Have you ever felt like the worst part about a great day full of adventure was that it had to come to an end? After a couple of hours hiking to find the vista or the waterfall that you set out for and reached, is there an urge that makes you feel like you could just happily stay there?
This is the first nibble of the backpacking bug. There might be a voice in your head that is telling you that even if everything at home and in your world is perfectly fine, that your life would be so much better lived surrounded by nothing but nature. That voice should not be so easily dismissed. Biophilia, or the innate attraction to being around other living organisms in a natural setting, is the reason why you should listen to that voice. Research also suggests that the time spent in nature has the ability to increase one’s well-being. Maybe it’s time to listen because it’s likely your mind and body are attempting to restore themselves and they are telling you that this activity and setting is their preferred method.
So, how do you do this and where do you even start?
It’s likely that you’ve been car camping before and have some of the gear you’ll need to get started. You may not even own a sleeping bag! You might have a friend with extra gear and experience to guide you. Whatever it is, you’re likely overwhelmed with the sort of thoughts and questions that every novice encounters on their way to their first night miles deep and under the stars. Let’s take a look at a few of the things you’ll need to get started.
Plan Your Trip
A quick internet search for backpacking trails or state parks and forests that allow dispersed camping is the best place to start if you are setting out on this adventure on your own. If you do have a friend with backpacking experience, the best place to start would be asking them for some help. Either way, you should have researched the regulations and permit requirements for your trip so that you know exactly what you’ll need to be prepared. Choose a trail that matches your hiking abilities while keeping in mind that you’ll likely be carrying 20 pounds on your back. For a first time backpacking trip, keep the miles low and the terrain reasonable. Start by going to some place close to home or familiar to you. These sorts of considerations will allow you to start with confidence and will help you have greater control of some of the variables that can detract from having fun. It's always wise to print out a physical copy of the map and to have a manifest that you leave with someone at home so there is less to worry about or reason to cause a loved one to worry about you.
Things to consider: Do you need a permit? Are campfires allowed? Are there privies or water pumps at the camp? Are there areas for animal protected food storage?