An Introduction to Backpacking
Things To Do before your first Backpacking Trip
1) Start acquiring the essential gear you will need. Borrowing stuff is a great way to start.
2) Find an easy overnight trip. Preferably an "out and back" hike with a short distance.
3) Plan for how much water to carry, and how to create potable water from streams or pipes.
4) Think about the food you are going to carry. Are you going to cook at all?
5) Self-evaluate your physical preparedness. A few day hikes with a full pack is a great idea.
6) Find at least one friend to go with for your first overnight trip. If going alone, choose a popular area and let someone know your intended route and when you plan to return.
7) Plan your route. Research your route. Are there water sources on your route?
8) Check the weather forecast. Plan for weather to be worse than forecast. Carry the appropriate clothing and weather gear.
We don't believe in the "hiking or backpacking expert." In our opinion nature is too unpredictable for anyone to be an expert in that setting.
Mountain Blazers was created to assist both new and experienced hikers. Our goal is to become your online resource to learn about backpacking and backcountry camping.
We have structured our website to make the learning process quick and easy.
Backpacking Basics. A series of short articles, starting in this section, "Introduction to Backpacking," allowing you to quickly gain an understanding of what it takes to hike and camp in the wilderness.
Hiking w/ Jerry is a blog where you can learn backpacking from someone who has been there, done that, and loves to write about it. Jerry openly shares some of this mistakes, as well as what led him to purchase new gear.
Check out Mountain Blazer Upcoming Trips to learn how to sign up and join us for a hiking trip (if your geographic location allows for this). Depending upon your experience level, you could be assigned a group leader or hiking buddy, who will provide assistance throughout the entire process; from pre-hike planning, to the meetup at the trailhead, and all the way to the campsite.
Time to Talk about Gear
If you are serious about heading out on the trail for your first overnight trip, then you need to begin acquiring some gear.
Budget conscious? We get it. So are we.
Most of us borrowed the majority of our gear for our first trip.
Our gear reviews are limited, but focus on items at the lower end of the price scale.
What gear do you need? The next section, Backpacking Gear, will provide many of your answers. Our focus is on remaining budget conscious.
Also check one of our backpacking articles "Gear Required for your First Hiking Trip," featured on this page. This is a great reference for you to return to as often as you like.
We also recommend you drive out to the mountains and find a day hike. Bring a pack and choose a hike which will at least be a little bit challenging.
For your first wilderness adventure we strongly encourage you to go with someone who has experience. Joining a Mountain Blazer adventure is one potential option available to you.
Water & Electrolytes
Improper water management is a common mistake among first time hikers. This is especially true with people heading out on their first day hike.
We will discuss available water sources in our planning section. When embarking on a hiking trip with an overnight stay, you should be carrying a minimum of 3 liters. And this should be spread out to at least 2 containers, though 3 is recommended. Most hikers use internal water bladders which fit in the backpacks. A tube runs from the pack to your front pack strap. This is where the majority of the water is stored for easy access while hiking.
The other water containers will be needed at the campsite. You need water to cook your meals and for other things at the campsite.
There are two basic ways to treat water. A water filter. And iodine tablets. We discuss this futher in our section Planning Your Trip.
For those tough hikes where you are sweating out the water you drink, you need to remember electrolytes. Just drinking water has the potential to flush your body of electrolytes. At a minimum, make sure you are carrying food or snacks which provides electrolytes.
While it's true that hiking can lead to great physical fitness over time, getting to that point is another issue.
Be honest with yourself regarding what you are ready for. If you are in great shape and feel you can hike 20 miles with a 40-pound pack, then go for it.
No matter your physical condition, we recommend you consider a short hike to a campsite for your first trip. It will provide for a relaxing day and evening, and give you a nice reference for your current state of physical fitness.
Some Quick Thoughts
What kind of hiking footwear do you own? Is it suitable for rough terrain? It is at least water resistant? A great starting place is Jerry's article on footwear.
What kind of food are you bringing?
Do you plan to cook your food at any point? Maybe for dinner only? If so, then how?
Did you know you either need to bring a bear-proof container, or hang a bear bag near your campsite? It depends upon local regulations at the state and national parks.
Do you know how to hang a bear bag? At some point you should read Jerry's article Re-Evaluating Food Bags.
Do you know the principles of Leave No Trace?
In our section, Planning Your Trip, we discuss pack weight. Going out too heavy is a common mistake for first-time backpackers, but not a safety issue. Over time you will learn how to lighten that load.
We'll touch on these subjects, and others, as you navigate through our backpacking basics.
Freeze Dried Meals
This is how most hikers eat dinner. It's the simplest way to cook a hot meal. They generally taste good, and are full of carbohydrates.
Continue navigating our site to learn how we do this, as well as other tricks of the trade when it comes to eating out on the trail.