The Beginner Backpacker’s Guide

This simple and straightfoward guide looks at two elements: gear and training. This site is funded off donations and commissions, and all links are through Amazon. The aim of this article, however, is to make informed recommendations. We never try to sell stuff you don’t need. Like Fetty Wap chips.

What you do need are the essentials to human life.


Staying hydrated is the most fundamental requirement for venturing out into wilderness and really anywhere outside your home. This is especially true in the arid climates of the Southwest or locales devoid of potable drinking water. You need AT LEAST 1 litre for about every 3 miles you venture, even more so in Summer seasons. Not only do you want to have water on hand for yourself, but you must have backup reserves for yourself or others in possible distress.

Hydration bladder

Camelbak 3L

Most bladders I’ve come across are pretty reliable when it comes to storing water without leaks. This particular one has been a champ for versatility and comfortable packing. It holds 3 litres, so should get you through 6-9 miles total. Most (good) backpacks have a specific insert for bladders like this one, so you don’t have to mess around with it too much and have easy access to your water supply. For longer treks, you may need to find access to water supplies, carry extra bottles, or use a life straw/purification tablets.

The backpacking world is full of arrogance.

Backpack on a budget

The backpacks themselves can get really expensive. And rightfully so. After years of experience and modifications, its nice to arrive at a custom “luxury” pack that feels like you’re carrying butter. But if you’re not looking to blow $750 for one gear item, check this out:

Jansport backpacking backpack

Jansport isn’t just for your first day of 8th grade. They actually make high quality backpacking gear that will last years (as long as you’re not reckless). “Pro” backpackers will scoff at this. I’m not afraid to say, however, that the backpacking world is full of arrogance. Stick with what you need, not what people are pushing to fill their egos/wallets. Mine has been through over 16 locations involving multiday treks, and there is not a stitch missing.

Training Techniques

Of course, the best way to train for backpacking is hiking with weight on you. But sometimes it’s not feasible to go out to remote locations every morning. Even developed hiking trails can be a pain in the ass, as local ones may be overcrowded and full of dogshit. But do go whenever you get the chance. When chance doesn’t do its job, however, here are some suggestions for training.

Quads, Quads, Quads

Focus on all the wonderful, painful, miserable workouts that make you question whether you really want to get into this shit. Follow this routine, and drink plenty of whiskey:

  • 5 sets of lunges
  • 5 sets of squats (2 plyo)
  • 3 sets on the seated leg press
  • Cycle for at least 20 minutes, level 8 or higher

Use weights up to your ability. Don’t cry, I’ve already done that for you.

Practice Posture

Not many people mention this, but practice straight-back/relaxed-shoulders whenever possible. Make it habit, as you need to be fully conscious of proprioceptive processes when making the hike. You will be glad you did. Practice posture in sitting meditation. Practice posture while driving. Practice while you slam doughnuts. Dammit, practice everywhere and anywhere.

Not only does this create good habits, it does strengthen back muscles as well.


A lot of the game is mental. When you’re walking for miles on end, 30+ pounds hanging off your shoulders, your psychological stamina counts every bit as much as physical. There are a few things you can do to prepare:

  • Listen to Lil Xan on repeat for 3 hours straight.
  • Stare at a poster of some unidentifiable mountain until you get to the point where you’d do anything in this world to just go eat a cheeseburger instead. Then proceed to stare for another 40 minutes.
  • Put on headphones. But don’t play anything. Just listen to nothing. Forever.
  • Ask anyone you come across if they want a piggy back ride. Give them one. But don’t stop. Have them on your back until death is imminent.

Happy trails!

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