For those who love nature, backpacking and camping offer the opportunity to spend time in the outdoors without having a large vacation budget. While some people prefer car camping or staying in a lodge, those who really want to get out into the wilderness choose to backpack.

You can get started on a backpacking adventure with a good quality backpack, a light and sturdy tent, a good pair of hiking boots, food, water, and a small camp stove. Other than that, pack a sense of adventure and the love of nature.

Backpacking essentially means everything you need for the trip is carried on your back. Therefore, hikers can not pack too much or the weight would be overbearing and prevent them from getting very far. It is important to just bring what you need on a backpacking trip and take some time to plan ahead of time.

1. Maps

Before you head out, Invest in a good quality hiking guide or topographical map. Look over your map and get to know the area and trails you will be spending time hiking. Terrain can vary and a topo map will help you when planning your route. It is important to find a trail that matches your experience and ability level. Always allow extra time to get to your destination due to weather and unforeseen circumstances.

2. Permits

For wilderness camping, it is essential that you obtain any required overnight permits. National and state parks have strict rules when it comes to backpacking. Try and reserve the campsite you want in advance, especially during peak season.

3. Bring the right clothes!

Dressing in layers is highly recommend no matter what time of year. In the mountains, weather can change drastically. Be prepared for the worst weather. Pack clothing that prepares you for sudden changes in temperature or weather. Bring rain gear and breathable materials, such as wool or polypropylene, which allows perspiration to evaporate quickly, which helps keep your clothes free from moisture.

4. Water bottles

If you are spending several days in the wilderness, know where the water sources are along the trail. Take advantage of filling up your water bottles at these sites in case the next source of water is farther away than anticipated. It is critical to drink plenty of water on a backpacking trip, even when the weather is cooler. Bring a filter or iodine drops if necessary – you may not have access to clean water sources.

5. Campfire regulations

Be sure to check local rules and regulations regarding campfires, camping set up, cleanup, etc. to keep the area clean and safe and to avoid paying any fines. This is especially true in areas where there are a lot of bears or mountain lions.

6. Pack a sufficient amount of food.

Hiking and backpacking for hours burns far more calories than in a typical day. Be sure to pack a balanced amounts of foods including those high in carbohydrates, proteins and fats. You also need to stay light, so things like trail mix, granola, peanut butter, instant oatmeal, and dried fruit are great for backpacking. You can also buy backpacking food that is already package and prepared.

7. Backpack and weights

Before you hit the trail, put on your backpack to determine how much weight you can comfortably carry. It is common for novice backpackers to take too much gear. You will only need the basics, so don’t over pack. The backpack should not weigh more than about 25% of your weight.

8. Be prepared for safety!

Always place a first aid kit in your pack. It is helpful to know some basic first aid training. There are plenty of places you can buy a portable first aid kit or you can put one together yourself to save money. For safety reasons, leave a hiking plan or schedule with the local ranger and friends or family at home.

9. Gear knowledge

Learn how to use your gear before you head out on the trip. For example, set up your tent at home. This not only assures that all the pieces are functional and not missing, but allows you a chance to practice setting it up. Be sure you learn how to operate your camp stove and any other backpacking gear you intend to bring along.

10. Cooking

It is beneficial to cook your evening meal before it gets too dark. When you are backpacking, you can not leave food out for the wildlife. Extra food should always be stored in a bag that you will hang hung from a tree limb. Do this every night to protect it from local wildlife. Coyotes, raccoons, and bears have been conditioned to see campers and backpackers as easy sources for free meals.


Backpacking provides an inexpensive way to get outdoors for a vacation. Planning ahead of time not only is smart, but essential when you are in the back country.