups and plates
15. Pocket Knife- Comes in handy when setting up the tent
16. Lightweight Stove with fuel
17. Others include: Water Filters, torch, toiletries, duct tape, lighter or matches and a cooking set
That concludes our list but if there’s anything I didn’t put, be sure to let me know below in the comments. That’s not all, you still need to decide on how you’ll arrange them. A general rule is to pack heavy items closer to your back’s center. This distributes weight evenly. Keep items you need quick access to closer or in outer pockets such as maps, GPS, pocket knife etc.
There’s a reason I didn’t include food in the list above. Planning for your meals is all about packing enough calories to last you through the day without putting too much weight on. You can best do this by creating a meal plan for each day. Whether you decide to pack pre-made meals or ingredients, be sure to observe the following.
1. Everyone should carry at least 2 liters of water per day for those hot days. You can also check your maps for nearby water sources such as rivers to prevent carrying excess water. Don’t forget your water filter.
2. Clearly label your food to avoid confusion.
3. Bring snacks. Nothing beats a good chocolate bar after a hike so don’t forget to carry them.
4. If anyone in you group needs special diet, be sure to check on that
5. Lastly, you are not alone. Whether it’s a monkey (they travel in packs) or Yogi Bear, be sure to protect your food. Never leave food lying around or unattended. I highly doubt they’ll want to share. You can easily do this by having a separate sack for food or a bear proof container.
Don’t count on your cellphone to always have reception depending on where you camp. Get a satellite phone if you must communicate or a 2-way radio. These work best when you are in spread out groups across an area. Finally, be sure to charge, pack enough batteries or carry a solar charger.
Do prep exercises before you get out into the field. You need to be physically fit to go on a backpacking trip. Set up your tent in your backyard to see how it’s done and also test drive your full backpack. Make sure all your gadgets work well and if you have new foot wear, break into it by taking a 2 mile walk or jog.
Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to go. Be sure to observe outdoor etiquette and pick up all wrappers and papers. Anything that doesn’t belong there don’t leave it there. Last but not least, respect the wildlife out there and be nice to fellow backpackers. Ultimately, relax, enjoy yourselves and soak in the essence of nature in its finest beauty.