5 Tips For Your First Backpacking Trip

Photo by Shani Leead

It’s finally summer, which means it’s time to hit the trails! There’s no better way to explore a region than to head out on a multi-day backpacking trip. I set out on my first backpacking trip in Yosemite at age 10 while a camper at Camp Tawonga, and I’ve been exploring the great outdoors ever since. Whether you’re setting up camp each night in a different spot or just hiking in, setting up a base camp and doing day hikes, backpacking enables you to discover nature in a new and different way.

Like the idea of backpacking but haven’t actually ventured out for more than a day? Planning your first backpacking trip may seem overwhelming, but there are plenty of fantastic resources to guide you. Be sure to check out the Shoestring Adventures Outdoor Innovators: Backpacking Basics Go To Guide workshop on June 17th to learn more. In the meantime, here are 5 tips for your first backpacking trip.

1.     Learn more about the “Leave No Trace Seven Principles”

Leave No Trace has developed seven guiding principles to ensure that you respect the land you’re exploring and leave only footprints.

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare – A successful and fun backpacking trip definitely involves planning.
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces – Whoever came up with the phrase, “Blaze your own trail” wasn’t referring to backpacking.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly – Pack out what you pack in.
  • Leave What You Find – Observe the beauty that surrounds you, don’t alter it.
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts – Depending on the location, campfires may or may not be allowed.
  • Respect Wildlife – Remember, you’re entering their natural habitat.
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors – No one likes noisy neighbors.
Photo by Justin Sullivan

2.     Minimize the pieces of clothing you bring, but maximize the pieces you do take with you

The lighter your pack, the more comfortable it is, and the better you enjoy your hike. My favorite pair of hiking pants has zip-off legs. When I get too hot, I transform my pants into shorts. Ever heard of a Buff? If you haven’t, you’re missing out! This round piece of cloth (think mini infinity scarf), can be used as a headband, neck warmer, hat, handkerchief… the uses are endless. Those are my two favorite items but check out the Shoestring Adventures Backpacking Packing List for a recommended list.

Photo by Justin Sullivan

3.     Plan out your meals in advance and pack accordingly

Discuss with your group if you’re going to have communal meals or individual meals. If the group decides to go communal, you’ll split up the meals and people will either bring pre-determined items or each meal will be assigned to someone. If it has been decided that everyone is responsible for their own meal, don’t surprise the group by cooking dinner for everyone. It’ll only cause you to carry more food than necessary and then your mates end up having excess food to carry with them for the remainder of the trip.

Photo by Shani Leead

4.     Bring a map of the area

No matter how well marked you think a trail will be, a good ol’ paper map of the region is essential on any backpacking trip. You should have a good idea of where you’re going to hike each day and the distance. A compass is a great companion to a map since it’ll help you determine which direction you need to walk. If the thought of orienting yourself via map and compass sounds foreign to you, check out one of REI’s navigation courses.

Photo by Justin Sullivan

5.     Pick a good crew

Whether you’re road tripping along the California coast, Euro tripping, or backpacking in Yosemite, the key to any group trip is good company. Choose your backpacking crew wisely since you’ll be sharing a trail and maybe even a tent with them for the duration of the trip. I suggest going on a few day hikes together before you start planning your trip. Consider that a trial run. If you’re all on the same page, you’ll likely have an unforgettable experience together!

As you prepare for your first backpacking trip remember that you are not alone! There are tons of resources and plenty of people who love backpacking and enjoy sharing their knowledge and passion!

Photo by Julie Hotz

These are just guidelines based on our experience. Also, this article includes affiliate links. If you purchase an item, Shoestring Adventures gets a small commission at no added cost to you. Thank you for supporting us with your purchase!



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