A few weeks ago I went backpacking with a few friends.
In the group we had several experienced backpackers and several novice backpackers. Some of us hadn’t been backpacking since having kids, so we had to dust off our packs and dig out our water filters.
Because our group was so diverse I published a packing list ahead of time and encouraged those in the group to share stoves, fuel, tents, water filters and bear canisters. For the most part this happened.
My goal was to have the lightest pack possible without sacrificing comfort while camping. I wanted to have fun after all!
I was pleasantly surprised that my pack for the weekend weighed a whole lot less than the 3-year-old who sometimes ends up being carried on long day hikes. Score!
But not all my friends were so lucky.
We all had fun but…those of us with lighter packs definitely had a more enjoyable time.
The experience taught me a valuable lesson.
When leading a group it’s one thing to just write a packing list and encourage everyone to follow it.
Pre-trip meetings and packing parties are just as important and I had forgotten about that.
While talking about it amongst #teamHLAW, I decided to ask them to chime in with their best backpacking tips for beginners.
I think you’ll like what they have to say.
“My hubby and I split the weight. He carries the tent, sleeping bags and I carry the food, cooking stuff, stove. We split the other items we take and we weigh our packs, usually comes out to about 25-30 lbs no more. We also backpack with are dogs so they carry packs, their own food and water but if possible some extras like adult beverages 🙂 They do not carry more than 15 lbs ever (we have huskies) We also don’t take lots of clothes, the only extra clothes I bring is socks and underwear, otherwise I wear the same pants and top for days. Those are my tips.” –Tina
“Get rid of a couple filters & get some iodine tablets, push comes to shove you can purify water with the tablets should the filters you have fail.” –Annie
“A good beginners idea is to write down everything you think you will need for the trip. Then before you pack weigh everything and record it next to the item. Then think of ways to reduce their weight. Lighter options of their needs. Need vs Want. Sharing items. Pack once you meet the desired weight.” –Lorna
“Having a list to work off really helps: both to stop yourself from packing unnecessary things and to make sure you don’t forget something important. If it’s your first backpacking trip you can borrow a more experienced hiker’s list to start with. Don’t take too many clothes, and make sure you have enough water and can navigate.” –Ruth
“Lists, lists, lists. Especially between people going, so only one who person brings the shared item or maybe two in case of emergencies. There are so many online resources for what is really needed. Check one out.” -Michelle
“It’s a super small weight reducing tip, but the husband has started taking the packaged dehydrated meals (Mountain House etc) out of the packages they come in and putting them in regular ziploc bags in smaller portions, you can pour hot water in them and they won’t melt. It helped to decrease the weight a little bit and decreased the amount of garbage to deal with after the meal.” –Jennifer
“Know how to pack your backpack. Heavy stuff in the middle against your back. Utilize a weighted list. Every item you want to take and it’s weight. Don’t carry more than a third of your weight.” – Stephanie
“I know it’s a debated topic and might make some ladies squeamish, but I’ve switched to a pee rag and haven’t looked back…I cut a bandana into quarters so it’s not so big and let it dry on the outside of my pack. UV is great for this! I’ve cloth diapered both of my kids, and laying inserts in the sun is recommended in the same way. I definitely give it a rinse at the end of the day, and I picked a distinct color so my family knows what it’s for. Wet wipes and a ziploc bag for anything else. I’ve seen people pack out 1-2 full rolls of toilet paper, and that takes up WAY too much room. I find toilet paper all over the woods behind my house.” –Kathryn
“I use a rag too. Wet wipes and zip bag for poo wipes. Easiest solution I’ve found. Use a cup for that time of the month as well.” –Stephanie
“I agree with Tina – split so there are no duplications – I’m a weight freak – I pack, weigh, unpack, eliminate, repack, weigh, etc...I carry no more than 25lbs. And I make sure I stick to that weight.” –Jill
“Ideally it’s nice to have a group packing meeting before a trip. That way you can figure out what to share, what to ditch, and if there are new folks you can help them pack properly.” –Kate
“I typically pack with guys, since most women I’ve met won’t camp. I’ve noticed the guys in my groups sometimes using it as a badge of honor that they can carry a heavy load. That slows the pace down and wears them down quickly. Meetings are a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page as who’s taking what and what isn’t necessary…as long as no one cuts on things important to basic survival if split up!” -Kathryn
“Best advice: Don’t pack ultra-light, unless you have ultra experience! Beginners will always have a little more weight than necessary. Only things there should be double of are things necessary for survival, in case the group gets split up… whether forced or accidental.” –Chelsea
As for me…I repackage everything! I take food out of it’s original containers. I take my sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tent out of their stuff sacks and stuff them into my backpack. I also take minimal clothing and hygiene items and I can’t stand to have things hanging off my pack! I prefer a Ursack over a bear canister because it’s easier to pack. I like to lay out what I think I’ll need on the floor and then leave half of it at home. After a few trips with a heavy pack you’ll realize how little you really do need.