by Diane Spicer
Before I say anything at all about the best tips for planning a backpacking trip, let me say this:
If you're tempted to cut corners, leave the planning to someone else.
Or maybe you should just stay at home.
I am so serious about this!
Because your life may literally depend upon the strength of your plan and the details of your backpacking packing list.
I'm not talking about a quick overnight trip to a heavily populated camping spot on an easy trail, where there's a large margin for error, plentiful food AND nearby people to bail you out if things go wrong.
Although I can make an argument that I might be talking about this very scenario!
Things can go wrong under Mother Nature's immense roof regardless of where you find yourself.
It's one thing to spend a cold, wet night in misery and be able to hike back to the car in the morning. Makes a great story over a cup of coffee a few weeks later, right?
But it's quite another thing to watch a friend slip into
hypothermia because you didn't plan ahead with
adequate shelter and enough clothing for unexpectedly wet or cold weather. (take those links seriously)
So I counsel you to take your responsibilities for planning a backpacking trip seriously.
time to crafting a thorough backpacking list, and just like Santa, make
that list and check it twice before you leave for the trail head.
And to make your task easier, especially if this is your first time, consider these tips on planning a safe, enjoyable backpacking trip.
We'll assume you've already selected the best hiking trails for your trip.
Let's get right to planning your trip, using these steps.
First, read through my best hiking tips.
Next, make detailed notes about the gear you have and the gear you'll need.
Then, carefully consider your menus.
What about shelter?
It may be even more important than food in certain scenarios.
And then there's the option of a backpacking hammock...
Although that wouldn't work in the Alaska ANWR terrain pictured above, now would it?
So be sure you know the lay of the land where you're headed.
Now that you've meticulously sorted out your gear, you need to get very specific about your itinerary (day by day plan).
If you need permits or passes, apply for them in plenty of time to avoid delaying, or cancelling, your backpacking trip.
Line up transportation, if that's an issue.
Guesstimating your daily mileage is your next step, using the appropriate maps to select camp sites in the right mileage ranges.
Always have a Plan B in case your intended camp site is occupied, washed out, or taken over by a bear.
Leave your itinerary with a trusted person back home, and file a copy with the authorities if you're entering areas that are monitored or controlled by lottery.
Planning a backpacking trip includes knowing how to stay safe.
Have you considered how to do that in all kinds of trail conditions?
How's your first aid comfort level?
Spend some time getting trained, or at least reading about how to meet medical challenges.
These ideas are just to get you started thinking about the essential features of planning a backpacking trip.
Read the plethora of information on this site to fill in your plan until you are completely confident that it will work, and that you will stay safe.
One more word to the wise:
This is the fastest way to shorten up the learning curve out on the trail, and create an historical record you can refer back to later.
If you need specific advice on the best backpacking gear or backpacking food ideas, please contact me and I'll answer your questions.
Or we can set up a gear chat for a deep dive into your plans.
Planning a Backpacking Trip
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five 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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