A beginner’s guide to backpacking: How to pack, eat and enjoy life on the trail

650bf18a9df53.jpg

Let’s get one thing straight: I did not grow up in an outdoorsy family. We spent the occasional summer road-tripping through Colorado, sure, but I was just as likely to spend an entire school break playing Super Nintendo in my cookie-cutter suburban home. So, I understand how intimidating it can feel to get into backpacking late in the game.

With national parks making headlines this year for their record attendance, long gate lines and timed entry reservations, there’s no time like the present to escape the crowds and enjoy a simpler, quieter experience in the nation’s public lands. With the right gear, backpacking can easily become a safe and comfortable sport for literally anyone who can carry thirty pounds for 2-3 miles. Yes, really.



My first backpacking trip was a hilarious fiasco at age 28 that involved a child-sized sleeping bag, a leather jacket and two adventurers crammed into a tiny single-person tent. I didn’t know what altitude was or that it significantly decreases your oxygen and hiking speed, so the majority of the day was spent huffing and puffing my way along a trail above 9,000 feet, wondering why I felt so gosh darn out of shape. But, I still had a blast.



The magic of skipping the crowds in favor of pristine sunsets and sunrises over crystalline alpine lakes cannot be overstated. I’m convinced that it’s the perfect antidote to our overscheduled, cell phone-addled lives. As National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Mike Libecki, told us, “We will never stop learning, and let’s not stop pursuing our passion… the time is now, why ration passion for life?”



What is backpacking and how to get started



Simply put, backpacking is when you load up your camping gear, tent and all, into a large rucksack and trek out into the wilderness to spend a night or two sleeping on the ground, away from your car. Because of this added exposure to the elements (and the fact that you’ll likely be carrying a heavy load for a few miles), having the right gear, route plan and food are essential. Here’s what our experts recommend for maximum safety and comfort.


With national parks making headlines this year for their record attendance, long gate lines and timed entry reservations, there’s no time like the present to escape the crowds and enjoy a simpler, quieter experience in the nation’s public lands. With the right gear, backpacking can easily become a safe and comfortable sport for literally anyone who can carry thirty pounds for 2-3 miles. Yes, really.



My first backpacking trip was a hilarious fiasco at age 28 that involved a child-sized sleeping bag, a leather jacket and two adventurers crammed into a tiny single-person tent. I didn’t know what altitude was or that it significantly decreases your oxygen and hiking speed, so the majority of the day was spent huffing and puffing my way along a trail above 9,000 feet, wondering why I felt so gosh darn out of shape. But, I still had a blast.



The magic of skipping the crowds in favor of pristine sunsets and sunrises over crystalline alpine lakes cannot be overstated. I’m convinced that it’s the perfect antidote to our overscheduled, cell phone-addled lives. As National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Mike Libecki, told us, “We will never stop learning, and let’s not stop pursuing our passion… the time is now, why ration passion for life?”



What is backpacking and how to get started



Simply put, backpacking is when you load up your camping gear, tent and all, into a large rucksack and trek out into the wilderness to spend a night or two sleeping on the ground, away from your car. Because of this added exposure to the elements (and the fact that you’ll likely be carrying a heavy load for a few miles), having the right gear, route plan and food are essential. Here’s what our experts recommend for maximum safety and comfort.



If you’re going to be out in the woods for multiple days at a time, consider investing in a satellite texting and GPS device, like a Garmin inReach Mini 2, which pairs with your smartphone and can help deliver up-to-date weather forecasts while you’re on the go. “I always take a small satellite text communication device and a small charger and my phone/camera,” says Libecki.



Dial in your gear



When it comes to choosing which gear is essential to splurge on or shove into his pack, Libecki has a time-honored mantra: “Go as light as possible, and be as comfortable as needed.” Having good footwear is key, he explains, saying to make sure that your footwear is broken in and reliable before attempting any backcountry excursion.



Of course, great, lightweight gear comes at a high cost, which can feel like a hefty barrier of entry for many beginner backpackers. Spending big on a few key pieces (like your pack, tent, and sleeping bag) can dramatically help get your base weight down so that you aren’t lugging around a 60-pound pack. “The more money you spend, the lighter and more packable your gear will be,” says Rochfort, who also runs the outdoor community WildKind, which takes parents on big adventures with their kiddos.


“I think it’s worth shelling out a little extra cash for a quality sleeping bag and tent because those are your essentials and the cheapest options will be super heavy and bulky on the trail,” says Rochfort. “I also think you can easily save some money on a sleeping pad. Sleeping pads are definitely essential but going super ultralight will cost a lot of money and will only save you a little bit of weight.”



She also recommends laying out all of your gear on the floor of your living room (yes, like those Instagram photos), and cutting roughly a quarter of your items. “Beginners always tend to bring way more than they need and you really, truly don’t need much,” explains Rochfort.



Choose your meals wisely



I feel lucky that I had an Eagle Scout with me on my first foray into the wilderness of Sequoia National Park, and he sent me down the path of pre-made, dehydrated backpacking meals right from the get-go. Yes, they are more expensive than the soup cans and tuna packets that you’ll find at your neighborhood grocery store, but they are also lightweight, easy to prepare and loaded with the salt and protein that you’ll need after sweating it out on the trail all day.


backpacking food lead CNNU.jpg

For Zazo, dehydrated food is well worth the investment. “We ended up packing a lot of pretty heavy food on our first backpacking trip, including cans of tuna, Chef Boyardee Ravioli (gross, I know), and heaps of chili. We could have saved ourselves a ton of weight and energy by splurging on some dehydrated backpacking meals that would keep our packs lighter and our stomachs happier on the trip,” she recalls.



The best beginner backpacking gear



We asked a gaggle of our favorite professional adventurers and outdoor gear heads what to spend on and what to save on when it comes to kitting out your pack for backcountry hiking and camping, creating a comprehensive, no-nonsense list of the best beginner backpacking gear on the market today.



Other articles:

Аренда автомобиля в Будве/Черногория

27.11.2023

АРЕНДА МАШИНЫ В ЧЕРНОГОРИИ ДЕШЕВО: ОСОБЕННОСТИ ЗАКАЗА

09.10.2023

Аренда автомобиля без кредитной карты - другие способы оплаты

09.10.2023

Перед тем, как арендовать машину - абсолютно необходимые знания. Общая инфо по аренде в Европе

09.10.2023

01.10.2023