Advice For Your First Backpacking Trip

Two weekends ago (wow, how has time gone by this fast?!) I went on my first backpacking trip, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

It was a great trip. I loved seeing the wildflowers, alpine lakes, gorgeous basin, and all of the hikers out on the PCT. I also loved sleeping under the stars and by a lake and living pretty simply for a few days. I even loved learning how to filter my own water! I was feeling very much like a survivalist even though the friend I went with basically did all of the work.

There are a few things I learned from my first backpacking trip that I would like to pass along to the masses in case any of you are considering going on your own backpacking adventure soon!

Advice for your first backpacking trip

Advice For Your First Backpacking Trip

+ Do some training.

Walking with a heavy bag is HARD and I should have trained for it. I was under the assumption that I was in decent enough shape to go the 20 miles (spread out over 2 half days and 1 full day) because I had done a few hikes with Isabelle on my back. Here’s the thing, Isabelle is a hefty 20 lbs but the pack was more like 35 lbs. That is a big freakin’ difference! Especially because I weigh all of 100 lbs so this bag was huge on me. I should have done a few trial runs to make sure I was up for the 20 mile trek.

+ Know your mileage limit.

Five miles is the maximum distance that I would like to do on any given day. This is personal preference, of course, but mentally I just wasn’t so great after the first 5 miles. Our second day we did about 11 and I was not a happy camper, because my shoulders and neck hurt (because of the pack) and I was TIRED. If I could have done it again, I would have hiked a few miles with the pack, set up camp, and then day hiked to whichever awesome trail/view I wanted to see.

+ Weigh your bag ahead of time.

My friend and I were in a bit of a rush to get on the trail, so we took all of our gear, threw it in the trunk of her car, and headed out to the trailhead. I wish, in retrospect, that we would have taken the time (a day or so ahead of time) to gather everything we were planning on bringing and weigh it in our packs (with water). This way we would have had the opportunity to ditch any gear (or replace it with lighter items) before we set out.

+ Do your research.

There are some great backcountry campsites and you can take advantage of them if you do your research ahead of time! My friend , whoI went backpacking with, loves the adventure of finding a random place to set up camp, but I am a planner and prefer to find an ‘actual’ campsite. If it’s your first time backpacking, I recommend you have a plan that includes where you want to camp and where you will be walking each day – and this plan should include places you know you will be able to fill up on water! You really, really don’t want to run out of water.

+ Don’t be too cheap/minimalist.

Have you heard of those backpackers who manage to hike the entire PCT with a 10 lb pack? You are not going to be that person on your first trip. While I think you should try to make your pack as light as possible, bring the things that you know will make you comfortable, and know that these things may also be a bit more expensive. For example, I know that I don’t like being cold when I sleep, so I borrowed a good sleeping pad from a friend and bought a warm sleeping bag. I also bought this inflatable pillow that I actually really liked. If you think backpacking may only be a one time thing for you, borrow your gear from a friend or rent it from REI or another sports store. However, if you think this is going to be your new ‘thing’, buy good, high-quality gear so that it will last you for many years and adventures!

+ Have fun!

I was fairly anxious about this backpacking adventure because I just didn’t know what to expect (and I certainly didn’t start out on a ‘beginner’ hike), but it was truly a great experience! I spent way, way, way too much time (per usual) researching the probability of me getting attacked by a bear or cougar, and of course the only wildlife we saw were chipmunks. (And I hope I never, ever need to use the knowledge I’ve acquired!) The point is, if you have the opportunity to go backpacking and sleep under the stars for a few nights – go! You’ll create some wonderful memories. Or horrible memories. Either way, you’ll remember the experience forever!

Advice for your first backpacking trip
Advice for your first backpacking trip

Now that I’ve gone backpacking once I already can’t wait to do it again. And I’m not even a typically ‘outdoorsy’ person! It was just so fun to be able to get away from it all and relax/sleep in places I would never normally be. Awesome stuff.

Have you gone backpacking? Would you consider it?

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8 Responses to Advice For Your First Backpacking Trip

  1. erinhzauner says:

    i mean, you should feel so proud for so many reasons, but mostly for carrying 35% of your body weight around for 20 miles….damn girl. and i am with you on the mileage. i went 8 miles with a small backpack on a day hike this year and that was about all i wanted to do.

    • Lisa says:

      I know… it SUCKED. From now on I’m sticking to carrying Isabelle 5 miles tops. Well, for now. Maybe next summer I’ll be in better shape to kick some backpacking butt.

  2. Man, props to you for doing this. I really don’t think I could. I could barely survive a Ragnar race, which is about as close to outdoorsy/camping as I’ve ever gotten, so I can only imagine how insufferably cranky I’d be if I tried to go backpacking, haha. I’m glad that you went and enjoyed it, though! I can live vicariously through your blog posts about it instead haha.

  3. Laurie Olsen says:

    I would love to do this at some point in my life even though I am so not outdoorsy either! But what an adventire! Great tips!

  4. I just can’t get over all your pictures. Those are some amazing views. What a crazy and unique experience!

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