I love backpacking. And as this is a finance AND lifestyle blog, I’ve been covering the basics of backpacking lately. Backpacking can save you money over typical vacations every time you hike, get to experience the great outdoors, and challenge yourself physically. It’s the best of both worlds.
We first covered a list of backpacking supplies to get, and then backpacking food and clothing tips. That stuff is all great, but now it’s time to hit the trail. Of course, it’s not wise to go straight from REI to the backwoods – you’ll need to train first. Whether you’re a first time backpacker or a backpacking veteran, it’s essential to get out, test your gear, and train appropriately to avoid later problems.
Step 1: Test and Take Stock of your Backpacking Gear
You’ll want to give everything a visual inspection and some of your essentials a test run. I would recommend:
- checking your pack and tent for holes and tears
- filling your water bladder or container and applying pressure to test for leaks
- running water through your filter to make sure it is working properly
- testing out your stove – this is a big one as I learned from having a fuel pump leak that resulted in a melted pump – check your o-ring!
- make sure your first aid kit is stocked and used products from your last trip are replenished
- check batteries on all battery powered products
Step 2: Load your Backpack and Weigh it
- make sure everything fits in your pack properly, including clothing, food, and water
- weigh your pack. Everyone is going to have a different max out weight that you’ll want to make sure you are under in order to hike comfortably. Somewhere between 12-18 lbs. is a general weight guideline for a 3 or 4 day trip. Lightweight die-hards shoot for under 12 lbs., but in reality, it’s hard to do.
- cut down on any excess weight that has no true function
Step 3: Break in your Boots
This could really be step one or two, but you’ll definitely want to do a lot of hiking or just plain walking around to break in your boots. I’d recommend at least 50 miles or so on your pair before you actually get out and backpack. Wear them to work, around the neighborhood, or on a trail – it really doesn’t matter.
Step 4: Get Out and Hike!
Finally. You’ve got your stuff, you’ve tested it, and you’ve got the boots worn in a little. It’s time to get out there and condition yourself to carry the weight. Before your first backpacking trip, it would be to your benefit to get at least a month and preferably more of training in. Why train so much? You will want to make sure that the weight you are carrying is not too much over a long haul. Additionally, your muscles need to get use to the weight and your boots. Here is a recommended training schedule:
- Week 1: Hike half of your maximum daily trip distance with half of your full weight load in your pack. Do this twice, a few days apart.
- Week 2: Hike the maximum daily trip distance with half of your weight load in the pack. Also, twice.
- Week 3: Hike half of your maximum daily daily trip distance with your full pack load. Do this twice.
- Week 4: Hike the full maximum daily trip distance with your full pack load. Twice, again.
I would recommend giving a full week’s rest in between your last training hike and the start of your backpacking trip, so take this into consideration when planning when you want to start your training.