8 Tips for Beginner Backpackers
If you’ve seen the incredible backcountry photos, watched some backpacking trip vlogs, and decided that you must try it out for yourself, then this post is for you!
This post is packed with tips that beginner backpackers need to know.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes, and wish I had this info when I started backpacking.
1. PICK AN EASY ROUTE.
An easy route doesn’t mean a boring route.
Your first backpacking trip doesn’t need to be some long multi-day trip with huge elevation gains and distances.
Start off with a one-night trip, and choose a route that’s an easy to moderate distance for you while carrying a bigger backpack than normal.
In addition, consider choosing a more popular hiking route that will likely have other hikers coming in and out, in case you need some support.
Lastly, make sure your route has a water source so you can use your backpacking filter or purifier to get more water for your meals and the rest of your trip.
2. BE PREPARED TO NAVIGATE.
Research your trip beforehand and have a route planned before you leave. Then, when you’re out on the trail, make sure you know how to navigate. Know where you’re going and roughly how long the distance is.
At the very least you should have a map and a compass that you know how to use.
Here are some resources on learning how to use a map and compass:
- How to Use a Compass
- How to Read a Topo Map
If you’re using a GPS, again make sure you’re familiar with how to use it, and have a backup plan in case the GPS fails, breaks, or you accidentally drop it in a river. This is where the map and compass come in handy!
GPS devices can be expensive. If it’s not in your budget right now, the Gaia GPS app can turn your phone into a GPS. When you have a membership, you can plan routes, add waypoints, download maps for offline use, and so much more!
If you want to download the app, you can use my link here (affiliate link) for a discount on a membership. Then, spend some time learning how to use it before your trip!
I always like to pack an extra charger for my phone (and of course a backup map and compass) if I’m planning to use it as a GPS.
3. GO WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS BACKPACKING EXPERIENCE.
It can be very helpful to go with someone who has some backpacking experience.
Having another person with you can help reduce any first trip anxiety. However, you still need to help plan, pack, and navigate.
All too often, beginner backpackers go with other people and they rely on them completely to plan and navigate. As I said in the previous tip, you must know how to navigate and be an active participant in the planning of the trip so you know where you’re going!
4. KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR GEAR.
Don’t buy a bunch of new gear, pack it, and then try to figure out how to use it when you actually need it in the backcountry!
For example, don’t buy a water filter and try to figure out how to use it for the first time in the backcountry when you’re out of water and need to filer more.
If you’re using new gear, take the time to read the instructions, set it up in your house or yard, and learn how it works and how to take care of it before your trip.
5. CHECK THE WEATHER AND PACK FOR UNEXPECTED CONDITIONS.
Check the weather before your trip, but know that the weather is often unpredictable in the mountains and can change very quickly!
Make sure you bring extra clothing and rain gear to protect yourself.
The sun is powerful, especially in the desert, so make sure you have ways to protect yourself from the sun too.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to change your plans if the weather is going to be really bad or dangerous. For example, you should not be hiking in a slot canyon in the desert if there’s a flash flood warning.
6. TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU’RE GOING AND WHEN YOU’LL BE BACK.
It’s a good idea to leave an itinerary with a friend and a copy of that itinerary in your car.
Make sure you let them know when you have returned. This is a simple but important habit to get into.
7. PACK WHEN YOU’RE RELAXED.
Take your time, lay out all your gear and pack slowly.
Don’t leave the packing to the last minute when you’re scrambling to get to the trailhead.
Take your time so you can feel confident and organized when you begin hiking.
8. BE CAREFUL WHEN COOKING.
This is another simple thing to be aware of, but it’s often overlooked.
Boiling water is obviously hot and can burn if you spill it on yourself.
When you’re boiling water for your meals, make sure you’re sitting off to the side of the pot, or cooking in a way that you can easily jump out of the way if something spills.
I like to squat down instead of sitting cross-legged, or better yet, sit on a rock with the pot on the ground.