Backpacking 101

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First-time backpacker? Whether you are heading to Europe or the Appalachian trail, here’s some tips for traveling like a pro.

Pick a destination

Picking a destination is the first step when planning a backpacking adventure. According to The Travel Channel, there are some countries that standout as ideal spots for nomadic travelers.

Top picks on the site’s “Best Backpacking Countries” list include India, Chile, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Ireland, Greece, and New Zealand and Southwest USA.  There are also plenty of tour companies that help travelers with trip itineraries. A few to check out include Gap Year Tours and Gap Adventures. (Lonely Planet also has travel guides for those seeking help planning a backpacking tour.)

For those who are seeking a hiking v. sightseeing trip, here’s a few of the “World’s Best Hikes” complied by the experts at National Geographic:

Mont Blanc— this 100 mile trek through Western Europe brings adventurers through three different countries (France, Italy, Switzerland).

Sierra High Route — 195 miles through California starts at Kings Canyon National Forest and passes through several different rugged mountain ranges. This type of trail is best for advanced hikers.

Others on the list: Laugavegurinn/Fimmvörðuháls Pass, Iceland, Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand, Franconia Ridge Loop/Traverse, New Hampshire and Pacific Crest Trail, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Tip: While some of the trails are arduous and require advance training, there are some great day trips for amateur hikers.

For more on that, see “America’s Best Dayhikes” from Backpacker Magazine. For guided hiking tours, see this guide from the National Parks Service.

Pick a backpack

Picking a backpack can take some research. REI suggests asking these questions before you compare and buy:

What can it fit and will the backpack work for my trip? The size pack you’ll need is tied to the length of your trip and how much weight and bulk you want to carry.

What features do I want? These are the refinements that affect how the pack works for you.

Does it fit? Torso length, not your height, matters most. Here’s the video to find out.

While experts suggest visiting a luggage or sports equipment store to try backpacks on in person, you can also start researching online. Sites like Wayfair or L.L. Bean  offer some great backpacks for travelers, while sites like REI  cater towards hikers.

How to pack, gear to bring 

Packing up for a long trip can take some planning.  These videos from real travelers show how best to pack up gear whether you are hitting multiple destinations or hitting the trails.


Here’s a rundown of the top ten essentials must-haves for safety, survival, and basic comfort from REI:

1. Navigation

2. Sun protection

3. Insulation

  • Jacket, vest, pants, gloves, hat (see Clothing, below)

4. Illumination

5. First-aid supplies

6. Fire

7. Repair kit and tools

8. Nutrition

9. Hydration

10. Emergency shelter

1 comments on “Backpacking 101”

  1. Thanks for the information. You should include the “Camino de Santiago” We just finished the French Route and found it is well supported by communities along northern Spain.

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