Outdoor Travels: What is Backpacking, Plus Beginner Tips

Looking for your next adventure? Well, look no further as a backpacking trip may just be in your future.

If you are an outdoorsy person who loves to be in nature and surround yourself with fresh air and greenery, then going on a backpacking trip may just be the right thing for you to do.

It can be a great holiday jaunt, or it can be a cheap and independent way to travel.

So, if you are thinking about going on your first backpacking trip and you need to know what essential backpacking gear you need to bring, as well as which easy backpacking destination would be best for your first backpacking trip, then read on to have us answer the question “what is backpacking?”

What is Backpacking?

Let’s spare no time and get into it, you want to know exactly what backpacking is? Well, it has a loose definition that stretches quite wide.

Different Types of Backpackers

There are backpackers out there who will backpack through national parks with their camping gear and sleep in a sleeping bag in a tent.

And there are backpackers who will sleep in hotels and rent a car or van to get around the country only taking their backpacks with them.

They may seem widely on opposite sides, but they are still technically both classed as ‘backpacking’.

You don’t have to hike the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail to be classed as a backpacker.

You Decide What Backpacking Trips You Want to Take

Don’t let anyone tell you that what you are doing is not backpacking if you prefer to stay in a cheap hostel or hotel rather than in a tent.

This especially applies if there is a cold weather forecast on the horizon.

You can still be a part of nature on your trip by putting on your hiking socks and hiking shoes and following one of the local trails or going mountain biking. If the latter piques your interest, researching suitable trails for your skill level is prudent. And equipping yourself properly with mountain biking protection like helmets and pads allows you to safely revel in the outdoor adventure.

You should enjoy your backpacking trip and not feel like you are pushing yourself while doing any of the available activities.

What Does it Mean to be a Backpacker?

Being a first-timer, you may be thinking that you have to take everything plus the kitchen sink with you when you set out on your trails.

Not only would that be too much to handle, but you’re also setting yourself up for a very tiring trip.

What Does This Mean?

Being a backpacker means scaling down what you would normally take when traveling or going on holiday, and only packing the essential gear that you need.

More than likely backpackers will use public transportation than take their own car.

They will bring backpacking food with them than eat out, e.g. freeze-dried foods, snack packs, and so on.

They will also do whatever they can to save money when they take to the road.

Some Backpacking Tips to Get Started

Now that you know the gist of what backpacking is all about, below are some tips on what you will need to think about before getting ready for your first backpacking trip.

You don’t have to take backpacking classes to understand what backpacking is, but if you would like to go with a group your first time out, and do it with others like you, then go for it!

Choose an Easy Destination

Don’t set yourself up for failure the first time you decide to go backpacking. It might be best if you choose a destination that is close to home and one you are relatively familiar with.

This will benefit you in the long run as if anything were to go wrong, you at least will be in a place that is not too far away so you can call a friend or family member to come and help you.

Pick a Well-Traveled Area

If you fancy yourself a wilderness lover, then you may think that just going off anywhere with your hiking boots on and a well-stocked backpack will be perfectly fine.

However, that wouldn’t be a good idea on your first trip.

Going for an area that is frequented by backpackers and hikers alike, will help you if you get into some difficulties.

Knowing that there are people around you can be better than experiencing it all alone.

Check The Weather Conditions

Going backpacking in cold weather is not really a treat for the first time.

You may grow to love backpacking in all weathers, but ultimately, when you decide to take that first trip, you may want to opt for sunnier conditions.

Whilst this is a good choice to go for, still remember to bring rain gear and a waterproof tent so that if you do hit a snag with the weather you are not ill-prepared.

Get Essential Gear and Clothing

That ill-preparedness will hit you in the face if you do not bring supplies that will make your backpacking trip a fun one.

Sleeping Soundly

For a good night’s sleep, you definitely want a sleeping bag that is comfortable and cozy when the temperatures plummet during the night.

You also need to bring a tent that is sturdy and safe, as a flapping tent opening will not be ideal in the pitch black when you try and secure it back down.

Think of Safety

Going it alone can be an invigorating experience, but, it can also be a bit worrying as you are relying on yourself.

No matter how close you may be to your home or someone to help you, there may come a time when you injure yourself and you only have yourself to rely on.

Bring with you a carry-on first-aid kit that you can keep in your backpack.

This will come in handy if you do run into trouble, giving you that support until you are able to find actual help from other people.

Bring bandages, plasters, tablets, ice packs, heat packs, alcohol wipes, and anything else that you think may aid you if you were to get hurt.

Clothing to Bring

There are a handful of things to think about when it comes to packing your clothes for a backpacking trip –

  • Base layers – long underwear, thermal tops, and t-shirts
  • Insulation – puffy jacket/vest, fleece, hat, and gloves
  • Waterproof – waterproof jacket and rain pants/trousers

Having these core items will support you throughout your trip without you having to bring a whole load of different items to match whatever the weather is doing that day.

Preparing Yourself For The Trip

After making sure you have your destination and all the supplies you require, now is the time to prepare yourself for going on the actual trip.

Get Mentally and Physically Ready

It can be a demanding time going on a backpacking trip.

You will be walking a lot and you are putting your body through rough terrain and different sleeping conditions, so you need to make sure that you can handle it.

Plan a few pre-hike trips to carry your backpack with all your gear in to see how you fare.

Set your tent up and your items so you know exactly how to do them ahead of time to stop yourself from getting flustered whilst you are there.

Tell Your Family Where You Are Going

Inform your friends and family where you are going as well as how long you will be there so they know your timescale and can keep track.

If you know that you will have spotty cellphone service, tell them you’ll check in another way, e.g. at a local cafe, so you are keeping them updated and they aren’t worried about where you are and if you are okay.

Pack All Your Things Early

Packing early can have a benefit, especially as most of the items you will be taking are not for everyday use, so you can pack ahead of time and double-check your backpack before you leave.

This will also help when you do pre-hike/backpack trips as mentioned before, so you can be happy that you have everything you need and can handle it.


Hopefully, you are now aware of what backpacking is and how you can get started with it.

Backpacking should be a fun time out with yourself (or others), so don’t put too much pressure on your trip out, just have a good time and take in the nature that surrounds you.

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