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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Backpacking Basics

Take these 21 trail tips to heart, and you're virtually guaranteed a good hike.

by: The Backpacker Editors

PAGE 1 2

1. Planning
Be stunned by the beautiful vista, not an uncrossable river. An hour of guidebook research and a phone call to the rangers can make all your surprises happy ones.
  • Choose a destination within driving distance, so you can reschedule if bad weather threatens.
  • Stick to well-marked routes with easy terrain, established campsites, and plentiful water.
  • Plan on hiking no more than 5 to 7 miles a day.
  • Learn when the bugs are biting, if you need permits, what weather to expect, and where you can find a post-trip beer.
  • Let someone at home know your plans, and stick to your route so you'll be easy to find if necessary.
[Resource] The Basic Essentials of Backpacking, by Harry Roberts ($8)

2. Gear
Thanks to today's lightweight equipment, a backpack loaded with all your weekend supplies should weigh less than 35 pounds.
  • Rent a tent. Many outfitters rent shelter, packs, and other gear. It cuts initial costs and lets you experiment before buying.
  • Pamper your feet. Prevent blisters and other foot woes by getting lightweight boots that are slightly larger than your street shoes and matching them with wool hiking socks.
  • Pare your threads. Pack clothes for a 24-hour period, on trail and in camp, and wear the same stuff all weekend. Throw in extra socks to keep your feet happy.
  • Cook like a pro. Get a lightweight canister stove and one or two standard fuel canisters for a long weekend.
  • Sleep like a baby. Bed down on a sleeping pad that's 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches thick, and with dimensions that don't leave your limbs dangling off the sides. Likewise your bag should match your frame--try it in the store--and should be rated at least 10°F warmer than the temperatures you expect.
  • Go a little luxe. It's not a monastery out there. Sneak a luxury item into your pack: a deck of cards, a Lexan bottle of vino, a good book, or camera gear.

PAGE 1 2

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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star


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Dec 11, 2012

This article is well written and perfect for newbies who have never carried a backpack or gone hiking. It is a wonderful experience to venture out to the great outdoors. Relaxing and peaceful.

AZ Hiker
Apr 26, 2012

And don't forget to read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon). Learn essential hiking skills and how to navigate your way with and without a map or compass. A fast, easy read that could maybe save your life but definitely will make your hike more enjoyable and safe!

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Sep 24, 2011

Thank you for this article. I am about to take my first hike with my 10 year-old autistic son in a couple of weeks, and this was very helpful. I recall camping with my Dad when I was younger and have always held fond memories of those trips. I have always wanted to reciprocate this with my son, but until recently have just mustered the courage to give it a go. Thank you for the tips, as well as the other tips from others who have written they will come in handy.

Mike Da Bum
Aug 20, 2011

To AKNative: WOW! So nice to hear 101ers aren't really welcome to learn. So when you die off or can't get around in your wheel chair, who will care about the wilderness? Seriously, for those learning any new skill, you know as well as I do that pure book learning isn't enough. And starting out accepting you are a beginner is way more productive use of your time than starting out with K2 or Annapurna on your first hike. Chill man. Accept that there are newbies who need to learn step-by-step. Personally I like this article. I think it is a good start. But it is general, not specific to each of us. Thank you Backpacker.

Outdoor Advents
May 03, 2011

For starting out this article is very well published and should be taken to heart. I like it alot. And as to the quote "Grown men don't need leaders" this is true. Grown men are supposed to be the leaders setting an example. So let people start out this beloved hobby and sport safely. Be a good examply to everyone. Even if they are not new. All in all a very good article.

Feb 28, 2011

I am a beginner, a 101'er so to say. I think this is good advise , I see some responses that mock this article, to those people go read Hiking 102, let the novices start safe

Feb 28, 2011

I am a beginner, a 101'er so to say. I think this is good advise , I see some responses that mock this article, to those people go read Hiking 102, let the novices start safe

Dec 18, 2010

My comfortable books could not keep out water no matter how much stuff I applied, dew in the morning would give me wet toes. simple creek crossings, impossible. The nylon panels didn't help ( duh).
Get a pair of gortex boots, hotter yes, but with good rain pants, jacket, and pack fly, you're bullet proof. Cold and wet is not only miserable, it's dangerous.

Nov 11, 2010

"Stick to well-marked routes with easy terrain, established campsites"
Where is the fun in that? For a good time stick to the back-country and avoid the highways that some call well marked routes...
I kick over every rock cairn I see. If you cant find your own way then stay home. Get a compass and a map and learn how to use them.
I think Ed Abby said "Grown men do not need leaders"...
Have fun and be safe!

Nov 06, 2010

dont drink beer, ever

Nov 05, 2010

Take a flashlight. Never know when you might need to find your way in the dark, especially in an emergency.

Oct 13, 2010

I would need that cute little plastic 6pak of vino!!! lol

Sep 11, 2010

The Backpacker's Field Guide is a good resource for backpackers. Instead of a tent, try a tarp. Very light weight and easy to set up.

Sep 11, 2010

The Mountaineer Fraternity
Sep 01, 2010

There was a part mentioned early on about going hiking with-in driving distance in case “bad weather threatens” Some hikers like a challenge. It’s not for everyone but if you are in a well known area and you want the challenge take on the rainy weekend. You’ll be stronger for it.

Aug 17, 2010

If you wear glasses, definitely bring an extra pair with you on your trip, as one of the readers mentioned. My glasses broke on my backpacking trip in the Sierras this past weekend...fortunately, I had a back-up pair of glasses with me and was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and find my way on the trails. :-) Having an extra pair of glasses was a small item to carry that literally saved my trip!

Jul 12, 2010

The Backpacker's Handbook by Chris Townsend is a good book for beginners. It is very in-depth on boots, packs, and gear.

Jul 09, 2010

Greener yet, get your books from the library, They probably have the out of print ones, or can get them for you.

Jun 20, 2010

Beyond Backpacking and the Ray-Way Tarp Book by Ray Jardine are among excellent books on the subject.

May 25, 2010

Extra pair of eye glasses, if your anything like me (sir Trips alot) pack a spare pair of glasses!

Oct 12, 2009

Are trekking poles better to use on the trail than wooden poles?

Jul 14, 2009

Whiskey is lighter. go light.

Mr P
Jan 30, 2009

I like to have a plan if thing go really wrong. I usually have a shelter and extra conservative sleeping bag that will keep me dry and warm when everything else is wet and I need to spend extra days on the trail. -- Guess what? It has never happened but I have always been comfortable.

Sep 24, 2008

thanks go lite

souls matter

Jul 09, 2008


Jul 06, 2008

Someone failed to mention the blowup doll

Jun 12, 2008

The empty wine sac works good as a pillow when empty. I know someone who does it.

May 01, 2008

they now make very decent wine that comes in boxes.. one box holds like 1.5 bottles.. and it breaks down after to be recycled. ive read about two separate vineyards.. yum!

nick r
Apr 30, 2008

on sleeping bags, you mean 10d f colder than you expect, not warmer, ratings are by outside temp, not warmth.

Apr 10, 2008

Go green! Try to find it at a used book store or online at under used books :)

Apr 04, 2008

The complete walker four

Raul Salazar
Mar 13, 2008

The Basic Essentials of Backpacking is out of print! Is there any other books that are recommended?


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