6 Backpacking Tips for Wilderness Hiking
There’s nothing better than exploring nature using your own two legs. The slow pace gives you time to clear your head, enjoy the surroundings and appreciate nature to the fullest. However, like any physical activity, wilderness hiking comes with a set of unique challenges that can be very tricky for first-timers who have no experience living out of a backpack and sleeping outside.
But, you can be sure that with some preparation, you can plan a great hike and have the time of your life on the trail. So, if you’ve been planning to have an epic wilderness hike this year, here are some tips that will help you prepare for your epic adventure.
Break in your shoes
Blisters will ruin your trip like nothing else, so make sure to wear good shoes. While you might want to invest in a new pair of hiking boots for your trip, make sure they fit perfectly and don’t start your trip without breaking them in. Give yourself plenty of time to break your new shoes in before you hit the road. How to do that? Well, it’s very simple—put on your boots, lace them up firmly and go for a walk. You can also wear your shoes around the house, to the shop or at the office, but if you can, a light hike is the best option. Wear your new shoes with the socks you’re planning to wear during your trip. Give your shoes at least two weeks and they will be ready to take you through the wilderness.
If this is your first trip, it’s more than possible that you’ll bring too much stuff and overpack your backpack. However, that’s normal and nothing to worry about. But, if you want to have a lighter, faster and longer walk, try to lighten your load. Don’t just throw everything out though. You need to consider your climate, weather, temperature and route, but there are things you can do to remove unnecessary things from your backpack. The best thing to do is to remove duplicate items. While it might seem logical to bring extra pants and shirts, you’ll probably end your trip without changing clothes. Expect to get dirty and don’t let it bother you—it’s the part of the experience.
Try out your gear
It can be very scary to find yourself in the middle of nowhere and realize that you can’t put up your tent, start a fire or open your knife. Remove all guess-work from handling your gear by trying it out at home. If you want to stay safe out there, you need to be equipped with quality automatic knives, but make sure to study how to open them and use them most effectively. Try out your knife on your Tuesday steak or go out to the backyard and try cutting some ropes and branches. This prep step will not only teach you a few things about your gear but also put you in the right mindset for your hike.
Consider the food
How does “pre-made dehydrated backpacking dinner” sound to you? Probably not so appetizing, but some meals like that can be pretty tasty. However, their main advantage is that they make every meal stress-free, so you can focus on the trip and enjoy your time outside. Once you get the hang of things, you can cook your food from scratch, but first-timers can easily rely on freeze-dried, dehydrated meals to make things simple and easy.
Pick the right route
While huge multiple-day trips might sound attractive, it’s best to start with something small you’re sure you can handle. Trails perfect for beginners are loops and out-and-back type of trails. With loop routes, you can park at the trailhead, hike a big loop through nature and get back to the trailhead. On the other hand, an out-and-back route involves hiking a trail until you reach the end, turning around and heading back the same way. These two types of hikes are great for beginners because you don’t have to arrange transport back and make things more complicated than necessary. Also, before you tackle the Appalachian Trail, start with a few weekend trips!
Be nice to nature
Wilderness hikes always include you not leaving a trace on the trail so you can minimize your impact on the environment. Study the seven Leave No Trace principles that everyone visiting nature needs to stick to. You want to leave the wilderness in the same or better condition than you found it in. Don’t worry, you don’t have to study hard—all of these principles are common courtesy and basic environment protection rules that make hiking safe and enjoyable for everyone.
If you follow these tips, you’ll not only have a great first wilderness hike, but you will also fall in love with this wonderful activity that can change your life forever. As long as you respect nature, pack well and enjoy the hike, you’ll have the best time of your life.