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Going Backpacking For The First Time

Updated on February 11, 2016

Going Backpacking For The First Time

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Backpacking is a form of low-cost, independent international travel with an authenticity of its own. This way you can experience the real destination, meet local people, and enjoy their cuisines. It includes the use of a backpack, public transport, inexpensive lodging and a longer duration of the trip when compared with the conventional packaged vacations.

Before You Leave For Your First Backpacking Adventure

  1. Do some research. Information about the area you plan to visit would help you decide what to pack. It would also make you aware of the obstacles and challenges that might face you (such as bad weather, mosquitoes etc.).
  2. What to pack. The backpacking gear begins with a suitable backpack, proper both in size and fit, a tent or tarp, stove and cooking utensils, sleeping bag, clothing, backpacking boots, food, water and a purifier. A backpack is a cloth sack carried on one's back and secured with straps that go over the shoulders. A fully loaded backpack should weigh no more than 25% of the person's weight. A large, bulky backpack will be a hassle to cart around. If you cannot lift the bag above your head, it will ultimately end up stored on the roof of a bus or in a luggage van of a train, increasing the risk of theft. You should pack as few possessions and as much money as you can. Then halve the possessions and double the money. Sturdy zip lock bags can be a great way to organize your packing. They allow you to see the contents and move your items along in blocks without messing everything up. Try to make sure that the straps are adjustable and comfortable. The bag should have crush straps to allow you to compact it when it is not full. Look for one which claims to be waterproof. Put a luggage tag securely on your bag with your contact details. This will increase your chances of getting it back in case it gets stolen, misplaced or left somewhere. Take your equipment gear testing on smooth walkways and uneven grounds going uphill and downhill. Pack the heavier equipment close to your body so as to avoid your load from pulling away and make the backpack heavier than it actually is. Raingear and a waterproof enclosure containing extra layers, gloves, and hat should be kept on the top of your backpack where it is easily accessible. Other things that need to dry include electronics, snacks, compass, pocket knife, maps, sunscreen and insect repellants. Pack these in the outer pocket of your backpack as you are likely to use them.
  3. Start off with your bag only half full. Try to avoid starting your trip with a full-to-bursting bag. This will give you room for souvenirs, new clothing, and other items you need.
  4. Avoid Denims. Cotton clothing retains moisture and chills the body, that can be dangerous in cold weather. Denims is cotton, so wearing jeans is a poor choice. Jeans are the worst of all forms of cotton as they can ice up in below freezing weather. Winter backpackers stick to cool or synthetic fabric like nylon or polypropylene that holds less moisture. Layering is essential. The basic clothing includes hiking pants or shorts, shirt, hat, gloves, raingear and an insulating layer (fleece or down jacket). It is often more efficient to roll your clothes rather than fold them.
  5. Be environment-friendly. A good backpacker minimizes their impact on the environment. This includes not disturbing the vegetation, carrying garbage out and staying on established trails.
  6. Water. Depending on the weather, terrain, load and the hiker's age and fitness; a backpacker needs anywhere from 2 to 8 liters or more of water per day, that may be stored in appropriate bottles, collapsible plastic bladders or hydration packs.
  7. Backpacking food. Aim for about 2 to 2.5 pounds of food per person per day. Choose energy-dense foods. Do not overpack. And remember to stop and eat regularly that you have enough energy. Camp stoves and cooking pots are preferred for preparing food. You can include low moisture household items such as powdered milk, cold cereal, cheese, oatmeal, crackers, sausages, dried fruits, peanut butter, pasta etc. Popular snacks include trail mix, nuts, and energy bars. Coffee, tea, and cocoa are popular beverages. Many hikers use freeze dried, precooked, packaged meals that can be quickly reconstituted by adding boiling water.
  8. Hiking poles. They help increase balance, stream crossing, can be used to set your tarp or tent, are energy efficient when climbing uphill and take the weight off your knees on the downhills.
  9. Boots and socks. Go as light weight as possible without sacrificing comfort and support, be that with the rugged hiking boots for off-trail hiking, or going for the lightweight running shoes, when on a good trail. Avoid cotton socks. Do not wear thick socks that can cause blisters. Break your hiking boots by taking them for short hikes.
  10. Check your gear. Make sure that everything is fine before you leave for a trip. This includes checking batteries of the headlamps, straps and clips of the backpack, tent, and poles.
  11. Avoid packing the entire pharmacy for a First-aid kit. Bring a kit that is appropriate for the length of your trip and the size of your group. The basic first-aid essentials include adhesive bandages of various sizes, medical or duct tapes, sterile gauze, ibuprofen, Benadryl, antibiotic ointment and alcohol wipes. Check your emergency kit. Carry a waterproof container that holds a few storm proof matches, some fire starter, map, and compass.
  12. Set up a fitness training regime to get in shape. Get plenty of cardio, stretching and strength training before you begin your trip. This will help prevent injury on the trail.

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