How to Plan a Backpacking Trip – Preparing for Adventure

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“To achieve great things, all you need is a plan, and not quite enough time.” The same goes for backpacking. If you want to have a great backpacking trip, you need to carefully plan it out from the moment you arrive to the day you leave. Read this article to be aware of everything you need to know and the arrangements you need to make.

What Are Your Goals?

If you ask me what I want out of a backpacking trip, I would tell you that I want to sit in the silence of nature and hike through the majestic scenery of the wild. Your aims may be different. Some prefer short spurts with lots of time to think. Others may want to hike as quick as possible. All in all though, you have to decide what you want for yourself. Each person has a different aim for what they want out of a trip.

Where to?

There are hundreds of trails and parks to choose from. Each one is unique in its own way and more different from the last one. To best figure out the place to travel to, you have to know your personal preferences. As such, here are some important things to help you decide:

  • Find out your preferences. Everyone of us likes something “our own way.” As a Californian born and raised, I like sunny weather. Because of that, I usually go backpacking in places that are sunny. When I backpack, I look for parks like that. You need to know what you like and then travel to a park that is similar to your inclinations.
  • Search for trails. There are hundreds of trails to choose from. On any trip, there are particular paths for you to take. Find them out, so you know what to take when you arrive. If you click on the link, you will be taken to
  • Google images. If you want an idea of what a place you are considering is going to look like, then you can google images of that location. It will give you an idea of what you will see and the general environment of the area.

Each park is going to be different and offer its own unique scenery and sites. Find out the top sites to see and incorporate them into your trip.

The Route

When you go into the wild, there needs to be a particular route that you follow. You need to plan out where you will spend each night. Doing so ensures that your safety.

When you plan it out, you need to distinguish the three types of backpacking trails that are out there:

  • Will it be in and out? Some backpacking trails just go straight in and then you come back the way you came in. These will not require you to arrange a different pick up.
  • Is it a loop? Other trails start in one spot and then return to the same spot in a loop.
    This follows the same result as the first kind.
  • Or will it be in and then out a different way? If that is the case, then you will need to arrange a ride on the other end. It may be your friend or it may be a shuttle. It is up to you.

Be aware of the route you are taking by using a map or a GPS. A lot of parks have rivers, gorges, and/or impassable terrain. Mark these on a map, so they do not come as a surprise when you are hiking on the trail. By being aware of all the terrain, it not only keeps you safe, but makes for a more enjoyable trip.

Design a Meal Plan

It may take a bit of time to properly design a meal plan, but it is critical to have an arranged meal plan before your trip. Doing so prevents hunger on a trip. If you are hunger, then you are not a happy camper. I provide an in depth guide that goes into more detail on this subject. The short answer is to set aside a meal for each day in a labeled zip lock bag. The long answer is in the article.

Bring Your Friends

While it can be therapeutic to go it alone, it is can be just as enjoyable if not more to go with others. Backpacking is a bonding experience like no other. By “roughing it” together, you and your friends will forge even stronger
friendships. Backpacking is a form of communal living. As such, youshare everything and learn about one another better because of it.

As an aside, I remember when I was Kenya camping out in the bush. I was there with people I barely even knew. Nobody I knew was there with me and most were strangers to me. After spending ten days in the bush together, we formed really strong bonds and memories that we will keep with each other for a lifetime.

Backpack with your friends for a few days and you will forge a relationship that will last a lifetime.

Gear Check

Each trail is going to be different. As such, each one is going to require different gear for a great trip. Before each trip, you need to make sure that you have all the proper tools at your disposal. Some will require warm clothing while others will need colder weather clothing. Be sure to take a look at gear options available to you.

On top of that, talk to anyone you might be traveling with in order to coordinate the gear load. If two people can share a tent or a stove, then it is more efficient.

Get Permits

Depending on where you go, you may be required to have certain paperwork to be allowed there. Each park is going to vary. Some parks require months in advance while others only need a bit of notice.

An important trick to know about this is that paperwork is sometimes only required for certain trails. In other words, if you start at a different spot, you can see all the scenery you want without all the hassle of filing and awaiting a response. It is an option to seriously consider.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you now know how to prepare for a backpacking trip. In taking this step into nature, you will see towering trees, frockling wildlife, and rising mountains. Be sure to take lots of pictures and live in the moment. Enjoy your time and let the trip take over.

If you have any thoughts on this article or think I missed anything, please be sure to comment below. Thank you for reading and I hope you make today a great day.

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16 Comments on “How to Plan a Backpacking Trip – Preparing for Adventure”

  1. I have always wanted to hike and track but didnt know where to start this is perfect. I have learnt heaps and shared this with a few friends who are also keen. Do having all the right gear cost a lot of money?

    1. Hello Charlotte,

      The right gear does not have to cost a lot of money. You have options. REI has regular “garage sales” where they sell returned items for very low prices. In fact, I got my first backpacking pack there for $150, originally it was $300. Yes, they are used products, but barely. You can find a lot of what you will need there. On top of that, you can also search around your house and go to yard sales. Check out Craigslist and other similar sites. Thank you for your question and I hope you MAKE it a great day!


  2. Me and my wife plan on going on our first backpacking trip next year. This information was very helpful and will help us better prepare for that time when it comes. Thank you so much for this.

    1. Thank you so much William! It is great to hear that you and your wife will be backpacking. That sounds like it will be really fun. Be sure to take a lot of pictures.

  3. I was thinking of backpacking with friends and totally agree that in a trip like this, each person may have his or her own goals to aim for. Therefore, it is important to think for one another. I have seen team bonding trips that turned sour because the members couldn’t agree on the things to do (ex. meals, routes, destinations to cover etc.) It is always good to discuss and have some basic consensus before the trip and to stay flexible when the trip is underway.

    1. Yes Jude, each person on a backpacking trip may have different goals, so it is important to be on the same page. I am sorry to hear that some trips turned out bad because of disagreements. At least now you have a better understanding of what to do for a trip. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. What a beautifully written post! This brings me back to when I went backpacking around Europe when I was 18, I can definitely say it was one of the best things I have ever done!
    I would definitely love to do more backpacking, you get so see some incredible scenery and meet amazing people, I will never forget seeing the sunrise in Venice as I was packing my tent up, back then I had a disposable camera so my picture doesn’t do it justice but I can still see it clearly in my mind!
    You have definitely inspired me to get the rucksack on again and go adventuring!

    1. I appreciate the compliment Colleen. It is nice to hear that this article brought up positive memories for you. Venice sounds amazing. Your being inspired is an incredible, added bonus. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. Hi there,
    Many thanks for this informative and detailed post on how to go packpacking safetly and at the same time be able to enjoy the experience.
    Proper planning will save us a lot of grief and hassle and the thing about it is it only takes a few minutes to write out a checklist and ensure that all the boxes are ticked before departure.
    Being at one with nature is a special experience, I agree and also to camp out at night is even more special, as you have graciously outlined here in this great review.
    If the images on this post are anything to go by, you sure have senn some fantastic scenery.
    It’s always great to take some fantastic photographs., so that one can look back at them in years to come.
    Thanks again and continued success,
    Cheers Phil Browne

    1. Hello Phil, I appreciate the compliment. When backpacking, you do not want to forget anything, so this list was thorough. It only takes a little bit longer, but you reap a lot of benefits because of it.

      Nature has a way of getting you out of your head to see the bigger aspects of living. That was what was intended with photographs. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  6. Living in the Peak District (UK) – the place has definitely inspired me, and I’ve been wanting to plan a backpacking trip with a bunch of other hikers for some time. 🙂

    I appreciate the guidance you’ve given, especially when it comes to taking the appropriate gear and food.

    As a newbie hiker, I need all the help I can get for my adventures, both at home and the US.

    Cheers, Alex!

    1. Hey Neil, it is wonderful to hear that you found this guide helpful. Hopefully you will be able to go backpacking with your friends soon. It should be a blast. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  7. Hi Alex,

    Great article!

    I’ve promised to my children to go hiking and camping this summer, and I didn’t know how to start. Fortunately, I’ve found this useful article with all the steps to have a successful backpacking trip, and I thank you for this.
    Do you think I should invest in hiking shoes if we are only starting with backpacking?

    Thank you for this excellent post!

    1. Hey Daniella, it is wonderful to hear that you found the article helpful. If you are starting backpacking, you should invest in hiking boots. They are a long term investment. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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