Backpacking is one of the most rewarding activities that you can do outdoors! Getting off the beaten path can help you reach some incredibly far out there places that you would not be able to experience otherwise. Although backpacking offers so many amazing opportunities, it is a skill that you can always continue to improve with further education and experience!
If you’re looking to give backpacking a try or improve your knowledge, avoid making these beginner backpacking mistakes!
Mistake #1: Leather Hiking Boots
I swear every backpacking guide book pre 2015 states that leather hiking boots are the way to go for your best backpacking experience. Personally I disagree. I get the appeal- durability, water resistant, ankle support, etc.
Leather boots typically weigh 3 ¾ pounds which is incredibly heavy compared to the lighter footwear options on the market! Think about it, when you’re walking miles and miles all day with big clunky hiking boots on, your feet will get hot and sweaty. The moisture can lead to blisters which is a big no-no!
I believe that a quality trail shoe is the best. A good trail shoe, like the Salomon Speed Cross 5, are incredibly lightweight, durable, have a ton of support and are breathable! I buy my shoes without gore-tex because they dry faster and I simply use gore-tex socks instead.
Mistake #2: Buying a Massive Backpack
When you’re first starting your backpacking journey, it can be tempting to want to buy a larger backpack to fit all of your belongings! While it may seem like a 65L-75L backpack will be the best option, consider sizing down to a 44-50L bag. I know this might sound impossible, but having a smaller pack forces you to only bring the essentials.
With a larger pack, there’s more opportunity to pack a bunch of unnecessary items that all add up in weight! I highly suggest checking out the Osprey Aura 50L. It’s an incredible backpack.
Mistake #3: Don’t Carry the Whole Kitchen!
Learn from my early mistakes and don’t carry your whole kitchen! I have been this person and have also seen so many of these people in action on the trail. What I mean by carrying your entire kitchen is bringing heavy cooking utensils, canned goods, and heavy food!
If backpacking had a golden rule it would be the person with the lightest gear has the most fun.
Bringing heavy items will certainly make for a miserable experience!
Mistake #4: Don’t Use the Sack that Came with your Sleeping Bag!
Did you know that a compression sack/ stuff sack can significantly reduce the size of your sleeping bag? Besides decreasing the amount of space your sleeping bag takes up in your backpack, a compression sack will also protect your expensive sleeping bag from debris! Consider using a compression sack for your clothes and other larger items as well!
My favourite compression sack is this one by Outdoor Research
Mistake #5: Not Allowing Yourself a Comfort Item
I know we said that lightweight is the name of the game, but you also want to be able to enjoy yourself on the trail! My comfort item is the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat! Weighing in at 2 oz, the Z seat turns any rock into a comfortable seat. It seriously is “on the go comfort”. I have also used this inexpensive option from Amazon and it works great! I know it may not seem like an essential item, but when you’re on the trail and want to have a sit down to eat lunch, take care of a blister, etc. the seat provides immediate comfort.
Other comfort items could be a camping pillow, a favourite snack, etc.
Mistake #6: Not Having a Safety Plan
Safety is so important and unfortunately often overlooked when planning a backpacking trip. You might bring safety items along with you, but what’s your plan if one of you or your trail buddy gets hurt? Do you have a means of contacting help? Have you told your trip itinerary to a trusted source and they know when they can expect to hear from you? What contingencies have you outlined? I never wander into the backcountry without my Garmin inReach!
Having a formal plan in place is critical to a successful and safe backpacking trip!
Are there any mistakes you think I should have included? Leave them in the comments section below!