Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Hiking


Escaping from the hustles of the modern day’s buzz and hiding amidst the silence of the backcountry is everybody’s dream. Holidaying in the backcountry is a divine feeling, be it for a few hours or an overnight trip.  A lot of teenagers and adults are becoming crazy fans of backcountry hiking as it allows them to rely on themselves and live many adventurous moments actively. The wild backcountry environment demands us to prepare for unexpected endeavors, helps in understanding the environment around us and rewards with excellent memories.

There can be no great feeling than to hike on top of a mountain to inspect the intricacies of the night skies and to witness the early morning sunshine. Backcountry hiking no doubt will renew the spirits of the hiker and offers the joy of shared adventure with companions. Let us discuss some important tips and facts for beginners in hiking here, to help them have a rewarding and cherishing hiking experience.

  1. Prompt Planning
  2. Learn the Fundamentals
  3. Choosing the Location
  4. Choosing the Location
  5. Things to Avoid in the First Backcountry Hiking Trip
  6. Final Words

Prompt Planning:

Heading into the wilderness without a plan is equal to fighting a battle without a sword. Doing prompt planning and base homework can sometimes be life-saving, especially for novice hikers. It is a good idea to have some trail in a national park to before heading to actual backcountry hiking and enrich knowledge from National Park Service website.

The next important aspect is to obtain a detailed map of the trails that are on the plan list. Special focus is on camping sites and water sources so as to plan the trip accordingly. GPS and compass are a must and should be readily available on the mobile handset. All essential permits should be kept ready and someone back home should be informed on the trip duration and location.

Mental planning decides the success of the trip; hikers should get familiar with their gear in advance. Some basic training in setting up the tent, filtering water, cooking, and basic first aid is a must.

Learn the Fundamentals:

Apart from the gear and the properties, it is the knowledge and the skills that take the priority in backcountry hiking. To stay comfortable and safe beginners have to gain some hands-on experience in certain basics. There are some courses available to teach these basics both in theory and practice forms. Some important skills to master before heading to the wilderness are,

  • Learning to filter water to drink.
  • Knowing to use the map and compass for navigation
  • Learning to cook in the wild with a camp stove or with open fire
  • Assessing the warning signs of adverse weather.
  • Understand the importance of dressing right
  • Learning to pitch a tent or set up a shelter by assessing the terrain and environment.

Choosing the Location:

Location decides the level of fun and the success metrics of a backcountry hiking trip. Before choosing a prompt location, it is important to consult with experienced hikers for trip recommendations. Other tools for generating information regarding location are hiking guidebooks and online websites.

Ø  In general, it is a good choice to choose a place close to home so as to dedicate more time for hiking than to driving. It also helps with ample daylight for hiking so as to reach the camp before dark sets in.

Ø  Beginners should leverage on fewer miles roundtrip rather than long-distance hiking trips. This is because walking long with a heavier backpack is a hectic task for novice hikers, and demands tremendous practice.

Ø  Locations with less elevation and moderate terrains are ideal for novice hikers who find it difficult to hike on high elevations with a heavy pack. Making sure that there is water near the camp is mandatory. Locations near large river and lake are the best choice rather than destinations with small springs and streams.

Ø  Seeking summer weather is optimal to maximize daylight hours unless the destination has a heat or fire danger warning. Checking weather forecasts is mandatory before heading for a hiking trip.

Ø  Beginners can consider walk-in campgrounds as offered by some state and national parks. Staying in such a location offers an excellent way to learn some efficient backpacking trips for long trip hiking.

Packing Up Right:

Efficient backpacking helps in restoring energy and strength as it is difficult to walk continuously with heavy packs in backcountry terrains. There is a need to fit everything in a backpack, but it still needs to be compact and lightweight. Some essential items that need to find a place in the backpack are,

Ø  Backpack: The backpack should fit the torso comfortably as it will accompany throughout the trip. It should have adequate padding so as to not bother the shoulders and hips. It can take upload up to 30 pounds and should have adequate mesh pockets for air exchange and ventilation.

Ø  Tent: Tent materials are a must in any backpack to create a shelter at any location. These days, pop up tents have taken over traditional pitching tents and are available in different occupancy capacities. They fold seamlessly; thanks to their steel frames and snugly fits into a small carry pack, weighing just a few pounds.

Ø  Sleeping pad and Bag: The material of the sleeping bag is a priority and a wise choice should be made between synthetic fill and down fill bags. Synthetic fill bags are ideal for beginners as it is versatile and affordable. Regarding sleeping pads, invest in a pad that has optimal insulation and cushioning. A choice can be made between insulated air pads, self-inflating ones and closed cell pads. For those comfortable on a closed cell pad then they save load and money for other useful stuff. Self-inflating ones are the best fit for value and comfort.

Ø  Cooking unit: for beginners a single burner camp stove is the best as it weighs less than a pound. Gas canister stoves are easy to use and affordable for novice hikers. Pots, pans, cups, plates, and utensils are to be kept handy for cooking. Sponges with bio-degradable soaps are to be packed as well for quick cleansing.

Ø  Water treatment: It is important to treat all the waters in the wild before drinking them as water conceals its mystery. The most simple and lightweight option to treat water is to follow chemical treatment to purify water.

Things to Avoid in the First Backcountry Hiking Trip:

There are certain mistakes most hikers do when they embark in the backcountry adventure starting from starting off late to cooking in the tent.

The first pitfall comes with over packing the bag. Novice hikers tend to pack their bag with everything they think might be useful in their trip. The weight of the pack is an important deciding factor for the success of the trip. It is good to refrain from carrying unnecessary extras and rather improvise with things that are important.

The next common mistake is aiming to cover too many miles a day; this will only leave the hiker exhausted for the rest of the trip. The benchmark for daily miles should range from 5-25 miles depending on one’s fitness level. For beginners, the body needs to adjust with the efforts of hiking and can bother the bones and muscles of the back and the knees. Hikers have to listen to the body first rather than to get ambitious with the miles.

Those wanting to hit the backcountry for hiking trips should not ignore the weather forecast before setting out on the hike. If the forecasts warn of rain, then the rain jacket should be kept handy if it says sunny, extra water to be kept in hand and if it stays storm, then it’s safe to stay at home.

The natural flora and fauna of the backcountry zones should not be disturbed with the hiking venture. It is everyone’s responsibility to sustain the nature around us. Littering should be strictly kept at bay and the regulations for the area should be completely adopted.

It is important to stay punctual throughout the camp, from starting the hike to completing it. Cooking in the tent is strictly not permissible as it might burn the tent unexpectedly, or the carbon monoxide fumes can cause suffocation.

Final Words:

Hope our guide is beneficial for novice backcountry hikers to leverage on the best camping trip. It is the knowledge and skill that matters in creating many unforgettable memories with backcountry hiking. It is our general recommendation that novice hikers need not to dive directly into a 200-mile trek but start slow and steady and learn in your own pace.

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