Be a Better Backpacker

backpackingThink back to the last time you struggled while backpacking. You probably remember muttering a number of choice curse words as you trudged up a steep rocky incline. Maybe you took a few involuntary breaks as your alternately puffed out your cheeks and gasped for air. The strain of your hiking backpack pulling on your shoulders was giving you a headache, you developed a couple of gnarly blisters on your feet, and you were delirious with fatigue because the cold air and hard ground kept you up the night before. Maybe you even remember thinking to yourself, “Why did I do this?” or, “People think this is fun?”. Don’t sweat it. Here are some tips to help you become a better backpacker, and improve your experience while backpacking.

Have a plan

Knowing a few basic things can immediately make your backpacking experience better. Check the forecast for temperature range, chance of precipitation, wind speed, and times for sun rise and sun set. Get a basic sense of the trail that you will be hiking, and find out the distance, change in elevation, junctions, campgrounds along the way, river crossing, and any other pertinent information. Use this information to plan a basic itinerary including the duration of your trip, distance traveled per day, stop and start times, and a checklist for any items you may need based on the conditions of your hike.

It’s amazing what being prepared can do. Simply making a plan can make you a better backpacker.

Get fit

This one is key. The more fit and in shape you are, the easier and more enjoyable your hike will be. If you’re overweight and spend your free time drinking, eating, and smoking, you’re going to struggle on your hike, and you won’t enjoy it. If you exercise and take care of your body, hiking will be easy, and you can focus on having a good time rather than being winded and in pain. Fortunately, it’s easy to get in better hiking shape.

The best way to get in shape for hiking is to load up a pack and go for a hike. Of course, things like jogging, running, biking, and any aerobic exercise improve your respiratory health, which helps out with hiking. Core and leg strengthening exercises also greatly benefit hikers. Don’t be intimidated, however. While healthier people enjoy hiking more, hiking itself is a fairly accessible activity that can be done by people at a range of fitness levels.

Get your mind right

Backpacking is fun, but it’s also challenging at times. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re getting in to, and don’t expect a cakewalk. If your pack weighs 20 to 30 pounds and you’re hiking 20 to 30 miles over the course of two or three days, you’re accomplishing a feat. It can be physically and mentally challenging at times, so it’s good to have realistic expectations.

Have the right gear

Owning nice outdoor gear and backpacking equipment won’t solve all of your problems, but it will make you a better hiker. A nice backpacking pack that fits properly can prevent strain and headaches. Hiking footwear that fits properly and a nice pair of wool socks will save your feet and can help prevent blisters. A warm sleeping bag and insulating sleeping pad can ensure that you have a good night’s rest before you hit the trail. Trekking poles can make a world of difference, and, of course, hiking apparel is key.

We carry a great selection of hiking, backpacking, and camping gear. Stop by and see us the next time you’re in Northwest Arkansas. We’d love to help you get outfitted for your next backpacking trip!

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