Some new to backpacking have asked how to start. These backpacker novices may be starting from zero, or may be familiar with backpacking, but want to know about backpacking in a new region.
Some backpacking novices struggle with the following topics:
- equipment selection
- equipment use
- camping activities
- land navigation
- dangerous animals
All backpackers have a first backpacking trip. While humans used to live closer to the land, it is now quite a transition to go from escalators and climate-controlled buildings to steep trails and thin tents.
Three approaches to learning how to backpack appear below. I’ve tried each of them. Once a backpacking trip’s goals are identified, selecting the proper approach becomes easier. The three approaches are as follows:
- Explorer – go it alone and teach yourself
- Pioneer – find someone who knows more than you, and observe
- Wagon Train – tag along on an organized outing
This article introduces the Explorer approach. Articles for the other approaches will follow.
Explorer – go it alone and teach yourself
Put yourself out there. Test your grit. Head to the backcountry alone, and don’t come back until you are finished. Prepare for your first backpacking trip and then pull the trigger.
How to start:
- Identify the goals for your backpacking trip. Do you simply want to spend the night in the backcountry, or is there something more specific you’d like to accomplish?
- Perform a literature search. Select a trail. Decide on the time of year for your trip. Identify the necessary equipment.
- Make the first few backpacking trips simple.
- Don’t kill yourself with long distance marches
- Plan to go in reasonable weather. See one backpacker's first trip in video below
- Plan meals using simple campfire or stove recipes.
- Allow time for mistakes. There will be uncooperative tents and meals that burn. Backpacking trips rarely go as planned – they are adventures.
- Build in some relaxation time
- Reflect on the experience once you return to civilization. What worked? What didn’t? What will you change for your next backpacking trip?
Teaching yourself a new set of skills is a wonderful way to learn. It’s all on you. Make sure you tell someone your plans and schedule. Remember, keep your trip simple.
What Explorer tips and ideas would you offer novice backpackers?
Subsequent articles will address Pioneer and Wagon Train approaches to learning how to backpack.