Don't Backpack Until You Read This!

March 19, 2015

Just do it, Nike says. However, there are times wherein simply just doing it will not suffice. Any destination can be a dangerous place if you don’t know what lies ahead. Even the most experienced backpackers will tell you this. Don’t be disheartened though.

Here are some of the ought-to-knows for the novice backpackers.

  1. Learn
  2. Acquire basic knowledge about backpacking. If you must, you can purchase a reputable guidebook for less than ₱500. You may also attend short courses that outdoor groups offer. Better yet, join an outdoor club and mingle with the pro backpackers. Ask questions specifically about proven first aid and safety techniques. Outside the club, make friends with those whose have the same interest.

  3. Get physical
  4. Before you embark on any backpacking adventure, get in shape and stay in shape. Don’t be part of the growing statistics of those backpackers who are suffering from the T-Rex Syndrome. These are the people who exercise their legs only. Strong arms, legs, upper back, lower back and abdominal muscles are necessary when backpacking. Before starting any exercise program though, make sure that your physical health is in its optimal condition. A medical checkup may be required here.

    If you are already into a program, introduce simple backpacking-related activities. For instance, tackle your exercise routine while carrying a 5-pound load so you’d know how it feels carrying a heavy bag while traversing through terrains. Increase the weight of the load and do your exercise routines on rough surfaces. Anything that you deemed challenging may eventually increase your conditioning and endurance levels.

    If you are not into any program yet, you might as well start one now. From the moment you start, however, it should be your priority. Include various activities in your program such as walking, biking and swimming to work up various muscles. Machines are also welcome. Point is, you must include activities in your program that you are comfortable doing and be consistent about it.

  5. Anticipate
  6. The worst mindset of any backpacker is thinking that he or she can get in shape while on the trail. This is very risky on your part, and you’d only put your co-backpackers at serious risk. Also, your company will not enjoy the trip, thinking that a member of the group is not enjoying himself or herself. Thus, failing to train according to the level of anticipated difficulty will impact the group negatively.

    Moral of the story? Work on making your physical condition better several weeks before the trip. Expect how much weight that you must be carrying. Then, prepare a bag that weighs more than 10 pounds that anticipated load. This will be your training bag during the weeks of preparation while doing your routine continuously. Your success on the trail will depend on the success of the combination of your training and program.

  7. Plan
  8. Plan your trip carefully and diligently before leaving home. Your priority is being as knowledgeable as possible regarding what lies ahead. With this, you may better position yourself in making this backpacking trip a good one.

    Communicate your plan with a family member or a friend. Anyone in the family or any of your friends must know your destination. Make sure that you give them a copy of your timetable for practical and safety purposes. Include a topographical map on the copy with information on your exact destination, the length of your stay there and the expected date of arrival. This could be your only link to the outside world in case you get stranded in an isolated area.

    Part of planning is travelling light. Lighten your load by bringing only the essentials. These essentials will depend on your requirements such as the type of trip, its length (in days and miles), terrain and altitude and the total number of backpackers with your group. Definitely, you also need to learn about the kind of weather that you will be facing.

    Plan your purchases well in advance based on such information. You can also do group purchases to make your backpacks as light as possible. Use a checklist so you won’t miss anything.

  9. Listen
  10. First, listen to your guts and second, listen to your body. Importantly, you must trust your instinct when it says turn around and go back. Trust your knowledge and training as well since you will never go wrong with common sense. It would be easier to turn your back on something that you are not sure about and look for alternatives than risking your very life with pursuing an unsure trail, for instance. In the midst of questionable circumstances, it would be stupid (pardon the term) to face the deadly consequences.

    Aside from our psychological selves talking to us, our physiological beings are doing the same thing. In fact, our body can send signals so powerful that they cannot be ignored. It can be hypothermia or hyperthermia, but whatever it may be, respond to the warning signs accordingly.

    Body temperatures change too while backpacking, so make sure that you brought the basics such as jackets, hats, and towels. Your number goal should be watching for dramatic temperature changes. Drink lots of fluids and eat plenty of food that your body needs. Don’t get sick otherwise the trail ahead will be a more difficult one. Eat something to refuel as soon as you feel that your energy is dwindling down.

  11. Protect yourself
  12. With the uncertainties involved, the last thing that you don’t want to happen is to end up in a hospital. What every novice backpacker must know and every seasoned backpacker has in their list of the basics is a travel medical insurance.

    The backpacking itself and the environments that you subject yourself into may not be always safe. There are health hazards along the way apart from accidents and injuries. Sometimes, you get too excited about the trip that you forget to think about your health and well-being while on the trip.

    Getting a policy could be the most important decision that you will ever make as a backpacker. It is an important step in battling the risks involved in backpacking. Thus, after learning, preparing yourself physically and planning ahead, don’t skip visiting an insurance provider. Your insurance provider may even identify risks that you are not even aware of. Well, that’s how you make your backpacking trip even more enjoyable!

    After all, peace of mind and good health is priceless.