Beginners' Guide to Planning a Backpacking Trip

Daniel Chabert - Mar 29, 2017

While it is customary for the urban life to make us more reliant and attached to our material belongings, one of the best remedies is to pack your bare necessities and embark on a soul rejuvenating adventure. Although this nomadic life releases you from the daily, materialistic concerns, planning a successful backpacking trip entails many considerations that guarantee your trip will be both safe and enjoyable.

A backpacking trip is commonly understood as the activity of traveling or going camping while carrying your clothes, shelter, food and other required commodities in a backpack. Although backpacking trips could vary in nature or duration, they all revolve at their heart around minimum expenses and maximum independence.

Hence, thoroughly planning your backpacking trip is pivotal to the success of your journey. The type and extent of your planning depend on the location and duration of your intended trip.

Planning a backpacking trip is not solely limited to preparing material and equipment needed in your backpack but also being fully acquainted with all the activities you are to engage in, what challenges could crop up and the solutions to the problems. And the best way to prepare is to prepare early on.

Planning a Backpacking Trip 101

One way to look at the planning phase is to consider it a holistic conceptualization of the trip. This phase of the journey involves deciding on several aspects of your trip, including the following:

Pick Your Destination

Choosing your destination relies on various aspects such as your interests and budget. Do you want to go hiking, swimming or explore the grandeur of a wilderness tour? While the internet and travel guides can be great sources of information, you can also seek advice from backpackers of your community who are likely to share similar considerations for trip planning.

Determine the Period and Time Frame

After picking the best place of your choice, you have to determine what time of the year you will be going on your trip and for how long. The requirements for trailing a particular course in the winter will be different from doing so in the summer. Other variants include the amount of water consumed which differs around the year, or the amount of food that you need to pack for a day versus packing for a week.

Calculate the Costs

Cost is an important aspect of a backpacking trip. Do your preliminary study on the cost implication of the journey including the gear, food, accommodation and transportation.

Prepare a Packing List

Human needs are unlimited even within comfort zones. That’s why it is important to bear in mind while you’re packing that you are advised not to carry more than 30 percent of your body weight. Based on your trip type and duration, pack only what is crucially important, which will still amount to a heavy load to carry around.

Thoroughly go through the trip details and accordingly write a list of gear and material that you are likely to need as well as an estimate of the quantity needed. After you’re done packing, go through the list again to make sure nothing has been left out. You can also use the packing list when you’re packing on your way home.

Here’s a basic packing list that you can use and alter according to the specifics of your trip:

  • Backpack
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Water and means of purification and storage
  • Map and compass
  • Shelter
  • First Aid
  • Toiletries
  • Fire starters and matches                          
  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • Enough cash

Check for Necessary Permits

Some areas of the world are under strict regulation either for hunting, backpacking, sports or any other activities. Most of the time, authorities will require authenticated permits to visit such areas. Before you embark on your trip, make sure you have such paperwork, permits and certification secured. Needless to say, make sure that your visa covers all the countries you’re visiting in case of your route incorporating several countries.

Get Yourself Physically Prepared

Backpacking trips require fitness and strength. Have no doubt, your muscular stamina and mental strength will be put to the test, and it’s no joking matter to make sure your body is up for the task. Start by committing to some exercises on a weekly basis and increase the intensity gradually. Some indoor workouts that you can do from the comfort of your room include little jogging, push-ups, twists, lunges, squats and lumps. Cycling and jogging are great for outdoor exercising; however, a great way to enhance your training routine is to include activities which mimic the nature of the trip and its natural setting.

Prepare Suitable Shelter

The purpose of a shelter is to protect you against harsh weather conditions which are detrimental to your body. This includes the haven, clothes, boots, gloves, cap and eye-wear. Tents, sleeping bags and various clothing items come in different materials and designs, each serving a particular purpose and weather condition. Make sure your shelter items serve the correct conditions. Otherwise, they will become unnecessary weight that burdens rather than aids you.

Backpacking: Before You Leave Home

After packing everything needed and running through your packing list, it is necessary to a few things before you leave:

Test your Backpack

Backpacking mandates the use of a backpack that can be carried comfortably for a long distance and for an extended period. To make sure your backpack choice won’t cause you any unnecessary strain along your journey, carry your backpack and take a walk for some minutes to determine how comfortable it is to walk with. Decide whether to reduce the content of the bag or substitute them with lighter ones. The condition might also accommodate the addition more material.

Check the Weather

Weather conditions of the trip area should be studied thoroughly in order to make the proper preparations. Inclement weather is a serious challenge and has physiological effects on the traveler. Too hot weather leads to dehydration, hyperthermia, body weakness and general discomfort. Whether it’s hot, cold, rainy or other, proper weather considerations need to be included in the preparations.

Secure Water Sources

The human body consists mainly of water, and all systems in our body depend on water for their normal functioning. An average adult human needs three to eight liters of water per day. This need for water is inevitable as a man can only live for three days without water.

All the water necessary for the trip cannot be carried in the backpack at once. One must know and have planned for where the water is to come from. Ask yourself: is there a reliable source of water? How far is it from my root course? Does it need a purifier? The source you are getting the water from will determine the kind of preparation needed. 

Prepare Food

Several variants determine the amount and type of food that your body needs to consume along your trip such as the rate of calorie loss influenced by weather, elevation, distance traveled and speed. Plan to carry 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of food per person per day. It is better to have more food than required but remember the weight you can carry at a time.

Plan for your daily meals including how you will be preparing them. It is better to opt for lightweight and high-calorie food that is easily and quickly prepared. 

Danger and Challenges

There is no way you will not encounter some challenges or enemies during your trip. The habitat of your journey will also determine the kind of preparation required. Find out if there are wild animals or insects in the area you’re visiting and whether there are particular ways to protect yourself against them. Plan to have insect repellent, sleeping net and insect repellent clothes if needed.

Don’t Forget to Stay Safe

Planning a backpacking trip can be one of the most exciting and overwhelming things ever. As you’re out and about pushing through your boundaries, make sure you stay safe and to inform your family and friends that you are. Leave a detailed itinerary with a family member or friend with estimate dates of your whereabouts and dates of departure and arrival.

You can arrange to contact the designated person at specific intervals during the backpacking trip, or once the trip is over. If possible, try to arrange means to contact the authorities in case you do not report in after some time.

Leave another copy of your itinerary under a seat in your vehicle in case a rescue or emergency team embarks on a search - every moment counts. Information like this often assists them to search for you. In the event that there is any change of plans, try as much as possible to keep them updated.

Backpacking can be very exhausting to plan and execute, but it is undoubtedly an experience worth every second spent on it. Stay safe and enjoy your trip!

About the Author

Dan Chabert is a basketball fan, traveler, music blogger, Vignelli fan and javascripter. Doing at the nexus of modernism and mathematics to give life to your brand. Owner of RunnerclickGearWeareThatSweetgiftMonica’s healthMagazine, and Nicershoes.