If you’ve been following along in my Backpacking 101 series then you probably have a pretty good handle on the keystone elements for backpacking. This post has all the random little tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years that make backpacking so much fun as well as making some of the harder aspects a little more bearable.
Some of these tips are fun and silly, some can be life savers, and some are things that are just good to know.
So without further adieu, and in no particular order, here are all my backpacking secrets!
1. Mix Mac and Cheese and Chili Mac: Mix the Mountain House Mac and Cheese and Chili Mac together for the ultimate hearty meal. If you’ve got a couple of people to share with, use the whole package of each. If it’s just you, divide packets in half or thirds to then mix together.
2. Clip your camera in: When carrying my DSLR camera around my neck I don’t like it swinging or bumping around so I use a carabiner to clip it to my pack. That carabiner keeps my camera closer to my body and stops most of its movement.
3. Duct tape & super glue for blisters: Did you know super glue was developed to close wounds? Band-aids will fall off when you’re hiking and when your feet get sweaty. Duct tape and super glue will stay put and protect your raw skin.
4. Walk-up permits: I know this year there are no walk-up permits, but in a regular year getting walk-up permits for a trail is way easier than online reservations in my opinion. The online system always seems convoluted and popular trails sell out almost immediately. To get a walk-up permit you just go the day of or the day before and get your permit. A certain portion of permits are reserved for walk-ups. So if you want to hike a trail but there aren’t any permits left online you can go to the ranger station or visitor center (the earlier the better) and get a permit.
5. Paperback book & cards: Easy and light forms of entertainment for when you get to camp at night.
6. Protein cookies: I like to have a little reward at the end of my day of hiking. Protein cookies are a sweet treat that also has some health benefits to it. I like the Quest and Buff Bake brands.
7. Electrolyte gummies: When you’re tired and fading but still have some more miles to go electrolyte gummies are an awesome pick-me-up. They’ll give you that little boost of energy to finish out the day. I like Stingers and Cliff Blok Chews.
8. Talk to a ranger: When you pick up your permit at the visitor center chat with a ranger about the current conditions on the trail you’re hiking. They always have helpful info.
9. What I keep in my hip belt pockets: Lighter, knife, snacks, extra camera batteries, chapstick, sunscreen, compass, basically anything small I might want to get at in a hurry or not get lost.
10. Baby wipe bath: I always wipe myself down at night before getting into my night clothes. It’s nice to feel a little clean even when you’re out on the trail. Plus it’ll help keep your night clothes cleaner longer.
11. Rehydrating your meals: Most of the packaged dehydrated meals tell you to put too much water in to rehydrate and they end up really soupy and mushy. I add about half as much as the recommended amount of water and stir it in and add more from there if it looks like it needs it. I’ll also check a few times during the rehydration stage and add more water if it’s absorbing really fast.
12. Only pack 2 sets of clothes: You really don’t need a whole lot of clothes when backpacking. I pack one set to hike in and one set to sleep in and that’s it. You don’t need a bunch of clothes weighing down your pack.
13. Pooping in the woods: Some people have a hard time going to the bathroom outside, and I definitely used to be one of those people. Taking probiotics and eating healthier trail food (i.e. less carb-y things and more fruits and veggies) always helps keep your insides working at a normal rate.
14. SmartWater bottles: They are light and can be used with the Sawyer squeeze filter if you don’t have the bag it came with. The plastic is sturdy enough not to break when you squeeze and scrunch it but thin enough to be able to squeeze water through the filter.
15. Deet: Great for keeping bugs at bay, really bad for you and your gear. If you are in an area with a lot of bugs and mosquitos Deet is honestly the best thing to use. Just be careful with it and use it sparingly if possible. It’s not a great chemical to have on your skin and it can melt some plastics and fabrics. I have literally watched a logo melt off my shorts after being sprayed with Deet.
16. Hot water bottle: For really cold nights boil water and put it in a Nalgene and put that in the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your toes nice and warm through the night.
17. Earplugs: I have a hard time sleeping when I can hear rustling outside my tent. Nine times out of ten it’s just the wind but my mind always runs wild wondering what kind of critter is roaming around. Earplugs help block out the noise and let you fall asleep peacefully.
18. Extra ziplock bags: They are just good to have for trash, exploding toiletries, and keeping things together.
19. Get fitted for your backpack: My first two backpacking trips I had a backpack that I just bought without a whole lot of thought. But it gave me bruises everywhere and was really uncomfortable. I thought the backpack just sucked, turns out it was the wrong size. It was a small and when I got fitted at REI I found out I needed an extra small, that little difference in sizing made a world of difference. Just because you might think you are a certain size doesn’t mean that’s the right size for you. Do yourself a favor and get fitted.
20. Backpacking Pillow: I never bring a pillow backpacking. It’s just one more thing I don’t want to carry in my pack. But you can make yourself a pillow by stuffing your extra clothes into your sleeping bag stuff sack. A little more comfort with no extra gear.
So now you know all my backpacking secrets. I hope these tips make your next backpacking trip even more amazing! And if you haven’t yet, check out the rest of the Backpacking 101 series for great info on food, planning, gear, and everything in between!
Backpacking 101: Gear
Backpacking 101: Clothes
Backpacking 101: Food
Backpacking 101: Planning
Backpacking 101: Packing Your Backpack
Backpacking 101: Training
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