4 Essential Tips for Your First Backpacking Trip


Being underprepared during a backpacking adventure is more common than you’d think.


An overnight backpacking trip is a great way for nature-lovers to take their outdoors experience to the next level. Sleeping out under the stars, you will find yourself tuning into the rhythms of nature, interacting with your surroundings in new ways as you make tools to accomplish tasks and tapping into a capable and grounded side of yourself who knows their place in the world and feels satisfaction from occupying it. Use the following steps to guide your process towards packing out with confidence and ease.


Choose a location that is easy and close to home. The challenge of this trip will be less so the hiking and more so the rigamarole of setting up camp, braving overnight conditions and learning to build and feed a campfire. Spare yourself the trouble of trying to build these skills while weary and ragged by choosing a location that is accessible for your limited background level.


While you may be an experienced hiker who has trekked miles and miles on foot, the experience hardly compares with a back unburdened by a week’s worth of equipment. When it comes to backpacking, get your gear together as early as possible and be sure to take plenty of rigorous day hikes so that you can adjust to the fit, feelings and energy required to take it all on the trail.

Gear up

Finding the right gear is about more than just filling a cart with every gadget imaginable and hoping for the best. On the trail, every ounce counts, so finding what is essential, efficient and accessible will be important as you prepare. Often, the lightest weight and most functional gear is the most expensive, while the cheapest gear may be bulky or frail. Finding the middle ground is an art and one that can be aided by looking online, seeking outdoors groups (they may have an informal equipment trading economy) or checking secondhand stores in big climbing communities.

Link Up

While solo hikes are certainly worthwhile personal undertakings, for your first trial run, inviting a friend along helps ensure safety. Picking a partner with similar fitness levels, a positive attitude, and a complementary set of skills and experiences will enhance your trip by leaps and bounds. In addition, choose who back in the real world will be in the know about your location, and tell them when they should expect to hear from you, so they can be alert in case of a mishap.

This story was created by Detour, a journalism brand focused on the best stories in Black travel, in partnership with McClatchy’s The Charlotte Observer and Miami Herald. Detour’s approach to travel and storytelling seeks to tell previously under-reported or ignored narratives by shifting away from the customary routes framed in Eurocentrism. The detour team is made up of an A-list of award-winning journalists, writers, historians, photographers, illustrators and filmmakers.

This story was originally published September 20, 2022 9:00 AM.

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