The Hike Like a Woman community has been consistently amazing. When I was but a wee baby backpacker, I listened to Rebecca talk quietly into my car speakers every Monday morning, telling me about her hikes, her experiences, and being an outdoors person with children. One of the first media spots I did when CampRents was launched was with Rebecca. And now, under Mara’s guidance, I have so enjoyed getting to virtually know the ambassadors and continue to be part of the community. I asked Mara if she’d be willing to share some tips with you, and she obliged with some grade-A knowledge. I’ll let her tell it:
My first backpacking trip was, of course, riddled with mistakes. Lot of mistakes. But I feel this is the same story for everyone. You can prepare and prepare, but sometimes you just have to have experience to see what works for you. However, with that said, you can also learn from mistakes of others.
1. Buying too big of a pack
The first big mistake I made on my first backpacking trip began way before I set a foot on the trail. I made it when I bought my backpack. I bought a Gregory Deva 70 liter pack. But don’t get me wrong, I do love my pack, but I don’t need it so big.
A 70 liter pack is good for multiple days on the trail. And as much as I’d like to, I don’t really take many week-long or longer backpacking trips. In fact the longest I’ve been on a trail was four days. And even then, I didn’t use all the space in my pack.
So why is too big of a pack a mistake? Well because people have a tendency to fill the space. I didn’t weigh my pack on my first backpacking trip, but I’m pretty sure it weighed 40 pounds … for a one-night hike. I now can pack for at least three days and keep my total weight und
er 25 pounds. So yeah, I took way too much stuff.
I bought a 45 liter pack last year, which is actually two whole pounds lighter just in the pack. And sure, I have stuffed it tight, but I don’t take near the amount of stuff I don’t need as I did before.
2. Not preparing for the extra weight
The next big mistake I made was not preparing for how much the extra weight would take a toll on me and slow me down.
I generally average two miles an hour while hiking. So I assumed I would make that pace, even with an extra 30 pounds. I did not.
Another thing I wished I had done was pick a trail that was less steep, because the extra weight killed me on the incline. You don’t realize how much that extra weight burdens you, until you hoisting yourself up hill.
3. Packing way too much stuff
My third big mistake is probably the most common made by first time backpackers. I packed way too much stuff. Stuff I didn’t even need, or really want. I mean I took three changes of clothes for a one-night trip. You know, just in case I fell in the mud or something. I have now have learned to embrace getting dirty while backpacking.
I believe this is the most common first-time backpacker mistakes because you really don’t know what you will use or not until you are on the trail. Although, three changes of clothes is excessive.
One of the most common items sent home by thru-hikers is a book. However, this is one think that I actually do put to use. I love to read, and I love that downtime in my tent after a long day of hiking. But I now bring a Kindle. Which is lighter and small than a normal book.
4. Freeze-dried or dehydrated meals are way better than ramen
On my first backpacking trip, all I brought to eat was ramen noodles. I love ramen noddles, but only eating carbs isn’t going to sustain you through all that extra work you are doing.
I brought tuna fish packets to provide protein, but I don’t really know why. I don’t like tuna. So I didn’t eat it all. When we were off the trail, I was ravenous. We drove into town and I had huge meal.
But something like Mountain House or Good-To Go meals are tasty and packed with all the nutrients that you need. They keep me full much better than the ramen did.
5. Not understanding what the backcountry site would be like
On my first backpacking trip, we got to camp to discover that we were meant to put our tent on platforms. Platforms in this case were raised wooden posts, like a deck.
The reason for these is that backpackers do not keep disturbing the fragile ecosystem by constantly placing tents all around the site. They also work to keep you tent off the ground and away from the moisture and water that is there. Another reason is that they can give you a flat surface if the ground is not flat.
Unfortunately on my first backpacking trip, I did not know platforms were a thing and we did not have a freestanding tent. Our tent needed to be staked out at all four corners, making it hard to hold it down with rocks and/or heavy objects.
Learning from my mistakes
All in all, it is OK to make mistakes on your first backpacking trip. Your mistakes teach you thing you cannot learn from a book. They show you what you is specific to you and what will make you comfortable.
I am an Arkansas native and was was basically raised in the woods. Growing up my family didn’t have a ton of money, but had a huge adventurous spirit. So we went camping … every weekend.
Once in third grade, as I was recounting my dramatic weekend to friends when I got back to school on Monday. A girl asked me why I lied all the time. Being accused of lying didn’t hurt me as bad as the thought of no one believing the crazy adventure was real.
Although I am all grown up now, I still love adventure and sharing stories with other people. A 14-year newspaper veteran, I now works in public relations and marketing. But I still find ways of sharing my adventures and encouraging others to follow find their stories with my blog, www.RightKindOfLost.com.