New to Backpacking and Long Hikes

11:05 p.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
39 reviewer rep
2 forum posts

Hi there everyone,

I've recently gotten really into the world of hiking and backpacking. I'm up in the Northwest and really looking forward to hitting the trails. I'd like to know all the tips to hiking and backpacking (I'm especially new to backpacking). 

Thanks for your help!

4:52 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,993 forum posts

Find a partner with experience.  Read some primers on both the topic in general, and the also about the areas you intend to visit.  Don't be cheap when buying a pack, boots, tent or stove; these items are critical to your comfort, safety and enjoyment.  Always buy boots and pack only after trying them out firsthand.  Borrow what equipment you can't initially afford.  Hold off on long trips in the beginning.  Get into this slowly at first, your initial experiences will tell you how to proceed.

Specific PNW advice: Get good rain gear.  Also get an umbrella, and a tarp you can hang out under, it beats being cooped up in a tent during bad weather.  If you intend to travel in snow country, obtain proper training per use of snow tools and safety.


7:51 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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1,630 forum posts

Research and think about all of the gear you are going to purchase, read reviews, ask questions in the store and here on Trailspace. This will hopefully help you to avoid making poor choices or spending too much/ making poor and costly choices.

Carry the 10 essentials. Practice and learn how to use, maintain, and repair all of your equipment. Plan your trips thoroughly beforehand and look at maps, guidebooks, trip reports, weather, etc. Learn how to effectively uses map and compass.

+1 rain gear is critical in the nw

If you are comfortable with the area you are going, and with the equipment you are bringing/using then you should be off to a good start. And always remember to leave your trip plan with friends/family so they know where you are going and when to expect you back.

Prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance. Plan the trip, your gear purchases, and read as much as you can here on sites like Trailspace or in books. learning how to wear/use/maintain/repair all of your equipment is also a large part of planning.

Other than that its just walking.

8:14 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
1,379 reviewer rep
1,339 forum posts

That's why this site is here. Research all the information that's available, then come back with any specific questions. 

8:46 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
275 reviewer rep
1,377 forum posts

Start sleeping out every night in your backyard or on your deck or front porch, etc.  This will get you used to living on a sleeping pad and inside a sleeping bag and putting up a shelter and living in it. 

9:17 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
228 reviewer rep
26 forum posts

I'll echo what you heard from others, find someone who enjoys backpacking as much as you do, but with a bit more experience, and carry the 10 essentials.  You will learn a lot, and in time, be able to pass on all the tips and tricks you have learned.

A couple of thoughts: Start out with less expensive or used gear, and learn what works for you before you invest in the expensive stuff.  You may even find, like I have, that some of the cheaper stuff is just as good as the top of the line stuff.  This site provides some great, unbiased reviews.

If you are into coffee, Starbucks Via instant is one of the best backpacking inventions of all time.


10:25 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
25 reviewer rep
3,220 forum posts

Find an experienced mentor and get started.  I would suggest the east side of the Cascades for longer trips.  Living in the rain can be very discouraging day after day.  Practice fire skills in the PNW because you will need them.  Learn by experience what to leave out and your pack will get lighter.  Do not under estimate the snow at higher elevations.  Be sure you have crampons and an ice axe before tackling the high passes like Dragontail.  My favorite place to backpack was always the Enchanted Lakes Basin out of Leavenworth via Icicle Creek.  Also Slate Peak, Blewett Pass, and a certain wilderness area no one has heard of.

8:37 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
848 forum posts

start out with some long dayhikes. chance to test your boots and pack. find someone who's experienced to go with. rei offers classes in map and compass skills. take one. ask lots of questions on this forum and at the outdoor store. post your equipment list for additional help. ask about stoves, tents, bags and boots, and most definitely RAINGEAR. there are plenty of experienced backpackers on this forum, so ask away!

10:13 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
39 reviewer rep
2 forum posts

Thanks for your help everyone! I'll get on it!

10:32 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
1,711 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts

Hey Nadster, welcome to Trailspace. You have received some very solid advice above. 

Only 2 things I would like to add.

  • Do not take the advice of the first outfitter employee that you encounter.  I always pay more attention to the advice of the "older" sales people than I do with the college student that is just there during their break. Over time as you become more "informed" you will be able to feel out who is who in the shop and who is just there to sell you anything under the sun. I really haven't had to deal with anyone in shops personally for quite some time because if I am going into a shop I know what I need, and more times than not am getting it while in transit to the trail. I can fairly easily pick out those that are in the shop just trying to make a sale and not truly concerned with truly helping a customer out.
  • This one is big...

DO NOT make it too complicated.

The main thing is that you get out there and enjoy yourself. It is very easy to get enamored with the latest and greatest high tech gear. 

Now granted there are those of us that invest a substantial amount of money into the gear that we use but this isn't truly necessary for everyone. 

(echoing Mike Russel's post)

I know many a person that has hit the trail outfitted with used gear and military packs & bags.

These same people have the time of their life with it. 

Being you are new you still do not know what your style is nor do you know what your trip objectives will be(logging massive miles vs hiking in and camping in one spot for a few days, etc.)

As time goes on and you get dialed in to what you like you can critique your kit to meet your individual needs and preferences... 

...but most of all, just enjoy yourself.

Oh, btw, I reviewed a book that I think would be a great deal of help to you.

Here is the review/book: 

Another book that I would strongly suggest reading is Colin Fletcher's "The Complete Walker IV" and there are a few other's that deserve mention but the bean is pretty burnt at the moment and I can't place the names. 

Here is a link to a past thread that has mentions of a few other books that may be worthy of consideration: 

Once again, welcome to Trailspace.

Happy hiking.



8:13 p.m. on May 9, 2013 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
848 forum posts

yes, definitely read, research. but above all, don't be afraid to ask questions. that's what this forum is here for.

June 21, 2018
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