Yay! You're here!
It might seem a little scary or overwhelming to go backpacking if you don't have any experience or gear, or even any friends to ask. But trusting your curiosity is a good place to start.
I'll break down what you need to know to get started in the simplest and cheapest way I know how. I know when I first started, I had no idea where to begin, so I'll start with the very basics.
What exactly is wilderness backpacking?
Wilderness backpacking is self-supported camping in the backcountry. It's accomplished by carrying all of your supplies (food, cooking supplies, sleeping supplies, shelter, clothes, etc.) in a backpack and hiking to your destination.
What do I need to go backpacking?
There are so many different opinions on the specifics of gear, but here's a basic checklist of things I never forget when I'm preparing for a trip. Also, here are CHEAP & FREE ways to find gear.
What should I take for food?
My take on food is: simple and satiating. Here's a sample meal plan for a four-day solo trip. When I'm preparing my meals and snacks, I think about how easy it will be to prepare on the trail. For me, I can hike 15+ miles in a day, but I am a seriously lazy eater. If it's not a one-step process, I'm too tired to be interested. And as much as I like fiber, I've found that what my body wants is carbs, protein, salt, and sugar. Snacks are also key. Consistent calorie consumption plays a major role in your energy level.
Is it dangerous? If a wild animal is attacking, sure! But how often does that happen? Not very. When you go out into the wilderness, you should always use caution and practice safety. Carelessness is what often leads to dangerous situations. When you go off trail without proper navigation skills, don't plan well, don't store food properly, etc., that's when you could get lost, not have enough supplies, or get an unwelcome visitor. Planning well, being informed and taking baby steps is a safe way to start.
Where do I go?
The world is your oyster! For your first trip, why not start by checking out your local trails? It's one thing to day-hike in an area, but it's a whole other level of appreciation to spend the night there. I think going on your first backpacking trip can be kinda anxiety-producing, so it could be helpful to be near home. But if you're up for an epic adventure, go for it girl!
How do I prepare?
- Find a place to go. Ask local folks if they have any recommendations for a local backpacking spot or ask the internet. See if any places stand out to you. Call the ranger station for an area you're interested in, and ask them for a recommendation of where to backpack. Research research research!
- Find out if you need a permit.
- Find a friend or two to go with. Make it a ladies trip!
- Use a checklist to begin collecting your gear. Ask people if you can borrow gear, so you don't have to spend money on all new gear. Renting is also a good option. Also, consider what kind clothing you'll need and what kind of weather you need to prepare for. (Note: I think it's worth waiting on purchasing equipment until you have a better sense of what you want, which only comes after having a few experiences.)
- Test your gear. Set up the tent, try on your fully loaded pack, try out the stove, use your water filter, etc.
- Go on day hikes with a loaded backpack to prepare physically.
- Get a topographic (topo) map and directions to the trailhead. Highlight the trail you're going to take.
- Plan out your meals. Figure out exactly what you need and don't wait until the last minute to shop and then stuff your pack.
- Make sure to tell someone. It's important to let someone know where you'll be and for how long.
- Refresh yourself with Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.
Find more in-depth info in the journal.