Picture of Backpacking: An Easy Guide for First Timers

This guide will go over the basics in hiking and camping overnight. It will tell you what you should bring, how to pack lightly, and provide some other really good ideas.

Before you begin reading you should know that part of the charm of camping is figuring out how to do most of these things on your own and finding which methods work best for you. But since you’re new at this, this guide will go over the basics.

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Step 1: Planning your Hike

Picture of Planning your Hike

There are a couple of things you will need to do in preparation for your hike:

Plan where you will be hiking on a map

Choose camping spots where there is water nearby. This will be shown on your map as either a river or a spring, or some other source of running water.

Decide on tent partners

Decide in advance who will be sleeping in which tent. This is important so as no one is forced to sleep outside at night.

Plan out meals

Make a list of what your group will be eating for every meal.


Also, in preparation for your hike, check the weather forecast. Use the weather forecast to plan what sort of clothing to pack.

KennethK416 days ago

Good advice on how backpack!! "Pour hot water into the package itself." This saves a lot of time and clean up. The one thing I would add before all this is just training your body for the hike.

2hess9 months ago

Good 'ible. You might want to add to make sure that the fire is really done for when breaking camp.

medic897111 months ago
Saw the pics from Mt Baldy just scrolling through and instantly recognized the field and reservoir. Great article
amc217691 year ago
Love the pictures from Mount Baldy, Philmont Scout Reservation.
lowpro1 year ago
Purification tabs or droplets, duct tape and a good solid multitool. Otherwise all very good advice.

"If you aren't sure you probably don't need it."

That's excellent advice there.
madhops06203 years ago
Heh, that picture was taken at the top of Mt. Baldy at Philmont. Such an amazing place.
Yea I had a double take because I thought that was a picture of me. I have one that looks absolutely identical, but then again I guess that's a common picture.
MartijnD2 years ago
Sleeping mat: unless the temperature is above 20°C do not use an cushion air bed, the air inside will circulate and cool you down really fast, even with a good sleeping, between you and the mat the sleeping bag is compressed: gone insulation. Much better are the self inflatable mats, these are filled with foam, no circulating air. An additional insulation mat if ground is below 0°C is also advised, also nice to cover your back while sitting at a campfire as heat-reflection and windscreen, your front is hot, your back cools down...
Bouyf242 years ago
just in personel preference, for a mess kit i only bring a Mug and a spoon. there are very few foods that you can't eat in it and it's lighter and smaller. also i prefer coffee in the morning
lucek2 years ago
Oh and there should be one more step. If you go camping/backpacking once you'll probably do it again. So when you get home take time to clean inspect and pack away you're gear in such a way as the next years you won't have to fight with it or replace the lot.
lucek2 years ago
On the note of flashlights, Squeeze or crank models are a god sent in the middle of nowhere. I've had my batteries not last the entire trip but I've never run out of juice myself. Along that line a good one will cost you about the same as a pack of C batteries, And really too fancy models (radio and cellphone charger) will only be like $20-25.
geppetto4252 years ago
Never forget the 10 Essentials-
chokapi2 years ago
There many more than three things to do when building a campsite. Before you even leave for your trip, find out if there's a burn ban for where you're going. If they're allowed, the first thing you do is gather firewood. Lots of it. Much more than you think you'll need, then double it. Once it gets dark, wandering the bush can be dangerous. And cooking is no problem if you have a headlamp. I almost never eat dinner until just before bed. It raises your body temperature, and you won't be nearly as hungry in the morning. I'll have to disagree with starting a fire first, though. Set up your tent. It's your house. You don't want to be stuck setting it up if it suddenly starts to rain, and it's more difficult to find a suitable space, free of rocks and roots, in the dark. Not unless you're willing to get down on your hands and knees to find out.

Please don't use bug spray to start a fire. Please. It's nasty. Instead, bring firestarters (available everywhere and online) or make them. I use petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls. Make them my adding a teaspoon of it to a warm pot, and then dunking the cotton balls in it with a pair of tongs. Place them on a paper towel to cool, then add them to a pill bottle. You'll have at least five minutes of flame to get a fire going.

As for clearing an area, 10 feet around the pit (20 ft diameter) is what the BSA says. I agree with them.
chokapi2 years ago
Tortillas are a good idea, as are pitas. Pretty much everything else should be either freeze-dried or dehydrated. There are plenty of options at decent outfitters like REI, Campmor and EMS. Also, health food stores often have dehydrated bulk items like refried beans and TVP chili. Excellent way to shave pounds off a several day trip. There are some great cookbooks for cooking on the trail.
chokapi2 years ago
If I'm leading a group, I set up a buddy system. Every once in a while, I'll yell out, "Buddy check!" and the pairs will find one another and confirm everyone is still with the group. That goes for relieving one's self, so when you pair buddies, try and keep it the same gender.
chokapi2 years ago
Sleeping bags come with ratings, different fill types, and different shapes. IMPORTANT! If a bag is rated at, say, 15°, that doesn't AT ALL mean that it will keep you warm at 15°. It means it may keep you alive, with a pad and in a tent with clothes on for several hours. When choosing a bag for your trip, find out what the coldest temperature is going to be, subtract 10-15° from that number, and you have what rating your bag should have. So, if it's going to be 35°, have a bag rated at 20°. Synthetic bags are heavy. Go with down when you can. It's much more expensive, but it's MUCH lighter, and a down bag will last, with proper care, twenty or more years. A synthetic bag may last five. The most common shapes of sleeping bags are mummy and rectangular, with variations in between. Mummy bags offer better heat retention, rectangular bags offer more space. Sleeping pads (not mats) are crucial. If it's going to be cold, have a full-length, insulated pad. They come self-inflating, or manually inflating.

NEVER WEAR NEW HIKING BOOTS ON A HIKE! Always break in boots by wearing them regularly for a month or so. Take them out on day hikes, carrying a comfortable pair of shoes with you in case the boots become uncomfortable. Walking the sidewalks of your neighborhood doesn't count as a day hike. Take them into terrain that approximates where you will be going, if possible.

As for canister stoves, figure three to four hours of burn time per four ounces of fuel. YMMV when it comes to temperature and altitude. Most decent stoves, with a windscreen, will boil a liter of water in 10 to 15 minutes. Have a cover for your pot, or use a lightweight tea kettle to boil water - it conserves energy.

Many backpackers prepare food using the freezer bag method. Basically adding boiling water to dehydrated or freeze-dried foods in a freezer bag. Have some kind of 'koozie' for it, like a camp towel, a knit hat, or a couple of potholders sewn on three sides.
chokapi2 years ago
All-in-all, not bad, but there are a few glaring omissions. I'll point them out along the way.

I peakbag the Catskills during the fall/winter/early spring months.
TheHaak2 years ago
Oh yeah, that's definitely Philmont, I stayed at 2 of those 3 camps on that sign
black hole3 years ago
"Bug Spray + Lighter"

I think someone's a pyromaniac... =D
vkolasa3 years ago
this is pikes peak isnt it?
punkhead583 years ago
A very definitive guide. However, I didn't see any mention of a knife: this is extremely important. No one should go into the great outdoors without a blade, whether it is a fixed blade, a folder, or even a multitool,
yeah you definitly would want hiking boots they saved me from rolling my ankle countless times
I am backpacking the A.T this summer through maine
holahunter3 years ago
Was that pic taken at Philmont?
anibioman3 years ago
also the penut butter and fluff were in tubes which made for easy quick use.
anibioman3 years ago
hi i thought i should add that its better to make wraps in tortillas then sandwichs as bread is easily squished in a backpack i ate penut butter and fluff wraps for lunch when backpacking for a weak with my uncle.
Honora3 years ago
When lighting a fire over old damp ashes, you'll need to protect your wood/kindling from vapourised steam from the damp ashes which would smother the fire. You can either use a layer of rocks or some bits of dry wood.
co'connor3 years ago
Love the baldy pics! philmont rocks!
lauralbaby3 years ago
Also, you really should have mentioned bear-bagging your food.
lauralbaby3 years ago
Don't light a fire if you don't have to! A lot of places forbid it anyway.
schkip19734 years ago
good ideas. Sometimes it is worth the weight to take some fresh food (veggies/fruit). An orange makes a nice dessert, is easy to prepare and has in-built shock absorption!
For a dinner pre-cut slivers of pumpkin/broccoli are quite tasty in noodles.
WalScrap4 years ago
Pretty good hints. I agree on many, but I would not recommend :
- cotton T-Shirt. This is hardly the worst thing when one sweats. It is very difficult to get it dry, and can get you cold. One can find
- filtration pump. I prefer pristine kits. These are two small bottles, you prepare your mix, it takes 5 mins, and then 15 mins to process 1 liter. The pump gives you water quickly, but is heavier.

Moreover, map and compass will be very usefull, and GPS is a more than a very nice add-on.
A headlight is much more usefull than a flashlight, as your hands are free (you will thank me when going out to toilets during the night). A LED flashlight that you recharge yourself will be a better choice than one on batteries.

To my experience, having a look at weather forecast should not prevent you from taking a raincover if you plan hiking for more than a day. Climate conditions can change quickly in the mountains...
limpach4 years ago
Though as a former Ranger there are somethings that may be questionable here.
limpach4 years ago
Are these your photos? Cause I recognize all these magnificent locals. My favorite being Deer Lake Mesa