How Do I Prepare For My First Backpack Hiking Experience?

Go Ahead - Try Hiking

You’re brand new to hiking and you are filled with excitement and anticipation.  Part of you worries that as a “newbie” you will forget something important or fail on your mission. Preparing for your first trek is not as daunting as you may think.  Prepare like a pro, and you’ll spend more time focusing on your hiking camping backpack experience, and less time being nervous about pulling it off without a hitch.

Prepare Your Body

Do yourself the huge favor of preparing your body physically.  A neighborhood walk with the dog is completely different than a hiking trek over uneven terrain of hills and trails to find an overnight camping site. Trust me, your muscles and back will give you all kinds of grief that will spoil your good time in the wild, if you fail to get yourself fit first. Always stretch your back and leg muscles before starting on a hike and when you are done. Work on these same muscles at home or the gym for a few weeks before your first outing.

Helpful First Hike Info

For this first trip use a daypack and start out during daylight hours.  Hike for 2-3 hours, take a rest for 30 minutes and then head back.  This type of hiking bag will carry all your essentials for the day and won’t be too heavy. It is essential that your hiking backpack fit comfortably to balance the load on your back.  Most backpacks come with adjustable waist and shoulder straps for customizing comfort. If you are going solo, leave details of your trip with someone you trust.  It’s probably better to take a friend along the first time out, and it’s best to choose a well-traveled trail.

What Do I Pack

If you are wondering how you should pack, simply put, lightly!  For a day trip, eat breakfast at home and pack a non-perishable lunch and snacks like nuts, grapes and energy bars. Start by drinking 16 oz. of water before you leave to pre-hydrate your body. Then pack 2 or3 more 16 oz bottles of water in your small backpack.  Staying hydrated is essential throughout the trip.  Snack every hour. Pack a sleep pad to place on the ground when you take a rest. It will keep your clothes dry and provide comfort to your butt.

Clothing Choice Is Important                                                                                                

When selecting your clothing, wear T-shirts and bottoms made of quick-drying fabrics, like gym shirts made of nylon and polyester. This material pulls sweat away from your skin and keeps you drier to avoid rashes and chafing. Avoid cotton as it absorbs water and takes longer to dry. Layer your clothing, such as shorts underneath long pants that can be put on or off as temperatures change. Pack a waterproof windbreaker in case of an abrupt weather change. Yes, it happens.

Go Easy On The Feet

Very important, do not wear a brand new pair of hiking boots without breaking them in first. Blisters and sore feet will make your experience a bad first hike, trust me. Choose a supportive type of shoes or boots. Some backpackers insist on over-the-ankle styles.  Your back and legs will appreciate that. Wear wool or synthetic socks, NOT cotton, which retains moisture. Pack an extra pair.

Include These Items In Your Pack

Other helpful gear would include sweat-proof sunscreen that needs to be reapplied every 90 min. Use a lip balm with sunscreen and wear sunglasses. a bandanna, which has multiple uses on the trail.  If you pass by water, dunk it in and put it back on your forehead. Shield your neck from sunburn by wearing it backwards.

Don’t Forget These

Wear a hat and bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer, a roll of toilet paper, a knife or multi-tool device and a whistle in case you get lost. Take your cell phone plus a map and compass. Throw in a couple of plastic bags, a trowel for burying waste and some basic first aid items like Bandaids, triple antibiotic ointment and alcohol pads

 Follow this basic advice and you’ll be well prepared without over packing. Now all you have to do is have a great and memorable first hike. Chances are there will be many more to follow.  Before long, you’ll be ready to set that daypack aside for a longer overnight camping backpack.


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