How To Plan For A Backpacking Trip: A Beginner’s Guide

Rilor Staff
Update: August 24, 2022
Table of Contents

Backpacking has always been a pursuit of many people. And honestly, it is a great adventure to experience. There are a lot of things that you can learn, feel, and explore. 

But of course, the success of the trip relies on how prepared you are for the trip. Well, we am not saying that backpacking is difficult. However, if you think of it, things would get uncomfortable (and potentially disastrous) if you don't plan for it thoroughly. 

In this post, we are going to put all the essential things that you need to do before you to a backpacking trip. Following this guideline would help you mitigate mistakes and prevent accidents from happening. At the same time, it can make the journey more memorable. 

How To Plan For A Backpacking Trip

Backpacking gets simple once you already know the ropes. But for first-timers, things can get a little tedious. But don't fret, though; after all, you should be able to adjust after your first rodeo. 

Make The Trip More Specific

There's always a benefit in specifying or narrowing your trip. Your first doesn't have to be over the place. Limiting your options will let you decide the perfect destination for your backpacking trip. 

Here are some of the things that you have to consider: 

  • Distance and time - These two factors will enable you to narrow your choices when it comes to the destination. If you want to limit the time, make sure that you know how many miles you are willing to traverse. For instance, if you want your trip to last for half a day, then pick a destination that you can complete within this time period. 
  • Proximity - If you don't have the luxury of time, pick a destination that is close to you. In this way, your time will be spent more on the trail than in your vehicle. You may also want to consider your preferred environment. Do you want the trip to take place in a forest, a grassland, or somewhere that has a lot of rivers and waterfalls? 
  • The number of people - Solo backpacking would enable you to move with more freedom. You don't have to consider others anymore. So if you want to hike fast, it is better that you do it by yourself. However, keep in mind that a group backpacking would let you distribute the weight of your load. After all, you guys could share equipment, such as backpacking tents. Extra diligence needs to go into planning when you intend to backpack with kids.
  • Weather and season - Don't forget to take into account the season and weather. Peak hiking seasons are often summer or spring since the weather is favorable. Meanwhile, some trails might not be available during early spring since they are still blanketed by thick snow. Hence, plan your trip in accordance with the elements. 
  • Skill and experience - Needless to say, you don’t have to take a difficult trail if you are still a beginner. That would just burden your trip. Always be considerate to yourself; not all challenges are meant to be taken. 

Important Resources To Acquire

Once you have narrowed the type, schedule, and environment of your trip, it is time that you select the destination. Your aim here is to find the ideal trail that could meet your expectations, as well as your skills and experience. 

  • Internet and guidebooks - These two are excellent sources of information that could tell you about the specifications of a particular trail. Among the things that you need to learn is the overall difficulty of the trail, elevation gain, distance, notable features, and weather. Of course, websites can also tell you how far the trail is to your location. 
  • Personal recommendations - Go to those people who are into backpacking and hiking. One way or another, they could give you several trail recommendations that you could consider. In picking, make sure that you consider the parameters you have set in. 
  • Rangers and hikers - You should also seek the recommendations of ranger districts or hiking groups within the area you want to visit. By all means, these entities have the latest information regarding various trails. They could also tell you the current status of these trails.  

Understanding Your Route 

Once you have decided on your trail, you must know what's in there. Understanding the details will help you succeed in your trip. At this point, you should consider checking the topo map of your trail. Spend time studying it so you won't deal with any unexpected stuff. 

  • Terrain - Before the trip, you already know the terrain you are going to trek. A topo can tell where the elevation gains and resting areas would occur. Alternatively, you can rely on a GPS device if you aren't that well with these topo maps. Meanwhile, trip reports will indicate things like unavailable roads, impassable sections, and detours. 
  • Established campsites - One of the things that you need to do is to identify all the established campsites in your destination. Know the preferred locations to stay based on your preferences, schedule, and skill. If you can read a topo map, your decision on where to stay will come easier. 
  • Availability of water supply - Water is essential in any outdoor trip. Hence, you would want to be in a location where you can access water from clean sources. For instance, it is better to get water from clear, flowing rivers than stagnant swamps. Here, you would need a water purifier or water filter to ensure that your drink is free from chemicals and pollutants. 

Equipment And Essentials

Of course, your trip won't be complete without bringing the essential supplies and gear. You have to make sure that you can go without missing any important equipment for your trip. 

  • Permits - If you are going to trek or hike in a state- or government-managed land, you would need permits. Keep in mind that every federal land has its own requirements when it comes to these passes. Interestingly, there are locations where you can enter through luck due to their annual lottery system. 
  • Wildlife - I have to emphasize that the wilderness is not your home; you are just a visitor there. Originally, it was home to a variety of animals. Some are harmless, while others can cause nuisance and potential danger. You have to prepare for scavengers, such as rodents and raccoons. You might also have to research to know whether or not there are snakes or bears in your area. Bear canisters and the proper food containers can prevent these creatures from coming to you. 
  • Insects - Mosquitoes and biting insects can cause potential harm to you. Hence, you might want to bring insect repellents and bug nets. Meanwhile, other backpackers innovate by wearing rain gear. Rain gear is quite effective in stopping these bites from happening. 
  • Nourishment - You should also create a meal plan. Accordingly, you should sustain your body with at least 4,000 calories per day. So that would equate to about 2 pounds of dry food. But of course, the level of difficulty of the trip can impact how much food you consume. The more stressful the trip is, the hungrier you get. 
  • Cooking amenities - If the trip took a day or two, you would need to bring the essential cookware. Don't forget your camping stove and fuel. Determine how many fuel cans you should bring. It should depend on the duration of the trip and the number of people in your group. Alternatively, you can also decide to bring dried or frozen food instead. Regardless of your choice, make sure that you practice beneficial food storage tips. 
  • Check your equipment - Before you trip, check your gear thoroughly. Make sure that they function properly. Spot possible signs of flaws and damages. Your tent should have no ripped fabrics. Its poles should be complete without any breakages. You should do the same probing to your shoes, clothing, backpacking sleeping bags, and other backpacking essentials.

Get Educated

This one isn't emphasized by other people. But I have a high valuation when it comes to the importance of physical and mental preparedness of a person on any outdoor trip. 

At the very least, your body should have the physique to traverse the trail you are going to partake in. If you are busy, make sure that you allocate a schedule where you can improve your strength and stamina. Running for a couple of hours every week can already provide decent training to your system. 

You may also try a specialized hiking training plan. However, these courses can't be found easily. So the next best thing is watching tutorials on YouTube. You can find some decent hiking training plans there. At the same time, have the diligence to learn essential camping skills, such as setting up a tent, creating a campfire, and proper backpack packing

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