Backpacking Tips for Beginners | First Time Backpacking Checklist


One problem that a lot of people get into when they start backpacking is comparing it too closely to hiking. Now sure, there are a lot of hikes out there that can seem similar to backpacking because of their difficulty and skill needed to traverse safely. However, backpacking really requires a dedication that goes beyond hiking even the most difficult one day trails that are out there.

Don’t let that fact scare you off backpacking though. The challenge really lies with understanding the commitment of backpacking and allowing yourself to be in the right mindset to become a successful backpacker. If you’re interested in getting into backpacking, then I’d be willing to bet that you’ve got what it takes to prepare yourself correctly and enjoy the beautiful and awe-inspiring activity that backpacking can be.

Physically Preparing for a Backpacking Adventure

The first piece of essential advice for beginner backpackers is to get in shape; both mentally and physically. The last thing you want to do is find your stamina lacking just when you get to the bottom of that last hill you need to climb before making camp for the night. Getting worn down physically and mentally can be a drain that keeps you from enjoying all that backpacking has to offer. Practice walking distances with all of your gear. Do other forms of exercise to strengthen your legs, back, core, and arms. You’ll be so thankful that you took the time to train properly for your trip once you’re out on the trail!

Another good tip is to make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup and a professional opinion on the kind of shape you’re in. Everyone has a unique circumstance, and this tip obviously may apply to some prospective backpackers more than others. However, you can never be too safe, and erring on the side of caution is usually wise. There’s no quick call to 911 when you’re several miles deep into your backpacking adventure after all.

Get used to all of your gear before your trip as well. Make sure you’re comfortable with how everything works and find out the best way to pack everything. A properly packed backpack with the weight evenly distributed will be a lot more comfortable to carry.

Alright so you’re in good physical and mental condition for your hike, you’ve got the trip all planned out, you know your gear inside and out and you could pack your backpack perfectly in your sleep…what now? Well there are a couple other things to do before your trip that are worth mentioning.

Communicate Your Plan

The first thing is something that you’ll read in literally every single article or book about backpacking. That should tell you just how important it is: You absolutely need to leave a complete itinerary with a trusted person in your life. This should include your schedule for the trip and all the other necessary information that could help you be found more quickly if you encounter any problems on the trail.

Always make sure to include the following information with your contact person. (You’ll also want to leave a copy in your vehicle for search and rescue teams to utilize if necessary):

-schedule with planned times and locations at each stop

-vehicle make and license plate number

-any medical conditions

-planned camping locations and planned time and date of return.

Report changes with your contact person as they come up (if any do).  This is generally just a precaution, and hopefully it’s never needed to be used in a rescue type of situation. Unfortuantely all it takes is one misstep on a root and a broken ankle for that information to get you rescued quickly.

Do Your Research

Checking weather and trail conditions before you embark is another piece of essential advice for beginner backpackers. Don’t ignore your instincts. If something feels off or the weather conditions don’t look promising, there’s no shame in canceling a backpacking trip and going another time.

The last piece of advice I’ll leave you with for now is to read as much as you can on backpacking. Knowledge is power, and will go a long way towards you turning you from a beginner backpack into a seasoned backpacking expert. Test your backpacking gear and setup base camp at a KOA location.