9 Tips for Planning a Backpacking Adventure

By Alexander Popp 



Sometimes I forget that not everyone started backpacking the same way that I did, at 10 or 11 with my dad, our boy scout troop, and dozens of experienced backpackers, who made it easy to learn how to backpack and camp safely over the years.

But most people don’t have that experience and don’t have a dozen years of near-monthly trips to the mountains to learn backpacking and camping. So, if you’re just now considering your first backpacking trip and have no idea where to start, you’re in luck, because we’ve got some advice to get you started on your way.  


Choosing the right trip for you

The very first step in planning a backpacking trip (unsurprisingly) is picking where you’re going to go. It might be to a mountain view, a backcountry waterfall, through a canyon, or a thousand other destinations, but you must have a destination before you can start planning anything


How far can you hike and how much time do you have?

One important thing to keep in mind when picking your destination is that not every trail is suited for a new or novice backpacker. Some destinations, no matter how beautiful or noteworthy, are going to be too long or too difficult for most new hikers.

So, ask yourself how many days you want to be out in the backcountry and how far you could reasonably hike in that time. If it is your first time backpacking, err on the side of caution, low time commitment, and low mileage.

Most people starting out, try and hike about 5 miles a day and do 10 miles on a longer, harder day. In our experience, that 5-10 mile range is a great place to start.


What’s your backpacking skill level and the skill level of the people in your party?

A good practice, at first, is to underestimate your skill level. Especially on multi-day trips, when aches and pains and exhaustion can compound if you’re attempting a trek that’s above your skill level. 

Before you head out on your big trip, you and anyone that might come with you should do some short- and long-day hikes to test how you handle the challenges you’ll face on your adventure.


Can you handle the climate and weather you’re expecting?

Weather in the backcountry can be brutal at times, both hot and cold, so you’ve got to be sure that both you and your gear can handle whatever mother nature might throw at you. 


Planning your route

Once you’ve got your destination in mind, you’ve got to plan your route – where you’re going to start, where you’re going to camp, get water, and where you’ll eventually end the trip. Everything must be planned out in advance.  


Maps, guides, and online resources to plan

With the internet, it’s incredibly easy to find hiking routes to basically anywhere you might want to go. Start by searching for the area you’re interested in on a platform like alltrails.com or through the website of that area’s land manager, state park, national park, forest service, etc.

With a platform like alltrails.com, you can see information from other hikers about the difficulty, waypoints, trail conditions, and rating of the route you’re interested in. With the platform, you can also map out your own routes and record your hikes.

There are also thousands of different physical books and maps about areas all around the world, that can start you on your way.

Campsites, water, and stops along the way

When you consider your route, you’ll need to plan out all the things you want to see and do, like overlooks, peaks, stops at waterfalls. But you’ll also need to plan out the major stops, like camping locations and where you’ll get water to drink and cook with.

When picking your campsites, make sure you think about whether it has access to water or whether you’ll need to bring it in from another source. This is the biggest thing that serious backpackers look for when scoping out a campsite.


Many areas require backcountry permits, reservations, and other types of permits for backpacking and camping that go beyond day hiking. Be sure to research what your proposed hiking location requires and get the right permits.

Group sizes  

Like permitting, some areas have a cap on group sizes for backpacking in the backcountry, which is a good thing to keep in mind. But beyond that, it’s also important to think about whether the camping locations you’ve picked can handle your group size.


Before you head out


Share your itinerary with friends and family

Almost as important as knowing where you’re going, is having other people (who aren’t on the trip) know where you’ll be during your adventure. Keeping your friends and family apprised of your trip itinerary will ensure that people can find you in the event of an emergency.

To do this, you’ll need to have a plan and stick to it. Which can be tricky in the backcountry, when weather, emergencies and injuries, trail conditions, and other unexpected circumstances. But a rule of thumb when we go out into the backcountry is that our route, stops, where our cars will be, waypoints, and other information will be emailed or left as a printed copy for 1 to 2 emergency contacts. We suggest you do the same.

Make a checklist and use it

In the rush to get going on your trip, it’s going to be really easy to forget and leave something behind. Believe us, we’ve left our toothbrush, pillow, and even our stove at home enough times to know.

Before you head out on the trail, make a checklist for everything – Gear, Supplies, Maps, Everything, and triple-check it.


Learn more backpacking tips from World’s Best Adventures! If you like these tips and want to learn more, join World’s Best Adventures on a trip this winter and spring. We take beginning backpackers, families, groups, and hikers of all skill levels on guided backpacking trips to some of the most beautiful locations in North Carolina. Learn more here.

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