Factors That Make or Break Your Backpacking Trip

Your backpacking experience is only as good as the gear you take. There are several precautions you can take to make sure your backpacking trip goes smoothly.

  1. Proper Pack Fit: Your back is aching, your head is throbbing, your neck is about to fall off. You should have gotten your pack properly fitted. If you ordered your pack online, chances are, you have not had it fitted to your torso. It doesn’t go by shirt size. “I wear a medium shirt, so I must require a medium pack frame.” Wrong. Having an ill fitting pack could mean extreme discomfort for you. If you have an old pack and feel it is time to check and see if it really does fit you, we suggest bringing it in to your local outdoors store to get an assessment.
  2. Proper Boot Fit: Just like a pack fit, a pair of improperly fitted boots can cause you great anguish and hinder your backpacking experience. In order to prevent a poor boot fit, bring in the socks you plan to wear with your boots and get your foot measured with a Brannock device. Boot fitting is an art and there are many different aspects to the perfect fit. For more information visit Great Outdoors boot fitting guide. Once you have purchased your boots, it is good to try them on in the evening after your feet have swollen during the day. Also, we suggest purchasing your boots several months in advance of your trip so that you will have ample time to break them in. It is never a good idea to wear brand new boots on a backpacking trip.
  3. Loading Your Backpack Correctly: Making sure you fit everything into your pack is one thing, but distributing the weight correctly is certainly another. Most of the weight of your pack should reside on your hips, not your shoulders and back. To make this work, you need to position the heaviest items closest to your back in the middle of your pack between your shoulder blades. If you are going off-trail, it should be up a little higher in the pack, still positioned up against your back. The farther away your weight is from your back, the more your straps will pull on your shoulders and lower back.
  4. A Good Mattress Pad: After a long day on the trail, all you are going to want is a good night’s sleep. A comfortable and compact-able mattress is key in this equation. With outdoor gear technology getting better every year, it is not too hard to find a small, but effective blow up mattress for your backpacking trip. If you are extra concerned about space, you can invest in a ¾ mattress that leaves you feet hanging off. Really, how much padding do your feet need when you are asleep? Not much. Save space and be comfortable, too.
  5. Know the Weather You’re Approaching: When you are planning your trip, make sure you scope out the weather before hand. You will need this information to plan what gear and clothes to pack.  If the weather is somewhat unpredictable where you are headed (for example Mount Washington, New Hampshire), look into previous years during that same time. It is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared in these situations.

2 responses to “Factors That Make or Break Your Backpacking Trip

  1. Great advice!

    I used to agree about the 3/4 length pads until I switched to a full length one. There is a difference. I know it sounds odd, but that little bit of padding under some sore calf muscles and feet really feels good.

    One little thing to add is I always like to recommend people bring a comfort item. For me it’s fresh coffee. There’s nothing like a steaming mug of fresh coffee to start the day (and no, instant doesn’t cut it for me!). It may be chocolate for others, or a real pillow (yes I have seen it done), or whatever. Little things like that can make a real difference if you’re having a bad day on the trail.

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