Backpacking, Camping, Outdoor Education

Trail Talk: Backpacking Tips and Tricks

backpacking tips and tricks

You know the last few years with Covid have been a real kick in the teeth for a lot of folks. So taking the time to just enjoy yourself and get out on the trail has been something that a lot of people have turned to. Honestly, during quarantine, it was just because there was nothing else to do. Not to mention that you could be away from others at the same time! It was important then, and now that we are getting back to somewhat normal it is still important to be safe out on the trail. If you took up backpacking or are thinking about it, then these backpacking tips and tricks are sure to help you become more confident. Not to mention, that that they will make you a likable person out on the trail! So as you head into the backcountry take the time to educate your friends and neighbors!

This article was completed in collaboration with Bexar Outfitters. For this and more great outdoor content make sure to visit Bexar Outfitters on YouTube.

If You See Something, Say Something

The first item of our backpacking tips and tricks that you should follow is that if you know something, say something. You know if you see people out in the backcountry and they’re littering then it is important to say, “Hey man, that’s not cool!” Being open and vocal to help protect our environment is critical to our continued use. It doesn’t stop at just calling people out though. There isn’t always adequate cell service and if you are walking down a trail and meet up with some share trail information. Is the path ahead washed out? Are there snakes in the way? Is a storm on the horizon? If so, let those you meet know what you have been seeing.

Not everyone will be cordial and respond back. However, you should do your best to share the information you have so that we can all be safe out on the trail.

Engage in Social Media

Backpacking tips and tricks
Engage in your social media!

You may be surprised that engaging in social media is one of our backpacking tips and tricks. But honestly, it just makes sense. Use your social media as a chance to educate people. When we aren’t out on the trail this is an easy place to engage with others. Just like you want to share information on the trail we should share relevant and accurate information on social media as well. Using the proper hashtags, like leave no trace, can help people quickly find information that they need.

Not to mention it can also be fun to do the gallon bag challenge! This challenge has a growing following online and focuses on picking up as much trash from the trail as you can. You can engage with family and friends and record your help to the environment as you go. Get people excited to protect our environment!

Backpacking tips and tricks set goals
Set goals to keep yourself honest!

Consider Your Goals

The next one of our backpacking tips and tricks is to consider your goals. Specifically, what is your goal? Is it to get out and have fun? Or is it to make the fastest known time on a trail? Is it to explore a natural feature, like a waterfall? Are you looking to conquer the Appalachian Trail? Determine what it is that you’re going out there to experience. If your goal is to have fun and you find that you’re hurting yourself, then guess what. You’re not having fun! Maybe it’s time to slow it down a little bit. Re-evaluate your priorities. Setting goals is important in life and just as important out on the trail. If you are looking for an experience you want to make sure that it is a positive one!

Pace Yourself

Just like with the goals, it is important to realize when you are pushing yourself too hard. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. Remember there is also nothing wrong with stopping. Even if it isn’t planned eat an extra meal to keep yourself going or to enjoy the area that you are in. You know you want to have fun and enjoy yourself. Even with a strenuous goal in mind, it is important to take care of ourselves. That is why it is so important to pace yourself as you go. Having fun while we are outdoors is the whole point, right? Well maybe you have your goal in mind, but we aren’t trying to break ourselves on the trail. We are trying to enjoy a hobby that connects us with the natural world. It is tough to do that if you are driving yourself to exhaustion!

Condition Yourself

Another important item for these backpacking tips and tricks is to condition yourself before you head out on the trail. Exercising beforehand and building up to more strenuous hikes with more gear is very important. If you have the space to where your backpack around with weight in it then this can be very beneficial. It will condition your body to carry the weight around. It can also help you to build endurance in everything that you do.

backpacking tips and tricks - conditioning

A specific exercise that you can do when you’re exercising and conditioning for your hikes is step-downs. These are really easy exercises to do! All you need is an elevated platform. You can start with something that’s two to three inches high with no weight and work your way up to something that’s taller. Really it’s going to be an easy way to strengthen the backside of your legs.

Most people think going up the hill is the most difficult part. However, coming down can be just as hard. This exercise will help so that as you’re coming down off of hills you don’t get jelly legs. You’re going to start by coming up with one leg and you’re going to come down and touch your heel to the ground. Then come back up. You are going to do that in a couple of rotations for both legs. This is going to make it so that you have more confidence as you’re descending and coming down off these hills. Do 10 or so on each leg.

These two things are really easy ways to get some extra conditioning on the backside of your legs!

Trail Hydration and Energy

Another major thing to consider is hydration and energy. Your food and your water are what are keeping you going out there. So take some time to hydrate and eat! If you’re filtering water make sure that you filter enough to fill your bottle. There are lots of ways that you can get ahead, but making sure that you’re hydrated is probably one of the most critical items. Having the food you need on the trail is critical as well. Make sure that you are taking along enough snacks to keep your calorie intake up. Some of our trail recipes can be very helpful in this regard. Having the calories you need and staying hydrated are two major backpacking tips and tricks to help you out in enjoying the trail.

Be Prepared to Help Others

Much like sharing trail information as you hike you should include preparedness items in your hiking pack. Even for short hikes carry some of these types of items in your pack! I like to have a day pack with me. It holds all my goodies. I have my 10 essentials with me to make sure that if I meet somebody that’s in trouble out there I can help them out as best as I can. Having a good first aid kit is a minimum for hitting the trail.

Be prepared for camping by knowing and getting smart on Trail Safety!

Don’t Wait to Hit the Trail!

The next major item on our backpacking tips and tricks is to get out there! Take some time to get out on the trail, like now! There is no time like the present to get out on the trail. You can start small and build your way up, but the most important thing is to hit the trail and start practicing.

I go out on the trail every Saturday with my kids. It is easy to toss one of my kids in the backpack. You know a 25-pound toddler is a really good training weight for my backpacking weight. So find some time to get out on the trail now. It can be a lunch walk or heck you could be doing the stairs at lunchtime! Whatever it is, find time to get out on the trail and practice. Even just parking farther away when you go to the grocery store and getting those extra steps in will help you be more prepared when you get out on the trail!

For a Little Comfort Take a Backpacking Pillow

The next tip is something that not a lot of people think about. However, it will help you get significantly better sleep. If you’re using a backpacking pillow or a stuff sack with clothes as your pillow then for a couple of days before you go use it in bed at home. The fewer things that you can change about your sleep routine the better.

The reason is you get what’s called first night fatigue. This is something that they’ve actually studied in sleep science labs. The first night that you do something different you sleep worse. So, if you’re only going on a one or a two-day backpacking trip that one night’s sleep can make a significant difference in how you feel the next day on the trail. Therefore, the more that you can do to help yourself have a better night’s sleep, the more comfortable you’re going to be the following day. By reducing the number of things that are different the better.

Don’t leave it only to the pillow though. Consider also practicing at home before your trip with your backpacking quilt before you head out on the trail. This is going to help you have better sleep and it’s going to help you have a better time overall!

Final thoughts on Backpacking Tips and Tricks

As you can probably tell, backpacking is a lot about preparation. Whether you are preparing your body or your gear it is important to make sure that these align properly. The overarching goal of being outdoors is to have fun and enjoy yourself. If you want to experience the outdoors comfortably and safely then engage in some of these backpacking tips and tricks. We would recommend that you do all these things because they not only help you but they help educate the folks that are heading out to the backcountry for the first time. We hope to see you all out there on the trail experiencing new places! Until then happy trails everybody!

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