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How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip

How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip

by Lauren Mason | July 31, 2020

If it’s been a while since you’ve planned a backpacking trip, or you’ve never been on one at all before, all the planning and preparing might seem a little challenging. Between choosing your gear, packing your food, and the logistics of where you’re going to go, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t worry…with these tips from the experts at Arrive Outdoors, you’ll be ready to hit the trail with confidence in no time! 

Start with a Gear List

Start by making a gear list to keep yourself organized. If you’re unsure what you’ll need, check out our Backpacking 101 post for a list of all the essentials. And, if you really want to keep things simple, rent a complete backpacking set from us! It includes everything you need to hit the trail successfully, and we’ll deliver it right to your door anywhere in the continental United States (yes that includes airbnb and Fedex!). 

Pack Your Backpack Properly

The way you pack your backpack will affect how comfortable it is to carry and, of course, ensure that everything fits. Heavy items should go in the center of your pack with lighter weight items packed around them. This keeps the bulk of the weight close to your center of gravity, which helps you keep your balance. Your map, snacks, and other little things you might need during the day can go in the lid or side pockets of your pack, so you can get to them quickly. If your group is carrying communal items, such a tent or cooking gear, divvy the weight up among the group.

Keep Your Food Simple

You don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of expensive backpacking food. You can get what you need right at your local grocery store. Energy/protein bars, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, oatmeal packets, nut butters, whole grain crackers… these are all tasty, lightweight, calorie-dense options that will give you the energy you need to hike all day. Canned foods and fresh foods should be avoided due to weight. 

If you’re only going to be on the trail for two or three days, don’t worry so much about packing a variety of foods. Instead, focus on foods that can be eaten right out of the package or require very minimal preparation. If you want some more substantial meals for dinners, consider things like freeze-dried rice and beans, instant potatoes, or good old-fashioned mac and cheese. By keeping your meal prep simple, the only gear you’ll need is an ultralight MSR Pocket Rocket Backpacking Stove and an Alpine 2 Pot Set.

When it Comes to Clothes, Don’t Overpack

You may be tempted to pack an outfit for each day you’ll be on the trail, but you’re better off saving yourself space and weight. Just bring one extra set of clothes for daytime and one for sleeping. Of course, bringing a couple extra pairs of socks is always a good idea. 

Do Some Pre-trip Day Hikes

If you don’t hike regularly, do several day hikes before your trip to get your body ready for the trail. At the very least, walk in your neighborhood every day. Wear the same shoes and socks you’ll be wearing on your backpacking trip, so they’re broken in. That’s the best way to prevent blisters! It’s also a good idea to bring your Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles with you on your hikes so you can get used to them. They will help you stay balanced on uneven terrain. You should also wear a backpack that’s a similar weight to the one you’ll be wearing on your trip.

Consider the Weather

Be aware of the average weather conditions at the location you’ll be backpacking. Make sure you have the appropriate tent and sleeping bag for the expected weather conditions. Arrive has tents and sleeping bags to keep you comfortable and dry in a variety of weather conditions. Checking the weather report a few days before you leave is vital for making sure you’ll stay warm and dry on your trip. Adjust your clothing choices according to the weather report, but make sure you plan for dramatic drops in temperature at night if you’re going to be at higher elevations.

Bring Some Entertainment

Sometimes it can be hard to fall asleep on the trail, especially on your first night out. It’s nice to have a book, or some music downloaded on your phone (along with some earbuds) to help you relax and fall asleep easier. Don’t forget to pack a Black Diamond Headlamp for reading and an Anker Portable Charger to keep your phone juiced up. 

Start with a Short Trip

If this is your first backpacking trip, or you haven’t been backpacking for a while, consider keeping your trip short. Two or three days is ideal and keep your mileage short as well. This will ensure that you have a good time and allow for plenty of time to savor the sunset by the campfire.

Consider Staying Close to Home

It’s much easier to plan the logistics of your trip if you stay close to home. Even more importantly, spending less time on the road means you’ll have more time to enjoy the backcountry. Knowing the area will also make things easier. After all, backpacking is all about enjoying the great outdoors and spending time with good friends.

In fact, one of the most popular backpacking trails in the country could be right in your home state. National Parks throughout the country offer thousands of fabulous trails, and many of them are great for beginners and experts alike.

Here are some suggestions for you to explore:

  • North Country Trail: This 42-mile trail is a long trek for the first-time backpacker, but it’s absolutely beautiful if you’re up for it. It’s located along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. 
  • Big Meadows and Rose River Loop: This 14-mile loop runs through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
  • Elam Loop: A gorgeous 20-mile loop through Redwood National Park in California.
  • Hoh River Trail: This 17.5-mile trail runs through Olympic National Park in Washington.

Proper planning and preparation will ensure that your outdoor backpacking adventure is a huge success. With premium gear from Arrive Outdoors, you can hit the trail with everything you need at a fraction of the cost, delivered right where you need it. It doesn’t get any easier than that!


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