How to Plan for Your Backpacking Trip

A backpack trip can be the experience of a lifetime. No matter what you circumstances are, I will advise you to take a backpack trip at least for once in your life. Since a lot of things might seem hazy for a first timer, this article will take you through the proper steps to plan a backpack trip with ease.

backpack planning

Pick the Place

The first step to plan out your backpack trip is to pick up the destination. You should pick a place that interests and caters to your skills. It should also fit in with your time and budget constraints. Many resources such as online backpack forums, guidebooks, outdoor magazines etc. will give you proper idea to choose a destination that suits you.


Time will play an essential part in your backpacking trip. Be sure that you know your destination has the right timing as well. Some places change a lot depending on the weather. For example, winter is not a suitable time to go for the trail hiking in High Sierra. Based on your time, other things such as your clothing, essentials etc. will change as well.

Type and Distance

What kind of trail you are going to be going after is also an important factor to consider. Some routes might be in a loop while some might be in point to point. Also consider if you will need the help of a shuttle car. Also try to figure out how many miles you are going to hike per day. This will give you an idea about whether you will need a resting place in your trail. In general, you can aim for 3 to 10 miles per day. Of course, it will depend on your own ability and skill, along with your circumstance and budget.

Maps and Regulations

These are two very important things to take care of before starting off in your journey. Get the trail maps and guidebooks beforehand even if you have the map on your electronic device. It is better to always a physical map with you because you never know when you might run out of juice. Also don’t forget to do your research for the popular trails online.

Every locality has some certain regulations which you should abide by while backpacking. Do your research and be aware to avoid unnecessary mishaps along the way. Not all hiking trails allow you to make campfires. Take note if you need bear proof canisters. Also find out if you need to get special permits before going down the trail.

What to Pack

The next important thing to consider is what to take with you. This will largely depend on the weather and trail itself, as well as your comfort level in a new place. Here are some basics of the essentials you should take with you for the trip.


For clothing, you should carry either light or heavy cloths depending on the weather. But in general, you should pack a pair of synthetic hiking pants since you will be hiking. Regular pants may not be as comfortable for such trips. Also take shorts if it is summer. Take some underwear. Also take some t-shirts and hoodie, based on the weather. Some waterproof jacket and pants will always prove to be handy if you end up in the water while hiking. Take some socks as well. You can take one pair for every two days. A beanie and a pair of light fleece gloves are also essentials for the winter. And for shoes, take a pair of sandals for easy access and a pair of slip on camp shoes.


For your backpacking trip, you will need some cooking utensils. Take a stove and enough fuel depending on how many days you plan to camp. Take your pot set along with a bowl, cup and spoon. Also take a bar of soap and sponge to clean up after eating. Dry and ready to eat food is another essential. Depending on your destination, you can either opt for water or a water filter. If you know your trail is going to have a water source, you can take the filter with you.


Don’t forget to take your sleeping bag, of course. It can be either in down or synthetic, based on your comfort and budget. A three season tent will also be extremely useful to take with you throughout the year. And an inflatable or closed cell foam pad will also come in handy in the trip.

First Aid Kit

A first kit is definitely an essential no matter what type of place you are planning to visit. Take some basic medicine such as paracetamol, aspirin etc. in case you get a fever or headache. If you are new to this hiking thing, having some pain killers will also be useful for you. As for other things, take some bandages and band aids with you. And if you plan to camp outside, don’t forget to take insect repellents as well as bite creams.


Take your daily essentials such as toothbrush with toothpaste, a bar of soap, shampoo, razor with blades, sunscreen, deodorant, sanitary kit etc. with you since chances are you will be away from civilization for a while.

Other Emergencies

A GPS device is always necessary to keep track of your footing while hiking. Also take a headlamp with you if you plan to hike back to your campsite in the evening. Matches will also come in handy in many situations. A duct tape is also useful for pesky problems such as a hole in your tent. And having a pocket knife with you at all times will make you feel more responsible.

Be Ready for Anything

Chances are that sometimes no matter how much you plan for your travels, you will end up coming across an unavoidable circumstance. In such cases, it is best to be ready to take it head first, no matter what it is. But even if you are ready for anything, it is best to keep someone else you trust about your whereabouts. Even if it is not possible to keep them updated at all times, at least tell them about your trip before starting it. Give someone a proper idea about your place of hiking and your plan. Also give them the contact information of the local authorities so they know whom to reach if you don’t come back on time.

If your destination is in a super remote area that doesn’t even show up in the maps, you can get a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). This device will track down all your progress via a GPS system. It will also send a distress signal to the local authority if you by chance come across an emergency and in need for help.

Also, always take your first aid kit with you when you go to hike. There is no point in taking it with you and then leaving it at the camp site. Consider taking a first aid course as well for your own good. If you learn to know how to make a fire, where and how to collect water and how to build a shelter, you will be even more secure.

How to Prepare

As the popular saying goes ‘Prevention is better than cure’, so always prepare for the worst. If you are a complete newbie in this hobby, take a short trip in your local area first. This will help you sort out what you need to keep with you and also give you a head start for your next big trip. If all else fails, you can even camp out for one night in your backyard with all the gears you plan to use for your backpack trips. Once you get to use them by hand, you will learn many practical uses for them. Once you get familiar with these items, you will see how much easier it gets to use them.

Get Fit

This is very important for anyone but specially more for the backpackers. For at least before six weeks prior to your backpacking trip, you should start a proper exercising routine. This will give you an edge while you go on your trip. If you do it one day out of the blue, you will not be able to move your legs and hands on the next day. Your leg strength is also very important for a successful hike so take up running. A long day hike will definitely consist of walking uphill with a heavy pack on your back so be prepared for it. You can take small hikes around your local area to make yourself accustomed with everything. Per week, you should get down for at least 2 to 3 workout sessions. A good cardio base is essential to keep you moving in a hike. Other than that, you can also try out these four types of exercises to get you into shape. The four types are wall sits, dumbbell step ups, plank and squats.

Break in your Shoes

I can’t stress this point enough. Always do this if you are starting your backpack trip with a new pair of shoes. It will turn into a nightmare if you wear your shoes for the first time to take in the hiking trail. You can take your shoes out before going on the actual trip by wearing them for short hikes. You can even wear them to work if you can get away with it. Basically do this if you don’t want your trip to become a blistery and painful one.


These are the things which might not seem that necessary at first glance but are important nonetheless. If you are serious about your backpack trips then I will suggest you to bring the following items with you. These become even more essential if you want to go for a hike in a remote place.

Trekking Pole

This will help you the put less strain on your knees. If you are taking a heavy pack with you while hiking, this will come extremely handy. for certain tents, your trekking poles can even do double duty as tent poles.

Solar Charger

If your phone runs out of battery, there is no way to recharge it while you are camping. This will save your day or maybe even life.

Backpack Saw

Bring this with you if you plan to make a campfire. Make sure that the area has permission to make them beforehand. But mostly look for fallen trees as they make better fires.


This is one thing that might just save your life in case of an emergency.


Take them to take a look at the beauties that lie far away from you. It is not possible to get close to every single thing, such as mountain goats. A pair of binoculars will save the day.

Bear Spray

Depending on the situation of your destination, you can pack one with you. For example, this is a requirement in Alaska. But if you are careful with how you carry and store your food, this shouldn’t be a necessity. Still it doesn’t hurt to buy one, if your budget fits.

Cut Down the Excess

To do this, lay out all the things you have in mind to take with you. Now one by one decide if you really need that item with you in the trip. If you can do without it, toss it out of your backpack. It is always a good idea to pack lightweight since you will feel more comfortable.

Final Words

It might seem like a daunting task at first if you are a newbie but don’t sweat too much. With proper research and enough practice, you will turn into a pro in no time. Just make sure to not lose your footing because of fear and stress of the unknown and you should be good. Hopefully this short article will be helpful to get you started on your next adventure.

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