First Time Backpacking Tips
Backpacking is an enjoyable way to experience nature and access remote terrain. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Study a map or guide to know the terrain you'll be hiking and estimate the time it will take to arrive at your destination. Pad your estimates with extra time to account for delays.
- Obtain necessary permits and reserve campsites in advance, and check local regulations to avoid fines.
- Know the area's weather patterns and accommodate for time of year. Always be prepared for the worst weather.
- Remember, it's very easy to perspire, even in the winter, so dress appropriately in layers and be prepared for changing conditions, temperature changes at higher altitudes, and evenings. Avoid wearing jeans or cotton clothing. Wear polypropylene, wool or other breathable materials that wick moisture away and dry quickly. Always pack rain gear.
- Get to know your gear before heading out. Seam-seal the tent and familiarize yourself with its design and set-up. Learn how to operate your stove so you're not caught in the dark or the rain trying to figure it out.
- Know what you can carry and how long you can carry it without straining yourself. The pack shouldn't weigh more than 25 percent of your weight, so take only what you need.
- Plan meals carefully. Packers consume 3,200 to 3,800 calories per day and need high carbohydrate foods, proteins and fats such as peanut butter, trail mixes, instant oatmeal, pastas and dried fruit.
- Eat a high calorie breakfast to load up on energy and don't underestimate the need for frequent snacks.
- Pay attention to where the water sources are located and make sure you keep bottles filled in case the next source is farther away than expected.
- Don't be fooled by cooler temperatures or the fact that you don't feel thirsty. Your body can pass off moisture quickly, resulting in dehydration. Drink up to four quarts of liquid per day.
- Listen to your body. It's not unusual to stop often for a rest and drink of water. Depending on the terrain and the temperature, you may need to rest every 20 minutes or half hour. In hot weather, carry a wet bandana to cool your face and neck. And pay attention to feet for developing blisters.
- Cook the evening meal before it gets too dark, and store your food in a sack hung from a tree limb at night to keep it away from marauding raccoons, skunks or bears.
- Always carry a first aid kit and be prepared with some first aid training. Leave a schedule and a map of your route with someone at home.