Your first backpacking trip
The idea of hauling a large amount of weight on your back and trekking off into the wilderness where you will be completely isolated may not be for everyone but it sure isn't as hard as it seems. Here are the best backpacking tips for everyone who wants to learn more.
Camping is not as stressful as it seems. Experience, knowledge, and confidence is all you need to have a peaceful and relaxing backpacking trip. Plus a love for adventure!
When it comes to packing, make sure you have all the necessary essentials and backups. As long as you are equipped with the right gear, there is no reason why these trips should be stressful. Being prepared is all you need.
When choosing a backpack, a large one is necessary to carry all of your gear and it is important to go with a high quality brand that supports your back well. Anything above 50L if usually perfect for over night trips or multi-day trips.
Here is a list of important essentials that should be part of your gear packing list:
Lightweight 3-season backpacking tent. For this, you want to make sure you have an ideal backpacking tent and not a regular car camping tent. This will protect you from any weather as you never know when it could snow in August in the alpine or rain. If you go to any local outdoor hiking store like MEC or Atmosphere they will guide you to the perfect tent. These are very affordable and easy to pack and carry.
Lightweight thermarest (thin mattress). Always check for leaks before you go out but blowing them up and leaving a heavy weight on them over night to make sure they are good to go!
Sleeping bag (down and good to -10). You don't need a warrior of a sleeping bag that takes up your entire backpack because you won't have space for anything else. A sleeping bag that stuffs small and that goes to just below zero is normally perfect for summer backpacking in the alpine.
Pillow. This can be a tiny pillow case that you put your fleece into as a make shift pillow or a small pillow that collapses and stuff into a small pouch. Either one is perfect it only depends on your preference.
Nalgene water bottle (1L). These water bottles are essential while hiking and are my favourite ones to have! They have a standard top that fits most water filters so they are awesome outdoors.
Water filter. You need some sort of sanitary mechanism to filter water for drinking and anything else. There are a variety of really great water filters you can buy at outdoor stores but make sure they are suitable for your water bottle or places that you would be camping.
Stove. I highly recommend getting the small collapsable MSR pocket rocket stoves that are super tiny. Mine is very reliable and I have had it for quite a while. There are lots of other brands that make small stoves that are great also. Tip as well: always light and check your stove before leaving on your trip.
Fuel. I really like the isobutane jet boil jet power fuel, and MSR has their own line of isobutane fuel as well. These are supper lightweight and buying the small size will last you much more than one backpacking trip.
Lighter/matches. Must need! Lighters are often finicky in high altitudes or cool regions so always bring matches as your backpack. The last thing you want is to not be able to eat your meal when you are in the middle of nowhere.
Cooking materials. You can get lots of small pot kits with bowls and utensils. Whatever you fall in love with at an outdoor store. Getting a small set of everything is nice because they all usually fit together which makes packing easier.
Headlamp. This is necessary for walking around your camp at night, going to the bathroom, and a variety of safety reasons. Plus, you can then stay up and read in your tent after dark or play games.
First aid kit. Having a tiny first aid kit is important for safety, whether you get a small burn or a small cut, having this around gives you the ease of knowing that if something were to happen you have the means to take care of it. You can find lots of small kits that vary in size depending on the amount of people going with you, and they are inexpensive.
Bug net. You never know when you are going to be in an area that is dominated by mosquitos which keep you in your tent instead of enjoying nature. Tiny palm-sized bug nets can be bought for a few dollars which will make your trip much more peaceful.
Towels. Having a light microfibre backpacking towel is handy to have if you want to go swimming in a lake, clean yourself, have something to sit on, or keep you more and comfortable at night. Seriously, these things have so many uses.
Hiking boots. You cannot go backpacking with running shoes. Period. You will roll your ankle with the weight on your back and you will not be prepared for all weather types which could make trails very dangerous. Having proper hiking boots that go above your ankle joint is really important, and you can keep them very waterproof as well.
Camp shoes. Having sandals or crocs is great when walking around camp because you can give your feet a break and have something that is easy to slip into.
Hiking socks. Socks that go above your hiking boot top is important and they protect your skin and keep your feet happy and cozy. Merino wool socks are great and there are many brands that sell them all over.
Rain gear. Always bring a rain jacket / wind breaker. This will keep you warm in the evening and the morning even if there is no rain. The alpine air gets very chilly at night. Rain pants are also great and they protect you from bug bites but they are a preference choice over special hiking pants.
Warm sleep wear. Having technical (warm tights and long sleeve polyester) clothing for sleeping is important for keeping you warm when the temperature drops rapidly at night. There is nothing worse than waking up freezing cold and not being able to fall back asleep because you are shivering too much.
I am going to post lots on homemade backpacking meals. They can be found in my outdoor eating tab.
In general though, you need dried food while backpacking, nothing fresh. You can make lots of yummy plain pasta dinners and margarine and parmesan keep very well in containers if you want to make something more elaborate. Sidekicks are very handy to eat as they are delicious and fast and come in packages fit for backpacking already. If you want easier food for your first time, pick up some dried meals at an outdoor store. There are tons of delicious types to choose from!
For breakfasts, my go to is always oatmeal because it warms me up in the morning and is healthy. You can also bring cereal as an option. All you need is powdered milk which doesn't taste too bad when mixed with water. If you like skim milk then powdered milk won't taste much different except it is a little less watery. Snacks and lunches are easy to find and make, as long as you get food that is dried and packaged.
ALWAYS carry out all food waste and packaging when you are done.
Take more out with you than what you brought in!
When camping, here are a few important things to acknowledge when you are in the alpine.
Respect the environment!
No fires in the alpine. This ecosystem is very sensitive to environmental changes. Most of those tiny trees have been growing for years and years because their growing season is so short. Fires disrupt the delicate balance in the alpine area.
Don't camp too close to water sources. You don't need to be needlessly far away from a lake or stream but don't camp right next to one either.
Always use products that are safe for the environment like biodegradable soap for washing.
Leave food and scented items safely stored within your backpack. If you are very high up where there are no animals and no vegetation, you can store your backpack with its contents in the vestibule of the tent. In vegetated areas however, food needs to be stored elsewhere.
If you find garbage from other people, take it out with you. A small act of kindness that keeps the outdoor playground happy and healthy.
I hope you all enjoyed this intro backpacking guide and how to be safe and happy outside for both you and the environment around you!