Are you looking forward to beginning backpacking, something that you have never done before? You will need the best tips for backpacking and hiking for beginners. Well, the everyday backpacker will tell you that this is the most rejuvenating and enriching outdoor adventure.
The success, or the failure thereof of your very first hiking and backpacking experience depends on how well prepared you are for the experience. So, take time, do some footwork to get ready. Get your hiking for beginners checklist, know everything there is to know about it. You can never be too cautious when it is about the outdoors.
Table of Contents
To-do things for hiking for beginners
Choosing a hiking destination
This is very important. When it is winter in America, it is hot, blasting sun somewhere else. When it is night in your place, it is daytime somewhere else. With such glaring diversities, you need to understand your hiking destination. You do not just arise in the morning and … thumb hooked into your back pocket, decide to fly out to Morocco for backpacking. What do you know about Morocco?
Is it a good backpacking and hiking destination? Beginning backpacking requires you to do a lot of footwork when choosing the destination. What is the climate, what is the weather like in that particular time, is it safe for you and so many other considerations.
You can refer to the outdoors magazines, online forums for backpacking, local tour guidebooks, online backpacking websites and blogs to choose a perfect destination.
Create an inventory of the most important items
You need to bring many things with you. Among the most important ones that you should never forget include your driving license, passport and visa and your credit cards. You also need to carry enough cash with you.
Nowadays, it has become a good habit for people to carry portable water filters with them, especially when they are traveling to international hiking destinations. Make sure your list of backpacking gear list includes all the essentials. Carry your money in US dollars if possible because it is well known and it is easy to exchange for the local currency of wherever you are going.
Buy the best hiking back pack
With so many packs in the market and all of them purporting to be the best, how do you know that you have the best backpacking pack? It must be highly reviewed on Amazon, must come with a warranty and most importantly, this must not be just any backpack, but one that is specifically made for hiking.
It must be lightweight, small, waterproof because you will be outdoors most of the time and if it is not, then you should be able to buy a rain cover for it. One thing that a good backpacking guide should tell you is that a good pack determines the success of the backpacking trip in a big way.
Buy a front loading backpack made of cotton canvas. With compression straps, hip belt, daisy chain, side pockets … you know, the works. The backpack sizes start as low as 2 liters and can be as big as 100 liters or more. Size is measured in volume/liters. Usually, the best hiking backpack is between 20 and 40 liters if you are going to an international destination.
Know how to pack a backpack
Knowing how to choose the best hiking backpack is not the only prerequisite for a great time outdoors. You must know how to pack a backpack just right. Now, the best backpack should have a few compartments. Lockable pockets and so on, to carry as much gear as you want. The things that you will need to use more often should be in the most accessible places. From your hiking gear list, items like clothing, shoes, books, personal hygiene items should go in the main compartments.
Do not pack your whole wardrobe in the backpack. Pack minimally to travel light. In your backpacking list, start with the documents like:
- Travel insurance card
- Passport and visa
- Photocopies of all documents
- Driving license,
- Contacts for credit card and insurance companies,
- Air ticket
- Hotel booking confirmations and so on
This can be followed by medication (if any), gizmos like iPad, laptop, chargers, universal plug adaptor, external power banks, clothes and so on. Carry two pairs of trousers, one that unzips to shorts, three t-shirts, one pullover, hiking shoes and walking shoes. Do not carry the full wardrobe with you.
Make sure the backpack has attachments for your trekking poles. You will need them on the trails.
Backup for your photos
People forget this very important thing … that photos and videos that you shoot along your travels are best stored in cloud than in your camera. Many hikers have lost their entire backpacks, but that does not mean that you have to lose your memories. Get a card like Eyefi Mobi Class 10 Wi-Fi SDHC Card that pairs your camera to your desktop computer, android smartphone, iPad, Kindle and other devices which have the corresponding app. This backs up your photos in real time, as you take them.
Download a few travel apps for your smartphone
This is the digital age. You do not have to navigate by the stars like the people of the past. Take time and find out what travel apps you can download, some of them free of charge and some paid-for. They include:
- Skyscanner for hotels, flights and rental cars
- Airbnb for lodging and accommodation
- Hotel Tonight searches and brings you the latest hotel deals
- Google Maps for directions
- Uber for taxi
- Packpoint to help you pack so you do not forget anything
Get all the required vaccinations
If you are traveling to Asia, South America or Africa, you will need to get vaccination for malaria, yellow fever, typhoid fever and so on. Just find out what jabs you need and get them. Also make sure you carry proof that you have taken them. If you fall sick when traveling, your travel insurance provider will want to know whether you took the required medication. To enjoy the best backpacking and hiking experience, you need to have no health worries.
Do a rehearsal at home
Hiking for beginners can be a bit complicated especially because they have never had a backpack on their back before. Pack your backpack, wear your hiking boots and then try getting around your yard to get used to the experience. You will know whether you have packed too much, whether the pack is balanced and most importantly, you will find out whether what you have is the right backpack for you. If you are a woman, buy a backpack for women and vice versa. Also, buy a pack that has the right torso length. The best hiking experience depends on many things, but a rehearsal gives you a preamble to the experience ahead of you.
Book your flight in advance
Unless you are driving to your hiking destination, then you must book your flights in good time. It is also advisable to book hotels in advance too, especially if it is peak tourist season for wherever you are going. You cannot have the best hiking experience if you land in a foreign city and are stranded without somewhere to sleep. Also, note carefully what airport you have to go to since most cities have two or more international airports. What a flustered look you would wear if you found yourself in the wrong airport.
Trek a short distance – hiking for beginners biggest tip
When you get to your hiking destination, the trails can be alluring and believe it or not, you will want to hog everything at once. But that will not give you the best hiking experience. Remember, you want the best hiking experience for beginners. It is something that you have never done before. You do not know how much your body can handle. Take it slowly, the trails ain’t going nowhere. That is why one day of hiking is not enough for a beginner trekker. It is recommended that on the very first day of your hike, you should do 5 miles or less.
Pack a camping backpack
The best hiking experience is always accompanied by camping the night out. Therefore, pack a camping backpack with camping essentials like a sleeping bag and sleeping pad if you must carry one. To enjoy the best experience, you should go hiking and camping as a couple, as a group but if these options are not available, then just go it alone. But first, find out how to pack a backpack.
Get the weather forecasts for the place you are going
This is very important if you are to have the best hiking experience. If you are going to South America, do not go during the long rains when everything floods. If you are going to north India, do not go during the winter as the Himalayas can get very cold. Thankfully, there is a lot of information on the web about the best hiking destinations in the world.
Carry food and cooking items
If you are going hiking and camping, you will need to eat and drink. You will most likely have to cook your food. Therefore, carry food items; you can get some of the best camping recipes here. Do not carry canned foods as they can be too bulky. You want to keep the backpack as light as possible.
Try not to go alone
This is the general recommendation bearing in mind that you are undertaking hiking for beginners. It is best to tag along a person who is more experienced and have been on the trails before. However, be sure that your hiking partner is agreeable with you because on-the-trail disagreements can be nasty. What you are after is to have the best hiking experience.
Things not-to-do if you want the best hiking experience
There are almost as many NOT-TO-DO as there are to-do things if you aim to have the best hiking and back packing experience.
Here are just a few of them:
Do not pack too heavily or too lightly
Paradoxical statement I have made there, no? However, you must find a balance between just enough and less than enough. Being your backpacking for beginners trip, you should not pack too lightly. Not without some help.
Create an ultralight backpacking gear list. Does this mean you leave some of the essentials? No way. Pack a good hat, a rain honcho, a fleece, a pair of hiking boots or if the place you are going to is dry, running shoes.
As a tip off, do not buy a big pack for beginning backpacking as it will tempt you to pack more stuff. Just do not or you could end up with a sore back for stuff that you will most likely not use.
Forgetting some essential items for the best hiking experience
Most people remember to pack sleeping bag, tent, clothing, water and so on. However, they forget a flashlight, a knife, sunscreen and lotion, sun glasses and so on. Some of the items like knives will not be allowed on the plane. So you will have to buy them at your destination.
Do not buy your camping backpack from the superstore
The best hiking and camping backpacks, trekking poles, tents, boots and other outdoor items are best purchased from Amazon or from a specialist outdoor shop. Outdoor gear is not exactly cheap and therefore the discount items offered in the superstores may not be all that good. Buy from an outdoor items store.
Do not leave your first aid kit behind
You must bring your first aid kit with you. On the trails, there will be cuts, grazes and other minor injuries. However, these could turn into major injuries if you do not treat them as soon as they happen. At the same time, do not pack the entire pharmacy store into your first aid kit. Find out what item should be in your first aid kit. For a sneak-peek – painkillers, a roll of bandage, antiseptic, medical tape, antibiotic lotion and a few more should make up a good kit for the best hiking experience.
Do not wear hiking boots fresh from the store
So you buy a pair of hiking boots and you keep them in the box and pack the box in your backpack. You believe that your virgin hiking trip should go with new shoes. The day you will wear those boots, they will chop your feet to pieces and you might not even make five miles.
Buy and wear them at home. Let the shoes conform to the shape of your feet; let your feet get used to their weight. To have the best hiking experience, it all starts with the shoes. Make them one size bigger than what you wear to work, will you?
Cargo pants or shorts are much better for hiking as such are made in military design. You know GI Joe is always on the move, thus he knows what is best for hiking. Jeans are mostly cotton and when you sweat, cotton absorbs the sweat, retains it and it does not dry fast. This, in humid conditions, could fry some parts of your body that we cannot mentions here for moral reasons, and you truly do not want that.
Do not bring untested gear
Many backpacking tips forget to mention this one very important tip. If you buy a camping tent, pitch it in your backyard to test it, and for practice. If you buy a butane cooking stove, test it at home. Does your waterproof matchbox pouch work? Try it. Try your shoes, try you backpack. Try everything, ensure it all works. A nasty surprise in the woods will not give you the best hiking and back packing experience.
Do not leave a trace that you were there
The Papa Bear does not need to know that you camped in his part of the woods. All campsites and trails have the leave-no-trace rule. Please obey it. Human beings try to bend nature to work towards their needs. Leave as minimal traces of your interference with nature as possible.
Do not drink tap water
Do not drink tap water, river or spring water straight from the source. Bring a portable water filter bottle with you so that you can filter all the water before drinking, even the store bought water. Your best hiking experience could be cut short by a few sips of unfiltered water.
We could go on and on about backpacking and hiking for beginners. However, the best thing is to get started, make a few mistakes here and there and learn from them. Every day that you are out there on the trails is a learning experience for you. Make it useful. To have the best hiking and backpacking experience, you will need to learn something new every day from nature and from the experts, and take it to heart too. Good luck.