Whether you’ve never been backpacking before or you’ve logged hundreds of miles on the trail, it’s always a good idea to have a checklist. The three components of this blog include basic preparation tips for building the necessary skills and physical stamina, a backpacking gear explanation, and a backpacking gear check list that can be printed off and used while preparing for a trip.

Preparation Tips

Cardiovascular stamina and load-bearing strength are the most important areas to train for prior to backpacking. Building the strength and endurance needed for backpacking can be accomplished with a number of training routines. The most important and basic training is taking long walks or runs on hilly terrain. Further training can be accomplished by actually wearing a weighted backpack while walking. This is also an excellent time to break-in your hiking boots (if they’re not already broken-in) to ensure they’re comfortable on the trail. Another great training routine consists of performing body weight squats and push-ups in order to strengthen the legs, core, and shoulders, which are all used while backpacking. Finally, if you enjoy going to the gym, it’s hard to beat the stair-stepper for outdoor adventure training. Of course, some people are of the same mind that I am and think the best training is to simply get out there and do it!

Once you’ve built a solid cardiovascular and strength base, it’s time to start planning your route, or perhaps you already have an adventure that you’ve been dreaming about. There are a number of excellent hiking books available at your local bookstore that address the difficulty levels and terrain features of nearly every trail you can imagine. Also, talk to the staff at your local outdoors store for recommendations. Even better, if it’s your first time backpacking join someone that already has a plan!

After you have the general area for your backpacking trip planned, purchase a topographical map of the area and study it. Determine water sources, camping sites, and elevation gains. Find out if the wilderness you’re hiking in is part of the State of National parks system and contact the ranger in that area for more information. Also, if you don’t know how to read a map and use a compass, it’s essential that you learn. REI and other outdoor shops often offer affordable navigating classes. There are also some great videos on YouTube.

Some things to check for during your research include: fire permit requirements, wilderness permit requirement, wildlife population, and any potential parking or use fees.

When you’re nearing your trip: make sure you tell a couple people back home exactly where you’re going, and check the weather.

Backpacking gear explanations

Food: You’ll need approximately 2lbs per day. During a full day of backpacking, it’s not unusual to burn between 4,000 to 8,000 calories beyond your usual consumption. Choosing high calorie foods with low water content will help cut down on your pack weight. Some excellent backpacking foods include: pasta, oatmeal, dried fruits, nuts, oils, jerky, prepared dried foods, and a multivitamin.

Water: To properly hydrate yourself during the strenuous effort required during backpacking, you should drink approximately 1 liter of water per hour. This means that you will drink a 1 litter bottle of water approximately every 2 miles. For safety it’s wise to bring at least 2 liters of water with you; however, if there are no water access points on the trail after 2-4 miles, you will need to pack additional water bottles. Also, keep in mind some water is needed for cooking, depending on what meals you bring. On my last backpacking trip, water was very sparse, so I packed over a gallon. To render the water you find in the wilderness safe and to ensure you stay properly hydrated, you’ll need a backpacker’s water filter pump and/or a UV light purifier and two to three 1 liter water bottles or a high volume hydration pack.

Shelter: The type of shelter you need depends on the terrain, climate, and season you plan to hike in. A two person tent is a great option if traveling with a partner, because you can split the tent between your two packs. If you know the weather will be nice, you can always camp under the stars, but it’s never a bad idea to bring a tarp and/or a mosquito net just in case. Hammocks are becoming an increasingly popular option, as they’re light and comfortable (no tent or sleeping pad needed).

Other Important gear: While it will be mentioned in the list below, the importance of bringing a fully-stocked first aid kit can’t be overemphasized. You never know when you or your friend might need a tick removed or wound dressed. Also, a topographical map of the area and a compass are absolutely vital. Disorientation is one of the primary causes of dangerous situations.

Backpacking Gear List

  • Breakfasts (examples):1/2 to 1 c oatmeal , 1/4 c dried fruit, 1/4 c nuts
  • Snacks: 1-2 oz Jerkey, 1/4 cp nuts, 1 to 2 energy bars
  • Lunches: tortillas and hard cheese, 1 package of tuna and crackers, ready to eat meals
  • Dinners: A ready to eat meals or 2-3 servings of pasta with olive oil and Parmesan
  • Water: 2 to 4 liters
  • Water purifier (pump or UV stick)
  • Coffee and french press
  • Tent or hammock (if using a hammock, make sure there are plenty of trees)
  • Rain fly or tarp
  • Lightweight sleeping bag (make sure it is warm enough for the expected nighttime temp)
  • Sleeping pad (if a hammock isn’t used)
  • Backpack (select an appropriate size bag for your trip if possible)
  • Compass
  • Topographical map
  • Trail guide
  • Shovel
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet-wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Poncho or lightweight rain gear
  • Extra socks (rotate dry socks to prevent blisters)
  • Extra set of clothes
  • Swim suit
  • Hiking shoes/boots (make sure they’re broken-in)
  • First aid kit
  • Mosquito net and/or repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Machete/hatchet if cutting wood is needed
  • Various straps and carabiners
  • Rope
  • Zip lock backs, plastic sack for packing out trash/dirty clothes
  • A good attitude
  • Walkie talkies
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Field guide for plants and wildlife in the area

If there’s anything you think I’ve missed or something you think makes backpacking more enjoyable, let me know! Have fun on the trail!

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Originally posted 2011-08-24 18:27:00.


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