Your first backpacking trip is always full of expectations, unknowns, and a lot of trial and error. While a day hike or car camping may be nothing new to you, combining aspects of both together to create the backpacking trip of your dreams can take some practice!
DNK Presents led an overnight trip to Shades State Park for beginner backpackers. The backpacking trail at Shades was a great place to start as it is about a 2.5-3 mile hike in to the campsites. A trail this length provides a good taste of what carrying a pack for a longer distance would be like without jumping in too deep at first.
The ladies on this trip provided some feedback on their experience trying out a new outdoor adventure. Overall, the women found that backpacking is a bit tougher than expected! The miles backpacking do not equal the miles hiking like they thought. That extra weight on their back added quite a challenge to the hike. Below are some more thoughts on ways to prepare for your first backpacking trip!
Play around with your pack. Pack and unpack several times throughout the trip until you find the method that feels the best to you. It’s helpful to loosen all straps every time you put the pack on so that you can adjust as needed each time. This will also help you learn which straps do what in order to find your perfect fit.
Camp chairs are worth the investment. Specifically the Crazy Creek style camp chairs that fold up and can be strapped on the front of your pack. They’re great for sitting around the fire, taking a break on the trail, or cushioning a picnic bench if you’re lucky enough to have one at your campsite.
Hammock camping can be a nice alternative to tent camping if you don’t own a backpacking tent or are backpacking solo and don’t want to carry the whole tent yourself. There are a few things you can do to make hammock camping more comfortable. Depending on the season, you may or may not want a sleeping pad. In the warmer seasons, you really just need a lightweight sleeping bag or blanket. A bug net and rain tarp aren’t essential, but can make the experience much more enjoyable. Closing the hammock by flipping the weighted pocket over the side creates a cocoon and can keep bugs out, but it’s a bit suffocating in warmer weather. The bug net and rain tarp keep air circulating while protecting you from insects and the elements. It’s also helpful to keep shoes close, put your essentials in the pocket, and to put your rain cover on your backpack as a preventative measure.
A good number of backpacks include a “brain” (top portion of your pack that fits on top of the rest of the pack) that can transform into a day pack. These are super handy if you want to leave camp and check out some shorter trails near your site. Even if your pack doesn’t have this feature, it’s not a bad idea to bring along your own packable day pack to store water, snacks, map, and other essentials.
Dehydrated meals are an easy and delicious way to get meals taken care of on backpacking trips. They’re lightweight, fold down, and bulk up to a good amount of food. All they require is boiling water and time to rehydrate. In the beginning, dehydrated meals remove the potential overwhelm of meal planning so that you can better focus on the rest of your trip. If prepared meals aren’t your thing, they provide some great meal inspiration.
A common anxiety on the trip was having enough food and snacks to last the weekend. Food is a very personal aspect of backpacking and everyone has different needs. Even if food is being planned for your group, it’s helpful to have bars, trail mix, and other easy to grab snacks that you know you can eat whenever desired. Bulk up your oatmeal in the morning with some of your trail mix! Don’t forget to bring some comforts from home with you like your favorite candy, instant coffee, or tea.
Feeling safe while backpacking is a vital part of enjoying your time in nature. Whether adventuring solo or with a group, it’s important to know what will make you feel the most comfortable. Wander around the campsites so you have an idea of the layout, chat with other campers so that they are aware you’re there, and most importantly, trust in the community. While it’s essential to be cautious and mindful, it’s also important to remember that the majority of people out in nature are there for the same reasons you are.
Backpacking may seem daunting at first, but with a few trips under your belt, it becomes a great escape even for a quick one night sleep under the stars. Experiment with different gear, meals, ways of packing your pack and you’ll be well on your way to dialing in on what you need to make your trip as rejuvenating as possible. Let us know what tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way!