Beginner Backpacking Tips: 19 Things to Know Before you Hit the Trail 0 228

5. Choose an easy destination Backpacking

Beginner Backpacking Tips

A backpacking destination close to home is a good place to start for beginner backpackers. has an extensive list of backpacking trails and destinations organized by state.

Additionally, if you’ve never been backpacking before, choose a high traffic trail that will take 1 to 3 days to complete. The last thing you want to do is overexert yourself. Or worse – get hurt or lost.

Hiking along a well-known trail means other hikers will be around so you can ask them for help if you need it. High traffic trails also tend to be well marked so you minimize your risk of getting lost.

6. Tell someone where you’re going

Beginner Backpacking Tips

Let someone (preferably a human, i.e. your mom, a friend, a coworker, etc.) know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. In the off chance something happens, you get lost, stranded, or hurt – that person will know when and where to send help.

Backpacking can be dangerous so it’s important to be prepared for anything. This is one of the most important backpacking tips in this list. Because well… you know about Murphy’s Law, right?

7. Research up-to-date weather

Beginner Backpacking Tips

Once you know where you’re going, you need to look up the weather for that area. Knowing how the weather’s going to behave while you’re there makes a big difference in being comfortable… or not.

If there’s a chance it’s going to rain, you’ll need rain gear (we’ll talk more about gear in a second). If it’s going to get cold at night, you may need a warmer sleeping bag.

This may seem like common sense but it’s one of the easiest backpacking tips to forget – it can easily get buried in all the excitement of planning your first (or next) backpacking trip.

8. Know the regulations before you go

Beginner Backpacking Tips

Many national parks and regulated areas require you to have permits and may only issue out a specific number of permits during any given time period. If it’s possible, purchase your permits and any passes you’ll need online or over the phone before you go.

It’s not impossible to purchase them on-site but your best bet is to do so in advance. Imagine the devastation of planning, preparing, and driving out for your backpacking trip to find out the area is at max capacity. No thanks!

If you’re not going to be hiking in a national park, do a Google search for your destination and check out the rules, regulations, and permits/passes you’ll need in order to legally backpack in the area.

And this goes without saying: make sure you actually follow the rules & regulations. They’re put in place for you and other hikers’ safety as well as to take care of the land they’re allowing you to access. If you’re not sure about something, ask any park ranger or employee and they’ll help you out.

9. Buy a local guidebook

Beginner Backpacking Tips

Local guidebooks are a great way to get to know an area.

Many of them can be hit-or-miss but they tend to be more in-depth than many of the location-specific blog posts you’ll find online. Plus, you can take it with you (and leave your phone at home).

Local guidebooks are great because they show you popular hiking trails and campgrounds, outline the rules and regulations of that area, and may even throw in some tribal knowledge you won’t find anywhere else.

You’ll also likely be able to get an idea of typical weather, poisonous/venomous animals, and the types of terrain you can expect to encounter.

Speaking of terrain..

10. Understand the terrain

Beginner Backpacking Tips

Different areas of the world have different land features and terrain – while this may seem like one of the more common backpacking tips, it’s easy to overlook.

The types of terrain you’ll conquer during your backpacking trip determine what type of gear you need to bring with you (more on this later).

There are 14 types of terrain:

  • Canyon
  • Desert
  • Forest
  • Glacier
  • Hill
  • Marsh
  • Mountain
  • Oasis
  • Ocean
  • Open
  • River
  • Swamp
  • Tunda
  • Valley
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