Backpacking for the First Time: How to Prepare for An Outdoor Adventure

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Backpacking for the first time? Remember, everyone was a beginner once. But you’ll still want to be well-prepared. Below, you’ll find out what you need to know about your fitness, how to plan your route and packing essentials. That way, your first time backpacking will be a great outdoor adventure!

Backpacker in nature | Enjoy Travel Life

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CONTENTS: In this article, you will learn the essentials to prepare for an outdoor adventure when you’re new to backpacking, including:

How to Prepare and Pack for an Outdoor Journey

We’ve been where you are. You read every possible thing on backpacking in the wild, you went through the Hyke & Byke blog with a fine tooth comb, and now you are determined it’s time to head for your first outdoor adventure.

But if there’s still something that makes you feel like you’re not that well prepared, and if you’re still hesitating we are here to help.

Going on an outdoor adventure is all about being physically prepared, having a good plan, and bringing along all the essential tools you’ll need for a great experience. So let’s make this easy and take a look at all those things, below.

Keep Your Fitness in Check

Fitness class | Enjoy Travel Life

The most important thing to know when you’re heading out in the wild is that you should be physically prepared for the journey ahead.

It’s not just getting to your destination. It’s also about being able to carry all your gear, and still have enough energy so you can set up camp when you’re there.

This is why any experienced backpacker will tell you that starting out small is crucial.

You might even want to do some practice runs by camping close to home.

And, you should always pick the easy trails when it’s your first time.

But we’ll take things a step further – let’s discuss your fitness.

Regardless of your age, be sure to make sure you’re up to the task by investing in your own well-being through fitness.

Whether you have a workout routine or not, it’s a good idea to bring your workout clothes from activewear clothing manufacturers.

That way, you can start doing stretches and mobility exercises comfortably. These will get your blood flowing and will help you with movement. And overall, these exercises will increase your body’s endurance, which is quite important.

If you’ve got the time, click here and implement some breathing exercises, too. Not only do they help relieve daily stress, but they’ll also help you quite a bit with your lung capacity, and you won’t be struggling for breath after the first mile.

Have a Good Plan

Wildlife mountains | Enjoy Travel Life

Planning is another key thing when you’re going out in the wild. It can help you prepare yourself for everything that you might need to deal with.

But it will also give you a good understanding of:

  • When is a good time to go
  • Which destinations you should consider
  • Whether or not you’ve got the right gear for the places you’d like to go to

Kicking things off, pick the dates for your trip. Choose them according to your availability, but keep in mind that being flexible goes a long way toward enjoying your trip a bit more.

The weather could change, the park you’d be backpacking in might be closed, and a host of other things might happen that could potentially mess up your plans. So leave yourself a bit of leeway in this regard.

The dates you’ve chosen will also tell you which places are out of reach because not every location is a good idea throughout the year.

National parks like Yosemite and Shenandoah, for example, will close down most of the park during the winter, and while you could go backpacking in the wild, it’s really not a good idea.

And for backpacking in Australia, spring and autumn are generally the best times to go.

Choose Your Trail with Care

And here’s the most important part – choose the trail you’ll be heading out on. As a beginner, you shouldn’t go for anything that has you hiking for more than 5 to 6 miles per day. This will be exhausting. No matter how physically prepared you might think you are, you’ll be really tired by the time you need to be setting up camp.

Try to pick a trail that doesn’t have too many technical obstacles or insane elevation gains in a short distance, and you should be good to go.

Oh, and lest we forget, make sure you get a permit for backcountry backpacking and camping. (Most national parks will get you one for free.)

Pack Your Stuff!

woman campsite | Enjoy Travel Life

The last, but probably most important thing to know when heading out in the wilderness is that you should always have the right gear with you. A backpacking checklist will help you make sure you have everything you need, but here are the basics.

Get a good backpack that fits everything you need, and sits on your back well. Even weight distribution will make sure you don’t need to deal with any pressure points, Then you’ll be able to focus on the trail ahead instead.

Of course, grabbing the right sleeping bag and a suitable tent is also a necessity. You’ll be spending your nights in them, and you’ll need to be warm and dry when you’re sleeping. Waterproof tents are a great idea Also, make sure you have a bag that’s got the right temperature rating for the conditions you’ll be camping in. Click here to read more tent camping essentials.

Cooking and food supplies are an important consideration. You can’t just order takeout when you’re in the wild, and you’ll need to cook your own food. If you plan to cook over an open fire, make sure you know how to make a campfire and all the safety and responsibility that goes along with that.

And here’s a tip – a headlamp is always better than a handheld lamp. Whatever it is you’ll need to be doing, a headlamp will ensure you’ve got two free hands to do it with.

You’ve also got to make sure that you have all of the right clothes to survive the elements.

Ideally, you want to ensure that you’ve got a range of different clothes, and we recommend looking at a site like Emigre to purchase them.

The last thing that you want is to be too hot or too cold simply because you haven’t put enough effort into packing what you’re going to wear when backpacking outdoors!

Final Thoughts on Backpacking for the First Time

Knowing these essentials when you’re backpacking for the first time will help take the edge off any worries or hesitations you might be feeling. Once you’ve got the practicalities of the trip under control, you can focus on the natural beauty that will be around you, the thrill of camping, and the fact that after this trip. Then, you won’t be a first-time backpacker anymore! With each outdoor journey you embark upon, you will quickly become an experienced backpacker.

And if you’re wondering what kind of snacks to bring with you, click here to read about the best hiking snacks and hiking lunches to pack.

Or, consider these ideas for the best summer outdoor activities for adults.

Jackie Gately at the beach

About Jackie Gately, editor-IN-CHIEF

I'm Jackie Gately, your travel confidante and the creative force behind Enjoy Travel Life, awarded the "Best Casual-Luxury Lifestyle Blog (USA)" in Travel and Tourism by LUXlife Magazine for four consecutive years.

With 25 years of published expertise, I'm a seasoned writer, editor, and photographer curating inspiring travel guides and lifestyle tips for empty nesters. I hope to kindle your spirit of exploration, encouraging you to overcome obstacles and turn your dreams into reality.

Learn to minimize your pre-travel angst and maximize the joy of exploration with insights from my experiences. Let's make every adventure a celebration of this exciting phase of life! 

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Photocredits: Backpacker – Tristan Pineda, Fitness – Anupam Mahapatra, Wilderness – Hatham, Camper – Julian Bialowas (Unsplash)