Intro to Backpacking - Part 2

November 5, 2021
Posted by: Thomas

Hi there! This is part 2 in a five part series welcoming new hikers to backpacking. Don't forget to check out part 1 if you haven't already.

No Need to Fear the Gear

The gear you will use is obviously important but you shouldn’t let your fears get the best of you as you pack your bag to hit the trail. It has been said that we often pack our fears. This might be why I brought an 8 ounce multi tool on my first solo backpacking trip and not the .8 ounce mini Swiss Army knife that I also own. My fear of something going wrong at camp led me to pack a tool that included both a flat and Phillips head screwdriver, a file, can opener, and needle nose pliers that I never once used nor would they have been able to help me if I did have an issue. My mini flashlight was made redundant by my headlamp and I had a whole set of clothes that would have been better off in a dresser at home than weighing down my back. Don’t let your imagination get the best of you as you gear up for your adventure. Keep it simple!

At the same time, you may be afraid that you don’t have the proper gear for the experience. This is an important point because your ability to stay dry and warm will directly correlate with your ability to enjoy your adventure. The big, bulky sleeping bag you have for car camping should work just fine to get you started although you will likely want to make sure that the temperature rating will be sufficient for a night in the wild. The same goes for your tent, so long as you can fit the tent in your bag and it will keep you dry, you will be good to go. Weight and volume are important considerations when packing your backpack so the 5lb cotton lined sleeping bag that doesn’t compress any smaller than the size a frozen turkey and the 6 person tent you have might not be ideal and may not fit in your bag comfortably enough that you want to carry it 2 miles uphill in both directions.

Speaking of your bag, you will definitely need one big and sturdy enough to hold everything you’ll need. If you are unable to borrow one, look online or at your local sporting goods store. You’ll get what you pay for in terms of quality but in terms of use, an active lifestyle will always give you a reason to have a comfortable 50 or 60 liter bag at your disposal. Other than your footwear, your bag will be the most important choice you make in terms of comfort and personal fit. A well fitted and padded bag can make or break your experience in the same ways that a pair of hiking shoes or trail runners can, so don’t be afraid to try on a few backpacks until you find the most comfortable one for your body.

At a budget clearance site like or a brick and mortar like Dunham’s sports you could cover your “Big 3” for under $350. The Big 3 being your shelter, sleeping system, and backpack. You’ll need a warm sleeping bag and ground pad or inflatable mat, a reasonably sized tent and rain fly - nothing bigger than a 2 or 3 person tent, and a bag to carry it all. Jungle style camping hammocks are gaining popularity and are my choice of shelter. However, they can be finicky and often require specific gear (underquilt, a larger rainfly, bug net, and rigging) that is different from a tent style shelter.

Things to consider: What sort of temperatures and climate should you prepare for? Do you toss and turn at night or are you able to sleep on your back comfortably? Will your backpack be as comfortable on mile 5 as it was on mile 1? Is there enough room for you to pack sleep clothes and food?

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