How to Pack for the Beginner Backpacker

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captionThe beauty of backpacking is immersing yourself in nature. It’s the chance to rejuvenate in the wild. It’s an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, we all know preparing for a backpacking trip is no easy task.

Much of this has to do with the question, “How do I pack?” You are usually restricted to fitting everything you may need into one backpack. For many, it is difficult to know where to start. Not to mention the fact that you will have to haul the pack all day everyday during your trip. Who wants to carry around items you won’t need?

Backpacker Magazine is trying to make this process simpler. The magazine has a pair traveling the U.S on its “Get Out More Tour.” The tour educates both seasoned and beginner hikers on best practices when preparing for a hike. Whether it is a simple day hike or multiple month trip, it is important to be prepared and plan ahead.

“It’s way easier hiking the hike than planning the hike.”

Before you start packing, know what you are packing for. Know your destination and how far you will be hiking. Research the area and the rules and regulations. Create an agenda. Plan where you will stop along the way. You need to know what to pack for before you can begin.

Once you answer all those questions, you can start the packing process.


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      1. Insulation: regulating your temperature is extremely important. A good sleeping bag is vital. Do your research and choose a sleeping back that will keep you warm in dry depending on your destination. A sleeping bag liner can be beneficial for destinations where layering is essential. They can be used as a light layer on warm nights. Clothing is another tool for insulation. Layering is here as well. You typically want 3 layers: a base, a middle insulating layer and a waterproof shell.
      1. Shelter: a shelter from the elements will make the outdoors much more enjoyable. A good shelter will help keep you well rested and energized on your trip. When choosing a shelter, remember your location and the type of terrain you’ll be in.
      1. Food/Nutrition: depending on your weight, you can burn around 5,000 calories per day when continually hiking. Healthy, protein rich meals are important for energy. There are a variety of freeze dried or dehydrated meal packs available. Consider weight, prep time, perishability, price, trash generated and taste before making your selections. Choose meals you enjoy. If you don’t like the taste of something at home, you definitely won’t like it in on your hike.
      1. Hydration: any water you drink must be treated first. There are a numerous different systems to treat water. Do your research on how often you will reach a water source, how much water you can carry, how long you are willing to wait for the treatment and how often you want to stop to treat water. Once you know these details you can pick out the right water treatment system for you.
      1. First Aid: knowledge is key. Always carry at least a small first aid kit and know how to use everything inside. Being prepared and careful of your surroundings can keep you injury free.
      1. Illumination: always be prepared with some form of illumination. You will want something compact and efficient, yet lightweight, especially on a longer trip. Numerous lights with clips are great for quick and easy light sources anywhere you may need them.
      1. Sun/Bug Protection: no one wants to suffer through a sunburn or itchy bug bites while trying to enjoy nature. Clothes are the first level of sun protection, but you can’t forget sunscreen, lip balm and bug spray.
      1. Navigation: make sure you know how to get where you’re going. Relying solely on technology as your only navigation tool can be dangerous. Don’t underestimate a simple map and compass on a backpacking trip. More importantly, know how to use the compass and practice before your trip.
      1. Tools/Repair Kit: things break, items get lost and everything can’t be controlled in nature. Simple tools like a knife, rope, duck tape, etc can be lifesavers when life happens.
      1. Fire: travel with multiple methods to start a fire. Always bring waterproof matches. You won’t regret it.

When packing, pack your heaviest items near the top so their weight hits your shoulder blades. This is the best part of your body to support that weight. Sleeping bags, sleeping pads and tents should be packed near the bottom because you will only need them at night. Your rain gear, water, first aid kit and other necessities should be easily accessible either near the top or in side pockets of you backpack. The smarter you pack, the more you can enjoy your trip.

With all of these necessities you must compare comfort and convenience with weight, especially on long trips. Know what is best for you. If you’d like to add some personal luxury items that is up to you. Remember, you are hiking to enjoy nature and experience the great outdoors. Bring whatever you must to ensure a fun and rejuvenating backpacking trip.

Now…where are you going to go?

Post by: Emma Kessinger


Read about the camping opportunities in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains.


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