Every year, more and more people are getting into backpacking as a way to get outside, get in shape, and escape into the beauty of the outdoors. And few demographics can match the increase in this popularity as women. After the release of the book and movie Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the number of women seeking backpacking adventures has skyrocketed. In case you’re interested in starting to backpack, or have a few trips under your belt and you’re wanting to take your backpacking trips a bit further, here are a few helpful tips to make your adventure more enjoyable.
Backpacking Gear List
Besides proper physical fitness, no aspect of a backpacking trip is more important than having the proper and clothing and equipment. And these days, with the huge variety of choices to wade through, it can be a daunting task to choose what is most essential and appropriate. The weight of your gear will have a big impact on your enjoyment so opting for lightweight gear is a good decision. Choose a backpack that is well-fitted and has a weight and volume capacity that matches the length of trips you are planning to embark upon. A 45 to 65-liter capacity will serve most backpackers’ needs. Try to limit the total weight of your gear, food, and water to about 20% of your body weight.
When it comes to tents, sleeping pads, trekking poles, and cooking supplies make sure you know how everything works before you head out on the trail. There’s nothing worse than learning how to set up your tent for the first time when it’s raining.
Clothing choices should focus on comfort, quality, and functionality. Make sure you understand where you heading and what sort of weather you should expect and pack accordingly. Women should consider quick-drying underwear in order to help avoid urinary tract infections
A comprehensive backpacking list crafted by professionals can help guide you. The key to being happy and comfortable in the backcountry is to have everything you need and nothing that really don’t need.
Training for Your Trip
Training for an extensive backpacking trip will mean the difference between enjoying your backcountry adventure or struggling through it in misery. Due to the weight, you will be carrying, building strength in your legs and core should be a focus. Gym workouts can help, but getting used to uneven terrain, rocks, and ascending or descending steep inclines with weight on your back can best be practiced by simply hiking on actual trails with a weighted backpack.
Working with a personal trainer can be valuable, especially if you’re embarking on your first backpacking trip and need to put forth a lot of pre-trip training. Make sure your trainer is aware of your expected backpack weight, elevation and mileage to be traversed, over the course of the trip, and how long you have to work up to your goals.
Whether you are backpacking in the desert or mountains, the body requires a lot of water. Dehydration can sneak up on you; and although your body will show signs of dehydration early, if you aren’t watching for them, your trip can take a turn for the worse. When you spend 24 hours a day outside, with much of that exerting considerable energy, your body is going to require far more water than it normally would in your day-to-day life. A reasonable goal would be to consume about a gallon of water each day.
Don’t let discomfort with “going to the bathroom in the woods” keep you from drinking enough water. It might be one of the heaviest items in your backpack but as long as you’re drinking it, it doesn’t have to weigh you down. Planning for water refills, or access to water that you can purify, will be an important logistical consideration to pay careful attention to.
Going to The Bathroom
That brings us to everyone’s favorite part of backpacking: going to the bathroom. Chances are, you’re going to need to take care of business without the convenience of a toilet. First, you’re going to need a personal toilet kit that consists of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and/or wipes, a small hand trowel for digging your catholes, and some ziplock bags for your toilet trash. Some environments are not conducive to burying toilet paper so you may be required to pack it out.
Proper etiquette for using the bathroom consists of depositing solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, campsites and trails. When you’re finished, cover and disguise the cathole.
Regarding feminine hygiene, it is recommended that you bring extra supplies and store them in a discreet bag and bring several ziplock bags for temporary storage. Depending where you are backpacking, there may be composting toilets along the way to dispose of used products.
Emergency Contacts and Service
Before heading out on any backpacking trip, make sure you inform a few people of where you will be and when you plan to be home. Keep emergency phone numbers handy, but don’t rely on having the ability to place a phone call while in the backcountry. Cell phone service is spotty in remote areas. The park service at the Grand Canyon is working on building up their cell phone service for guests and emergencies, so it is possible other parks will be following suit in coming years.
Many backcountry travelers are investing in satellite communication devices like the Garmin InReach. These devices use satellite communication to send and receive text messages, track your route, and pinpoint your location. This is an invaluable resource if you plan to spend considerable time in the outdoors. And they double as GPS units that can store downloadable maps and routes to help keep you on the right path.
Some phone apps can give you detailed maps and trail information, as well. Here are a few of the more popular and commonly used apps:
All Trails – iOS, Android
Gaia GPS – iOS, Android
Cairn – iOS, Android
OS Maps – iOS, Android. For backpacking in the UK
Komoot – iOS, Android – Backpacking Europe
Most national parks will require backpackers to obtain a permit in advance. The process of obtaining a Backcountry Permit can be complicated and competitive, depending on the park and its popularity. For instance, having a Grand Canyon Backcountry Permit requires applying for a permit months in advance through a lottery system. In other areas, permits are issued on a first-come-first-serve basis. If you are backpacking through multiple parks and/or Forest Service or BLM lands, you may need a permit for each location.
Though the numerous preparations and considerations for a successful backpacking adventure may seem daunting, they are essential. And making sure that every logistic is considered and planned for will help ensure a rewarding experience that keeps you coming back for more.