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Beginners Guide To Backpacking

Beginners Guide To Backpacking

The 10 ESSENTAILS

  1. Navigation – map, compass, GPS
  2. Sun Protection – sunscreen, sunglasses, hat
  3. Insulation – jacket, gloves
  4. Illumination – headlamp, lantern, flashlight
  5. First Aid Supplies – first aid kit
  6. Fire – lighter, matches
  7. Repair Kit and Tools – knife, duct tape, scissors
  8. Nutrition – food, salty snacks
  9. Hydration – water, water treatment supplies
  10. Emergency Shelter – tent, space blanket, tarp

Our Backpacking TOP TIPS

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Pack all the medication you could ever need
  • Download Offline Maps as soon as you hit WiFi
  • Don’t look too much like a tourist
  • Don’t pack your whole wardrobe
  • Set out a rough budget
  • Brush up on the cultural basics of the places you’re visiting
  • Roll up your clothes when packing
  • Ask locals for suggestions
  • Check the weather before you go
  • Bring entertainment
  • Don’t forget to phone home
  • Try everything!
  • Have emergency money set aside
  • Make certified copies of your passport details, insurance policy, travellers cheques, visas and credit card numbers
  • Make sure to confirm any bookings you have made prior to arrival
  • When going out at night, don't go out alone
  • Don’t give your passport as a deposit for accommodation. It’s illegal, and unsafe
  • Don’t tempt by leaving your valuables lying around

 

Our Guide To BACKPACKING 

  1. Start Easy - Some of your more experienced backpacking friends may fill your head with stories of exotic destinations. However, don’t be too quick to jump into a challenging trek. Choose an easy destination not too far away from home to start. 
  2. Do Your Research - Before you begin, do some research on ideal hiking areas, especially favourable for beginners. 
  3. Join a Hiking Group - Hiking groups make the whole business of hiking easy and fun. It is also motivating to be among other hikers, and you will be surprised to discover how much you can achieve when in a group. 
  4. Prepare Yourself Physically  - Avoid exhaustion by preparing yourself physically. Take regular hikes with a 20-30lb bag. 
  5. Brush up on Survival Skills - To prepare yourself mentally, practice pitching tents, lighting the stove, reading maps and familiarize yourself with other navigation equipment. You should also learn basic first aid skills and know how to deal with emergencies on the trek. 
  6. Take Care of the Logistics - Figure out how to ride to and from the trailhead. You also need to acquire all the necessary permits to avoid being on the wrong side of the law. Also, check with the land managers for all the vital intel on the trail. 
  7. Remember Sun Protection - Carry sufficient sun protection, in the form of sunscreen and sunglasses. Hiking all day will expose you to harmful UV rays, so it is important to protect your eyes and skin.
  8. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help - No one starts as an experienced backpacker.  Don’t shy away from observing other hikers and asking the right questions. 
  9. Leave All the Necessary Info on the Trip With a Friend or Relative - Before you start the backpacking trip, you should leave a friend or relative information about your trip. Such information will help in conducting the required rescue efforts should you not show up on the planned date. 
  10. Choose a Common Trail - Until you get the hang of it, choose highly trafficked routes. In case you get stuck, there are others around to give you a hand.
  11. Leave the Pets and Children Behind - Having pets and children with you during your first trek can compound the challenges. Make sure you are equipped to handle a trek alone before adding additional variables.
  12. Learn to Properly Hydrate - Ideally, hikers should drink a litre of water every two hours. However, this can vary depending on weather conditions and time of year. 
  13. Check with the Weatherman  - Before you head out, check the weather forecast and be flexible enough to call the off the hike. Ideally, choose midsummer as the daylight hours are extended. 
  14. Choose Light and Comfortable Packs - Your choice of backpack and camping equipment can make or break your expedition. An uncomfortable backpack with unpadded shoulder straps and an unmeshed back can quickly turn the adventure into a nightmare. Take your time to choose the right pack for you. Hip straps are ideal and take a lot of weight off of your shoulders and back. Make sure it is sufficiently comfortable and don’t forget to pick equally lightweight tents. Your first trip should be as pleasant as possible. 
  15. Have a Checklist - Packing checklists ensure you don’t leave anything behind. Take time to prepare your list and avoid the last minute rush. 
  16. Pack Early - To avoid leaving vital stuff behind, always begin packing a few days before your trip. Keep checking the weight to avoid overdoing it. 
  17. Don’t Forget the Fire  - Fire is essential while on a hike – how else would you cook your food? Pack up a small box of matches, enough to last you the entire hike. It may also be wise to have another box in case one gets wet.
  18. Choose a Good Sleeping Bag  - Typically, your choice of sleeping bag should be influenced by the climate of your hike. As a beginner, we'd recommend a synthetic fill sleeping bag as opposed to down fill. 
  19. Have Adequate Illumination  - Without sufficient illumination, you may fail to enjoy your outdoor adventure. Make sure you have reliable and powerful flashlights. Headlamps are great too!
  20. Tools and Equipment - Since you will be far away from civilization where you cannot dial for a handyman to fix your stuff, remember to pack a few of the necessary tools. These tools will help you deal with any equipment malfunctions that may occur. 
  21. Handling the Drinking Water  - Don’t let the crystal-clear water in the wild fool you. Treat all water that you intend to drink and never make assumptions. Better to be safe than sorry.
  22. Save on Kitchen Supplies  - It is common for beginners to go overboard with their spending. When we say start small, we also mean find ways to minimize the overall cost of a backpacking trip. That means bringing some of your kitchen pots and pans instead of purchasing new items. 
  23. Choose the Right Clothes From Your Collection  - You don’t need to run to the store for a bunch of new hiking clothes. Choose clothing for all weather conditions from your current wardrobe. For example, moisture-wicking garments for those hot conditions, heavy jackets for the chilly nights and water-resistant clothing in case of rain. 
  24. Develop Your Own Layering  - Your friend’s ideal layering technique may not be the same as your own. Choose thin layers of clothes as they can sufficiently trap air and keep you warm. 
  25. Have the Right Shoes  - The ideal footwear has a decent grip and is sufficiently comfortable for the journey. There are good boots with over-the-ankle support or comfortable trail shoes you can choose from. It all depends on your preference. 
  26. Plan Your Food Well - Pack your meals based on the number of days you’ll be hiking. Your ideal list should include freeze-dried foods and non-perishables. Keep off canned food, as it can be heavy to carry. 
  27. Take Breaks - You may feel motivated to reach your destination quickly and demonstrate your stamina. However, taking ten minute breaks helps remove any metabolic waste in the legs and helps you to recoup your energy. 
  28. Make Use of Trekking Poles  - If you have knee pain, give hiking poles a chance, and you may like the results. Hiking poles also help you maintain stability when climbing and descending.
  29. Take Precaution Around Wildlife - It is always wise to avoid being too close to animals. You are in their territory and should practice all the necessary care in the wilderness. 
  30. Animal-Proof Your Food  - Food can easily attract unwanted guests. Keep all food in a bear canister or stuff sack and hang it on a branch to keep pests and animals from stealing it as you snooze. 
  31. Final Word - Backpacking trips are a fun way to exercise your body and take that much-needed break from your stressful office environment. The above tips will help you get started on your first trek.

 

What To AVOID 

  • Drinking the tap water
  • Waiting last minute to book your flight in high season
  • Packing too much stuff
  • Driving without a helmet
  • Booking cheap but unsafe hostels
  • Trying to tackle too many miles
  • Not learning and understanding navigation skills
  • Testing gear for the first time while on trail
  • Bringing too much or too little food
  • Trying to learn everything on your own

 

Planning HIKING FOOD 

  • Focus on lasting energy: The best foods for hiking will be nutrient-dense and provide lasting energy. Rather than sugars that only offer a quick boost of energy, choose proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats that are digested more slowly and release a steady supply of energy.
  • Enjoy something fresh: When choosing food for day hikes, you are not limited to non-perishable foods as you may be on a multi-day hiking trip. Bring along fresh fruits or vegetables as well as cheese for a fast and refreshing trail snack or enjoy your favourite sandwich for lunch.
  • Keep it cool: For shorter or less challenging day hikes, you may choose to bring a small cooler for even more hiking food options. Enjoy cold pasta salad, a refreshing beverage or other perishable foods when you bring a cooler and ice pack.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink water before your hike and pack enough water to last the entire day. Remember to drink water even if you do not feel thirsty, especially on hotter days. Staying hydrated will also keep you energized and feeling great.
  • Bring a little extra: Determine how much food and water to pack based on how long and how strenuous the hike is and then pack a little bit extra. You will be exerting energy all day, so be prepared with enough water and snacks to keep your body fuelled.
  • Focus on lasting energy: The best foods for hiking will be nutrient-dense and provide lasting energy. Rather than sugars that only offer a quick boost of energy, choose proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats that are digested more slowly and release a steady supply of energy.
  • Enjoy something fresh: When choosing food for day hikes, you are not limited to non-perishable foods as you may be on a multi-day hiking trip. Bring along fresh fruits or vegetables as well as cheese for a fast and refreshing trail snack or enjoy your favourite sandwich for lunch.
  • Keep it cool: For shorter or less challenging day hikes, you may choose to bring a small cooler for even more hiking food options. Enjoy cold pasta salad, a refreshing beverage or other perishable foods when you bring a cooler and ice pack.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink water before your hike and pack enough water to last the entire day. Remember to drink water even if you do not feel thirsty, especially on hotter days. Staying hydrated will also keep you energized and feeling great.
  • Bring a little extra: Determine how much food and water to pack based on how long and how strenuous the hike is and then pack a little bit extra. You will be exerting energy all day, so be prepared with enough water and snacks to keep your body fuelled.
  • Choose lightweight foods: Reduce weight in your pack by choosing light and compact foods, such as dehydrated or freeze-dried meals or other dry foods and snacks. Repackage bulky products into plastic baggies to further save space in your pack.
  • Pack the right amount: Estimate how many calories you will burn each day by considering your weight, the weight of your pack, how challenging the hike will be and how long you plan to hike each day. If you want to maintain your weight while hiking, pack enough food to make up all the calories you burn each day. However, you should always pack a little bit extra in case you get behind schedule and are on the trail longer than expected. If you are hiking in cold weather, your body will also need more calories to stay warm.
  • Focus on good nutrition: Choose high-protein foods and complex carbohydrates to energize you during your backpacking trip. You will burn a lot of calories each day, so pack foods with high amounts of calories, protein, fibre, carbohydrates and electrolytes to replenish your body. Foods that offer stable energy will also keep you feeling full without weighing you down or leading to a crash.
  • Opt for nutrient-dense foods: Pick foods that provide a lot of calories and nutrients while taking up the least amount of space. The best foods for backpacking will have a high calorie-to-ounce ratio.
  • Plan easy-to-prepare meals: After a long day on the trail, you will be grateful for a warm meal that is easy to prepare. Plan meals that can be made in one pot or do not require utensils at all, like dehydrated meals, rice or instant noodles. These fast and filling meals also require minimal clean-up so you can get the rest you need to tackle the next day on the trail.
  • Minimize cooking tools and utensils: To keep your pack as light as possible, plan meals that require minimal cooking tools and utensils. A simple pot can be used to boil water for dehydrated meals, make rice or pasta and even make coffee for a morning energy boost.
  • Pack foods you enjoy: With so many options of lightweight trail foods and dehydrated meals, you can always find backpacking foods you enjoy. At the end of a long day of hiking, you will be grateful for the comfort of a delicious meal.

LEAVE-NO-TRACE Principles 

  • Pre plan - Always check the regulations and features of the places you will be going through. Check the weather forecast and equip yourself according. Take the minimum amount of packaging to minimise your waste.
  • Use durable services - It’s always tempting to go ‘off-piste’ where no one has walked before. But that can alter the beauty of virgin territory. Where possible, choose existing trails.
  • Dispose of waste properly - Leave nothing behind. Everything you bring with you must go back with you.
  • Leave what you find - However beautiful the flowers or stones you find on the trail, only touch them with your eyes.
  • Minimise fire impacts - Do make sure you keep camp fires to a minimum as much as possible. They leave indelible traces on the landscape. Choose a small camping stove instead. Always check that fires are permitted and use the locations already used by other hikers. Only light a small fire and always disperse cold ashes after putting it out.
  • Respect wildlife - Always keep a safe distance from wildlife. Don’t forget that this is their home.
  • Be considerate to others - You may not be alone when out hiking. Be considerate and make everyone’s walk more enjoyable by greeting them with a smile. Give way to hikers having difficulty on trails. If you meet hikers on horseback, stand aside.
  • Always take your tissue and toilet paper with you - Put it in a ziplock bag.
  • Never wash plates and bowls directly in the river - Collect the water and walk at least 50 m away first.
  • Always use the bathroom at least 100 m away from any water sources - If there is a designated bathroom, use it.
  • Eat all of your food - Don’t dump it for the wildlife to eat.
  • Think twice before washing or swimming in glacial lakes and rivers - People downstream are using that water.
  • Same goes for camping - If there are designated camping spots, use those. It’s hard for the environment to recover from large amounts of people if they just camp wherever they want.
  • Don’t leave anything in nature that doesn’t belong there - and don’t take anything away.

 

Backpacking CHECKLIST

  1. Travel insurance
  2. Hiking boots
  3. Flip flops
  4. Backpack
  5. Tent
  6. Sleeping bag and sleeping pad
  7. Stove and fuel
  8. Plug adaptor
  9. Lock
  10. Plenty of food
  11. Water bottles and water-treatment supplies
  12. Weather-appropriate clothing
  13. Emergency and hygiene supplies
  14. Small repair kit
  15. Backpack with raincover
  16. Backpacking tent 
  17. Sleeping bag 
  18. Head lamp or flashlight
  19. Extra batteries
  20. Trekking poles
  21. Travel pillow
  22. Backpacking stove
  23. Fuel
  24. Cook set
  25. Crockery
  26. Quick dry towel
  27. Water container
  28. Planned meals
  29. Energy bars
  30. Lightweight clothing
  31. Waterproofs
  32. Gaiter
  33. Map
  34. Compass
  35. Watch
  36. First aid kit
  37. Fire starter
  38. Emergency shelter
  39. Itinerary (1 with you, 1 left with family/friend)
  40. Hand sanitizer
  41. Toothbrush
  42. Toilet wipes
  43. Medications
  44. Sunglasses
  45. Sunscreen
  46. SPF lip balm
  47. Insect repellent
  48. Blister treatment
  49. Pocket knife
  50. Duct tape
  51. Camera
  52. Book
  53. Journal / diary

 

 

& As Always, Happy Backpacking From PJ!

 

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