Are you interested in getting away from your phone and out of your car and having a one of a kind experience in nature?
Backpack camping or backpacking is a great option you should look in to.
It combines hiking and camping into one and tests your skills to survive and thrive on your own and then rewards you with the best views and experiences that can only be reached on foot.
What is backpack camping? Backpack camping is where everything you bring has to be able to fit into your backpack and you will be responsible for carrying that on your entire hike. It differs from normal camping since you will either be changing campsites everyday or you will be hiking into a campisite. Either way avid backpackers will tell you the journey is what sets backpack camping apart from traditional camping.
Each of these topics is important and should not be overlooked. Be sure to read each one so that you will have the knowledge to start your adventure.
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What is the difference between regular camping and backpack camping?
First off, you won’t be around your car. Typical camping involves setting up camp wherever you park, and hiking out from there for the day, with the intention of coming back to the campsite at night.
With backpacking, there is no campsite, and you will be sleeping somewhere different every night.
Finding a good spot to go to the bathroom will not be as easy as regular camping. Camping will typically have this solved for the camper, but backpacking requires you to find and clean up after yourself or dig a hole to bury your waste.
This will be entirely up to you to find this space. You also will need a lighter weight tent that you will be able to pack up and carry it every day, so your tent will be significantly lighter than a camping tent.
You have to be comfortable wearing the same clothes for days and days as well. That space than an extra pair of clothes takes up will be too valuable to lose so you have to find clothes that you will be comfortable in.
What do I need for backpack camping?
Experienced backpackers will look for light and useful products to put into their bag to make their trek easier on them. Every ounce of weight and inch of space in your backpack matters.
What exactly do you need then? You have to be able to fit food, water, a map, a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a tent, and a few other smaller things into one bag. Here’s what you should look for.
- Start with water.
There’s no getting around it. You have to be able to drink half a gallon to two gallons of water per day to stay properly hydrated.
You have to realize that you are continually moving, and constantly burning energy in your body. Just because you may not drink much water at home, doesn’t mean that will work with backpacking.
The tricky thing about water is that it is heavy. This means that you can’t bring all your water with you. You have to be able to find a water source on your trip and be able to purify that water to make it safe to drink.
- Next comes food.
Once again you need to keep it light, but you need your food to be efficient for you. It can’t spoil, it has to be nutritious and it has to taste good enough that you will actually eat it.
The amount of time you are out on your trek should be a good indication of the food you take. If you are going on a shorter trip, you have the ability to pack more food that you think tastes better. If you’re going on a long trip, then you will want to focus on granola bars, trail mix, jerky, and pre-packaged meals that are designed for camping as these will bring you the most nutrition while not weighing you down.
- You will be needing a sleeping bag.
Down bags are generally lighter and provide great value. Check the temperature rating on the bag as well.
While these are not a science, they do give a rough estimate of what temperature you should be able to sleep comfortably in.
The lower the temperature, the heavier the sleeping bag. Check the weather and make sure you have just enough temperature rating to not weigh your bag down.
Sleeping doesn’t end there though. It’s highly recommended that you get a sleeping pad as well.
In some cases, a yoga mat might work but really you want to have a sleeping pad which is effectively a small air mattress. Sleeping on the ground with your sleeping bag isn’t going to work. You need to sleep well to have a good hike and it’s tough to do that if you tweak something while you sleep.
Alternatively, you can use an ultralight cot to keep you off the ground completely. You can find our ultralight cot reviews here.
- Tents will be a big part of your adventure.
You need something that will keep you covered but most importantly keep you dry. If it’s raining at night and you don’t have a way to keep yourself dry, you are not going to enjoy your trip.
If you are looking to sacrifice weight and the weather report shows no sign of rain in the forecast, this could be an option you could leave at home.
- Then there are the odds and ends that you need to get into your bag.
You will want to bring a durable spork. For obvious reasons, this will give you the ability to eat just about anything and not take up more room than needed with multiple utensils in your bag.
- You will need to be able to make a fire somehow.
Check the rules and regulations on fires before you go out as a lot of places have outlawed campfires. You need to have this though as you would rather pay a fine for setting a fire than you would of getting hypothermia because you got wet and it’s cold out.
There are ultralight or backpacking versions of just about everything that you can find for regular camping.
- Have a light source.
Getting a small but powerful flashlight will come in extremely handy at night. A good headlamp as well for setting up camp will be beneficial. There are no street lights in nature. Any light will have to come from you alone.
- Some helpful extras.
As far as extra clothing items you will need, you will want a lightweight rain jacket in case you run into rain while hiking. On top of that, buying a nice pair of wool hiking socks will be extremely beneficial in keeping you warm as well.
For a really detailed list check out our article- What should I pack for ultralight backpacking? ( We will Tell You bonus videos )
Get the right backpack.
Research the backpack that you want to bring. Internal frame backpacks are lighter in general and are popular among backpackers.
Hydration backpacks can come in handy as well as it will store your water for you, while also giving you a spicket to drink out of.
You will want a specific backpack for hiking though. They have frames that help take the weight off of your back and disperse it throughout your body.
Footwear while backpacking is important.
Make sure that you have a comfortable pair of boots. Comfort is the key with these.
Break them in before you go out for multiple days at a time. If they’re uncomfortable before you take them out, they won’t be any more comfortable after you’ve worn them for two days straight. Make sure you will be fine walking around in them.
I personally prefer some sort of hybrid boot/shoe made for hiking. Columbia has some great hiking shoes that will stand up to the test.
Be kind to nature.
Leave No Trace is the name of the ethics that come with backpacking. Respect for nature and creating a great experience for every backpacker is what everyone strives for. These are the ethics expected of you.
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors.
These obviously aren’t hard rules to follow but they are something that do deserve respect when you are planning your trip.
Have a plan hiking plan.
That leads to the next point. You have to have a plan for your trip. If something goes wrong while backpacking, you are not close enough to civilization to get help quickly.
Have your route planned out so that you know where you will be stopping each night, where you will find water, and how far it is to certain landmarks along your path?
Plan out your backpack as well. Think about the things that you need most and make sure they are in your bag
You also need to be physically able to complete your journey as well. Starting your backpacking career with a ten-day hike while being overweight and untested in the wilderness isn’t a great idea. You should start with a one day hike and see what you were good at and what you need to learn how to do and then build from there.
If you have the ability to go with someone who is experienced as a backpacker, then you should take advantage of that situation.
Their experience will teach you the tricks and skills you need to have a good backpacking adventure without having to learn everything the hard way.
Backpack Camping is a thoroughly enjoyable experience that everyone should experience. Make sure to plan correctly and you will get to see parts of the world that many people never will.
How do you carry a tent when backpacking?
Strap your tent poles to the outside, either vertically near the water containers or horizontally at the top or bottom of the pack. Put your sleeping bag and tent in one giant stuff sack, you must roll them as tight and neat as possible, and strap it to the bottom section of the backpack.
What is backcountry camping?
Backcountry camping is simply camping at a designated site or trail site that is far from any roads, cities or towns.
Check out this article we wrote for an in-depth look- Backcountry Camping (What is it, Dangers, Packing)