Ten Backpacking Tips for Beginners

Are you planning on going backpacking outdoors? Here are my top ten backpacking tips for beginners. Lessons that I have learned on my own trips.

  1. Pack light: The less things you bring the less you have to carry and the further you can go. You will be amazed how little you need.
  2. Leave valuables at home: Just bring some cash for emergencies. That way you don’t risk of loosing your wallet on the trail.
  3. Let someone know about your plans: In case something happens to you, it is important to share your trip plans with a friend or family member. Let them know where you are planning to go backpacking and when you should arrive at your planned destinations.
  4. Stay hydrated: Make sure to bring enough water and a water filter in case you run out of water. And remember to drink enough water while hiking. The general rule of thumb is that you will need 100 oz. per day for personal consumption plus another 10-15 oz. for cooking dehydrated foods. I own a water filter made by MSR that works great. Familiarize yourself with the area ahead of time and plan your route so that you can refill your water supplies from creeks or rivers along the way.
  5. Pace yourself: Do not waste all your energy in the beginning of the hike. You don’t want to find yourself out of breath in the backcountry and you might need some extra energy on hiking uphill the next day. Backpacking is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
  6. Leave no trace: Respect nature and leave the trail and campsites exactly how it was before you got there. Nobody wants to see a trail covered in trash.
  7. Bring a map and compass: A physical map still works when you do not have GPS or cell phone reception.
  8. Bring a first aid kit: So you can respond quickly if you get injured. REI sells a great kit that covers the needs of up to 6 people for 8 days while traveling in the backcountry.
  9. Bring a cell phone: If you do have cell phone reception, you can call for help in case of an emergency. You will be amazed where you have cell phone reception these days.
  10. Familiarize yourself with the area before you go: Study the topo map and get an idea where your sources of water are. Try to find a trail description online. They might share valuable information on where to camp, what areas to avoid, etc.

I hope those backpacking tips will help you on your next trip. Do you have additional backpacking tips? Please share them in the comment section below.

Chumash Wilderness Backpacking in the Los Padres National Forest

Over Memorial Day weekend, Dana and I did a 3-day backpacking trip in the Chumash Wilderness and hiked the Tumamait trail. We entered the Los Padres National Forest on highway 33 near Sespe Wilderness. From there, we drove through Los Padres National Forest for about 1.5 hours and started our backpacking trip near Mount Pinos peak at 8,300 feet elevation. I highly recommend taking the time and driving through Los Padres National Forest, rather than taking the 101 south and driving up the 5 freeway. The roads are empty and you will see some amazing scenery.

The first leg of our trip peaked at about 8,800 feet elevation (Mount Pinos). From there we descended for about 6 miles to about 6,000 feet elevation and set camp at Mesa Springs campground. The views at Mesa Springs were breath-taking.

The next morning, we started our journey from Mesa Springs in the west and hiked east to Sheep Camp where we set camp for the night. Unfortunately the only trail that goes back to Sheep Camp is the trail we came from. Therefore we bushwhacked east for about 3-4 miles to Boyscout Road (see trail map). It was fairly cold and we welcomed the hot chocolate from a boyscout group that we met at our campsite.

The last leg of the trip was a 4 mile hike from our campsite back to the car near Mount Pinos peak. It was a great adventure!

Backpacker Magazine has another great recommendation for a backpacking trip in the Chumash Wilderness (it inspired our trip).

Trip Highlights:

  • Length: About 18 miles
  • 5,000+ feet in elevation gain (get ready for a workout)
  • Don’t miss the amazing views from Mesa Springs
  • Due to the high elevation, you can expect snow as late as in June (bring warm clothes)
  • Overall Difficulty: 

Below some pictures from our trip: