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Backpacking 101: Backpacking Tips for Beginners

Backpacking 101: Backpacking Tips for Beginners

by Arrive Outdoors CS | March 25, 2019

Are you ready to take your hiking or car camping adventures to the next level? There are so many incredible places to see in this world that you just can’t get to with a car. Sometimes, hiking in on foot is the only way to get where you want to go. Backpacking in with your overnight gear opens up even more opportunities to see those out of the way places you just can’t get to otherwise.

If you’ve never been on an overnight backpacking trip, you might be a little unsure of what to expect, what you should pack, and how to go about planning for your first backpacking adventure. Don’t worry! You don’t have to have a ton of experience or a bunch of expensive gear to plan your first backpacking adventure. Here are our top backpacking tips for beginners.

Planning Your First Backpacking Trip

The first thing you need to decide is how long your trip will be and where you want to go. If you don’t hike or camp regularly, we recommend a two-day trip for your first time. Hike in one day, stay the night, and hike out the next. A short trip will give you a taste of what life is like on the trail, and then you can plan future trips based on your experience and fitness level.

When deciding where to go, your fitness level should be one of your top considerations. If you hike regularly, you can choose more advanced terrain. If you don’t hike or work out often, you’re better off picking a trail that’s rated for beginners. Save the more advanced and high altitude trails for when you have more experience. The All Trails website is a great place to research trails of all skill levels throughout the United States.

Choosing Your Other Gear

One of the top considerations when choosing gear for a backpacking trip is keeping the weight down without sacrificing quality.

Here’s what we recommend:

  • A Tent- Arrive Outdoors tents are premium and can protect you from the wind and rain. They are also available in a variety of sizes, so you can carry just one tent for your entire group.
  • Sleeping Bag- Choose a sleeping bag that’s rated for the temperatures you are expecting on your trip. Arrive Outdoors has premium sleeping bags rated for temperatures from 0-30 degrees.
  • A Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad
  • A Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
  • A Small First Aid Kit
  • A Compass and Topographical Map of the Area
  • Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles - These will help you balance on rough terrain.

    You can rent all your gear from Arrive Outdoors and hit the trails with premium gear at a fraction of the cost of buying everything outright. Arrive Outdoors can ship your gear anywhere in the continental United States.

    Check out our full Backpacking Gear Checklist here. 

    How to Decide What to Pack

    Now that you know where you’re going and for how long, you can decide what clothing you need to pack. Choose your clothes for function rather than looks. Breathable fabrics are essential in the warmer months. On the other hand, you’ll want to bring clothes that can be layered if you are going up in altitude or if you are likely to encounter snow.

    These clothing items are essential for most trips:

    • A t-shirt or tank top
    • Leggings or light pants
    • A lightweight, breathable rain jacket
    • Clean underwear for each day on the trail
    • One or two extra pairs of socks
    • A lightweight, long sleeve shirt to keep the mosquitos away
    • A hat and sunglasses
    • Proper footwear for hiking- In most cases, waterproof hiking boots are best. However, you may choose to wear sneakers on level, well-developed trails. Either way, make sure your footwear is well broken-in before you set out on your trip.
    • A pair of flip flops for when you’re in camp 

    If it’s going to be cold, you should also bring these items:

    • A warm, waterproof jacket
    • Waterproof pants
    • Long underwear
    • A warm hat and gloves

    In most cases, it’s best to bring only one set of clothes for hiking and one set for sleeping. Carrying around a bunch of extra clothes is really going to weigh you down on the trail.

    Selecting Your Backpack

    Selecting the right backpack can make or break your trip. Choose the size of your pack based on the length of your trip; you don’t need to lug around a massive pack if you’re only going to be on the trail for one night. The Deuter Speed Lite 26L Backpack is perfect for overnight trips. For longer treks, go for the Deuter 60L Women’s or the Deuter 65L Men’s Backpack.

    Other Items You’ll Need on the Trail

    Since you’ll be on an overnight trip, you’re going to need to carry all your food with you. Choose food that is lightweight or dehydrated. Some ideas are oatmeal, trail mix, instant noodle soups, energy bars, pasta with powdered sauces, and instant mashed potatoes. Dehydrated backpacking meals are a bit more expensive, but they’re very convenient.

    Staying hydrated on the trail is crucial. You’ll need a container for carrying water and a way to make it safe to drink. We recommend bringing a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter or Portable Aqua Water Purification Tablets with you. Don’t forget to bring powdered beverages like Tang, Gatorade, coffee, tea or hot cocoa, too. Steer clear of food in cans or food that takes a long time to cook.

    The MSR PocketRocket Stove won’t take up much room in your pack and it’s perfect for preparing meals on the trail. A Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool and lightweight eating utensils are also nice to have. Bug spray, sunblock, and lightweight toiletries should also be in your pack. If you’ll be carrying a cell phone, you should bring an Anker Portable Battery Charger, too.

    One Last Tip

    Nothing will prepare you for a backpacking trip like hiking, so try to get a few day hikes in before you go. Hitting the trail for some short hikes will give you a chance to break in those hiking boots, too.


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