In April, two of my best friends (and my fearless explorer dog, Izzy) and I headed out to the Santa Barbara backcountry for a backpacking weekend. I definitely have some girly-girl aspects to my personality (YAY, new shoes!) that make some people surprised I love backpacking so much, but it’s gotten into my blood. It’s such a great way to experience nature, spend quality time with your friends, and expand your boundaries!
For one of my girlfriends, it was her first time backpacking, which got me really excited. I thought I would share some of the same tips with you, that I shared with her (along with some pictures, because, frankly, it was a pretty fabulous trip).
First, I’ll tell you the things that you’ll read in most backpacking books:
- If this is your first backpacking adventure, just plan it for one or two nights. You’ll learn a lot, have a great time, and come home ready for more.
- Always make sure someone knows where your route, where you plan to stay, and when you will be back.
- Don’t count on having a cell phone signal. Maps and guidebooks are your friend, as is your trusty compass.
- Weight matters in your pack. Really. This can’t be emphasized enough.
These are all important points, and I don’t want to discount them. Now that you’ve digested those, though, I’m going to share with you my backpacking “cheat sheet” – tips that will raise your backpacking game up a notch or two, and make the trip go so much smoother!
- Ironically enough, the compass in your cell phone ALWAYS works, even if the cellular signal doesn’t.
- Bear bagging isn’t just for bear country; it’s really a great way to make sure all sorts of critters don’t get into your snacks. My favorite method is the PCT method, and there’s a quick and easy intro to it here.
- Wear pants (you can always find the convertible hiking pants that have the ability to become shorts or capris with zip attachments). It may be hot, but hacking your way past a wild rosebush in shorts is not a whole lot of fun.
- Trail running shoes, in my humble opinion, work just as well as hiking boots in warm or semi-cool weather – but dry faster when you get wet, and are a heckuva lot more comfortable.
- Extra stuff sacks come in REALLY handy. One can be your bear bag, one you can throw your clothes in and – voila! – you have a pillow.
- “Sacred socks” – a designated pair of socks you only wear in your tent – are a simple but massive joy after a day of getting dirty.
- Cooking with a flash boil stove system is a LOT easier than trying to haul a traditional stove kit out into the backcountry. All it does is boil water, but you can buy freeze-dried meals, add water into the meal bag, and you are good to go. I’ve got the MSR Windburner Stove System and can’t say enough great things about it.
- If you have the choice, choose a route where you don’t have to carry water. Water filtration equipment is not that heavy or expensive – and at 8 pounds per gallon, water quickly becomes a massive weight in your pack. I’m wild about the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System – seriously, it could not be easier.
Of course, the most important thing is to have fun. I’ve had amazing times backpacking with my friends, way out in the wilderness. They’ve been some of the best bonding experiences we’ve shared, and they’re such an amazing change of pace from the 9-to-5 office existence that so many of us experience daily.
Here’s to a little insider knowledge, even for beginners! (imagine me toasting you with a Nalgene bottle right now).
If you have any questions about getting started, let me know in the comments and I’m happy to help!
P.S. We just got our twitter account up and running! Follow our experiences at @kalliaadventure.