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Beginning Backpacking

Gear for a backpacking trip
So much to carry

Backpacking Considerations

Last year a colleague asked me "what should I bring on my first backpacking trip?" Then another friend later asked "my daughter is going on her first backpacking trip, what gear do I really need?" If you are heading out to the backcountry, or just heading out for a night with everything you need on your back, then here are some of my tips and tricks.

The basics you can get from going with someone who has gone before - and if you do have a trip leader, talking with them about gear and other preparations. You can visit your local outdoor retailer and get advice (or maybe some great books on backpacking).

My advice to my colleague was to take care of her feet. Wear comfortable, non cotton socks. Maybe even with a sock liner or wear two pairs. Take breaks often, and when you do, be sure to take off your shoes and socks. Put moleskin or something similar on your feet and toes in places where you think you might need some extra padding. And try to use comfortable, broken in shoes. If you will be on a trail for the whole trip (not off trail, scrambling cross country) then comfy sneakers might be the way to go. And pack an extra pair of comfy shoes to use in camp (I usually bring flip flops).

On my longest backpacking trip, spending over a week with a full pack in the Sierra, I was made fun of a little bit for keeping my shoes off as long as possible. But I never got a blister! I took good care of my feet and they took good care of me.

The backpack itself takes some patience and practice. Make sure it is fitted. And I would often make small adjustments on trail at first - taking the pack off during breaks and putting it back on - and making those adjustments and pack off breaks let me travel a bit longer and with more comfort.

I also got used to taking things out and then repacking my backpack. This was something that initially frustrated me, but I got over it. The more I practiced packing and unpacking, the more I developed a way to put things away faster and in better places for comfort and for use.

Rent gear if it's a one time thing and cost affordable. More and more outdoor stores have backpacking rental packages that make it a little easier on the budget to get out for just a single trip. That's if you can't borrow what you need. The big items to pay attention to are the ones that are the most heavy and most necessary - therefore worthy of consideration to spend more of your time and money on, if possible. A lot of people call these items "The Big Three" or "The Big Four." That would be the backpack itself, your tent, your sleeping bag and your sleeping pad.

The picture at the top of the page is of a single one night trip out during summer bug season. If you're curious what I took with me on the big trip, here is my own gear list below. It does evolve and change based on the trip and my cumulative trip notes for myself. 

If you are curious about what I learned during my backpacking trips, I wrote about my Backpacking Lessons Learned.

Happy human powered travel!
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