If you enjoy hiking, you may find yourself wanting to extend your experience in the great outdoors and go backpacking. A backpacking trip involves carrying all of your gear on your back to stay outside for a night or longer. Backpacking may involve camping inside a tent or inside a wooden shelter or hut along a trail. This type of trip is also referred to as wilderness backpacking, not to be confused with backpacking as a means of travel-often experiencing other countries and cultures.

You may think it's hard to take the plunge to become a backpacker, but with a little prep work and purchasing a few key items, you may find yourself hitting the trail quicker than you'd expect! You may find that you desire to get away from it all. Backpackers are rewarded with pristine wilderness, uncrowded trails, minimally impacted land and solitude.


credit: Steven S.

Why Go Wilderness Backpacking?

Backpacking makes it possible to see parts of the world you would never be able to otherwise. Some of the world's most beautiful destinations can only be found by on your own two feet. This can be extremely rewarding. Backpacking can be done in groups or independently, known as solo hiking. Backpacking is a wonderful activity to do with friends, your significant other, your children, or your dog and can be a great bonding experience. The feeling of working together and traveling with everything you need to survive on your back is very freeing and addictive.

When you go car camping, your activities are based around a set location. When you go backpacking, you follow a trail or route and make camp along the way. One of the biggest differences between car camping and backpacking are the amenities. When you go backpacking you will not have toilets or showers like many campgrounds offer. You will need to go to the bathroom in the woods and become more self-reliant, carrying everything you need on your back.

You may be boggled at how you can possibly carry everything you need to hike and camp in the woods for multiple days. If you are used to car camping, you may be surprised to learn that you can transition to wilderness backpacking simply by changing your perspective and goals as well as some of your gear. The extra effort is well worth the rewards.


What Outdoor Gear Should I Bring?

Backpacking involves much of the same gear that campers and day hikers use, but in most cases, the items need to be more compact and lighter. Some items like playing cards or a guitar may need to be left behind to keep the weight in your backpack down. Many beginning backpackers bring much more than they need but in time learn that they're more comfortable with less weighing them down. Start lightweight backpacking today!

The most important items needed for a successful backpacking trip include a shelter, backpack, sleep system, cooking setup, and water filtration.


Friends enjoying dinner in camp

A shelter will provide you protection from a storm, some privacy from other campers, and keep bugs at bay. When choosing a backpacking tent, focus on finding the right balance between weight, size, and price. Research the area you will be backpacking in to be sure your shelter is ideal for the conditions you may encounter on the trail and offers enough room for those sleeping in it and your gear.

A pack on your back. An overnight backpack will hold everything you need for your trip so it is best to purchase one after you get the rest of your gear together. This way you will know what size backpack you will need. You may be required to bring a bear canister to protect your food from bears and other critters. If this is the case, you will need an overnight backpack that can fit one inside. It is important to learn how to properly fit a backpack so you have an enjoyable trip.

A sleep system will typically include a sleeping bag and an inflatable or ultralight foam pad. Research overnight temperatures for where you will be camping to choose the right temperature rating for your sleeping bag. Many summer destinations will require a 30F sleeping bag.

Most people find an inflatable sleeping pad more comfortable compared to a foam pad but worry about it getting punctured on the trail. Bring a patch kit just in case. A foam insulation pad will give you peace of mind by placing it under your inflatable sleeping pad.

A backpacking stove is the easiest and safest way to cook your food on a overnight trip is with a canister stove. You can cook your food in a pot and eat right out of it to eliminate needing to bring additional bowls.

Water Filter pretreatment. It is important to always treat your water before drinking it. You can use a lightweight filter or chemical treatment drops to make the water safe to drink. Even if the water looks clean, you should always treat it to avoid getting sick.


credit: @christyrosander

Things to Remember

When preparing for a backpacking trip, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of gear available. Focus on paring down what you take with you to a minimum without sacrificing comfort. Remember that everyone's needs and abilities are different so do what feels right for you. Start off by spending a night in the woods with your gear to see what works for you and what doesn't. You will feel more prepared and become even more excited for a longer backpacking trip!

How about you?

What are important tips that define your backpacking trip?

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November 16, 2015 — Brian Fryer