A Complete Guide to Backpacking for Beginners

Work life can be stressful and monotonous right? It is for this reason that every once in a while, you may find it necessary to go for adventures in a bid to escape your busy work schedule.

Subsequently, backpacking will help you relax and have time to socialize with people as you explore nature. For those of you who have gone backpacking, below is a clear guide of backpacking for beginners.

Where to go backpacking for the first time

Want to travel the world but unsure where to go? Backpacking is one of the most economical and easiest ways to travel around any country. when you’re planning your big trip, choosing where to travel will be a bit more straightforward.

You must need to know some things before going backpacking. Below I’ll discuss basic things that every backpack needs to know.

Seek advice from experienced backpackers

It is vital to work with an experienced backpacker if you are a novice backpacker. Additionally, you can read hiking guidebooks which are beneficial tools, and these are available from the local outdoor retailers and local stores.

Usually, experienced backpackers have a background on many different sites and can offer you with quality advice. Consequently, you get to decide on a leisurely hike or trek for a start.

Select a location close to your home

If you are backpacking for the very first time, you should choose an area where you will spend less time hiking and not driving. Furthermore, you need to have adequate daylight hours to reach your campsite before dark sets in.

Opt for smaller miles round-trip

In comparison to your usual day hike, backpacking for beginners requires you to take shorter trips since walking with a bulkier pack will make the trip slower hence more tedious.

Target a few hundred feet of elevation gain

If you have experience hiking, you must know that the mileage covered does not tell the whole story. Thus, when backpacking for beginners, you should pick a trail that has an elevation compared to your usual day hike.

Ensure there is water close to your campsite

Water is a vital component whenever you are out backpacking. So if your water source is either a large river or lake, you should not worry about lacking an adequate supply of water.

Nevertheless, springs and streams do dry up, so it is essential that you double-check with the local land managers before wholly depending on these small water sources.

For your first trip, contemplate on leaving fido or junior behind

Despite having them being incredibly fun, it only complicates things further. However, if you eventually decide to go with them, you should check out the articles on Backpacking with kids.

Pursue summer weather

Unless you are planning to visit a destination where fire danger or extreme heat is a problem, mid-summer is the best time to go backpacking.

It is because you get to maximize on the daylight hours as well as your odds for experiencing comfortable conditions. Furthermore, always check the weather forecasts and if a storm is predicted, you should immediately cancel your trip or turn back if you were already heading toward the campsite.

Consider “Walk-in” Campgrounds

If you are thinking of transitioning into backpacking, you should start with some national and state parks. It is because these destinations have campsites that are within a mile or so from a car campground; therefore, you do not have to travel for long distances.

Planning your backpacking trip

What goals do you have in mind?

You must first clearly establish your objective before setting out for a backpacking trip. There are many reasons why you might decide to take this trip.

It may be you want to try something new to tell your friends, are in search of a personal challenge yourself, and subsequently, impress with recording a high mileage number or visiting a National park or iconic site.

Additionally, you may just be using this opportunity to relax and enjoy the tranquil environment nature has to offer.

Therefore, precisely defining your objective for your next trip will subsequently assist you in picking a route and destination and route that pairs excellently with it.

Where to visit : Backpacking for beginners

For your first backpacking trip, deciding where to go is a personal decision dependent on numerous factors. Whereas there are a lot of iconic multi-day backpack chances locations within national parks, you should not forget the state parks, local forests and wilderness nearer to home.

These locations frequently may provide you with a better proving ground where you can perfect your skills which you will ultimately use on the bigger trips which necessitate either interstate or international travel.

Do your research

When planning for your backpacking trip, this is possibly the most crucial facet you must do, and with the internet’s convenience, there is no reason why you should skip this. All you need to do is to go over to your preferred search engine and carry out a keyword search on the hike you intend to complete.

While doing this, you will learn key planning specifics like time of year concerns, the positions of established campsites along the route, backcountry permit requirements and specific alerts given by the land managers. It includes wildfire concerns, high presence of bears, closed sections of trails among others.

Picking your route

Selecting your destination is the first step to choosing a path you will follow. Moreover, pick a site which will inspire you, fits within your budget time and budget plus is a match for the skills you possess. Thus, some of the factors to consider when selecting a route include;

Time of year – Usually, the time of year determines how much gear and clothing you will need to carry. Some areas are perfect only at the specific period of the year, so you should consider this when you are planning your tour.

Maps and regulations – Get guidebooks and maps of the location where you intend to backpack. Furthermore, research on the rules in that region relating to bear sprays, permits, campfires and much more. You also need to select whether you want a shuttle after getting to where you are going or the marked looped path and research the trails using the maps to decide the most suitable way for you.

The distance and trail type – Having a clear idea of the obstacles you will encounter, how much time you have available and how many miles you intend to travel is crucial before setting out on a backpacking trip.

Get essential backpacking gear and clothing

What gear to carry when backpacking for beginners:

The backpacking gear needs to be both compact and lightweight because if you have to carry and fit it insides your pack. It is for this reason with a few exemptions why it is not practical to merely repurpose car camping equipment.

Also, you need to remember that you will be dividing up the gear such as pots, tents, and stoves when hiking with a friend. Below are some of the indispensable things you must carry for your backpacking trip; See our article> 10 Essential backpacking checklist (Printable)


It is prudent that you plan to share because a two-person tent is less expensive and weighs less in comparison to one-person tents. Also, since you are not quite ready for mountaineering, three seasons (summer, spring, and fall) rated tent instead of a four-season tent will work just fine.


If you have borrowed a pack, you should first try to confirm that it sits you comfortably. Subsequently, load it up with an assortment of objects weighing approximately 30 pounds and test it out on a long hike. If it feels comfortable on both the hips and shoulders, it possibly will be okay for your first backpacking tour.

Nevertheless, if you decide to purchase a backpack, get an expert to measure your torso to guarantee that it fits you correctly. Additionally, you should avoid the temptation of getting the ultralight model instead of the deluxe model since it has less support structure and is less padded.

Look first at ultralight sleeping bags, tents, and sleeping pads if you are seriously determined to reduce the weight of your luggage.

Sleeping Bag

You should first consider the pros and cons of synthetic fill versus down fill before deciding to purchase a bag, particularly regarding the weather conditions you most likely will encounter. Therefore, for your first bag, getting a synthetic is an excellent choice since it is generally cheaper than down and is versatile.

Sleeping Pad

To get a good night’s sleep, cushioning as well as insulation is vital, and for this reason, you cannot take a pool float and expect to sleep warm. Moreover, if you purchase a pad, consider the qualities of each type, that is, the insulated air pads, the closed-cell foam pads, and self-inflating pads.

Nonetheless, a closed-cell pad is also an option if you are okay with sleeping on a super-firm surface. You should opt for the self-inflating pad as it offers a great compromise between value and comfort.


If you own a single-burner camp stove weighing less than one pound, this will work just fine for your first backpacking tour. Nevertheless, if you decided to purchase one, you first need to consider the fuel types and consequently select your preferred stove.

Most novice backpackers opt for the gas-canister stove since they are simple to use and inexpensive. Also, confirm that you pack a bottle or full-canister of the correct kind of fuel your stove needs.

Water Treatment

It is prudent always to treat all the waters in the world even if the source looks pristine because it might contain things you should not drink. To do this, you either use a filter or chemical treatment, drops or tablets you add to your water bottle to disinfect the water is the more straightforward and ultralight option for your initial trip.

Kitchen Supplies: Backpacking for beginners

You can save some money by utilizing well-worn items from the home kitchen or local thrift shop and also campaign gear. Furthermore, carry just enough plates, pots, cups, pans, and utensils to cook and eat all the meals you had planned.

Lastly, for washing your dishes carry some biodegradable soap, a small towel, and a tiny sponge.

Shoes to carry for your backpacking trip

Your feet play a vital role in ensuring your tour is successful, and your footwear is critical in ensuring you achieve your backpacking goals. Backpackers have different preferences, and you may opt for the lightweight trail running shoes or the supportive over-the-ankle boots, whichever of the two you find desirable.

Moreover, before you go in, your shoes or boots need to be well-broken. You should wear synthetic socks or wool and consider carrying water sandals for wearing around fording creeks and the campsite or an ultralight pair of shoes.

Backpacking clothes you should carry

For your first backpacking trip, you should not purchase special “hiking clothes.” Instead, you should use your fitness clothing plus use clothes that are made of fast-drying, moisture-wicking fabrics such as polyester and nylon.

Typically, moisture-wicking fabric keeps your skin drier by pulling sweat away from your skin. Moreover, you need to stay away from cotton as it takes a significant amount of time to dry when wet plus it slurps up water, and this can chill you consequently leading to hypothermia in the worst-case scenario.

You should group your backpacking apparel into layers.

Next-to-skin Base Layers Or Long Underwear – It is useful since even the warm days can eventually end with freezing nights.

Hiking Layers – These include T-shirts, nylon pants, either zip-off or roll up, sun hat, and sun shirt.

Insulation – It includes gloves, lightweight fleece pullover, jacket or puffy vest, and a warm hat.

Rainwear – You need to carry a breathable or waterproof jacket, and depending on the weather forecast, you can bring rain paints which are excellent also at the prevention of mosquito bites.

The best thing about layering is that it allows you to adapt to the changing conditions swiftly. Additionally, it lets you assemble a strong clothing defense against storms that suddenly move in causing rainy weather and cold.

Therefore, if you own a pair of non-cotton athletic yoga pants or athletic tights, they can correctly work as your hiking pants or your base layer. Nevertheless, when worn as pants, you will not access its handy stash pockets plus they are more vulnerable to rock abrasions as well as brush snags in comparison to regular hiking pants.

Plan your backpacking food

When it comes to trip planning, backpacking food is one of the easiest things, We share our favorite backpacking food ideas to help you enjoy simple and lightweight backpacking meals.

I will explain my favorite snacks, breakfasts, lunch, and dinner meal ideas for your next backcountry trip. Here our food tips for backpacking for beginners.

Dinner – Search for all-in-one meals like rice entrees or packaged noodles. Typically, boxed lunches can be removed and put in a plastic bag for simpler packing.

Lunches And Snacks – Carry with you high-calorie, high-protein energy bars plus trail mix to eat during the day since backpacking burns lots of metabolic fuel. Additionally, you can keep things modest by preparing lunch as a trailside issue with more extended rests and plenty of fruits. Nuts, bagels, dried fruits, and jerky are other excellent backpacking lunch options.

Breakfast – It ranges from hot oatmeal, cooked entrée, and two or three breakfast bars. However, you need to weight the benefits of hitting the trail earlier versus beginning your day warmed and fueled up. Teabags or instant coffee is the best option if you cannot do without a caffeinated beverage.

Wilderness Precautions – While you are on the trail, you need to follow some common-sense measures like not getting to close to huge animals and their young ones and maintain a respectful distance from wild animals.

During the night, you should secure all the food as well as scented personal products far away from the camp, with this often done by placing everything in an extra stuff sack and subsequently hanging it using nylon cords to a high tree branch.

Furthermore, a bear canister is an excellent method of securing your items even if your primary concern is preventing rodents from stealing your food.

Backpacking for beginners: Tactics to carry water

We know water is the most basic element of our life so carry water while backpacking or hiking is vital. The simple rules for carrying water are discussed below.

Hydration reservoirs with drinking hose


  • It offers you adequate storage usually two to three liters.
  • It allows you to conveniently drink as you hike without needing to take off your pack.
  • It’s the preferable method for 3-season backpacking.


  • It can be quite a nuisance routing the tubing plus much care must be taken each time you place down your backpack to prevent depressing the mouthpiece causing it to leak water.
  • During cold weather trips, the hose easily freezes.

Plastic Bottles


  • Easy to collect water at its sources.
  • It is easier to cook with due to the volume indicators on the bottle’s side.


  • It occupies a full liter of volume in your backpack irrespective of the amount of water inside the bottle.
  • T is bulkier in comparison to soft-sided versions.



  • Flexible as they take up less space in your backpack while you consume water.
  • It is the lightest option.


  • It can be hard to drink using one hand.
  • It is not very durable.

Preparing for your backpacking trip

By following these steps, you are setting yourself up for success by ensuring that you are mentally, physically, and logistically prepared. To be ready for backpacking, follow these tips;

Physically get ready:  Physically preparation is the most important thing for backpacking for beginners. A short trip can be physically demanding thus it is ideal that you at least do lots of day hikes and comfortably handle trails with similar elevation and distance as the one you intend to take.

Additionally, do several pre-trip hikes of comparable difficulty while wearing a backpack loaded with more than 30 pounds.

Get ready mentally: You need to acquaint yourself with the gear, filet some water, fire up your stove, and pitch your tent before leaving for your trip. Learning map and compass navigation, as well as basic first aid, is prudent since these skills will still serve you well even if you never go for any backpacking trip in the future.

Find out your logistics: On top of knowing your ride to and from the trailhead, you must ensure you have all the necessary permits since popular destinations most likely require you have one. So, check what is expected from the local land management and land managers too can be an excellent resource for fire limitations, updated trail conditions, and other beneficial information.

Leave your trip schedule with a family member or friend: include details of when to be expected back and where you are going, with this value in case you need assistance.

Do Your Packing Earlier: You should not wait until the night beforehand to start your preparation. Instead, do your pre-trip packing several days in advance weighing it to confirm you do not overdo it. Ideally, the weight should not be more than 20 percent of your body weight.

Backpacking skills necessary for the trail


The art of reading, orienting, and navigating using a compass and map is slowly dying due to the rising popularity of GPS gadgets, and you should not play a part in it. Thus, you need to learn how to use a compass and map.

Furthermore, cell phone apps and GPS depend on signal and battery, both of which are not given in remote places, plus a compass and map are lighter compared to the heavy GPS unit. So, for your first backpacking trip, do not use a GPS unit because experienced backpackers rarely make use of it while accessing these remote places.

Food storage for backpacking for beginners

Food storage is important for backpacking for beginners. You should learn how to ‘bear bag” appropriately if not, you should buy a canister to prevent animal encounters. The three most often used technique for food storage include;

Food storage boxes – numerous well-established, backcountry campsites have food storage containers that are chosen for overnight storage of food.

Hard-sided bear canister – Some wilderness areas and national parks order this if you are on an overnight visitor.

Bear bang hang – preferable is the PCT technique.

Personal hygiene backpacking for beginners

Finding methods to guarantee that you feel reasonably clean and refreshed while on your backpacking trip is vital to your general enjoyment. Some tips to have in mind are;

  • Always brush your teeth – confirm that you have carried your toothpaste and toothbrush.
  • Carry biodegradable soaps for washing your face, hands, dishes, hair and whatever else you need to clean.
  • Have moist wipes which are excellent ways to wipe sweat, dirt, and skin protectants at the end of the day.

Do Not Leave Any Trace: Backpacking for beginners

It is an essential outdoor responsibility which you should always adhere to ensure the environment is clean and tranquil. see our article> How to leave without a trace: 7 Principles


Thus, by now having gone through backpacking for beginners article, you have all the crucial information you need to ensure your backpacking trip is a success. Furthermore, you are better placed with the knowledge present to become a skilled backpacker in no time.

I hope you have benefited from my suggestions above. Think of it as advice, so not necessarily something that ‘should’ or something. Better yet, choose the tips that you think are most helpful to you.

I hope you enjoy these tips. Do you have questions about backpacking for beginners?
Hey, don’t forget to share this article with your friends, okay?

Happy Backpacking!

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