Make preparations for your first hiking adventure | Overnight Hiking: A Comprehensive Guide

Make preparations for your first hiking adventure | Overnight Hiking: A Comprehensive Guide

Have you ever fantasized of going miles into the bush while carrying everything you’ll need to survive on your back? Perhaps the prospect of lonely mountain vistas, enjoying your morning coffee beside a glacier-fed lake, or simply the desire to experience the sense of adventure and connection with nature that comes with backpacking has piqued your interest. Whatever your motivation, if well planned, a nice backpacking trip can easily become the highlight of your summer or year. 

Unfortunately, getting into trekking, camping, and overnight hiking might be difficult due of the latter. I’ll be the first to confess that I was apprehensive before embarking on my first backpacking trip. Is there anything vital that I’ve forgotten? Is our equipment going to work the way we want it to? Everything went off without a hitch for me, and I’m confident it will for you if you follow the basic procedures outlined in this guide to taking your first overnight trek.

Research, map out your itinerary, and choose a short hike!

A vital step in preparing for an overnight hiking is to thoroughly plan ahead of time. The last thing you want is to start hiking and discover that the journey is far longer than you anticipated and that your packing/gear configuration was utterly incorrect. Take your time to research the route, keep it on the easy side of the difficulty scale, and become as comfortable with it as possible ahead of time.

Prepare for your backcountry adventure by doing some research and mapping out your route

Perhaps you learned about a trek or a location on Instagram, while travelling through a national park, or through good old word of mouth. If your interest has been peaked, seek for blog postings or pick up a guide book from MEC or REI that is specifically for the location you want to visit. Websites for national, state, and provincial parks are also excellent resources for learning more about a trek, and they typically offer useful information such as trail closures, risks, and conditions. You can answer critical questions like: Is the trail well marked? by doing some study before starting out. Is it a challenge? Do I need to be aware of any particulars?

For your first overnight hiking trip, choose a trail that is on the easier end of the difficulty scale.

When backpacking for the first time, it is important to choose a trail that is easy and will take less time. The Howe Sound Crest Trail, West Coast Trail, Rockwall Trail, and John Muir Trail are all fantastic trails that can be enjoyed by beginners.

Instead, your first trip should focus on familiarizing yourself with the preparation and execution aspects, as well as the addition of a 35-pound backpack, and ensuring that everything works as it should. Start small and choose a hike that includes designated wilderness camping locations with a few necessities like tent pads, outhouses, or bear boxes, if possible. These tiny “amenities” might make your first journey a lot easier, sparing you the hassle of choosing a location, digging cat-holes (more on that later), and hanging your food. Unless you have some expertise using a compass and a topographic map, it’s also crucial to choose a hike that follows a well-marked track.

For your first overnight hike, how many nights do you plan to spend?

 For your first hike into the backcountry, go for a short trip and plan on doing it for one night. This will minimize your food needs, reduce the amount of planning you need to do, and make your pack lighter. If something goes wrong on your first trip into the backcountry or if the weather turns bad during it, you’re that much closer to getting out safely.

What should you bring with you on a hiking trip?

So you’ve chosen a wonderful trail for your first overnight wilderness camping trip, done your homework, and are confident in the logistics. It’s now time to pack your belongings. What do you have in your possession right now? What are the things you’ll need?

Let’s have a look at the equipment list before you spend hundreds of dollars on new gear.

  1. Backpack

You’ll need a backpack with a solid adjustable harness and hip belt for your first overnight hike, ranging from 55 to 65 liters. Perhaps you already own a fantastic pack with similar specs that you’ve used for travel (many people have successfully repurposed our Khmer Explorer Travel Set for overnight treks), or you have a buddy who can lend you their pack. If you’re out of luck on both counts, consider renting. Many backpackers choose MEC & REI rental packs to use on their first backpacking trip, as the packs are often affordable and come with a variety of accessories that can make your trip more comfortable. It is important to try out the pack before leaving so that you know it’s properly adjusted and fitted to your body.

2. Tent

A good tent is an investment that will pay off for many years, but it is also an investment in the sense that it might easily cost more than $400. If you currently have a compact/lightweight tent, it should enough for your first backcountry camping trip. If you don’t have a tent and are new to backpack camping, borrow one from a friend or rent one from your local outdoor gear shop until you gain a better sense of how you like to backpack (ultralight, comfort etc.)

3. Pad to Sleep On

Inflatable mats range in price from inexpensive foam mats to full-blown inflatable mats. Instead of purchasing an expensive full-inflatable mat right away, it is normally advisable to choose a cost-effective choice like renting or borrowing one for your first camping trip. You can upgrade to a more comfortable and durable type after you’ve got some experience with an inflated mat.

4. Bag for sleeping

This may or may not be something to think about depending on where you’re trekking. You’ll want to have a backpack with a suitable temperature rating if you’re going into the mountains because the weather can be unpredictable (or plenty of layers to compensate for a chilly night). Down and synthetic sleeping bags are common choices in sleeping bags. Down is more expensive, but it is also more durable, lighter, more compressible, with the major drawback (apart from the ethical concern) being its poor wet performance. Synthetic material is more inexpensive and performs better when wet. If you’re thinking about buying a new bag, read this Gear Junkie post for a detailed list of benefits and disadvantages.

5. Pillow for Backpacks

A pillow for many travelers is a dry bag filled with garments that haven’t been worn. Regardless of how light I travel, I will never leave home without my personal hiking cushion. My experience began with the Thermarest Compressible Pillow, but I just upgraded to the Nemo Fillo because of its smaller and more comfy form.

6. Medical First Aid kit

If you’re looking for an essential item to treat a variety of problems, blister prevention is high on the list. You can either build your own kit or purchase one that has all the necessary items included. Just remember to refill any items you use as needed!

7. Knife of the Swiss Army

This is a necessity for any backcountry trip – it can help with many tasks, including cutting bandages.

8. Canister & Stove

This MSR Pocket Rocket stove is perfect for cooking all your needs. Make sure to buy a canister too!

9. Utensils and cookware

If you’re searching for a low-cost solution, all you need is a pot, a coffee/tea cup, and a spork. Remove the handle from an old kitchen pot and bring a pair of pliers if you want to buy a cheap but usable set of kitchen tools.

10. Water Filtration System

Steripen is one of my favourite products. It uses UV light to purify a litres of water in approximately a minute, making it a tiny, lightweight, and effective means to ensure water is safe for ingestion. Even if hiking isn’t your thing, your Steripen will keep you happy. Gravity filters and purification tablets are also viable alternatives. Purification tablets, on the other hand, are the cheapest alternative if you can get beyond the slightly chemical taste of your water if you’re going overnight camping or trekking for the first time.

11. Dry Bag

Even in severe rain, our No Sugar Dry Bag Kit is a terrific method to fill and compress garments or your sleeping bag to keep them from becoming wet. In bear country or to keep your goods away from rodents, a dry bag is an ideal option for storing food, any aromatic objects, and waste.

12. Bear Spray and Bear Canister (Region Dependent)

If you’re trekking in bear country, bear spray is a smart idea to have on hand, and learning how to use it might be beneficial. Additionally, some national parks, like as Yosemite and Grand Teton, may demand that you have a bear canister that has been approved.

Additional goods to bring with you on a hiking trip:

  • Matches that can be used in the water
  • Fire extinguishers — For use in an emergency.
  • sounding a whistle (blast 3 times for emergencies)
  • For dishes – use CampSuds / Biodegradable Soap.
  • Nalgene Water Bottle Additional Water Bottle (1-2 litres) or Water Storage (depending on what your research has told you about water availability)
  • Headlamp Tent Lamp – takes up very little room and is well worth bringing with you. The Black Diamond Moji Book is one of my favourites (on your phone if you have great battery life)
  • Phone Charger with USB Port (and cable)
  • Bug Repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush\sToiletries
  • Balm for the lips
  • Towel that dries quickly (for drying dishes)
  • Toilet Paper Compass Trowel
  • Map of the Topography

For a backpacking trip, what should you bring?

A standard list of items for an overnight hiking includes water, snacks, a map and compass, first-aid supplies, clothes appropriate for the weather conditions and terrain you’ll be hiking on. Depending on the climate or weather conditions in your destination area, you may also want to bring extra layers of clothing and/or rain gear. Finally, consider bringing a tent if you’re planning to spend more than one night out there!

  1. Trail Runners/Hiking Boots/Hiking Shoes

When it comes to hiking footwear, there is no one-size-fits-all solution; it is mostly a matter of personal preference. Some individuals favour trail runners because of their agility and weight savings, but boots frequently win out in terms of support and sturdiness, especially if your pack is heavy.

2. Sandals for camp

Nothing compares to the sensation of removing your shoes after a hard day of hiking. Pack a pair of camp shoes, whether it’s a pair of sandals like Chacos or an extra compact/lightweight shoe like Toms — they’re definitely worth the space!

3. A Few Shirts

Unless you’re going on a leisurely hike, avoid wearing cotton shirts. Merino wool is a better option as it will keep you warm when wet and won’t smell.

4. Merino Wool Socks (two pairs)

Socks are an essential component of any backpacker’s clothing. A pair of merino wool socks will keep your feet warm, dry, and odor-free. If you’re in the market for a new pair, Darn Tough Vermont has you covered with a lifetime warranty.

Additional Clothing Essentials

  • Trekking pants (one pair)
  • Shorts (one pair)
  • Two sets of underwear
  • Hat Gloves Long underwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Down/puff jacket with a small size
  • Jacket that is waterproof and windproof.
  • Pants for rainy days

Backcountry Camping Meal Planning

Meal planning is an important part of any backcountry hiking adventure. If done correctly, you will not have to carry excess weight and will be able to enjoy a delicious meal without having to worry about food shortages. However, if meal planning is done incorrectly, you may end up starving or overburdened by the weight of your food supplies.

Begin by calculating the amount of meals and snacks you’ll be eating while hiking or in the backcountry, and then divide the food among them. Backpackers Pantry’s freeze-dried meals (simply add boiling water) are always an option for convenience, but at $10+ per meal, they’re not for the budget-conscious. Alternatively, seek for goods like ramen, instant soups, different types of rice, and other “just add water” items at your local grocery shop. Additionally, there are a plethora of fantastic DIY backpacking recipes to be found. For some ideas, check out this list from Fresh Off the Grid!

Bring items in bulk if you can, and try to pack them as tightly as possible in ziplock bags. This will help reduce the amount of weight and volume your pack carries. If you find yourself with more food than you need, be sure to bring an extra bag or two.

Here’s a rundown of the food prep I’d do for a three-night hiking trip to get you started. I know I said you should just go out for one night on your first vacation, but I thought I’d show you a plan for an extra day to offer you more meal alternatives! Although this is a plant-based meal prep, there are many variations that may be made to suit different dietary needs.

Meal Plan For A Two-Night Backpacking Trip

(Day 1): Breakfast for Backpackers

Before beginning a backpacking trip, take the time to eat at home, on the road, or at the trailhead. This will be your last chance to enjoy a home-cooked meal for a few days.

Snacks for Backpackers

When you’re hiking long distances, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to take a break to take in your surroundings or enjoy an incredible view. This is also an excellent opportunity to graze by grabbing some of your favorite snacks (like Cliff bars, Lara bars, Kind bars, etc.), fruit leathers, nuts, or trail mix. I usually eat 1 bar in the morning and 1 bar and an apple at lunchtime to keep my energy up.

Lunch for Backpacker

A sandwich or wrap made before departure is a great way to keep hunger at bay on long flights.

Dinner on the Road

Mac and cheese made with chickpeas

To up the protein game when hiking or camping, try this vegan mac and cheese made with chickpea pasta. You can use powdered coconut or cashew milk to avoid carrying liquids on your journey, and add plant-based bacon bits or real bacon bits, depending on your dietary preference. End the meal with your favorite chocolate bar or candy.

(Day 2): Breakfast for Backpackers

Oats with Dried Fruit in a Dash

My personal favorite is stoked oats. Coffee is a must-have! Starbucks Via instant coffee takes up little room and tastes nothing like instant coffee. Consider buying an Aeropress for gourmet coffee in the bush if you don’t mind carrying a little additional weight.

Snacks for Backpackers

We had a good start on our first day together. Let’s keep going! Bring some bars, nuts, trail mix or fruit leather along for the ride.

Lunch for Backpacker

Refried Beans in Tortillas

Dinner on the Road

Adapted from a Good Catch recipe for plant-based “tuna” with cashew fried rice

For dinner on Day 2, we’ll be cooking up a delicious plant-based dish. This recipe features tofu wrapped in seaweed and battered and fried, served over a bed of rice

Ingredients

  • Coconut oil (store in small nalgene style container or GoToob)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Thai pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 handful cashews
  • 1 pack pre-cooked rice 
  • 1 pack plant based tuna 
  • A couple of tablespoons of soy sauce/tamari and rice wine vinegar.

Directions
1. Chop the onions, garlic, pepper, and carrots into small pieces (use the lid of your backpacking pot).
2. Add the veggies and cashews to the hot coconut oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are transparent.
3. Combine the pre-cooked rice, “tuna,” and sauces in a mixing bowl. Allow to warm after stirring.
4. Enjoy your meal!

(Day 3): Breakfast for Backpackers

Replace the first day’s breakfast with the second day’s breakfast! Accept the oats!

Snacks for Backpackers

Snacks from Day 1 in their entirety. a few servings of bars, nuts, trail mix, or fruit leather for the third time.

Lunch for Backpacker

Once again, we’ll keep it basic. Either refried beans on tortillas or nut butter on a bagel.

Dinner on the Road

By this point, you should hopefully be off the trail. Enjoy a well-earned beer and a delicious meal out!

For a hiking trip, how heavy should your bag be?

For those with a petite frame, it is important to follow a baseline rule of not carrying more than 20% of your body weight on the trail. Doing so will help you stay agile and avoid being overburdened. However, for those who are particularly slender or small-framed, this guideline can be difficult to adhere to; in these cases, choosing between going ultralight or breaking the rule may be necessary.

Managing your business, reducing waste, and leaving no trace

Only footprints are left, and only memories are taken. We’ve all heard the phrase before, but it’s especially true for your trip into the fragile backcountry environment. Everything you brought in must be carried out, rubbish must be properly disposed of, and leave no trace requirements must be followed. Pack all of your belongings in a clear, plastic bag and tie it closed. Make sure to pack everything you will need for the trip in this bag, including any food or drinks. If you see other people’s garbage on the trail, be a hero and take it with you so that others can clean up.

Human waste is a major source of pathogens, so it’s important to take the proper steps to maximize decomposition and environmental harm. If you are new to pooping in the woods, here are some tips:

1. Make sure you have adequate sanitation facilities if you’re going camping or hiking in undeveloped areas. Carry water and wipes with you if necessary.

2. Try not to dump your waste directly into nature – use a designated toilet area or carry out all your waste before leaving any location. This includes both fresh and fecal matter!

3. Always keep an eye on wild animals while pooping – they may be attracted by human feces, which could lead them into contact with harmful bacteria or parasites that can cause disease.

4. A spot with dark, rich soil should be found at least 100 meters from any water sources or potential water sources.

5. Dig a cathole at least six inches deep using the trowel. If at all feasible, attempt to excavate the soil in the shape of a plug to make it easier to replace after you’re through.

6. Do the deed.

7. If using toilet paper, you should put it in a plastic bag or Ziplock and avoid putting it in the cathole as it will decompose and break down more quickly. You can also try natural wipes which can be obtained from stores or online. If you’re going to use a stick, stone, snow, or moss (where available), make sure that the area is well-covered to avoid getting any of these things on your skin. Leaves from plants like poison ivy should be avoided altogether as they contain toxins that could cause harm if ingested.

8. Please replace the plug in the pot once you’ve finished watering.

7 Principles of Leave No Trace

When hiking or backpacking, be sure to follow the Leave No Trace 7 Principles: take care not to disturb the environment, use a map and compass to stay oriented, camp only in designated campsites, dispose of waste properly, avoid coming into contact with wildlife and keep your distance from fires.

  1. Plan ahead of time and be prepared.
  2. Travel and camp on solid ground
  3. Proper Waste Disposal
  4. Leave What You Find 5. Minimize the Effects of a Campfire
  5. Keep Wildlife in Mind
  6. Be considerate of other people who may be present.

Bear Country: Security

Bear attacks are rare, but when they do happen, it’s important to be aware of the precautions you need to take in order to stay safe. Most bear action is driven by protection of food or territory. Here are a few steps that can help keep you safe: be aware of your surroundings, make noise when hiking so bears know you’re there, carry bear spray and avoid attracting bears by cooking food in open fires or leaving garbage out where they can eat it.

Travel in a group

When travelling in a group, you’ll make more noise and emit more human smells. This makes bears, which generally dislike humans, less likely to approach you.

Make some noise

Make noise to scare away bears before you and your group arrive. Clapping, loud talking, and your worst singing will encourage the bear to vacate the area. When a fellow hiker, ranger, or advisory has made you aware of a bear in the area, make additional noise to ensure that it knows you are there.

Pay attention to your surroundings and the time of day, and keep an eye out for warning indications.

When walking near a river, it is advisable to make as much noise as possible to alert bears of your presence.

To avoid coming into contact with bears, it is important to travel against the wind and make as much noise as possible. Keep an eye out for areas where bears are known to be active, such as berry patches or undulating terrain, and be especially alert during the early morning and evening.

Keep an eye out for the indicators

If you notice any tracks or fresh feces in an area, be sure to make lots of noise and leave the area as quickly as possible. If you come across a decomposing carcass, be sure to make lots of noise and vacate the area immediately. Bears are often drawn to free food sources.

Bring bear spray and be familiar with its application

Bear spray is a safe and effective way to deter aggressive bears, so it’s a good idea to bring it along when you’re hiking or camping. Make sure to learn how to use it before you go out, pop the safety off, and give it a test. Just be aware of the wind direction in advance. Keep bear spray handy in an holster (don’t put it inside your pack). Unfortunately, bear spray is only effective if you’re in close contact with bears, and not as repellent as you may think. So do not go rubbing it on yourself. If you’re flying to your adventure destination, be sure to buy bear spray when you arrive there since it’s a prohibited item on most airlines (checked luggage and carry-on).

Cook away from your camp and keep your food appropriately

To minimize the chance of attracting bears, it is important to remove any strong-smelling items from your campsite. Place fragrant items like toothpaste, sunscreen, and soap in food storage bags and hang them or place them in a bear canister. Make sure your campsite is at least 100 meters away from the area you cook in and the spot you hang your food. The kitchen area should be upwind of the storage area so smells don’t drift over.

To minimize the chance of attracting bears, it is important to remove any strong-smelling items from your campsite. Place fragrant items like toothpaste, sunscreen, and soap in food storage bags and hang them or place them in a bear canister. Make sure your campsite is at least 100 meters away from the area you cook in and the spot you hang your food. The kitchen area should be upwind of the storage area so smells don’t drift over.

If travelling outside of bear country, a few feet off the ground will provide ample protection from rodents or small animals.

Know what to do if you run into a bear while hiking

If you observe a bear from afar, be respectful of its area and consider returning the way you came. Take a very wide girth around the bear if you need to get around it. If you come across a bear on the trail in close proximity, be cool and remove your safety before approaching it to identify yourself. Slowly back away in the direction you came, quietly conversing with the bear until it recognizes you as people and leaves. RUN! DO NOT RUN!

If you are attacked by a bear, the best course of action is to use your bear spray. Bluff charges are usually just an act of intimidation and rarely result in attack, while using bear spray will likely scare the animal away.

When a grizzly bear comes into contact with you, stay on the ground on your stomach, play dead, and protect your neck and head. The bear may bite or swipe a few times before moving on. If the attack persists, fight back using whatever means necessary.

When attacked by a black bear, fight back by attacking the muzzle. Concentrate on the nose and eyes to avoid injury.

Conclusion

You’ll need to plan and prepare carefully to make your first backcountry trip a success. You will be able to hike with ease once you have gained some experience. The most difficult element will be the first journey, but with careful planning, it should be a reasonably simple task.

Have fun on your adventures!


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