Backpacking is camping while you hike – you carry all of your gear and food with you. There are many advantages to backpacking that make you actually want to carry everything – like seeing a vista that is too far to walk in one day or getting completely away from people and enjoying nature.
But the first time you go backpacking, planning the trip can be overwhelming.
So I polled my friends who I’ve backpacked with, three who spent their first trip on the trail with me, I asked for things they wish they had done different or advice they could give.
We made a few mistakes … um OK a lot of mistakes, but the truth is you don’t know what will make your trip a little more enjoyable until you’ve actually been on the trail.
Crystal and I made the mistake during our first-time backpacking trip of packing too much. Our packs were much heavier than they needed to be.
If there is any one thing that I would advise, it is to start out on a shorter trail. Then you would have the option to be able to get back to the car or call for a ride out quickly if you simply hate it. When my brother Jacob and I went on his first backpacking trip, we tackled the 39-mile Lake Ouachita Vista Trail in southwest Arkansas. It is wonderful and beautiful trail. Cell phone reception is also abundant along the trail. There are also many trailheads, so I knew we could call for a ride out if we had bitten off more than we could chew.
We made it the whole way, but looking back Jacob thinks maybe he should have started off on a shorter trail.
15 tips we wish we had known on our first-time backpacking
- Thirty-nine miles in four days isn’t exactly the bunny hill. Start slow. – Jacob
2. Pack your backpack and then try to take out one third of the weight. You never need as much stuff as you think you do. – Mara
3. Never assume that a spring will be flowing. Always have a second option for water when backpacking and don’t be conservative on your estimates for the amount of water you will consume. – Zach
4. If going with a friend, divide up shared items such as the food and tent, or one of you carry the food and cooking wares and the other the tent. – Mara
5. Don’t pack too much during your first-time backpacking, but do pack more food than you think you’ll need. And don’t forgot all your medications! – Lagena
6. Over the counter pain medications will help those sore muscles and help you relax for a better night sleep. – Mara
7. Never ever, ever, EVER, trust your older sister when she says “one more hill.” It brings on temptations and delusions of beating her with your hiking stick while going up Bear Mountain on the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. – Jacob
8. Take a way to get electrolytes into your system, like a bottle of Pedialyte. Uncooked Ramen Noodles with the seasoning also helps replace the salt in your system – Jacob
9. On our North Carolina backpacking trip, I over packed food, but under packed clothes. The humidity there made me wish I had an extra change of clothes. – Crystal
10. Don’t forget you are out there to enjoy nature, get away from the crowds, and see a reward – like a beautiful landscape that takes multiple days to get to. It may be awful walking up a steep hill with a heavy pack, but it will be worth it. And the high and bragging rights at the end, make it all that much better. – Mara
11. Make sure your have the right boots. Getting the right pair of boots between my first and second backpacking trip made a huge difference. – Jacob
12. Break in the boots before you go. – Crystal
13. I second the advice about the right shoes. They and a dry pair of socks make all the difference. – Lagena
14. Research your trail as much as you can so you know what to expect. And bring a map. – Mara
15. And don’t forget the Yeti full of Coors at the end of your backpacking trip! – Zach