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Backpacking 101

Learn the basics of backpacking - from what to pack, how to plan a trip, first aid, survival skills, what to eat, and basic how-to.


Trip-planning tips, gear lists, safety advice, and other essential wisdom ever hiker should know. Maybe you’re ready to try backcountry camping after an inspiring visit to a national park. Maybe you want to introduce your kids to the great outdoors. Or maybe you’re a longtime hiker who just needs a refresher after too much time away from the trails. Whatever your goal, this guide to getting started as a backpacker will help you enjoy a lifetime of safe, scenic, and satisfying adventures. With more than 100 smart tips, it answers all the questions: what to eat, where to go, how to read a compass, and much more.


  • Backpacking Basics – Take these 21 trail tips to heart, and you’re virtually guaranteed a good hike.
  • Pretrip Planning – Do the research, here’s how.
  • Hikes – Not sure where to go? Find a hike here.
  • Gear Lists – Packing lists for all conditions.
  • Kitchen Kit– When cooking in the backcountry, don’t leave home without…
  • Repair Kit– Don’t let a busted strap or a deflating tent ruin your trip.
  • Survival Kit– Be prepared for adversity with these pieces of gear.
  • Toilet Kit– For your travel companion’s sake, pack what’s on this list.
  • Personal Kit– For your travel companion’s sake, pack what’s on this list.
  • First Aid Kit– A homemade ensemble of the most essential elements for pretty much any hike.
  • Organize a Backpack– Become a bona fide pack rat with these essential tips.


  • Getting the Right Gear – We’ve made it easy to find great gear for great getaways.
  • Boots – No question, boots are a hiker’s most critical gear.
  • Clothing – When dressing for a wilderness trip, you can’t take your apparel decisions lightly.
  • Packs – When shopping for a new pack, do what any savvy home buyer would—analyze your situation, then prioritize your needs.
  • Tents – Carrying a tent is necessary insurance against crowded lean-tos, wild weather, and bugs.
  • Accessories – Don’t be be caught without these essentials.
  • Waterproof Your Wilderness World – A complete guide to buying gear that will keep you dry—no matter what.


  • Pack More Power – A nutritionist explains why hikers need protein.
  • Eating Well – Easy ways to improve nutrition and flavor on the trail
  • Gorp RecipesWinning entries from BACKPACKER Readers
  • Menu Maker -Your guide to eating right on the trail.


  • Hike Farther, Hike StrongerThe latest, greatest strategies for building strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility.
  • Climb Like EdThe sky’s the limit with a fitness plan andclimbing tips from world-class mountaineer Ed Viesturs.
  • Get Trail-Fit Indoors – 4 indoor workouts that’ll keep you outdoor-ready.
  • Four Week Fitness Plan – 30 days to a killer trail body.
  • Multi-Day Fitness – Train for a long trip with these great endurance tips.


  • Stay On Course – Six simple tips for backcountry navigation
  • Align Your Compass – If you only learn one navigation skill, this is the one that will unlock the wilderness.
  • Compass in Action – How to raise your navigation skills from novice to master.
  • Map Contour Lines – Understanding topos: Part 1.
  • Map Symbols and Colors – Understanding topos: Part 2
  • Map Care – Trail tested advice for using and protecting paper topos.
  • Act Fast – Smart (and stupid) responses to 18 sudden threats.
  • Professor Hike – The author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Backpacking and Hiking, Jason Stevenson, answers all of your camping, hiking, cooking, training, you-name-it questions.
  • Using GPSBecome a GPS guru.


  • The First 30 Seconds – What you can do to thwart a panic attack in five common crisis situations.
  • Don’t Guess–Calculate – When close won’t cut it, use these trail-tested tips to hit the mark..
  • Survive a Night Without Gear -When a day hike turns into an overnight, learn how to take care of yourself.
  • Build A Never-Fail Campfire -Where campfires are allowed, it’s important to know how to build–and put out–flames properly. LEAVE NO TRACE

  • Leave No Trace Principles – Guidelines for leaving your campsite as pristine as you found it.
  • The Low-Impact Hiker – 7 strategies for keeping the backcountry beautiful.  


  • Hypothermia 101 – Advice for preventing and treating this deadly condition
  • Snake Bite First-Aid – Folk remedies only make the victim’s condition worse, know the facts
  • Rash Poison Ivy – How to keep the rash at bay
  • How to Treat a BlisterTake care of a common ailment in four easy steps


  • Stay Dry Anywhere – Tricks on how to stay dry and keep your gear dry
  • Sleep Warmer – Eight easy ways to stay warm at night


  • Escape From Unfriendly Natives – Tips for avioding bears, skunks, snakes, and ticks.
  • How to Keep Bears AwayLearn your black bears from your brown bears then figure out how to keep them away from your camp.
  • Thwart Mosquitoes – Take a cue from the locals, who fight back on multiple fronts.
  • Hang a Bear Bag – How to stop bears from robbing you blind.

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