Venturing into the great wide open for a few days for the first time? Or maybe you backpacked for Boy Scouts but you are neither a boy or a scout any longer. Whatever the calling to get you to get off the grid for a few days is irrelevant. The point is you are so ready to pack up and spend some quality time with nature.  Backpacking is a great way to immerse yourself in nature and make her your BFF, but you do need to be prepared (remember that from Scouts?) or nature will become your BFFN (Best Friends ForNever) very quickly.

1. Turn Off Your City Brain. When you venture out into the great outdoors, the comforts of home will not be in-tow, especially when you are carrying all your gear to your destination. And while backpacking gear has improved significantly – light weight and quite comfy – it does not replace 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, Sleep Number beds and a thermostat. Your sleeping bag and mat is not anything like your bed, your tent is nothing like your house and that hole in the ground you are about to poop in does not flush (but I personally make flushing noises as I am burying my business with my trusty trowel). Conversely, your comfortable home does not present you with a moon-filled sky, a restful night sleeping under the Milky Way or the chance to tie one on with a Grizzly Bear.

2. Pack Smart. You have all this amazing gear you want to take into the backcountry but remember, you do have to carry it on your back. You cannot just get any sized backpack and hope it will work – and I don’t care if the pack is a Betsy Johnson high-fashion bunny-bling pack. Fashion does not always = function! You need to get a backpack appropriate for your size (and fitted appropriately for you), the length of trip and the weight of your gear. You do not want to carry 35 lbs of gear in a day pack made to carry 10 lbs – even if you have figured out how to bungee your tent and sleeping bag to the outside of it. Osprey Packs have numerous options for all types of trip at a few different price points.  Beginner packers will love the Volt/Viva series since these are fully adjustable, great quality at a lower price point. Or, if you are a gram counter, check out the Exos series – very light weight but you need to invest in the other lightweight gear for your load to work in this pack – like the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL tent or the Big Agnes Flume UL 30.

3. Research the Area. Before you venture out, there is a TON of things you need to know. What is the climate like, is it warmer at the bottom of Grand Canyon than the top? (YES!!), are there water sources and are they perennial?, when is the best time to hike?, are permits required and do I need to purchase in advance?, how challenging are the trails?, should I be aware of tides in Olympic National Park? (YES!!), am I going to die?, etc, etc,. And of course “the Google” has loads of info but be absolutely certain you are gaining your knowledge from a credible source like JRI or the official website of the place you are venturing into. There are way too many opinions out there or quips from people that may never have been to the location you are going, been there once or have a different level of experience that may lead you in the wrong direction. Someone posting a blog stating that hiking Bright Angel Trail was super easy gives you no information and is not affirmation that you should hike it too. This stuff is all mighty subjective so base the information you find on your own personal experiences, fitness level and what you are comfortable with.  Oh, and there are still those strange groupings of paper loaded with great information. I think they are called books – and we have some in our shop!  

4. Train. This means you have to exercise and get ready to hike. For those of you who make exercise a part of your life, you are saying – “well duh” but too many people add hiking the Grand Canyon to their bucket list but forget that there are steps to accomplishing the goal. You wouldn’t add “Run a Marathon” to your list and expect to complete it without ever running more than a 5K, so why would anyone think a backpacking trip where there is no easy access to communications, rescue, hospitals or a masseuse, is a good idea without making sure you are physically capable is jaw-dropping.  Add the physicality of a backpacking trip to the added challenges of living off the grid for multiple days and you have multiplied the challenge. And yes, I trip over my jaw at least once every time I take a hike – especially in places like Yosemite or Grand Canyon. Want to be sure you have a chance of getting out almost unscathed? Click here on some great training information.

5. Lose, or at Least Loosen Your Expectations. “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed” – Alexander Pope. This ties nicely with tip number 1 – in order to enjoy what you are about to venture into, you have to drop your expectations. Expecting the weather to be perfect, witness that same sunset you saw on Instagram, come one on one with a Mountain Goat, having bathrooms with four walls and a ceiling are all sure ways to have a unexpectedly crappy trip. If you go into the wilderness with no expectations – aside from that of making it out alive, you will also find you will have no hinderances. You will enjoy what you see around every corner instead of the disappointment of not getting what you expected.  Wildlife does not work by a time clock, waterfalls are not controlled by a spigot, and the weather is controlled by no one.

6. Eat Right. Backpacking trips are not conducive to packing fresh, gourmet cooking. That said, everything tastes better in the backcountry since you worked your butt off to get there and the scenery is amazing! Backpacking food must be non-perishable (no raw meats), lightweight and packable (no bananas) and easy to cook on a small backpacking stove (no 5 course meals). But you do need to eat and it doesn’t have to be freeze-dried meals with a weeks supply of sodium.  Grab beef jerky, trail mix, energy bars, Ramen Noodles, and mac and cheese. Or, you can go it fancy but that does require a bit more planning and cooking know how. There are plenty of options out there so you won’t starve.

7. Enjoy Being Off the Grid. Not much to say here. You are not going to be able to chat it up with your buds so take your buds with you instead. Enjoy, share and experience life in that very moment – not after you took a selfie and shared it with the world. Be comfortable with just you and the present you are living and get ready for some old school, non-techie fun!

And of course, if you need a little help figuring all this backcountry stuff out, check out what Just Roughin’ It has to offer for your first or next backpacking trip. Want more way cool tips and just plain fun reading? Check out our blog!