by Diane Spicer
Backpacking essentials for beginners means one overwhelming thing:
But maybe it's too vast.
"Where do I start finding the best backpacking tips
to sort through all of that hiking gear?"
You're probably looking for an outline of backpacking essentials, and I'm just the woman for the job! I've been doing this since forever (1970).
Let's break these backpacking essentials into 3 "rounds" of backpacking advice:
Add it all up, and how to get ready for a backpacking trip will be not only manageable, but maybe even fun.
Let's get started on the (fun)damentals.
Think about your daily life based on what you did today: you accessed and enjoyed food & water, shelter, and 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.
First tip: Stick with reputable outdoor gear manufacturers.
What you need are these backpacking essentials, in this quick list (click links for detailed information):
3. More backpacking kitchen essentials
4. Water treatment equipment and transport
10. Trekking poles
Don't forget mosquito repellent!
You might also need a bear canister or other bear resistant food storage option, depending on where you decide to backpack.
Is a teddy bear and pillow considered backpacking essentials for beginners?
No comment on the teddy bear, but a backpacking pillow could spell the difference between restless and deep sleep in your tent.
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.
An example of the detailed advice you'll find:
Read these 40 backpacking comfort ideas.
If you don't even know what questions to ask, use the search box at the top of the page to find information on this website.
This is a journey of discovery - enjoy it!
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.
A great time on the trail boils down to accumulating experience and lots of knowledge.
The way to gather those things?
Maybe you could start with a few simple overnight hiking trips or a long weekend, to give yourself plenty of time to develop a strong skill set.
Or cultivate friendships and trail time with veteran hikers, like in our Over Forty Hiker private community of female hikers.
Another idea is to take an REI Co-op class in your area.
You can also go solo, but slow down and really think about that. Here are some solo hiking tips to get you started.
But there's one more essential ingredient for feeling great on your backpacking trip!
What's that essential item?
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.
And don't forget to put together your own backpacking hygiene kit; it's easy with these instructions.
Keeping your dishes clean on a backpacking trip is also essential. You don't want to make yourself or anyone else sick. Here's how to wash dishes in the backcountry.
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 plus years later, I'm still learning all of the nuances of how to backpack!
Repeat this process over and over again.
Here's an extra dose of encouragement if you're testing the backpacking waters as an older backpacker:
Ah, those words take me back to 1970, when I started backpacking.
Essentials for beginning backpackers were really basic back then.
And females who wanted to backpack were as scarce as hen's teeth.
Thank goodness technology has gotten us to a much better (easier, safer) place for a newbie backpacker!
I'll leave you with these "Fast Start" tips:
1. Select the right hiking group and learn from the veterans.
2. Take low cost classes from local community colleges or a hiking organization.
3. Take the Hiking For Her How To Plan A Backpacking Trip course.
4. Find a willing hiking mentor and watch her like a hawk!
5. Find a hiking buddy and learn together. Your trail mistakes will make hilarious memories some day.
6. Explore the Hiking For Her website thoroughly, and send me your questions.
7. Join our Over Forty Hiker private community.
This page has given you links to all the backpacking fundamentals you'll need to start as a backpacker.
Now you have to plan for a long term commitment to this wonderful sport of hiking. Here are a few more resources for you:
Backpacking Essentials For Beginners
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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