Tips to Remember When Embarking On Your First Backpacking Trip

Todd Neikirk
Photo Credit: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

Backpacking is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. It’s estimated that over 10 million people took part in the pastime in 2020. While people love to connect with the wilderness, there’s some things beginner backpackers should know before embarking on their first excursion.

Dehydrated meals are a lifesaver

Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) displayed in its packaging
Dehydrated meals are easy for backpackers to transport and cook. (Photo Credit: Christopherlin / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

When you’re carrying all your gear, you’ll not have the option to eat much fresh food. There is, however, a solution: dehydrated meals. These can easily be cooked, as long as you have fire and water. They barely take up any room in your pack and come in many different forms.

If dehydrated meals aren’t your thing, other options include pre-made sandwiches, protein bars and granola.

Pack for comfort, not looks

Two backpackers walking in the snow by a herd of yaks
Backpackers should focus on staying warm, rather than looking good. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

It can be easy to stay cool while out in the wild, as layers can always be removed. Staying warm, on the other hand, can be a bit more difficult. As such, backpackers need to focus on comfort, rather than a nice appearance.

Look for warm layers that can easily fit in your pack. You’ll also want to focus on wearing wool, rather than cotton. This may make you smell a bit more pungent, but that shouldn’t be too much of a concern when you’re out backpacking.

Don’t forget to pack the essentials

Mosquito sucking a person's blood
Bug spray is a must for backpackers spending a fair amount of time outside. (Photo Credit: Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

Backpackers are usually so concerned about efficiently packing their bags that they can easily forget important things like sunscreen and bug spray.

These adventurers are going to be spending much more time than usual in direct sunlit, meaning protection is essential. Hikers are also likely to encounter annoying bugs, such as mosquitos, so bug spray is highly recommended.

Make sure you’re prepared to take on such an endeavor

Hiker walking along a mountain trail
It’s important to make sure you’re properly prepared before setting out. (Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

People who have never been on a long backpacking trip might overestimate their ability to complete the trek. As such, beginners are advised against making a long trip to start and, instead, prepare with shorter excursions.

Newcomers can also prepare for hikes by jogging, using an elliptical or walking at home. As well, make sure you’re familiar with how the elements and altitude may differ from your hometown.

Make sure your meals are calorie-dense

Two Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) packages in a cardboard box
Backpackers should make sure the dehydrated meals they select are calorie-dense. (Photo Credit: Tim Boyle / Getty Images)

We already know that dehydrated meals are among the best choices for backpackers, but not all are created equal. They burn plenty of calories when on a trip and it’s important to refuel. Therefore, backpackers should look for food that’s more calorie-dense. Smart choices include oatmeal for breakfast and instant mashed potatoes with dinner.

Water can easily be purified

Stream running below a wooden bridge
Streams along hiking trails can be contaminated, so backpackers are encouraged to carry a water purifier. (Photo Credit: Ben Hasty / MediaNews Group / Reading Eagle / Getty Images)

Obviously, campers should be drinking plenty of water while out, but it’s obviously heavy and cumbersome to travel with. Most hiking trails have streams nearby, but the water flowing through them could be contaminated.

The nice thing is that it’s easier to purify water than ever before. Nowadays, water from a nearby stream can be filtered in as little as 90 seconds by using a purifying wand.

Pack a comfy pair of footwear

Two men sitting at a campsite
Backpackers should pack sandals or comfy shoes to wear by the tent at the end of a long day. (Photo Credit: PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP / Getty Images)

When hiking along a trail during the day, you’ll want to be wearing some serious hiking boots or shoes. By the end of the day, you’ll most definitely want to get them off as quickly as possible. For time at your campsite, make sure to pack comfortable shoes. During the summertime, you can even pack sandals that won’t take up too much room.

You may have to prepare to keep your cellphone working

Man texting on his phone while sitting on the pavement
Hikers who can’t get enough of their cellphones may need to take special precautions. (Photo Credit: Kene88 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

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Many don’t like to stay too far from their cellphones and that includes hikers. Of course, it’s not just about Twitter and Instagram. A phone could be a lifeline if there’s a serious accident. Hikers in cold weather are advised to keep their devices in a thermal bag, as the chill could affect their battery life. Camping stores also sell power banks that can be used to keep phones charged.


Todd Neikirk is a New Jersey-based politics, entertainment and history writer. His work has been featured in,, and He enjoys sports, politics, comic books, and anything that has to do with history.

When he is not sitting in front of a laptop, Todd enjoys soaking up everything the Jersey Shore has to offer with his wife, two sons and American Foxhound, Wally.