Backpacking is a terrific way to enjoy the outdoors, stay active and spend time with those closest to you. But we weren’t all raised in the Boy Scouts, and even fewer of us are Eagle Scouts born and bread for the great outdoors. For the first-time, novice backpacker, daydreaming about your adventure is one thing, actually planning it and getting yourself out there is a different ball game. Without proper preparation, your glorious adventure could turn in to a difficult, strenuous, regrettable mess. However, with a little bit of planning and foresight, you will be geared up and ready for a unique experience that is really unlike anything else.
In this day and age of constant work, expanding technology and ever-increasing creature comforts, most of us are spending less and less time outdoors. But experiencing nature, getting out of the house and away from daily stresses, is an important part of the human experience and will bring a new level of excitement back into your life. Here is what you need to get started, the top ten essentials to gather before heading out on your backpacking adventure trip:
1 – Your Backpack
The obvious first step, your backpack itself will be the carrier and protector of all your survival and trip-enjoyment essentials. Get one big enough to hold all of your belongings for the length of your trip, strong enough to withstand the trials of the trail, and even one with some trimmings like a water bladder for hydration.
2 – Proper Footwear & Socks
Great hiking socks are critical for your backpacking trip. To avoid blisters and other nasty foot problems, the main things to look for are comfort, moisture control, and shock reduction. Never under estimate the importance of great socks! Over the socks you will want thick leather hiking boots with a thick, textured sole that offer high ankle and arch support.
3 – Clothing
Always bring an extra t-shirt. You never know what is going to happen and you want to stay comfortable on your hike. Also include a thin lightweight fleece; you never know how the temperature is going to change. Last but not least plastic ponchos for that unexpected rain shower. A poncho has saved more than one trip for me.
4 – Water Bottle
This one is very important! Water is, hands down, the most essential element of your trip, so you will not want to carry it in some cheap convenience store plastic. Get high impact plastic or stainless steel (which you can use to heat the water for cooking or tea). Alternatively, you can get a water bladder that will sit in your pack. Many backpacks come with built-in hydration systems now-a-days.
5 – Food
Nutrition on the trail is vital since you will be burning more calories per day than you are used to. Among the favorites of experienced campers are beef jerky (high protein), dried fruit (vitamins, potassium), granola and energy bars, and trail mixes of nuts, breads and fruits.
6 – Shelter
A durable tent with appropriate sleeping accommodations for one, two or more individuals is essential to protect you from the elements. After working hard all day, making your supper and retiring for the evening, you will want to stay warm, dry, and protected from insects and animals.
7 – Digital Camera
Your friends and family will want to hear all about your trip and, like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you are an amateur photographer or maybe a professional your pictures will bring you memories to life again and again.
8 – Camera Bag
If you do not protect that digital camera, you will quickly regret it. Dirt, dust, rain and so on can ruin electronics. You will want a rugged, durable camera bag made of the toughest nylon you can find and preferably reinforced with high impact plastic panels. Camera bags are even available as a backpack of a sling backpack that will fit much more that just your camera.
9 – Knife
A fixed blade knife with a reinforced handle, or a utility knife (why not both?) will quickly become your closest ally on any backpacking trip.
10 – First Aid Kit
Last but not least, always be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best trip imaginable. A basic first aid kit has often been the difference between survival and catastrophe for many backpackers and adventure hikers. Don not make the mistake of thinking you can get by with nothing, when your hiking and away from civilization, even the smallest scratch can quickly become infected and turn something that is harmless and mildly annoying at home into a serious problem. Aside from scratches and cuts, bug bites, bee stings, snake bites-you name it-could all potentially be unwelcome participants in your grand adventure. Be prepared!
Now you are now ready to sling on your pack, lace up your boots and take to the hills. Remember, preparation is the most important thing! Think your trip through, plan accordingly, and you will have a great time with you and yours on a great backpacking adventure.