I have been doing the 365 Mile Challenge for a few years now and feel like I have reached a standpoint where I can tackle backpacking. I knew it would require a certain level of physical fitness and, just as importantly, a confident mindset. So I am going for it! But where do you start when you want to push your limits and tackle a whole new activity like backpacking?
The variety of every type of gear available can seem overwhelming (and of course box stores will sell you anything they can), so I started with the most basic beginner book I could find on backpacking gear – which promptly caused flashbacks to freshman Spanish when I realized backpacking lingo is like learning a whole new language. I learned what the “10 Essentials” are, and what THRU (long trail through hiker), LASH (long ass section hike), LNT (leave no trace), NoBo (northbound, SoBo (southbound), BPW (base pack weight), Zero (taking a day off hiking zero miles), and, most importantly, HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike) mean before I finished chapter one.
Then I started with gear. There are more than a half dozen types of tents with that many more features, and that’s just the beginning. Then there are backpacks, and sleeping bags, and pads, and cook sets, and the list goes on. It was overwhelming, so I made my own lists and notes about the pros and cons of the gear I was interested in while keeping in mind the type of terrain and weather I plan to backpack in. That gave me a starting point.
I talked to friends (new and experienced) that shared my interests. They all have valuable insight and are so very important! I learned about social media groups dedicated to backpacking, tips on buying gear without breaking the bank, and honestly most importantly – I received the support and encouragement to push forward with my backpacking journey.
Since then, I have shopped around for (and purchased) gear, read about planning a hike, started planning a hike (on paper), and have planned out a few outings that have a safety net built in. Oh, did I mention I have never been camping, like ever? So my first few “outings” will be practice runs in my backyard and then hopefully joining some friends on an adventure this summer. I cannot wait!
Learning about backpacking is a push your limits challenge in itself, but it is just the beginning of your journey. It is a journey that challenges your knowledge, your courage, and your belief in your own abilities. I still have a volume of information to read, learn, and process not to mention skills to work on, but I am enjoying expanding my horizons immensely.