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Backpacking Essentials
For Beginners

Backpacking essentials for beginners.

Beginners...

Backpacking...

Ah, those words take me back to 1971, when I started backpacking.

Backpacking essentials for beginners were really basic back then. Learning how to backpack was a matter of trial and error with some basic hiking camping equipment:

  • backpack,
  • boots,
  • tarp,
  • a few cotton or wool clothes,
  • an old Svea gas stove and
  • a pot to cook oatmeal in.

Thank goodness technology has gotten us to a much better (easier, safer) place for a newbie backpacker!

If you're just getting started, you have a vast array of gear to choose from.

But maybe it's too vast.

As in "Where do I start finding best backpacking tips?"

You're probably looking for an outline of backpacking essentials for beginners, and I'm just the woman for the job! I've been doing this since forever!!

Here's an extra dose of encouragement if you're testing the backpacking waters as an older backpacker! Read up on why elder hikers are special.

Let's break this into 3 "rounds" of backpacking advice:

  • the basics of gear and food (think backpack checklists);
  • staying safe and sane on the trail;
  • hiking hygiene.

Backpacking essentials for beginners: food and gear

Think about your daily life: food & water, shelter, comfort.

Now think about your first backpacking trip - you're going to need those same things, except you're going to have to carry all of it (or use a llama, mule, horse, or trail buddy to help you).

Which means you'll need a sturdy backpack, and sturdy boots to help your body bear the weight of all of your food, water, shelter, and other gear.

Stick with reputable gear manufacturers.

What you need are the essentials, in a quick list:

1. Food ideas such as freeze dried backpacking menus, and food selection tips and cookware, plus a stove unless you want cold meals for the duration of your trip

2. Water treatment equipment and bottles

3. Backpacking tent

4. Sleeping bag and liner

5. Hiking boots. And hiking socks. (The dynamic duo)

6. Clothing suitable for climate and weather conditions

7. Backpack

You might also need a bear canister or other bear resistant food storage option, depending on where you decide to backpack.

To dig deeper into gear and how to backpack, explore these ideas.

When it comes time to pack up all of that gear, read about packing a backpack.

Take your time, and write down questions and concerns as they occur to you.

If you don't know where to start, use the search box at the bottom of the page to find information on this website.

An example of the detailed advice you'll find:

  • For a thorough discussion of how to pick the best backpacking sleeping bag, read this.

This is a journey of discovery - enjoy it!


Backpacking essentials for beginners include finding, and treating, surface water.

Backpacking essentials for
beginners: Stay sane & healthy

The best backpacking gear can only get you so far down the trail.

What's in your head is just as important as what's in your pack.

  • How will you respond to trail stressors? Animal encounters, poor weather conditions, gear failures... these happen sooner or later to every backpacker.
  • What can you do to prevent a medical emergency?
  • Do you know the best approach to pacing yourself?
  • How will you deal with insects?
  • Can you recall tidbits of outdoor lore to keep yourself amused or to feed yourself if your food supply is compromised?
  • Healthy hikers know lots of tricks - do you?

A great time on the trail boils down to good gear + lots of knowledge.

Maybe you should start with a few simple overnight hiking trips to give yourself plenty of time to develop a strong skill set.

But there's one more essential ingredient for feeling great on your backpacking trip!


Backpacking essentials for
beginners: Hygiene for hikers

What's that essential item?

Good hygiene!

Who wants to be crusty and smelly on the trail?

OK, who wants to be less crusty and smelly on the trail?!

If you said ME!, read this.


Backpacking is hard work, so take good care of yourself at the end of a long day of hiking with these backpacking wellness tips from Hiking For Her.


Don't get overwhelmed

This is plenty of information to get you started on learning how to backpack.

As a beginner, please don't get overwhelmed by how much there is to learn.  Forty five years later, I'm still learning how to backpack!

  • Take your time reading through all of this information,
  • take notes on what you need more time to explore, 
  • and go hiking every chance you get with all sorts of hikers.

Repeat this process over and over again.


I'll leave you with these "Fast start" tips:

1. Join a hiking group and learn from the veterans.

2. Take classes from local community colleges or hiking organization.

3. Find a hiking mentor and watch her like a hawk!

4. Find a hiking buddy and learn together.

5. Explore this website thoroughly, and send me your questions using the form below.

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This page has given you all of the fundamentals.

How to buy hiking gear might be next on your list!



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Backpacking Essentials For Beginners



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