Warm weather is approaching and that means it’s time to plan that big backpacking trip you’ve always talked about. First things first, decide on the trip you want to take, decide how many days you want it to last and when you want it to happen. Normally, for your first trip, it would be wise to go with a day trip so you can get a feel for flying solo out in the wilderness and familiarize yourself with all your gear. If you know the hike you want to go on, educate yourself on the trail and the region so you know the weather patterns and distance you’ll have to travel.
You’ll want to clothe yourself appropriately for the elements; this means a wicking layer against your skin, a warmer layer to retain heat and an outer shell to protect you from wind and rain. You’ll of course need supportive, waterproof hiking boots too. Your number one concern when it comes to clothing should be dependability and adaptability.
Another essential to add to your gear list is a good ol’ map and compass. And don’t just pack it either. Actually learn how to use them together. Many people who get lost in the woods actually have a map and compass, but simply lack the proper knowledge; a great book to reference or even keep in your pack is “Staying Found.”
With gear, you always want to keep it as lightweight as possible, but some things you should make room for depending on the conditions and terrain of your trip. For instance, rocky and slippery terrain calls for a dependable hiking stick to help you keep balance. There are many gear options out there and you don’t need to break the bank either. Many high-quality outfitters like Cabela’s offer great sales right before the start of backpacking and hiking season, making gearing up easier and more affordable than you’d think.
Gear essentials include a rope, knife, flint, a watch and, of course, a hiking pack that fits your frame. Comfort is key when you’re trekking miles through the wilderness with everything you have strapped to your back.
Stay Safe and Survive
The next big area of consideration when prepping for a backpacking trip is safety and survival. You should always bring some form of a first aid kit. Make sure you pack water, purifying tablets, or even a LifeStraw so you don’t have to worry about dehydration.
Never underestimate the importance of learning some basic survival skills. Do you know how to build a fire? Do you know what poison ivy looks like? If you are easily turned-around, then consider bringing a beacon or GPS to help you find your way. Be aware of the surrounding landmarks that can be easily identified if you do get lost, like mountains or lakes.
For added safety, you can tell a friend or family member where you are going and what your plans are. If no one knows where you’ll be or how far you’ll be going, no one will know where to look if you get lost.
Be an Informed Hiker
Learn the area and the trail you intend to hike. The more you know, the better prepared and equipped you will be. Before leaving, know the distance you’ll travel, elevation gain and the time it will take to complete the trip. Use that info to your advantage when stopping to rest or eat lunch. The sun is your friend and you don’t want to be stuck in the woods at night.
Also, be respectful to other hikers on the trail and always be sure to leave a place cleaner than the way you found it.
Once you’ve geared up, learned about the route you’re taking, the area you’ll be traveling through and brushed up on essential survival skills, then you’re ready to hit the trail! At the end of the day, it’s about having fun. So take a camera and snag some pictures, but also try to be present and enjoy spending quality time with Mother Nature.