7 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Backpacking Trip

Know Your Gear

The old saying goes that your gear can be 2 of 3 things: cheap, durable, or lightweight. With that being said, it take a lot of research and testing before perfecting yoursetup. Because of this, it is unlikely that you will be flying down the trail with top of the line and ultralight gear your first few times out there. Be patient. Start with what you have and slowly buy better pieces of gear to build the perfect pack! Even if you have the cash, waiting for more experience before buying your ultralight gear is sometimes for the best. Take the time to talk to other hikers and do lots of research before making your big purchases. Buying from a store with a “no questions asked” return policy (like REI) also ensures that you will be comfortable and confident in each piece of gear in your pack.

Ultralight Backpacking Exists

Although we just talked about how long it may take to get to the ultralight point, keeping your pack weight down is key to making your trip more enjoyable. The heavier your pack, the more painful it is to finish each climb, the slower you move, and the more tired you will be at the end of the day. Even if you are not ultralight at the start, just be sure that your pack is as light as possible, while still having all the gear you need. Try packing only one or two pairs of clothes, only the food that you will need, as well as minimum pieces of “luxury items” such as cameras, phones, books, etc. A few ounces here and there may not seem like a lot, but you will be thankful for less weight when you are in the middle of your big climb for the day!

Keep Your Food Easy

Hiking all day with weight on your back is not easy, and (especially on your first trip) you are going to be exhausted at the end of the day. The last thing you are going to want to do is cook a five-course meal on a camp stove, so keep your food lightweight and easy. Ramen, pasta sides, or freeze dried food are great since all you need is some boiling water and you’re good to go! Bring some light snacks (energy bars, candy, dried fruit) for throughout the day as well. One of the easiest places for weight to add up is with your food, so as with everything else, keep your food light. Trail food is about finding the balance between weight and having enough meals to sustain your hiker hunger after a long day on the trail.  Finally, when it comes to trail food, calories matter even more than they do in normal life – just in the opposite way. You body will be burning thousands of calories a day. Choose food that is high in calories, yet somewhat nutritious at the same time.

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