So you want to go on a backpacking trip? Or you’re thinking about it. Or your friend/significant other is forcing you and you don’t know where to start. Well, it’s quite fun and rewarding if you keep a positive attitude and give it a shot!
I’m not an expert, but I have done it a couple times and I’ll keep it real. Here are five ways to make sure you’re prepared and comfortable on your trip:
I promise, this is the most important part. Ensure you have comfortable and well-fitted backpack, hiking shoes and hiking socks.
For the backpack, go to a store like REI where a professional can measure you for size and help you try them on. I found it so valuable that the store associate showed me how to adjust the backpack to fit me perfectly – I would have had no idea what I was doing! If something doesn’t feel right, don’t settle because you’ll regret it. They can also help you determine how many liters your pack needs to hold based on the length of your trip. I’m really happy with my 55 liter Opsrey pack as it works for both shorter and longer trips.
For shoes, again, you need to try them on before committing. If you order online, make sure you can return them if they don’t fit. For backpacking, you’ll want a sturdy and waterproof boot with ankle support. I took the Lowa Renegades on my last backpacking trip and loved them! They are on the firmer and heavier side but very durable and supportive. I hiked seven days in Patagonia in crappy hiking shoes (not the Lowas I mentioned) and I paid for it with wet socks and blisters. So I was all about the sturdier more durable boot!
Believe it or not, socks are important, too. Go for merino wool and make sure they are long enough for your boots. Yup, even in the summer. It provides some cushion and wicks sweat to keep your feet dry and blister free. I only wear Darn Tough – great quality with a lifetime guarantee.
Break it in
Ok, you got the gear. Now it’s time to break it in. This will ensure your socks, shoes and pack have molded to your shape a bit and will be at their most comfortable.
I do this by wearing my boots, socks and pack whenever and wherever I can: walking the dog (yes, you’ll get funny looks), around the house (less funny looks) and on local trails (zero to few funny looks).
Most boots are now made ready to wear out of the box. However, I truly think it prepares you and makes for more comfortable gear.
Now, what you came for: the actual training. It’s pretty straight forward. Pack your pack like you would for your trip or load it up with generally heavy things, and get walking!
I like to get an idea of how many miles I’ll be hiking per day on my trip with how much weight. Then match that wherever you can close to home: parks, local trails, at the gym – stair stepper or treadmill. Stair stepper and treadmill give you an advantage because you can adjust for some uphill practice.
You may have to work up to your goal mileage, and that’s totally OK. That’s the benefit of training near home. Then, when you’re on your hike you’ll feel much more comfortable and confident.
General cardio and strength training
Backpacking is a workout and much easier when you’re physically fit. Even if you don’t have a trip coming up, you’ll always be ready for one if you keep up with a consistent work out routine. I personally work out by lifting weights 4-5x a week (shoulders, back and biceps, chest and triceps and legs). I’m not a fan of cardio but get it in by hiking and walking the dog. Keep cardio interesting by mixing high intensity shorter workouts with longer low intesity walks to your goal mileage.
Mind over matter
Honestly, it’s a mental game too. If you keep a positive attitude and focus on enjoying the experience you’ll have a better time. Don’t get frustrated with how tired you feel or how hot it is, you’ll only make yourself more miserable. I know this is easier said than done when you’re feeling exhausted and hungry and sore. I have a hard time with this, so my trick is to stop to take a break and enjoy the scenery and remember why I’m doing this.
What tips do you have for a first time backpacker? Would you want more detailed posts on my exact workouts? Let me know in the comments below!
Read about my recent backpacking trips: