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Campground Resources

How to Plan a Backpacking Trip

Backpacking trips are gaining popularity as a great way to spend an afternoon, an overnight or even a few months. Regardless of how long you want to go for, there's a lot of planning that goes into a backpacking trip. These simple steps can help you plan your backpacking trip and get you to the trail heads fast.

Step 1:
Determine what trail you want to hike and how long you want to go for. Websites such as Hiking and Backpacking.com and The Backpacker.com are excellent places to start your search. They break the trails up into states and have all of the contact information for each trail. The Backpacker.com also has reviews from fellow hikers, which make picking a trip easier.

Step 2:
Find the right supplies for your trip. Regardless of how long your backpacking trip is, a lightweight pack is essential. Also acquire a lightweight sleeping bag and tent if you're spending even one night on the trail.

Step 3:
Create a meal plan and cater for at least one extra meal. Even if you're planning on a day hike, take extra food along in case you get lost or are hungrier than you thought you'd be. Keep your meals easy, quick to prepare and lightweight. Don't forget to pack a stove if any of your food requires cooking.

Step 4:
Make or buy a first aid kit that includes adhesive bandages, matches or a lighter, a small knife, scissors, gauze bandages, rubber gloves, tweezers and a cold pack.

Step 5:
Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent and a flashlight or headlamp on your backpacking trip. These aren't essential to your survival, but you don't want to be caught without them.

Step 6:
Pack extra warm clothing and water. In lieu of extra water, you can pack water purifying tablets and a water filter if you're sure of finding water on your backpacking trail.

Tips & Warnings
  • Make sure that your sleeping bag is rated for at least -30 degrees if you plan to do any winter hiking or hiking in the mountains.
  • If you're a beginning hiker, start with a short, day hike and work your way up from there. Also look for trails that are rated easy or moderate.
Backpacking Check List

On any trip in the great outdoors you have to plan ahead and make sure you leave nothing behind. Our list is a starting point for the thinking process in preparation for any trip. Make and modify your lists based on:

  • How long the trip will be
  • Can you share common gear
  • Weather conditions (but be prepared for unexpected conditions, too!)
  • Weight of the pack after you finish loading i
  • What doesn't fit into the pack as you finish loading it that's necessary
  • Sleeping Bag or light weight blankets depending on time of the year.

So print the list in a printer friendly format if it looks helpful to you and then customize it to your personal needs/preferences. But don't take all of the following stuff!

Camping with Children
  • Baby Swing
  • Backpack carriers
  • Bottles/sippycups
  • Wipes
Emergency gear:
  • mirror & whistle
  • spare glasses
  • waterproof/windproof matches
  • compass/maps
  • pliers & picture wire
  • duct tape
  • rubber bands
  • tent repair kit
  • ThermaRest repair kit
  • seam sealer
  • sewing kit
  • spare cord locks
  • emergency blanket
  • backpack repair pieces
  • spare batteries
  • Swiss Army knife
  • 50' cord/rope
  • flashlight & headband
  • garbage bags (2) (tie type) (pack covers, etc.)
First Aid Supplies
  • Wilderness Medicine (First Aid book)
  • Bacitracin ointment
  • Kaopecate caplets
  • gauze
  • Ben Gay
  • Band Aids
  • Aka Seltzer
  • adhesive tape
  • safety pins
  • tweezers
  • cough drops
  • eye cup
  • moleskin/molefoam
  • Q-tips
  • anti-gas pills
  • snake bite kit
  • Advil or Tylenol
  • lip balm
  • nail clippers
  • nose spray
  • sun block (25)
  • thermometer
  • WashNDries
  • Ace bandages
  • AfterBite
  • antihistimine drugs (Diphenhydramine 50 mg) or Benadryl
If you fish:
  • fishing pole/lures
  • Teflon fry pan
  • filet knife
Health/personal toiletries:
  • PUR water filter
  • water bottles (3)
  • toothbrush/toothpaste
  • deodorant/soap
  • pack towels (2)
  • trowel/TP
  • DEET repellent
  • Iodine tablets
  • eyeglass strap
  • hand lotion
  • clothes pins
  • medications/vitamins
Cooking:
  • cook set
  • pot lifter
  • bamboo spatulas
  • stick matches
  • Sierra cup
  • utensils
  • stove
  • spare gas/ cartridge
  • white kitchen trash bags (for toting out your garbage)
Entertainment:
  • deck of cards
  • steno pad/pen/pencil
  • book(s) to read
  • binoculars
Sleeping gear:
  • tent/ground cloth
  • sleeping bag
  • pillow
  • ThermaRest mattress
  • candle lantern/spare candles (2)
Photography:
  • camera
  • Panoramic camera
  • spare camera batteries
  • film/unipod
Clothing:
  • GoreTex top & bottom
  • sweatshirt with hood
  • sweatpants
  • hiking shorts
  • spare pants
  • T-shirts
  • GoreTex rain hat
  • kerchiefs
  • camp shoes
  • hiking boots
  • socks (hiking & regular)
  • underwear
Food
  • freeze-dried food
  • vegetables
  • tortillas
  • raisins
  • tuna fish/bread/crackers
  • apples
  • hot chocolate
  • licorice bites
  • mayo packets
  • soup
  • jelly beans/trail mix
How much and what should you carry in the pack?

Are you going out FOR exercise? Then carrying extra stuff is part of the "workout." Are you going out to have a good time and take it easy? Then perhaps certain luxury items are just that -- a luxury. Only you can decide and it usually takes several backpack trips to help you in the thought process. No one else can dictate what you should or shouldn't take.

How much food do you want to eat? How involved will food preparation be? Or how much food do you want to carry? Are you a minimalist or extremist? You probably don't even know and won't know until you've done a few trips.

How many miles will you be covering each day? How often are you willing to stop and rest? How flat is the terrain? What condition are you in? How many are in your group to share common whole-group items? What will the weather probably be like? What may the weather possibly be like? Will you encounter ice? Or a river or creek to ford? There are far too many variables to dictate right and wrong.

Look at the checklist above again and scratch out stuff you obviously don't need or don't yet possess. Add things you want. Then see if it all fits in your pack. If not (and it probably won't the 1st time!) remove items until it all fits. Then try it on. Too heavy? Take out some more. Eventually you'll come to a mental/physical balance where what is in the pack is manageable and your mind can accept what is left out. And then as you backpack, keep a written list of stuff you should have brought or should have left behind. Experience helps me decide what to take or leave behind on any particular backpack trip.