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If you’ve ever wondered how to clean a Camelbak (or maybe it’s never even crossed your mind), I’m happy to report to you that its SUPER EASY (just like washing your down jacket) and doesn’t require a lot of fancy stuff to get it clean!

There are many different ways you can choose to clean your hydration bladder, but I like to stick with what's simple. So in todays “gear spring cleaning” post I’m going to show you 3 quick and easy methods for cleaning your Camelbak.

But the best news?…. you really don’t have to do it very often at all!

Which definitely appeals to my post backpacking trip lazy mood. I’m notoriously bad at unpacking my backpack until maybe 2-3 days after I’ve returned, so thank goodness hydration bladders don’t need to be constantly cleaned.

Simplistically, there are 3 basic steps to every cleaning method:

  1. Mix your Hot Water and Cleaning Substance of Choice into your Camelbak.

  2. Rinse Your Camelbak

  3. Air Dry

You could get fancy and get brushes and special cleaning solutions for this, but honestly, you don’t need to. I personally don’t.

This is the second post of a series of gear “spring-cleaning” blog posts I have lined up for you for the next couple of weeks, so if you’ve been neglecting your gear and not cleaning it, nows the time to do a bit of freshening up before the summer backpacking and climbing season begins.

GRAB MY ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE STARTER KIT

I created an awesome Outdoor Adventure Starter Kit for you (for FREE). It's filled with 14 pages of hiking, backpacking and rock climbing tips, techniques and inspiration to help you hone your outdoor adventure skills and become the ultimate outdoor badass. You can get immediate access to it below. What are you waiting for?

How to Clean a Camelbak

I’ve got this post broken down for you in two ways: A quick video showing you my favorite approach to cleaning Camelbak bladders, and then extra explanation below for 3 quick and easy hydration pack cleaning methods for reference (plus some common Q&A around cleaning hydration bladders).

Video Tutorial- How to Clean Camelbak Bladder
How to Clean a Camelbak - YouTube

Now in the steps below I’m going to walk you through how to clean a water bladder with 3 quick and easy methods (including the one I showed you in my video).

But first! Let’s talk preventative care!

Care & Storing

Ok, so the best way to keep your Camelbak clean and free of gunk and mold is just to always take good care of drying it out after a trip.

When you get done using it for the weekend, bring it home, drain it of water, and give the inside a good wipe down. Then prop the inside open (like I show in the video above) and let your Camelbak airdry. Be sure to also drain the water from the Camelbak tube as well and let that also airdry.

When you do this after trips, you shouldn’t need to do too much extra cleaning most of the time. I really only “wash” mine every 3-6 months, especially if I have been using it fairly frequently.

Many people also suggest that after you are done drying it, to fold it up and store your Camelbak in the fridge. I don’t personally do this, but it makes total sense as to why that would be another great way to help prevent mold from growing inside your Camelbak.

How to clean a camelbak with vinegar

The tutorial below corresponds with my video on cleaning a Camelbak above.

SUPPLIES NEEDED

  • White Vinegar

  • Hot Water

  • Paper Towels / Clean Towels

Step 1 - RINSE CAMELBAK WITH WATER & VINEGAR SOLUTION (AND DRAIN)

Measure (or eyeball) 1 part white vinegar to about 6-10 parts hot water. I usually measure out about a tall cups worth of the mixture.

Then pour that mixture into your Camelbak and close the lid securely. Spend about 5 minutes swishing the mixture around in your Camelbak. Then drain the mixture out through the Camelbak tube (so that you make sure that gets cleaned too!).

Step 2 - RINSE WITH CLEAN WATER (AND DRAIN)

Now, nobody likes the taste of vinegar in their drinking water, so you’re going to want to fill up your Camelbak again but with fresh water this time only instead.

Swoosh it around inside again and drain through your straw.

Step 3 - AIR DRY

After you’re done cleaning your hydration bladder, wipe down the inside with a paper towel or clean towel. Then put 2 bunched up paper towels (or small clean towels) on the inside to help prop up the bladder for airflow.

I also usually prop a large kitchen spoon or utensil at the front (where the lid is) to hold it up even better for airflow.

Disconnect your straw from your Camelbak, make sure to drain it, and let this air dry as well.

Pro Tip: Store your (dry) Camelbak (or hydration bladder) in the freezer to keep it extra fresh!

How to clean a hydration bladder with baking soda

SUPPLIES NEEDED

  • 2 Tablespoons Baking Soda

  • Hot Water

  • Paper Towels / Clean Towels

Step 1 - RINSE CAMELBAK WITH WATER & BAKING SODA SOLUTION (AND DRAIN)

Measure 2 tablespoons of baking soda with a couple cups of hot water.

Then pour that mixture into your Camelbak and close the lid securely. Spend about 5 minutes swishing the mixture around in your Camelbak. Let the mixture sit for an extra 30 minutes for extra cleaning.

Then drain the mixture out through the Camelbak tube (so that you make sure that gets cleaned too!).

Step 2 - RINSE WITH CLEAN WATER (AND DRAIN)

Again, we want to make sure to rinse the solution thoroughly from the water reservoir, so you’re going to want to fill up your Camelbak again but with fresh water this time only instead.

Swoosh it around inside again and drain through your straw.

Step 3 - AIR DRY

After you’re done cleaning your hydration bladder, wipe down the inside with a paper towel or clean towel. Then put 2 bunched up paper towels (or small clean towels) on the inside to help prop up the bladder for airflow.

I also usually prop a large kitchen spoon or utensil at the front (where the lid is) to hold it up even better for airflow.

Disconnect your straw from your Camelbak, make sure to drain it, and let this airdry as well.

Pro Tip: Store your (dry) Camelbak (or hydration bladder) in the freezer to keep it extra fresh!

How to clean a water bladder with Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is particularly helpful with neutralizing odors in your hydration bladder, should you start to notice your water bladder having a “funk” to it.

SUPPLIES NEEDED

  • Lemon Juice

  • Hot Water

  • Paper Towels / Clean Towels

Step 1 - RINSE CAMELBAK WITH WATER & LEMON JUICE SOLUTION (AND DRAIN)

Measure 1/4 cup of lemon juice with a liter of hot water.

Then pour that mixture into your Camelbak and close the lid securely. Spend about 5 minutes swishing the mixture around in your Camelbak. Let the mixture sit for an extra 30 minutes for extra cleaning.

Then drain the mixture out through the Camelbak tube (so that you make sure that gets cleaned too!).

Step 2 - RINSE WITH CLEAN WATER (AND DRAIN)

Again, we want to make sure to rinse the solution thoroughly from the water reservoir, so you’re going to want to fill up your Camelbak again but with fresh water this time only instead.

Swoosh it around inside again and drain through your straw.

Step 3 - AIR DRY

After you’re done cleaning your hydration bladder, wipe down the inside with a paper towel or clean towel. Then put 2 bunched up paper towels (or small clean towels) on the inside to help prop up the bladder for airflow.

I also usually prop a large kitchen spoon or utensil at the front (where the lid is) to hold it up even better for airflow.

Disconnect your straw from your Camelbak, make sure to drain it, and let this airdry as well.

Pro Tip: Store your (dry) Camelbak (or hydration bladder) in the freezer to keep it extra fresh!

FAQ’S ON CLEANING CAMELBAKS

1) Do I need to clean my camelback for first use? Use one of the three above methods to clean your Camelbak before its first use!

2) How can I clean the Camelbak tube? Nothing too extra fancy here, just make sure the mixture runs through your tube  when you are cleaning the whole reservoir.

3) How do I clean the Camelback bite valve? Use the same solution you’re using in one of the methods above, but just do some extra scrubbing around the bite valve, and rinse with water!

4) Can I use bleach to clean my Camelbak? Yes, you can. You would use similar proportions as the baking soda method (2 tablespoons inside a solution of water), but honestly I chose not to show this method because I personally don’t like the thought of mixing bleach to clean something I drink out of regularly. Particularly since there are other natural materials that do the trick just as well.

5) How frequently should I clean my hydration pack? You don’t need to do this very often if you using your Camelbak regularly and are sure to dry it out well after trips. I like to wash mine about every 3 to 6 months. HOWEVER, if you put anything besides water into your reservoir (like electrolytes or anything with sugar) make sure to clean out your Camelbak afterwards.

Looking for more Outdoor gear goodness? Check Out these articles!

Cheers,

Allison - She Dreams of Alpine


 
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I remember the first time I bought a down jacket. It was one of the biggest investments (clothing-wise) I had ever made and I was proud of that thing! It was my first piece of outdoor-optimized gear and I wore it everywhere. I freaking loved that jacket. In fact, I recommend everyone put a good down jacket at the top of their essential backpacking gear list! Eventually though the day came… after many adventures into the mountains and around campfires… that I could no longer ignore the fact that my dearly beloved jacket needed a bath. Like badly needed it.

The thought of washing my down jacket was terrifying though. This thing wasn’t cheap! What if I ruined it? What if it got all clumpy and didn’t return back to it’s normal fluffy warmness? Would I have to buy a new one? Would I be able to fix it?

Maybe I should just not wash it…

Alas, the day came where I had to be brave enough to wash my down jacket, and put my faith in what I read on the internet to teach me the ways of down jacket care. And now, after years of successfully washing my down jackets and down sleeping bags (in the washing machine), I’m popping in here today to share these techniques and tips with you my friend.

So fear no more! We CAN wash our down jackets the lazy way and still get our beloved friends back in their same fluffy condition afterwards.

And washing your down jacket won’t just help get rid of the smells and stains, it will also help rejuvenate the fluff in the feathers, so it’s good to wash this from time to time (but don’t overdo it). Washing your jacket and restoring it’s fluff will ultimately help improve the performance of your jacket because the fluffier it is, the more insulating your jacket will be, which is the whole point of a down jacket in the first place.

This is the first of a series of gear “spring-cleaning” blog posts I have lined up for you for the next couple of weeks, so if you’ve been neglecting your gear and not cleaning it, nows the time to do a bit of freshening up before the summer backpacking and climbing season begins.

GRAB MY ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE STARTER KIT

I created an awesome Outdoor Adventure Starter Kit for you (for FREE). It's filled with 14 pages of hiking, backpacking and rock climbing tips, techniques and inspiration to help you hone your outdoor adventure skills and become the ultimate outdoor badass. You can get immediate access to it below. What are you waiting for?

How to Wash a Down Jacket

I’ve got this post broken down for you in two ways: A quick video showing you my favorite way to wash a down jacket, and then some step-by-step below for reference (plus some common Q&A around washing your down jacket).

Video Tutorial on Washing A Down Jacket:
How to Wash A Down Jacket - YouTube

Now in the steps below I’m going to walk you through the exact process you need to wash your down jacket in the washing machine without ruining it.

Supplies Needed

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

The beauty about washing your down jacket is that you don’t actually need a ton of fancy supplies. I just use what I normally use to wash my clothes, plus 6 tennis balls in the dryer!

  1. Gentle Laundry Detergent. So I typically use what I have on hand (which is my Trader Joes brand detergent)… now, this may not be the best detergent for down, but I wanted to share what I do just to show you it’s not the end of the word (my jackets have been going strong for 4+ years now). However, if you are looking for something more specific for down, Patagonia recommends Granger’s Down Wash. Outdoor Research recommends Nikwax Down Wash Direct because they say that, “Normal detergents can strip down feathers of their natural oils,” and apparently those feather oils help keep your down in it’s lovely fluffy state! Another recommended brand is Gear Aid Revivex Down Cleaner.

  2. Four to Six Tennis Balls. I typically throw in about 4 tennis balls PLUS I have 2 llamas wool dryer balls (because I learned that dryer sheets are no bueno in general!), so 6 balls into the dryer for me.

Step-by-Step: How to Wash a Down Jacket

As always, before doing anything with cleaning your outdoor clothing, it’s always highly recommended to read the tags on your clothing to make sure there aren’t any specific instructions detailed for your specific clothing item.

Below are the 4 super-simple steps I discussed in the video to washing your down jacket without ruining it’s beautiful fluffiness.

Step 1 - GET YOUR JACKET READY!

Get your dirty down jacket ready to go! Check all the pockets for those leftover treats you might have stuffed in there on your last trip and brush off any dirt. It’s also a good idea too zip up any zippers and fasten any buttons. If you have any “particular” stains on your jacket, you can also spot treat your jacket before putting it in the wash by spot cleaning it with your detergent beforehand.

Step 2 - THE WASHING

Go to your washing machine (preferably a front-loading machine, though I have used a top-down machine before with no issue but the “agitator” of a top down can potential ruin the down feathers), and put your jacket into the washing machine on gentle to normal wash setting with cold water. Use gentle detergent, as recommended in the supplies section above. Do not use bleach or fabric softener (or attempt to iron your down). If you only have a top-down machine, consider taking a trip to your local laundromat if your not willing to risk it. It is also recommended to wash your down with a second cycle of just water to make sure all the soap is removed (but I don’t always do this). If your washer has the option of “second rinse” then choose that.

Step 3 - THE DRYING

When you pull your jacket out of the dryer you might notice that it’s wet and clumpy… no fear, this is normal! Once your jacket is done washing, put the jacket into your dryer with about 4-6 tennis balls (yes, it will be loud), and machine dry low to no heat (I usually put mine at a low heat setting). This could take a few cycles. The tennis balls will help restore the fluff in your jacket. The reason you don’t want to use a higher heat setting here is that you could risk damaging or melting the seams of your outer shell fabric on your down jacket. The drying process can take a couple hours, so just be patient.

Note: if you have any “patches” on your jacket just be aware that this process may require you to add a new patch. To reduce the need to re-patch your jacket, use a lower heat as suggested in the dryer.

Step 4 - ENJOY!

Enjoy your clean and newly restored beloved down jacket!

Pro Tip: Always store your down uncompressed with room to stretch out. For instance, if you have a down jacket you aren’t using, keep it on a hanger so that it can breathe and maintain its shape better. Try not to keep your jacket in its stuff sack until you go out on a trip and need it compacted down. Keeping your jacket stuffed down too long can damage the feathers and their ability to spring back to life.

FAQ’S ON WASHING YOUR DOWN JACKET

1) Do I have to use special down jacket detergent? You certainly don’t have to, just try to use a more gentle detergent on your down. As I mentioned in the “supplies section” above, Patagonia recommends Granger’s Down Wash, but I usually just opt for my normal Trader Joe’s brand detergent.

2) Can I dry clean my down jacket? I wouldn’t dry clean your down jacket unless there were specific instructions on your jacket that instructed you to do so. Dry cleaning uses harsh chemicals that could damage your down jacket.

3) Can I air dry my down jacket? Unfortunately air drying your down jacket will likely leave your jacket clumpy, not to mention could take 24-48 hours (with constant needed attention to make sure there is no clumping). Instead you’ll want to dry your jacket in the dryer as described above.

4) How would I hand wash a down jacket? You could opt to hand wash your down jacket if you’d rather by soaking in a sink for about an hour, just be sure to never wring your jacket dry and instead follow the drying method described above to restore its fluff.

5) How frequently should I wash my down jacket? Keep this to a minimum. Washing too frequently will eventually wear on your clothing and degrade it. For me it honestly just depends on the conditions I’ve been using my jacket in. Sometimes in the winter I can use it for a long time without washing and feel fine. However, when I do a lot of backpacking my jacket can start to get stinky more frequently, so I just base it on how grimy/smelly it is starting to get. There’s no “magic” timing, just do what feels comfortable to you. If you are heavily using your jacket each week, maybe consider washing it at least once a month.

Looking for more Outdoor gear goodness? Check Out these articles!

Cheers,

Allison - She Dreams of Alpine


 


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Back with another exciting interview with one of my good friends Daniel. Again, these interviews are a little different than my normal trail guides or my how-to/tips posts, but I think you guys are going to love this interview I. I hope to add in even more stories and adventure backpacking interviews to She Dreams of Alpine as the site grows, because I think it’s so inspiration to hear other peoples stories to envision what might also be possible for ourselves and our own futures.

Before we dig into the interview with my friend Daniel(which is a video by the way) let me first give you a brief introduction…

background

When I invited my friend Daniel to join me on a backpacking trip to attempt a summit of a California 14,000 foot peak called Split Mountain, he showed up to the trailhead sporting at 42 lb backpack.

“Oh boy... that kid is going to HATE his life soon,” were the thoughts I was thinking (and expressing) to him when he pulled out his heavy-duty pack. We were about to hike up a trail that was about 1,000 feet of elevation gain per mile... (Read: Suffer-fest). He soon understood why I was emphasizing the fact the a lighter pack would be MUCH MUCH better. It's something we both laugh about now, because now he's even MORE ultralight than I am!

Just like last week, I thought it would be fun to share the story of my good friend Daniel's transformation via the outdoors. When we met, he was stuck thinking small (well except for his pack, which was not small). It hadn't even occurred to him that he could probably be doing even bigger things in the mountains... Until Split Mountain.

Daniel transformed from a overpacked-newer backpacker to an all-out peak bagging, mountaineering, solo backpacking machine. In get this... LESS. THAN. ONE. YEAR.

And so can you my friend. :)

GRAB MY ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE STARTER KIT

I created an awesome Outdoor Adventure Starter Kit for you (for FREE). It's filled with 14 pages of hiking, backpacking and rock climbing tips, techniques and inspiration to help you hone your outdoor adventure skills and become the ultimate outdoor badass. You can get immediate access to it below. What are you waiting for?

adventure backpacking interview featuring Daniel
Outdoor Adventure Interviews - From Overpacked-New Backpacker to Peak-Bagging Machine - YouTube
transcription of video

You can also find a transcription of the whole video conversation below. There may be a few mistakes in the transcription, so please keep this in mind! Cheers!

Daniel:               [inaudible 00:00:02] not going anywhere.

Allison:               Okay. All right. This is my good friend Daniel, let me introduce you to my friend Daniel.

Daniel:               Hello.

Allison:               This is actually round two of us filming this because we filmed this earlier outside in the beautiful weather, and then we clicked ... It was a great interview and we clicked Stop Record and then their file was corrupt. I didn't prepare and I didn't ... Now I'm doubly recording, so we shouldn't have this issue, but we're also in my gear room now; this little corner is my gear room. That's a long back story and an introduction.

Allison:               This is my good friend Daniel, and he's patiently doing a second interview with me, so he's the best, and I really appreciate it. But Daniel and-

Daniel:               How [inaudible 00:00:57]?

Allison:               Yeah, [crosstalk 00:00:57], so there will ... I was like, "You definitely deserve ... let's get a beer for this next one," then I walked to the fridge and I have no beer even, so I was like, "I'm really failing in friendship right now," like, I'm wracking some major IOUs in this interview.

Allison:               But anyways, Daniel is one of my good friends and we actually just met not even a year ago. I think the first time that we met was ... We had both signed up for this volunteer event through our works to go volunteer at Yosemite.

Daniel:               Yeah.

Allison:               That was a really fun trip. What do you think?

Daniel:               Saving Yosemite.

Allison:               Yes, saving Yosemite. It was funny because during that trip we actually were supposed to cut down trees, and I remember when we got our instruction we were like, "I thought we'd be planting trees or something." But they were like, "Oh no, we need you to cut down trees," and it was because-

Daniel:               The conifers were invasive or something.

Allison:               Yeah. Like in this meadow area, apparently these conifer trees grow really, really tall and it prevents the oak trees from being able to grow tall because they don't ... The conifers grow too quickly and they shade the area so that the oak trees can't grow. I'm sure I'm messing that description up a little bit, but it was something like that.

Daniel:               That's exactly how it was.

Allison:               So we bonded over killing trees.

Daniel:               Yeah.

Allison:               Just joking. It was a really, really, really neat, like I love ... Every time I go to Yosemite, I'm just like-

Daniel:               Why can't I cut down these trees.

Allison:               No. I'm like, "Why can't I be here all the time." But anyways, it's also like being in these environments, it's a great place to meet new friends, and that's where I met Daniel and got to know Daniel a little bit more. During that weekend, I learned that he really enjoyed backpacking as well, and we were talking about some of the trips that you had gone on. I think you'd just gotten recently back from a trip or two before we met, or something, with one of your roommates.

Daniel:               Yeah.

Allison:               Then I was ... I had made ... I had gotten these permits to do this California 14ner called Split Mountain. It's a class two 14,000 foot peak and I had really been looking forward to doing it; I had never done it before, I never even attempted it before. I couldn't convince anybody to go with me and I ... Michael had actually just recently torn his meniscus and so he couldn't go, and so I was looking ... I was on the hunt for some friends to go backpacking with, you could say, and he was fresh blood, so he didn't know that I enjoyed doing things that are hard and suffer-festy. And so I was like, "Oh, you like backpacking." I was like, "You want to go backpacking with me? I have extra permits." I hyped it up for sure. I was like, "It's a California 14ner."

Daniel:               There's an escalator here.

Allison:               I was like, "It's going to be great. It's supposed to be amazing." I mean, that's all true, but I also left out why ... I did, I think I said it would be hard.

Daniel:               Yeah, and I'd never done a 14ner before.

Allison:               Yeah, but you told me some of the mileages you've gone on and so I was like, "Okay, I think we can definitely do this. We can make it."

Daniel:               Yeah.

Allison:               And he was down, so I dragged him along. And also I was like, "This will be the most epic 14ner to do as your first 14ner."

Daniel:               Oh my gosh, yeah.

Allison:               Because he hadn't done a 14ner yet.

Daniel:               I had no expectation that I would summit.

Allison:               Yeah. So, what were you thinking when I first invited you to-

Daniel:               I was like, "There's no way ..." I'd only done 11,000-something feet, so I was thinking there's no way I'm going to summit. But I'd give it a try.

Allison:               He's always got that "I will at least try" spirit, which is one of the things I like about Daniel the most. So, we went out to Split, so this were a couple ... I think it was a few weeks later.

Daniel:               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Allison:               After this Yosemite trip. We went to Split Mountain and the first challenge that we encountered was the drive, which-

Daniel:               Getting to the trailhead.

Allison:               Getting to the trailhead was a whole adventure in itself because it requires four-wheel clearance, and we took my jeep. Bless Daniel's heart, he beared with me because I wanted to take photos of everything because I wanted to write about it later.

Daniel:               Right. "Look at these rocks in front of my car."

Allison:               I was like, "We must document this," because there was literally no ... Nobody wrote about this trail because it's kind of little ... It's more obscure and there's not good information out there, and everything that we found out there on it was pretty old, like 2012 or older it felt like.

Daniel:               Prehistoric.

Allison:               Well, [crosstalk 00:05:47], I guess it's not that old, but pretty old in the sense ... or it just wasn't very good. So we were sort of kind of like going off of very minimal information. Anyways, so we were surprised we made it to the trailhead, to be honest, because we had read some horror stories about what [crosstalk 00:06:06].

Daniel:               Yeah, everything's washed out.

Allison:               Yeah.

Daniel:               [crosstalk 00:06:08] rocks.

Allison:               And I'm not a huge ... Michael usually does all the four-wheel driving when I do it, and he has a [Miata 00:06:15].

Daniel:               It's perfect for this [crosstalk 00:06:17].

Allison:               He's not four-wheel driving very frequently. But anyways, we bonded over that, we went over some boulders. You always bond when you have to four-wheel drive [inaudible 00:06:25] because there's a lot of like, "Should I go over this rock or this rock? Do you think I'm going to bottom out here or there?" So, there was definitely some bonding there. And then we camped at the trailhead that night. And then, yeah, I think the next day we got started. I remember your pulled out your backpack and I was just like, "Oh-

Daniel:               You were impressed.

Allison:               One of the things that I like to do, and all my friends learn, is I always bring a scale with me when I go backpacking. I do this mostly just for fun because I already know what my backpack's going to weigh, I've already weighed it ahead of time. But I like to see like, "Hey, what does your pack weigh?" I like to weigh their packs and poke fun at them if it's too heavy. But I wasn't expecting how heavy yours was going to be. How much did your pack weigh?

Daniel:               42 pounds maybe.

Allison:               42 pounds. And mine was like 29 pounds. I just remember being like, "What do you have in there, Daniel?"

Daniel:               You wanted to know what my secret was.

Allison:               Yeah, I was like, [crosstalk 00:07:23] like cast iron skillets, [crosstalk 00:07:26].

Daniel:               Yeah, a gallon of water [crosstalk 00:07:28].

Allison:               So, we argued a little bit on that, but he was ... He'd been backpacking for a while so he was pretty sure he needed everything in there. It's funny because he's way more of an ultralight backpacker than me now, but at the time, I remember you felt like you needed all the things that you had in that bag.

Daniel:               Yeah.

Allison:               I remember having that discussion with you.

Daniel:               I need trowel that weighs one and a half pounds [crosstalk 00:07:52].

Allison:               You were like, "This trowel will never break on me." And I'm like, "Well, my trowel is really light."

Daniel:               I can cut wood with this trowel.

Allison:               I was like, "You don't need to cut wood with a trowel." But anyways, I digress. That trip was one of ... like a very good trip. That first day was really hard. It was a very, very steep trail to-

Daniel:               A thousand feet per mile.

Allison:               Yeah, like a thousand feet per mile up to our campsite. And then we had plans to wake up really early in the morning.

Daniel:               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Allison:               We were going to summit Split Mountain the second day, and we followed our ... We woke up on time and we were making okay pace, but we weren't quite going as fast as we wanted to. Also, the trail's a little tricky to follow.

Daniel:               Right.

Allison:               It's just a bunch of boulders and stuff.

Daniel:               Then there was the rain forecast.

Allison:               Yeah, so we made it up ... I mean, you probably don't know about Split Mountain, but there's this really crumbly steep cliff side, and one way is class two, but everything else is class three, class four, so you have to be really ... You have to know where you're going up or else you could end up on the wrong path. It took us a little while because I think we started going up the wrong [inaudible 00:09:09] at first, and then we kind of crossed over to the right [inaudible 00:09:13], so that took time because we had to backtrack a little bit. We were making slow pace. So, we ended up on the ridge line and I think we were about 700 feet, maybe a mile left in the hike, which feels like not very long, but the ridge was a little bit more technical to the very end. I think it was your first class two ...

Daniel:               Yeah.

Allison:               Climb. And then I also knew that the forecast was going to be bad, and the clouds started to get bigger and darker.

Daniel:               They were growing.

Allison:               They were growing. And so I told Daniel, I was like, "I think we should turn around."

Daniel:               [inaudible 00:09:50].

Allison:               He was like ... He was riding the high of, "Oh my gosh, we're almost there."

Daniel:               We're going to make it.

Allison:               Like, "We're going to make it. This is so exciting," his first 14ner. I just totally came crushing down on his world and I was just like, "No, I feel responsible. I don't want to kill my coworker I just met ...

Daniel:               It looks bad or something, I don't know.

Allison:               ... on their first time." I feel like that looks bad. And so I was like, it was like, "I really think we should turn around," because the last thing we want to do is be on the summit of Split and then be in a bad situation where we have to rush down, because you don't want to rush down this kind of terrain.

Daniel:               No.

Allison:               And so we turned around, to his dismay. But he eventually came around, like-

Daniel:               A few months later.

Allison:               Yeah. He eventually realized that there was some wisdom behind what I was doing.

Daniel:               That was my first 14ner and the person leading the trip is hesitating from ... I don't have a platform I can stand on to say, "Yes, we should actually march into the thunder clouds."

Allison:               Yeah. And I'm always like, especially as I get a little bit older, I'm always more erring on the side of caution, it seems like. But anyways. But after that trip, you went on to go do some other exciting hikes and stuff. What did you do after our Split Mountain hike?

Daniel:               Well, so I went and did Williamson a few weeks later.

Allison:               By himself.

Daniel:               By myself.

Allison:               Yes, which is another 14ner, just to clarify [crosstalk 00:11:22].

Daniel:               Yes. It's the second tallest 14ner after Whitney, and I had ... We were talking about this book for training, exercise, Training for the New Alpinism.

Allison:               Training for the New Alpinism.

Daniel:               That proved just absolutely crucial because I had never worked on my abs before, my core, my upper body, it's like, "Why do I need to do that? I'm just marching on the ground." But with Williamson, on later summits, it became quite helpful.

Allison:               Yeah, that book in particular, it's a great ... I wouldn't say if you're just brand new to hiking and you don't necessarily have the drive to really get an intense workout or complicate your workout yet, it's maybe a little overwhelming at that point because it's a really big book, right?

Daniel:               Yeah, 400 pages or something.

Allison:               It has a lot of information in it. But if you do have that stoke and you want to take your backpacking or your climbing or your hiking..

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You may have heard me say this before, but it’s worth repeating: I believe that outdoor backpacking is the gateway into epic outdoor adventure. That’s why I’m really excited to share these 15 adventure-worthy backpacking trips for beginners with you. What do I mean when I say that backpacking is the gateway? I mean that, if you can learn the skills you need and gain confidence in using them outdoors on the trails via backpacking, your outdoor adventure options will open wide up! For instance, my first backpacking trip was backpacking Half Dome in Yosemite, and that trip was one of the biggest catalysts in me eventually saying yes to bigger and epic adventures such as rock climbing, mountaineering and even canyoneering. Backpacking gave me the confidence I needed to push myself even further and see what else I was made of. I found I had a love for the outdoors that extended well beyond 3-4 day backpacking trips.

Now I didn’t want “beginner backpacking trips” to be exclusively “easy” backpacking trips, because I believe that many of you (newbies) are probably capable of quite a bit more than you can imagine. So in this post you’ll find a variety of mileage and difficulty options, but I did purposefully chose trails that were not technical or overly exhausting. As you go through this post, read a bit about each of the trails and choose what fits you (and where you are starting out physically) the best. Each and everyone of us are starting from different points when we pick up backpacking, and that is 100% OK my friend! I knew absolute zero about backpacking when I started!

This post is also split up into 2 main sections, a United States focused listed of backpacking trails for beginners and some International backpacking trails for beginners as well. Right now this backpacking trip list has only 15 trails (which is obviously small in comparison to how many good trails may exist out there for beginners), but it’s meant to inspire you but also not overwhelm you with ideas. I may choose to add more trails to this list as time progresses, but I chose a few of my favorites for starters. I also reached out to a few bloggers for an extended variety of backpacking trails, so you’ll see that a few of the suggestions below come from other outdoor adventure bloggers.

Let’s get after it, shall we?

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Learn More! Best Backpacking Trails in the US for Beginners

First up on this list are some excellent backpacking destinations for beginners in the United States. You’ll notice many of these are in California, and well, that’s because I know California the best and have backpacked in California the most! With time though, I’ll be sure to add some more diversity to this US list, but I promise you these backpacking trails are SO worth doing!

1. Half Dome - California

Backpacking Half Dome Quick Facts:

  • Location: California (Yosemite National Park)

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: ~ 14.5 miles via the Mist Trail, ~16.5 miles round trip via the John Muir Trail, or you can choose to go up the Mist Trail (7.25 miles) and down the John Muir Trail (8.25 miles) for a round trip of around 15.5 miles. Its easier on your knees to go down the John Muir Trail, because the mist trail is stair steps the practically the whole way.

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~5000 feet of elevation gain (though, when I took my GPS, It said more around 5,600 feet of gain)

  • Time Needed to Backpack: As a beginner, plan to spend 3 days and 2 nights backpacking this trail.

  • Permit Needed? Yes! You must have a backpacking permit and a Half Dome permit to hike this trail. Read more about permits here.

About the Trail:

Many people attempt the Half Dome hike as a day trip, but I also think it makes an absolutely fantastic backpacking trail! Half Dome is hands down one of the most unique hiking experiences you can get in the United States, so spending more time on this trail feels like a no-brainer to me.

You’ll start your first day by hiking up the Mist Trail. Its a brutal uphill stair-stepping workout, but its quicker and more efficient. Make sure to bring plenty of water, particularly if you are hiking this in the summer. You will get very thirsty. Your first night you’ll want to camp at Little Yosemite Valley Campground after your long uphill trudge up the Mist Trail. This is a really nice campground, and it even has pit toilets (which is not common on most backpacking trails). Enjoy your evening here and rest up for day 2 when you will tackle the Half Dome cables.

On day 2, make sure you have plenty of water as you head up to conquer Half Dome. You’ll want to leave the bulk of your backpacking gear at your campsite so you can tackle half dome with a smaller and lighter pack (bring a small day-pack if you want to). There’s not much downhill on this hike as you make your way up sub-dome. Its an uphill battle until you make it to the top! At the bottom of Half Dome you’ll hesitate, the hike up the cables is nearly vertical, and your only protection is your grip on the cables, and your footing against the planked “stairway” to the top. DO NOT attempt the cables without propper gloves or good-gripping shoes. DO NOT attempt the cables if you are very terrified of heights. I also advise against using a “harness” system to go up the cables. In my opinion, harnesses are just a false sense of protection here, because you would need a very specific set up in order for this to actually be “safe”, and most people are not going to have that set up. Having to fuss with carabiners and your harness system is going to do you more harm than good in getting up the cables. Just take your time, focus on going plank to plank, and hanging on with a strong grip. There WILL be a lot of people on this hike, and really the only best way to avoid crowds would be to get there around sunset or very early in the morning. The views are worth it though, and I think it is a super-exciting backpacking trip all-in-all. Making it to the top of Half Dome is so extremely gratifying! Then you can rest easy because the rest of your backpacking trip will be downhill. Make it back down to Little Yosemite Valley Campground on Night 2 and rest up for your hike out on Day 3.

On day 3, enjoy your final morning in Little Yosemite Valley and then make your way back with all your gear back down to your car! On your way down, consider taking the the John Muir Trail instead of the Mist Trail (they intersect!). Even though the John Muir Trail will add on about an extra mile, it is much easier on your knees to go down this trail than the stair-stepping Mist Trail.

Why Half Dome is a great backpacking trip for beginners: Backpacking up to Half Dome instead of tackling it as a day hike helps make this monster of a hike more manageable, and frankly (more enjoyable) especially if you are brand new to hiking and backpacking! While this trip won’t necessarily be the easiest backpacking trip you could go do, it certainly will be very, VERY memorable! In fact, Half Dome was my very first backpacking trip too! It’s where my whole outdoor adventure life got kick started, so you could say I’m a little biased! If you’re up for the elevation gain and tackling the Half Dome Cables, you certainly won’t regret doing the Half Dome Hike as a beginner backpacking trip!

Read more about the Half Dome Hike and other Yosemite hikes:

2. Havasu Falls - Arizona

Backpacking Havasu Falls Quick Facts:

  • Location: Arizona

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: Roughly 25 miles roundtrip (from parking lot to Beaver Falls and back).

  • Total Elevation Gain: The beginning of the trip is all downhill, you descend about 2,500 feet into the grand canyon, but that means the total elevation gain for the trip is about 2,500 feet when you hike back out.

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 3 nights/4 days

  • Permit Needed? Yes! Very strict on permitting for this trail.

About the Trail:

I’m not going to lie to you, the Havasu Falls trail is one of the most beautiful backpacking trails I’ve ever gone on. Definitely in the top five, if not in the top three. Over the course of 3 nights and 4 days you’ll get to spend some your time backpacking in one of the most surreal and beautiful places in the United States.

People come from all over the world in order to see the beautiful, crystal blue waters and the 5 amazing waterfalls along this iconic trail. The hike is roughly 25 miles long round trip if you hike all the way down to Beaver Falls which is the final waterfall of the hike. The hiking is relatively easy, but there are some tricky sections to the trail that you’ll want to take extra caution on. The effort is worth it though! All 5 of the waterfalls along the trail are absolutely breathtaking and like nothing else you can see in the United States.

I have a complete guide (linked below) to backpacking Havasu Falls, and it’s definitely one of the top go-to sources on this trail, so if you’re interested be sure to read that post, because getting backpacking permits can be tricky!

Read my full Havasu Falls Trail Guide!

Why Havasu Falls is a great backpacking trip for beginners: I think Havasu falls is one of the best backpacking trips for beginners for so many reasons! First, it’s not too difficult, especially if you break it up into 4 days of backpacking. Second, the views and waterfalls are simply insane! It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Third, there are quite a few amenities here, like established campgrounds and toilets, so if you are still new to backpacking this can help ease you into it all. The hardest part about this trail is getting the permits!

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3. The Lost Coast Trail - California

Backpacking The Lost Coast Trail Quick Facts:

  • Location: California

  • Type of Trail: Most people hike this trail Point-to-point (which requires a shuttle), though you could hike it out-and-back styled

  • Total Mileage: Roughly 25 miles long if hiking point-to-point.

  • Total Elevation Gain: Negligible!

  • Time Needed to Backpack: Most people backpack this trail in 2-3 days.

  • Permit Needed? Yes!

About the Trail:

The Lost Coast Trail is probably one of the most unique backpacking trips I’ve ever gone on. It is so complete different from the backpacking trips I’ve gone on in the Sierras. The Lost Coast trail lies along one of California’s most beautiful rugged coastlines and follows some of its most isolated and breathtaking beaches. It’s stunning, to put it lightly!

There are 2 primary sections to the Lost Coast Trail, but most people are primarily familiar with the Northern section which goes from Mattole beach to Black Sands Beach (near Shelter Cove), and is the most well known portion of the Lost Coast trail. The beauty of the Lost Coast Trail hike is that it can be practically hiked year-round thanks to the fabulous nature of California coastal weather, and your entire backpacking trip will be hiking the coastline. It doesn’t get more epic than that!

I have a complete guide to backpacking The Lost Coast Trail, and it’s definitely one of the top go-to sources on this trail, so if you’re interested in backpacking the Lost Coast Trail, be sure to read my full Lost Coast Trail Backpacking Guide.

Why The Lost Coast Trail is a great backpacking trip for beginners: This trail is great for beginners because there is practically no elevation gain involved. However, beginners need to be sure to do plenty of research on this trail because there are some “tricky” sections to the hike where you want to watch the tide schedule. Again, you can read all about that in my backpacking trail guide above.

4. The Cottonwood Lakes Trail - California

Backpacking The Cottonwood Lakes Trail Quick Facts:

  • Location: California

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: This can vary depending on how many lakes you decide to go see, but this is in the 18 miles round trip range, and roughly 26 miles round trip if you decide to tack on Mount Langley (which would be considered more difficult of a backpacking trip then).

  • Total Elevation Gain: Roughly 1,000’ to the lakes, 5,900 to Mount Langley.

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 2-3 days if only backpacking the lakes

  • Permit Needed? Yes!

About the Trail:

The Cottonwood Lakes Trail is one of the best backpacking trails for beginners because it is an absolutely stunning (and relatively easy) trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The trail to the main Cottonwood lakes is easy to follow and fairly flat with minimal elevation gain. It makes for a nice way to get acclimated to the altitude of the mountains.

Once you make it to the main lakes you can do some excellent wilderness camping around the area. There are 5 main lakes known as the Cottonwood Lakes. The best camping options are around Eastern portions of Cottonwood Lake Four and Five. There aren't really any good camping options near Cottonwood Lakes One and Two.

Make camp here and do some short day hikes exploring the area, or Alternatively, plan to go visit one of the higher alpine lakes known as Long Lake. Long Lake is where most backpackers will camp if they are planning to summit Mount Langley via the New Army Pass. There are a ton of great options for dispersed camping here.

I have a complete guide to backpacking the Cottonwood Lakes Trail (Plus a summit of Mount Langley), and it’s a great resource on this trail, so if you’re interested in backpacking the Cottonwood Lakes Trail, be sure to read my full Trail Guide on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail and Mount Langley.

Why The Cottonwood Lakes Trail is a great backpacking trip for beginners: This trail is so lovely and beautiful, its one of my favorite places to go in the Sierras. You could bring a group of multiple-levels of backpackers here and it would have something for every skill level. Take it easy and explore the lakes, go fishing even, or take it to the next level and summit Mount Langley (a California 14,000 foot peak).

5. The Trans-Catalina Trail - California

Backpacking The Trans Catalina Trail Quick Facts:

  • Location: Santa Catalina Island, California

  • Type of Trail: Point to Point (typically)

  • Total Mileage: ~38.5 Miles Round Trip (Avalon to Parsons Landing to Two Harbors) is the official mileage from Catalina Island. My GPS logged just over 39 miles though.

  • Total Elevation Gain: 8,329 feet total elevation gain for trip, 8,475 feet total descent

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 4-7 days if a beginner

  • Permit Needed? Campground Reservations needed!

About the Trail:

Santa Catalina Island, located off the coast of California, offers some amazing hiking and backpacking opportunities all across the island, but the Trans-Catalina Trail is it’s crown jewel. 

Most people start their backpacking trip in the town of Avalon and continue to hike across the length of the entire island, camping all along the way in the designated campsites they reserved ahead of time for the trip. The terrain is rugged, and sometimes tough, but it is well worth the trouble. The biggest obstacle of getting to this trail is coordinating all of your ferry rides to and from the island, so be sure to do your research in advance!

Basically this trail is perfect for you if you're looking for a trail that is challenging but beautiful, "mountainous" but near the ocean, isolated feeling but still very close to civilization! It is one of a kind, and one you aren't likely to forget, from the boat ride over to the island, to the hilly sea-side views. In fact, this would be a great trail to go do solo, particularly if you were looking to hike your first solo-backpacking trip.

I have a complete guide to backpacking The Trans-Catalina Trail, and it’s definitely one of the top go-to sources on this trail, so if you’re interested in backpacking the Trans-Catalina Trail, be sure to read my full Trans-Catalina Trail Backpacking Guide.

Why The Trans Catalina Trail is a great backpacking trip for beginners: This trail has so many itinerary options, it’s fantastic! So while you can certainly make this a very difficult backpacking trail (by doing this trail in fewer days), you can also spread your trip over multiple days and make it a much more easy-going and enjoyable backpacking trip. You’re also never too far from civilization in case something goes wrong!

6. Tuolumne to Devils Postpile - California
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A key component to being a self-sufficient and confident outdoor backpacker and hiker is being aware of the most essential hiking safety and backpacking safety rules and best practices out there. Being safe is possibly the number one concern I get from my students and peers when I talk to them about going backpacking and hiking, particularly if they are going backpacking alone or if they are the most experienced person in their group. Many people love the allure of backpacking outdoors, but wonder to themselves, “Is backpacking safe?” And even more so if they are wanting to go backpacking or hiking alone. I think it’s important that we address some of the top ways we can increase our safety on the trails when backpacking, so here you go my friend…

9 Must-Know Backpacking Safety Tips

Solo hiking and backpacking is a hotly contested activity in the outdoor world; you either love it or hate it. However there is an allure to spending a night out in the wilderness alone. The quiet moments become meditative and you escape the distractions of everyday life. Before you head out on your backpacking or solo backpacking trip, take a little more care to double check your safety. Here are several backpacking safety tips to help you stay safe on the trails.

1) Carry the Ten Essentials

It doesn’t matter if you’re solo or in a big group, always pack the Ten Essentials when your backpacking. It seems like a no-brainer, but when you’re used to splitting up gear with a partner, it’s easy to forget a lighter or an extra layer. Here’s a look at the Ten Essentials you’ll want in your pack:

  • A headlamp (always with extra batteries of course!)

  • Extra food, don’t forget the camp stove

  • Fire starting kit. I like to bring a lighter and a Light My Fire fire starter (this is like a flint, for emergencies).

  • A way to filter water. Backup filtration, such as a few iodine and chlorine tablets don’t hurt.

  • Tent or other shelter. Take the pieces of the tent out of the bag to save a few ounces.

  • First Aid Kit - preferably one specific to backpacking

  • Extra layers. It gets cold at night and if you’re stuck in an expected bout of bad weather, you’ll be thankful. Include items such as a hat and gloves.

  • Navigation. Always bring your GPS loaded and ready to go as well as a paper map with a compass. Learn how to use a both your GPS and your compass before heading out solo.

  • Sun protection such as sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.

  • A knife. Infinitely handy in the backcountry. A sturdy switchblade will do.

  • Additional Items: An emergency beacon. For solo backpackers, this can be the difference between life and death. Be sure to check the batteries and test the signal before heading out.

Aside from the Ten Essentials, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got everything you need with you on the trail. Are you traveling over snowy terrain? Is it muddy and do you need waterproof boots and gaiters? What about bug spray? Oh and you never want to forget those coveted pair of cozy shoes to drive home in (your feet can thank me later).

If you want to make sure you never leave any crucial items behind before you head out on a backpacking trip, I highly recommend that you download my backpacking packing checklist. I seriously look at this list every time I pack for any backpacking trip, and I’ve written down all the essentials here for you so you can do that too. PLUS, I love to spoil my readers with a little bit extra as well, so I’ve included a list of 20+ of my favorite backpacking food snacks and meals inside of this list for inspiration.

2) Do Your Research

Far too many people head out into the wilderness without doing their homework. Before you head out on any backpacking trip (ESPECIALLY if you are going solo backpacking), be sure to understand what your particular trail entails. It helps to put all of this on a digital document (called a Backpacking Trip Plan), that you can then leave with someone you trust.

Planning and going into the details are a bit like my super-power. That’s why I love writing Ultimate Backpacking Trail Guides like I did for the Havasu Falls Hike or the Lost Coast Trail. However, this is an essential skill every backpacker should learn, and I teach you everything you need to know about creating the ultimate trip plan in my backpacking program, with templates, details about mapping out your entire hike in advance, and the whole enchilada (so-to-speak).

Let me give you a brief taste though, to get you started. First, research the mileage of your particular trail. How many miles do you plan to go each day? Keep in mind that your pack will likely be heavier than normal, since you aren’t splitting up group gear like food, shelter, and a stove. Double check your daily mileage on a map and check for suitable places to camp. You don’t want to hike 10 miles only to find out you’ve got to climb a never-ending sea of switchbacks to reach flat ground!

Always be sure to check your water sources. Make a rough plan on when you will fill up. Is there water near your intended camping spot? If not, bring an extra water bottle so you can hydrate up at camp through the night. Are there any long water carries - this is especially important for desert travel. If so, are you prepared to haul all of that extra weight? Pre-planning goes a long way to ensure a successful trip.

3) Navigation Know-How

If you are the group leader of a backpacking trip or if you embark on a solo backpacking trip, you have the reins. This means that you’re in charge of getting from point A to point B. What happens if your GPS fails? Do you know how to read a map and find your position with a compass? Are you traveling off-trail in the backcountry?

Even if you plan on traveling along a popular trail, it’s important to know how to navigate. Social trails, or trails that people create by going off route, pop up all the time in popular wilderness areas. If you’re traveling during a snowy season (or before the snow melts) the trail can often be covered.

A lot of backpackers rely too heavily on their phones or the wisdom of their partner. Before you head out alone, get comfortable with navigating using the old-school map and compass. Practice on easier trails at home, but I also highly recommend that you invest in a GPS. I literally never go anywhere (hiking or backpacking) without a GPS of some sort with me (if you look carefully in a lot of my photos, you’ll see my Garmin 64st handheld GPS hanging off my backpack in nearly every photo). GPS and map navigation is an essential skill that every backpacker should invest time in learning how to do themselves.

Navigation goes beyond map and compass. Avalanche safety is a serious endeavor in any alpine terrain. Just because it isn’t winter doesn’t mean avalanche conditions don’t exist. Follow the latest reports, read recent trail reviews, and study up on avalanche terrain if you’re traveling in the mountains while there’s snow on the ground. Lastly, don’t forget to hone your rock navigation skills if you are traveling over mountain passes with rocky trails.

4) Have a Plan, and Tell Someone You Trust

We already discussed the importance of creating a solid Trip Plan before you hit the trail. This document is like a solo backpacking bible, and you’ll want to leave it with someone you trust.

No one ever anticipates having a problem in the outdoors, but it’s important to be prepared for the worst. Use the plan you devised to prepare for your trip as well as give valuable safety information to the person you trust. Include your tentative outdoor safety trip plan with your proposed areas where you will camp and when you plan on getting back to the trailhead. Be sure to set a check-in time. If your trusted friend hasn’t heard from you, have them attempt to contact you directly, then the authorities if you haven’t responded within the hour. I recommend including the following in your trip plan (note: these items have been recommended to me by actual search and rescue personnel):

  • Description of your vehicle, include your license plate number

  • Description of your tent or pack

  • Description of you. Note any unique characteristics such as a tattoo, facial hair or hair color.

  • Any known allergies or medical conditions

  • The number for the local sheriff’s office. This is typically who you call in a search and rescue scenario.

  • Your packing list - oftentimes search and rescue needs to know how prepared you are for an emergency.

  • A GPX file (strongly recommended).

  • Are you carrying an emergency beacon?

Include directions for your emergency contact to help them prepare for the worst case scenario. Give a time at which they should call the authorities and note who to call. Also make a note to send along the trip plan to search and rescue.

Also be sure to always carry your ID.

I once asked a friend who works with search and rescue to tell me one thing that all hikers should carry. His response was identification. It sounds grim, but if you have your ID on you and things go horribly wrong, the authorities will be able to identify your body without asking your family. I don’t like to think about these things, but if a negligible amount of weight saves your family some trauma, I’d say keep it with you.

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5) Make Noise

If wildlife is a concern (particularly if you are backpacking in bear country), stay noisy on the trail. Often times, unwanted animal encounters occur because the animal is just as surprised to see you as you are. Talk loudly to yourself, sing or bang on rocks to make noise as you travel down the trail. This doesn’t need to be a constant orchestra of awful, but it helps to get loud a few times an hour.

If I’m backpacking in a group its easy enough for me to chat with my backpacking partners and be loud enough on the trails as we hike, however, if I’m backpacking solo I usually like to turn on some music. Now, I know many people think having music on can ruin the experience of backpacking or potentially bother others on the trails so I always maintain a few rules. First, music never ruins things for me, music puts me a dreamy state, and really just enhances my overall good-feelings on the trail, especially if I’m by myself. So I personally love hiking solo with a bit of tunes on speaker over my phone. However, I never keep the volume too loud and if I see hikers ahead of me, I always turn my music off so I don’t impose on others experience outdoors. I like having the peace of mind that animals could hear me, even when I’m out solo.

Also keep in mind that most wildlife travels around dusk and dawn, so if you’re on the trail or even at camp during these times, keep it loud to let the wild know you’re out there and don’t want any unexpected visitors.

6) Keep the Earbuds Out

For many solo backpackers, backpacking safety isn’t just about avoiding wildlife encounters or getting lost. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes about staying safe from other humans. Personal hiking safety from others is an extremely personal topic, all people have a different level of comfort. As a woman, I feel I would be remiss not to touch on a few key things you can do to keep safe on a solo backpacking trip.

First, don’t hike with headphones. It may be tempting to jam your favorite tunes while trekking along solo, but using headphones tunes you out from your surroundings. It’s easy for someone to come up behind you and you don’t even realize it.

So forgo the music and hike like it’s the pre-iPod era, and if you feel like you need something hike with your phone speaker music on low volume. Just be sure to respect others on the trail around you and turn your music off if you come up on hikers along the trail.

This tip relates to the one we just discussed above, it’s equally important not to wear headphones when hiking so you can be aware of any animals that may be traveling near or around you on the trail.

7) Don’t Tell Strangers Where You are Going

It may seem obvious, but you have no obligation to tell anyone what your plans are (other than your trusted emergency contact). I find that, especially as a woman, you feel pressure to be kind and friendly. Don’t let that cloud your judgement on a solo backpacking trip. Keep your plans vague, even if it’s obvious that everyone is hiking the same trail. Don’t let someone pressure you into telling them your life story.

8) Go with Your Gut

When it comes down to it, your gut gives you the intuition you need. If you meet someone that rubs you the wrong way, don’t be afraid to turn around and head home. If something doesn’t feel right, check in with yourself and ask if it’s worth it to carry on. Remember, there is no shame in heading home if you just aren’t feeling it.

I’ve camped in areas where I just didn’t feel cozy. No particular reason, but my spidey-senses told me something just wasn’t right. I packed up my stuff and moved on, even though it took a bit of effort. Who knows? Maybe an angry bear would have visited me that night, or nearby treefall could have crushed me in my sleep. The point is, don’t hesitate to listen to your gut and follow it.

9) Don’t Let backpacking Safety Advice Scare You from hitting the trails

Okay, so now that you’re sufficiently freaked out and worried about going backpacking, I want to circle back and remind you that backpacking is fun! You’re out in the wilderness on a backpacking adventure to learn more about yourself in a beautiful setting. Don’t let all of the safety advice put you off. We always want to go into any situation with a good dose of awareness and advice, but then we need to face our fears and become that badass we were meant to be.

And if you decide to go backpacking alone, solo backpacking offers an adventure that is uniquely yours. Yes, you need to take care of yourself, be aware of your surroundings, and keep your guard in check. However, you don’t need to go solo backpacking in a state of constant fear. Some of my most triumphant and brave moments have come from times I’ve had to overcome my fears and solve problems on the trails on my own. Get out there and enjoy your solo backpacking trip, just be sure to keep safety in mind while you do it!

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I hope you guys loved this one. Stay safe out there my friends, and have fun!

Looking for even more backpacking related tips? Check out these articles on the site!

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If you are wanting to go backpacking on the Lost Coast Trail, I should first start off with a warning. Be prepared to backpack along miles and miles of isolated, breathtaking California coastline. Be prepared to experience California in a way that most people never will. Brace yourself for jaw-dropping sunsets, and beach-side camping. There may be stretches of this hike where you will have an entire beach to yourself. This is not a trail for those seeking an average backpacking experience. The isolation and beauty of this trail are real. You’ve been warned.

In all seriousness though, The Lost Coast Trail is probably one of the most unique backpacking trips I’ve ever gone on. It is so complete different from the backpacking trips I’ve gone on in the Sierras (like backpacking Mt. Langley or backpacking in Tuolumne). The Lost Coast trail lies along one of California’s most beautiful rugged coastlines and follows some of its most isolated and breathtaking beaches. It’s stunning, to put it lightly, and I’m really excited to share this trail guide with you. It’s been a long time coming.

There are a lot of resources out there for the Lost Coast hike and a lot of good trip reports, but I always do my best to give you everything you need and I kind of think this post as an awesome one-stop-shop for planning your Lost Coast backpacking trip. I’ll help to make the process simple for you and cover everything you need to know about backpacking the Lost Coast Trail from getting a permit, trail details and GPX files, to what you should pack on your visit. Plus if you’re planning to stick around California for a while, I’ve got a few great posts on other great hikes in California that you can check out at the bottom of this post under resources!

WHAT WE WILL COVER IN THIS GUIDE:

There is a lot of information in this post, if you are looking for something in particular, feel free to skip ahead to one of the below categories (they are ordered as shown below). My below Lost Coast Trail guide will cover the following:

  1. About The Lost Coast Area- Get to know the area before you go!

  2. The Lost Coast Hike Details - Stats baby! All the data for the trail. How many miles, elevation gain, & more. PLUS a video from my trip on the Lost Coast Trail.

  3. How To Get a Lost Coast Trail Permit - Everything you need to know about getting a Lost Coast backpacking permit. It used to be really easy to get a permit, but now there are new reservation regulations in place, so be sure to read this section!

  4. Where is It & How to Get to the Lost Coast Trail - Lost Coast trailhead details, options, and Lost Coast Shuttle information

  5. The Lost Coast Trail Map & GPX File - I've created an interactive map in google detailing the most popular sections of the trail and. You can also download this file as a GPX file to upload into your own personal GPS device.

  6. Best time to hike the Lost Coast Trail (When to Go) - Details about the best time to hike the Lost Coast and typical Lost Coast trail weather to expect on your trip.

  7. Lost Coast Camping- Your options for Lost Coast campgrounds when backpacking this trail.

  8. Hazards of the Lost Coast Trail- The key hazards you need to be aware of when backpacking the Lost Coast Trail.

  9. What to Bring - What are the essential items you should bring to California’s Lost Coast trail?

  10. Itinerary for hiking the Lost Coast Trail in California - I’ll walk you through my experience and suggested itinerary for backpacking the Lost Coast Trail.

Plus, be sure to check out the bottom of this post to find more hiking trail guides in California and other additional hiking, camping and backpacking resources!

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1) About The Lost Coast Area

The coastline of the Lost Coast Trail is rugged and remote. So rugged, in-fact, that the state of California was unable to continue the well-known Highway 1 (otherwise known as “The One” to Californians) along this stretch of California coastline, and instead they had to continue Highway One inland. Also unlike other areas of California, you won’t find mansions or homes tucked away on the cliffs of the beach. The King Range Wilderness area is truly a remote gem, a rarity in California.

The only true way to experience the magic of this area is exploring it by foot. Thanks to the remoteness of this area, one can backpack this trail and watch the seals bobbing around in the ocean waves, sea-lions sunbathing along the coast, and the occasional star fish washed ashore all while hiking The Lost Coast Trail.

There are 2 primary sections to the Lost Coast Trail, but most people are primarily familiar with the Northern section, which is what will be covered in the below guide, but for clarity here are a few more details on the two sections of the trail:

  • The Northern Section: From Mattole beach to Black Sands Beach (near Shelter Cove), this is the most well known portion of the Lost Coast trail, and what will be covered in this trail guide.

  • The Southern Section: This portion of the Lost Coast goes deep into the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park from Black Sands Beach down to Usal Beach (roughly 32 miles). This trail is beautiful in its own right, but doesn’t explore the coastline like the Northern Section of the trail. If you have a long time to spend ini Northern California, consider adding the Southern Section of this hike onto your trip. However be aware that the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park has stricter regulations on camping, and coordinating a shuttle may take a bit more planning in advance.

2) The Lost Coast Hike Details

Whenever I’m gearing up for a backpacking trip and doing research on a trail, I like to know the quick information right of the bat, like how many miles is my backpacking objective, what is the trailhead name, how many days should I set aside for it? So that’s why I like to lead off with this section. In just a short few bullet points, you’ll get a high-level overview of what to expect on your Lost Coast hiking adventure.

Note: To be clear, this trail guide covers the Northern (and most well-known) portion of the Lost Coast trail which runs between Mattole beach and Black Sands beach (near Shelter Cove).

  • Where is the Lost Coast Trail? The Trail is located in Northern California in the King Range National Conservation Area

  • Trail Name: The Lost Coast Trail (Northern Section)

  • Trailhead Name: Depending on whether you hike the trail from North-to-South or South-to-North. The Northern trailhead is called Mattole Beach Trailhead, and the Southern trailhead is called the Black Sands Beach Trailhead

  • Lost Coast Trailhead Elevation: Sea Level :)

  • Type of Trail: Most people hike this trail Point-to-point (which requires a shuttle), though you could hike it out-and-back styled

  • How long is the Lost Coast hike? Roughly 25 miles long if hiking point-to-point. Check out Section 4 ‘The Lost Coast Trail Map, Itinerary, & GPX File’ for more details.

  • Total elevation gain? Negligible!

  • How many days to spend backpacking the Lost Coast Trail? Most people backpack this trail in 2-3 days. Check out Section 4 ‘The Lost Coast Trail Map, Itinerary, & GPX File’ for more details.

  • Lost Coast Trail California Crowds: Medium. This trail has gotten more popular over the year, however a newly enforced permit system does keep the quotas down. Also due to the remoteness and planning required to do this trail, its not as popular as other California backpacking trails.

  • Lost Coast Trail hike difficulty: the biggest difficulty in backpacking this rugged California coastline is that hiking in the sand and among the rocks can be difficult on your knees. The terrain is uneven and can take a toll on your body even though the elevation gain and mileage is not too intense.

  • Is a permit required to hike California’s Lost Coast? Yes. See the permit section below.

  • Is there drinking water available along the Lost Coast Trail? Freshwater streams are available frequently along the Lost Coast Trail, usually at most only a few miles apart. However, it’s always smart to plan accordingly though, because there will be some stretches of coastline with no opportunities to fill up on water, and always filter your water in the backcountry. Skip to the Hazards section of this post to see what we found in one of the streams we filtered water at.

  • Can you bring dogs on the Lost Coast Trail? Technically they are allowed, but this trail isn’t super dog friendly on their paws due to the sand and uneven pebble terrain. I’d advise to leave the dogs at home on this hike.

  • Is backpacking the Lost Coast Trail kid friendly? This trail isn’t advised to younger children, but older children may be able to handle this trail if they are a confident and good hiker/backpacker. It’s nice that there isn’t a ton of elevation gain on this trail, but there are other dangers that I will discuss in the “Hazards” section of this post. As always, you should always consider you and your families hiking abilities before taking on any hiking or backpacking trip with your kids.

  • Other important notes: Your food is required to be contained in a bear can on this hike. Be sure that you pack away all food in an approved bear can.

lost coast surfing

When I backpacked the Lost Coast trail I definitely didn’t do any surfing, but we saw a group of people (shown in the above photo) on the trail with not only backpacking backpacks strapped to their bodies, but also surf boards! While I can’t really comment on the quality of the surfing on the Lost Coast Trail, an article from Teton Gravity mentions, “Scoring a perfect swell in Northern California is always unlikely. Because the coastline is so exposed, conditions are often too rough or too windy. But supposedly, there’s a nameless break on the Lost Coast that lines up a few times a year.” You can read more of their article here.

Lost Coast Trail Video

Check out this fun video we made of the Lost Coast Trail hike when we went back in 2015. This video will just give you a quick taste of what to expect on the trail and the kind of terrain (and wildlife!) to expect!

Backpacking the Lost Coast Trail in California - YouTube
3) How To Get a Lost Coast Trail Permit

In the past you didn’t have to reserve lost coast trail permits in advance and you could pick them up at the trailhead, but the rules have changed and now all backpacking reservations must be made in advance. These are are also know as King Range Wilderness Permits.

WHEN TO APPLY FOR LOST COAST BACKPACKING PERMIT:
  • Permits are required for overnight camping on this trail (day-hiking requires no permit).

  • The block of permits available for each year are released the prior year on October 1. So basically, if you are planning way far in advance, you’ll have the best chances getting the exact date that you want if you look on October 1st of the prior year. However, if you don’t know that far in advance, you can apply at anytime online.

HOW TO APPLY:
  • You can apply for you lost coast permits online at Recreation.gov. The permits are first-come, first-serve, and there are no lottery or walk-in permits available, so you must do this in advance.

  • There are daily quotas for entering the trail, and the quotas are as follows:

    • May 15 - September 15: 60 people allowed to enter the trail per day

    • September 16 - May 14: 30 people allowed to enter the trail per day

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST:
  • There is currently no recreation fee for hiking the Lost Coast Trail and getting a King Range Wilderness Permit. However, there is a non-refundable reservation fee that costs $6 per person.

OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION:
  • You may only have a group that is max of 15 people, however the reservation limit size is 5. So if you have a bigger group than 5, you’ll have to grab multiple permits.

  • Permits are non-transferrable.

4) Where is it & How to Get to the Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail is located in the King Range National Conservation Area in Northern California. It is part of one of the longest stretches of coastline of the US outside of the state of Alaska. This area is far removed from Californias big cities. Here are some drive times you can expect in order to get to the Southern-most trailhead (Black Sands Beach Trailhead).

  • San Francisco to Black Sands Beach Trailhead: 4 and 1/2 hours

  • Sacramento to Black Sands Beach Trailhead: 5 hours

  • Los Angeles to Black Sands Beach Trailhead: Over 10 hours

Options for Transportation Between Trailheads

If you hike this trail as an out-and-back styled trail, you’re in for a much longer hike (about 50 miles), but you won’t have to hassle with shuttle transportation. However, if you backpacking this trail as a point-to-point trail (as most do), you have a few options:

  1. Arrange Shuttle Transportation: This is the most common option people opt for on the Lost Coast Trail, and you can read more details in the section below.

  2. Plan to go with 2 Separate Hiking Parties: If you plan ahead and have 2 separate groups. One group could start at the Northern end of the trail and the other group could start on the Southern end of the trails. You could plan to swap car keys along the hike and drive home accordingly. This would take a lot of coordination and planning, but totally doable.

  3. Park 2 cars, One at Each Trailhead: This is the least efficient option, but I’ll still list it. If you did this, you should expect for some very long driving times. Each trailhead is roughly 2 hours from each other.

Lost coast trail Shuttle

On my backpacking trip of the Lost Coast Trail we decided to hike the trail from South-to-North, but only one way. This meant we had to leave our car at the Mattole beach trailhead (Northern Trailhead), and get shuttled to Black Sands Beach Trailhead, all of which had to be arranged in advance. The shuttle drive is long, about 2 hours, and covers about 50 miles of winding road in order to navigate the rugged land.

We opted to take our shuttle drive on the beginning portion of our backpacking trip so we could just head straight home after we finished our trip and not wait for a shuttle. So as I mentioned above, we parked at Mattole, took a shuttle from Mattole too Black Sands Beach Trailhead and began our hike from there.

You can arrange shuttle transportation with one of the below approved BLM Lost Coast Trail shuttle organizations:

Cost of Shuttle? Costs can vary depending on the size of the group (and may change at any time), but shuttles start around $85 per person. Check the websites above (or call) for more details from one of the above providers.

5) The Lost Coast Trail Map & GPX File

Backpacking the Lost Coast Trail would be pretty straight forward if you didn’t have to make sure to plan your hike according to the low tides. The trail pretty much just follows the coastline. Below is a Lost Coast map detailing many of the important landmarks along the trail from Black Sands beach to Mattole Beach.

The important thing to note here are the 3 purple sections, which represent the general areas along the Lost Coast Trail that can become impassable during high-tide.

This Lost Coast Trail map below details all the key milestones of the hike including the 2 campsites we choose to camp at on our specific journey on the Lost Coast Trail. If you click on the image below (or click here) you will be taken to an interactive map that you can further explore.

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Welcome friends, I’m super stoked to finally share this with you. Consider this list of common backpacking blunders and backpacking tips as your introduction to backpacking basics. These common but avoidable mistakes are an essential part of your backpacking 101 foundation, so to speak. Mistakes are certainly a big part of how we learn, and we should never be so afraid of failure and mistakes that it prevents us from taking action toward our backpacking goals, but this list might just help you avoid a few rookie (and often too common) mistakes beginner backpackers tend to make their first time backpacking.

First, let me start off by telling you about my first time backpacking. Spoiler: I was a total rookie beginner backpacker, I had barely even done much long distance hiking up to the point of my first backpacking trip. Also, this story is a bit of a treat to share with you guys because I didn’t even really touch on this fun story in my about me page because I didn’t want to make my “outdoorsy origin” story too long.  

So here we go, I had just recently moved out to California, and one of my new friends at work was telling me all about how he had just won the lottery for Half Dome permits. I had so many questions. First, what did he mean he won the lottery, and second, what was Half Dome. I almost die a little thinking about that question now because Half Dome is probably one of the best hikes in Yosemite, and maybe one of the most iconic hikes in the United States. But I was a total noob (aka newbie). I didn’t know anything about backpacking! Zero. Zilch. Nada. However, that year I moved to California, I was determined to make it the year of saying yes to things that scared me and that were unfamiliar and backpacking fit the bill perfectly.

My intense curiosity and questioning to my new California friend, didn’t go unnoticed, and he quickly invited me to join along (as they had an extra permit to spare). Yes! Heck Yes. Let’s do this Half Dome thing. Then the next few months involved a lot of planning and preparing. I began saving as much as I could, and made a trip to REI to buy “all the things” on the list of backpacking gear I would need from a list that my friend sent me. Except… I didn’t know which gear was most important to invest in, and I had absolutely no clue what the best brands or products were. So my priorities were a little off.

None the less, I showed up to my first backpacking trip with 45 lbs of backpacking gear strapped to my back (yes you read that right, 45lbs), and I was wearing a visor, nike shorts, high black socks (with liners!), twist-lock cheap hiking poles, and a cotton tank top. That first backpacking trip was an intense introduction to the world of backpacking. I had no idea what I was doing. I was carrying way too much gear. I packed all the wrong foods, I was freezing at night (shocking as it was super warm during the day!), and I was so slow on the trail because I didn’t prep or train at all for the trip. Check out the photo above for a full preview of my get-up! Good times!

But I’m so glad I still went, mistakes and all. You could say, in a way, that my first backpacking trip altered the course of my life forever, and I went on to become an avid backpacker, mountaineer, and rock climber all thanks to this first backpacking trip.

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learn more! Backpacking for Beginners: 15 Rookie Mistakes To Avoid Your First Time Backpacking

Every seasoned backpacker has a story about how they learned things the hard way, and many of us wish we had gotten some backpacking advice before our first trip . Those moments when you realized that your bag weighs too much and you have more miles than daylight really stick out as growing pains in your backpacking career. However, as a beginner backpacker, you don’t need to make the same mistakes as those who have come before you. So if you’re looking for a beginners guide to backpacking, let’s take a look at the most common mistakes beginner backpackers make and what you can do to avoid them.

1. packing Way Too Much gear

Overpacking is the most common beginner backpacking mistake. When you carry your house on your back, it’s easy to get carried away (no pun intended). Often times as a beginner backpacker you don’t have all the latest ultra-lightweight backpacking gear. Not only are you adjusting to carrying more, but you’re carrying heavier versions of a stove, sleeping bag, and tent. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, ultra-lightweight gear costs a pretty penny, but you’ll want to be well aware of how much you’re carrying.

Forget big, heavy (and bulky) items you won’t need such as a pair of binoculars or a heavy camera. Invest in a simple backpacking cook set and leave the kitchen sink at home (or better yet, share a backpacking stove with a friend and split the weight!). Food weighs you down in a hurry, so avoid taking cans, glass jars or moisture-laden foods that not only weigh a ton, but you also have to pack out the trash.

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Ideally, your pack should weigh between 20-35 pounds for an overnight excursion in mild temperatures (think lower-elevation mountains where you may need a jacket and hat at night). This includes pesky water which weighs a whopping one and a half pounds per liter! Here are a few handy hacks to reduce your backpacking pack weight.

  • Wear the same clothes for multiple days. Backpacking is a stinky sport, embrace it and practice smart backpacking hygiene principles. You only truly need a change of clothes after three or four days (but be sure to pack a multiple pairs socks - to prevent blisters and to keep your feet feeling fresh at camp). Also, I always pack fresh undies, but otherwise, I don’t usually bring multiple pairs of clothing.

  • Share the load! Split tent weight, water filters, stove weight, and other shareable items with a friend! Some items in backpacking are easily shared, and this is a great way to save weight!

  • Phone smarts. Use an e-reader app on your phone instead of bringing a book. Also, keep your phone on airplane mode with location services turned off. This saves valuable battery life - allowing you to keep that bulky portable charger at home. Alternatively, get a smaller, lightweight portable charger.

  • Food: Bring dehydrated, lightweight foods like granola, dried fruit, instant noodles, and oatmeal.

  • Invest in down. It’s true, down jackets and sleeping bags are an expensive investment, but they are one of the best ways you can help reduce your pack weight! If you know you’re all in on the backpacking life, start looking for deals and invest in a good down sleeping bag and jacket! This is one of the first bigger investments I recommend my students to make in my backpacking course.

This isn’t an all inclusive list of ways you can reduce your pack load, but I hope it gets your gears turning to think of what you actually need to bring versus what might be extra. Weigh your pack BEFORE you hit the trails my friend.

2. Trying to Tackle Too Many Miles

A bigger pack (especially if you are new to backpacking) likely means you’ll move a little slower and take more breaks. For your first few backpacking trips, don’t go for a mileage record. Instead, I like to recommend new backpackers to keep their daily mileage between 7-9 max miles per day. If you are new to hiking in general, take that down even more.

Take note on how long (hours) it takes you to complete your full day of backpacking so you can start to get a grasp on how long it takes you to travel with a weighted pack. Ideally though, you will have an idea of this before you hit the trails.

3. Planning Your Daily Mileage Without Considering Elevation Gain

Another thing to keep in mind when you plan your backpacking trip, is to know that elevation gain makes backpacking even harder with a weighted pack. Don’t go for the toughest backpacking route when you first set out. Instead, opt for something less challenging and fun.

If you have no idea where to start, the average hiker moves at about two miles per hour or 1,000 feet of vertical gain per hour. For me, I’ve found that timing is rather consistent across backpacking, hiking, and mountaineering, but keep in mind, the mix is different for everyone.

4.Not understanding basic backpacking navigational skills

One of the most essential skills of backpacking is learning proper navigation in the outdoors. This starts with how to read a TOPO (topographical) map and extends to learning some basic uses with a GPS. Typically, backpacking routes don’t tell you where to camp, you have to find spots on your own. In order to be successful, you’ll need to know how far you plan to go per day and where this puts you on the map. Next, you’ll need to ensure that there are flat places to set up your home for the night.

You should always carry a digital map and a backup made of good, old-fashioned paper. Both of these maps will likely be USGS topographical maps. If you aren’t familiar with how to read these maps, it’s important to get educated. Practice reading the map and comparing it to the actual environment before you head out on a backpacking trip.

5. Forgetting to Protect Your Snack Stash

There’s nothing more disheartening than coming back to camp only to find your food supply has been robbed by tiny mountain critters or worse. To avoid this beginner backpacking mistake be sure to keep all of your food, toiletries, and waste in odor-proof bags or bear cans.

When using odor-proof bags, they should be hung in a tree, off of the ground at least 200 feet from camp to avoid any unwanted animal encounters. I like to put my odor-proof bags in a dry bag to hang them. This ensures my food will stay high and dry while I’m away.

Some wilderness areas require special canisters for bear territory. These canisters are cumbersome (and weigh a lot). Always follow posted regulations regarding food storage, especially when it comes to the bigger creatures you don’t want to encounter. Bear canisters can be stored on the ground, well away from camp. For instance, on popular California hiking trails, you are often required to use a bear canister to hold all of your food.

6. Sleeping with Smelly Products

As a follow up to backpacking tip number 6, another common mistake that many newbie backpackers make is not putting all of their smelly products away in their bear cans or odor-proof bags at night.

Before you go to sleep at nights, make sure you put anything that smells into your bear can or odor-proof bag. This includes:

  • Wrappers from leftover bars and food

  • Sunscreen

  • Lipbalm

  • Wipes that may smell good

  • Etc.

All that jazz. Don’t leave it in your tent with you. You might just wake up to a visitor sniffing at your tent. Oh, and pro-tip, make sure all your smelly stuff and food fit inside of your bear can BEFORE you hit the trails so that you don’t find yourself without room to spare in your bear can at nights for the sunscreen.

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7. Testing Gear for the First Time On the Trail

Another big no-no when backpacking, is to hit the trail before you’ve tested out your newly purchased gear. Take some time to test your gear out and make sure you know how to use it properly.

Let me give you a few key examples:

  • Do you know how to set up your tent?

  • Do you know the propper height to adjust your hiking poles to?

  • Do you know how to filter your water with that new water filter you just purchased at REI?

  • Have you hiked in your new hiking boots to make sure you don’t get bad blisters from them?

  • Have you tried using that new backpacking stove yet?

Get to know your gear. You’ll be happy you tested it out beforehand.

8. Skimping Out on a Few Creature Comforts

Backpacking isn’t all about suffering, it’s worth it to bring one or two special items to make camp cozier. Never skimp on your footwear and your sleep system. Wear properly broken in footwear that fits correctly to keep your tootsies happy. Once you get to camp take a load off and let your feet breathe. This means possibly either bringing camp sandals or simply sitting down and taking your boots off.

When it comes to sleep, you’ll want to be off the ground. The ground sucks up valuable body heat. A simple sleeping pad not only keeps you insulated, but it helps alleviate pesky pressure points.

Lastly, give yourself just a touch of indulgence. Pick one luxury item to bring with you. For some, it’s a light-weight camping chair for others it’s an inflatable backcountry pillow. For me, its usually an extra bit of dark chocolate for bed-time, and sometimes a good ole-fashioned book. Whatever it is for you, bring it and indulge!

9. Ignoring Important Foot care on the Trail

Learning how to take propper care of your feet while backpacking is probably one of the most crucial backpacking tips for beginners I can share with you.

First, always aim to prevent blisters. Dealing with blisters is a pain, seriously. And it can really dampen your whole backpacking experience.

One of the best ways to prevent blisters, is to change your socks frequently when you are hiking. I always bring at least 2-3 pairs when I’m backpacking. Usually I have 2 lighter thickness pairs for hiking in during the day, that I will switch out frequently and let the other pair dry on the back of my backpack.

Another important part about preventing blisters is keeping your feet clean. So at the end of each day, bring some water to camp and wash the dirt and debris off your feet. This will help prevent rubbing and blisters in your shoes. Then let your feet air dry a bit in the evening when you are camping. Dry feet are happy feet my friend.

Second, learn how to properly treat blisters if you get one. If you do happen to get a blister on your foot when backpacking (and trust me, you will one of these days), make sure you know exactly how to treat it beforehand. If you notice a hot spot or blister, address the problem right away with moleskin or liquid blister prevention. Raw feet certainly ruin a backpacking trip. Not to mention, if open wounds go unattended, it can lead to nasty infection.

10. Forgetting to Write a safety Trip Plan

As much as we want everything in life to be perfect, sometimes things don’t go to plan. A safety trip plan helps to let others know where you are, what your plan is and what to do if something goes wrong. It’s not only important to write a trip plan, but it’s equally important to leave it at home with someone you trust. Here’s a high-level look at what to include in your plan.

  • A detailed description of where you are going. It helps to include helpful info such as where you plan to camp.

  • A description of your vehicle (with license plate number), yourself, your tent and anyone who may be traveling with you. Include helpful medical info such as allergies or pre-existing conditions.

  • A note about when you expect to be back and what to do if you haven’t checked in. Give your emergency contact instructions on how to call search and rescue as well as the local ranger station. Don’t forget to check in with your emergency contact once you’re back in service!

11. Bringing Too Much (or Too Little) Food ..
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Alright, this one’s for the women backpackers out there. Sure, you boys may be able to glean something from this, and definitively give it a read if you are interested, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! In this article we are going to spill the dirt on essential backpacking hygiene, and more specifically female hygiene while backpacking in the outdoors.

Sure, you may be the kind of gal that likes to play in the dirt, but that doesn’t mean you don’t care about personal hygiene while camping and backpacking. Even the dustiest of dirtbag darlings like to stay clean in the outdoors. This guide to feminine care while backpacking will help you stay clean while still enjoying the great outdoors. These tips for staying clean in the backcountry are designed to not only help you but also minimize your impact on the environment.

So let’s get down to it and answer your most burning questions about personal care as a woman backpacker. Trigger warning: we are about to get REAL here because let’s be honest everybody poops. If some of these subjects gross you out, proceed with caution.

Note: Some of the links in the below post may contain affiliate links.

essential backpacking hygiene tips for women backpackers Keep Those Hands Clean

The best way to ensure you’re off to a great start with backcountry, regardless of your sex, is to keep your hands clean. This means using hand sanitizer before and after bathroom breaks, handling food, or whenever they get dirty. If you’re sharing snacks with a buddy be sure to dump snacks in each other’s hands, instead of reaching into a communal baggie and contaminating it.

What’s the Best Way to Stay Fresh-Faced?

Keeping your face feeling fresh and clean can be a real mood booster. I like to carry around a quick dry towel or use a BUFF headband to quickly wash my face. I typically just use water, since soaps can leave harmful chemical residue on the environment. If I have a particularly bad day lathering on bug spray and sunscreen, I’ll wipe my face with a Wet One. However, I’ll always pack these things out with me in my waste bag.

backpacking on your period

Getting your period on a backpacking trip doesn’t have to be a deal breaker or a total bummer. There are a few ways to keep everything under control and tidy while hiking on your period. First, it’s important to understand that one of the key elements of backpacking is packing out your trash, this includes items such as toilet paper and tampons. To put it plainly, don’t bury your tampons (animals dig it up - gross!) carry them with you. For many of us, that’s kind of gross. There are two ways to deal with this.

  • Create a waste baggie. Cover a ziplock baggie with duct tape and add a little baking soda to the bag to help with the smell. You can put your used feminine products in the baggie and toss it away when you get home. Or sometimes I will get a light-weight “stuff sack” and I keep my unused items loose in the stuff sack, and I have a separate ziplock for my used items. Then when you head off for the bathroom, you still maintain your personal privacy because your friends will just assume your bringing TP or backpacking wipes with you.

  • Use a menstrual cup. Many women love this option of using a menstrual cup while camping and backpacking. It’s simple to use and you don’t have to fuss with a bunch of trash (not to mention the cost savings). Use a little water to rinse out the cup each day. If you’re out for many days, you’ll likely want to bring along some biodegradable, mild backpacking soap to wash it out with. Just be sure to bury the organic contents of the cup in a cat hole, just as you would if you were going to the bathroom. If you're new to club cup, be sure to practice with it at home first, it takes some getting used to. 

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What is the Best Way to Pee in the Woods?

Going to the bathroom in the woods, especially for the non-initiated can be an intimidating experience. Peeing is one of those times where I’m really jealous of the guys. They just have it so much easier while we have to deal with split streams, extra backpacking toilet paper, splashback, squatting with a pack on, snow, and everything in between. I’ve tried countless methods of peeing outside throughout all the seasons and I’ve become something a she-wiz-wizard. There are several methods I recommend giving a go (see what I did there?) but only one that I truly find to be the best.

DRIP DRY OR USE NATURAL MATERIALS

This is my actually one of my go-to methods because honestly, I’m a little bit lazy. It’s also very effective in a pinch. If you use leaves or rocks, you still risk getting dirty in your nether regions (or accidentally wiping with a poisonous plant - ouch!). So take care, usually I just drip dry.

  • Advantages: No new skills or special gear required.

  • Disadvantages: You’re still squatting. This method is dirty, and if you don’t allow for a long enough “drip dry” time, it could be a bit uncomfortable walking.

SKIP THE BACKPACKING TOILET PAPER AND USE A RAG

We’ve already discussed how you can’t leave your toilet paper behind, so why waste more by using it to go number 1? Use a pee rag instead. There are a few products out there that anti-microbial fabric (Kula Cloth is a personal fave). Simply do your business then use the cloth instead of toilet paper. Then attach the cloth to the bag and let it dry in the sun. The sun and anti-microbial fabric work together to keep the cloth clean. I recently got my first Kula Cloth and I am learning to stop being lazy and use this instead. I love it!

  • Advantages: You can wipe yourself and feel clean and dry.

  • Disadvantages: Again, you’re squatting, and if you are backpacking for multiple days you may want to take biodegradable soap to wash your Kula Cloth (or comparable pee rag).

USE A PEE FUNNEL

A pee funnel is another great method, and another one of my preferred methods for weeing in the outdoors especially if I know there won’t be a lot of privacy on the trails (read: minimal tree coverage or rocks to hide behind).I use this a lot in mountaineering, and sometimes in the #vanlife, but that’s another post. You don’t have to hem and haw over popping a squat ever again. The best part is, you never really expose your backside so you can stay toasty and covered. A pee funnel or female urination device is one of those god-send gadgets you never know you needed. Look for a funnel that has a good seal, plenty of funnel space (so you don’t have to hold back when you really gotta go) and is easy to clean.

I keep my funnel wrapped in a pee rag, so I can give myself a quick wipe when I’m done. To rinse, simply run some water through the system. I’ve used mine for up to two weeks without it getting stinky or gross. These also work well for travel (ahem, nasty public restrooms.)

Again, they take practice. Everything you’ve ever been taught tells you that peeing standing up will end badly. Take a few practice runs at home if you’re a little gun shy.

  • Advantages: You don’t have to worry about splashback, snow, or exposing yourself to the elements.

  • Disadvantages: It’s another piece of gear you have to buy and carry, and takes some practice getting used to.

What ABOUT pooping IN THE WOODS

There’s no avoiding the squatting in this situation, and its really important that you practice Leave No Trace Principals when it comes to pooping in the outdoors. What are the rules around this?

  • The best practice is to follow Leave No Trace Principles which recommend you “deposit your human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.”

So what does my backpacking bathroom kit typically look like then?

1) Biodegradable Wipes for camping (don’t forget to pack them out!)

2) A Pee Rag Like the Kula Cloth!

3) Ziplock Bags (to carry out waste, and for your feminine hygiene kit when on your period)

4) A Lightweight Backpacking Trowel (to dig those sweet catholes)

5) Hand Sanitizer

What’s the Deal with Biodegradable Soap for backpacking?

A lot of people think it’s okay to use biodegradable soap in the backcountry to wash up and stay clean. I’m here to burst your bubble. First, it’s never okay to put biodegradable soap in freshwater sources. Bathing in a lake, river or stream with biodegradable soap harms the environment. This is particularly true in sensitive wilderness areas such as the high alpine or desert.

That doesn’t mean that biodegradable soap is bogus, it just means you need to use it properly. If you do choose to rinse off and take a backpacking shower using biodegradable soap, you need to follow Leave No Trace principles. This means carrying the water and camping soap you will use more than 200 feet (70 adult steps) from any water source and burying it after use in a 6 to 8-inch cat hole, just like you would if you were to use the bathroom. In all honesty, that’s a lot of work for a quick rinse, so opt for a soapless sponge bath instead.

How to Keep Clean Down There?

Every woman is different and unlike men, we have a bit more to worry about when it comes to staying clean in our nether regions. When you’re backpacking you’re getting sweaty and dirty. Often times, you’re traveling light without enough pairs of clean underwear. In order to keep things neat down there, you’ll need to get a little creative.

For starters, don’t try to shave while backpacking. That is most certainly going to end poorly for you. I like to think of the shower after a big backpacking trip as a holy experience and that includes shaving, trimming, what have you.

The next trick is letting yourself get some air down there. When you’re at home, you change often, but while backpacking you’re often wearing the same clothes for days on end. Let your body breathe a little. Go commando at camp for a few hours (trust me, it helps), or put on a fresh pair of underwear (underwear inside out counts for a fresh one while backpacking, and as long as my backpacking trips are within the 3-5 day range I usually opt to just bring enough fresh pairs for 1 per day). Baby wipes or Wet Ones aren’t a bad thing to have on hand, you can quickly do a wipe down or take a sponge bath if you need. We’ll chat more about that later.

Is it Safe to Take a Bath in Nature?

After a long day on the trail, a dip into a pristine high-alpine lake may sound like pure bliss but think twice. These watersheds (and those in other delicate areas such as desert potholes) are insanely fragile. Take lichen for example, it takes years to grow! Fish and other organisms in high alpine lakes have rarely been subject to humans or other invasive species, so they hang in a pretty delicate balance.

When you take the plunge into a water source in a sensitive wilderness area, you taint that water source with sunscreen, bug spray, beauty products and even the oils from your own skin. So please look but don’t touch, you may just introduce harmful chemicals and bacteria into an already delicate ecosystem.

Sometimes you’ve got to bathe, and I totally understand. After I spent four days at a basecamp high in the backcountry climbing mountains, I needed some relief from my own juices. I simply stripped down in the warm afternoon sun and gave myself a backpacking shower by doing a sponge bath with water. A quick-dry towel is an excellent piece of gear to bring on any backpacking trip. All you need for a quick rinse is some water and a towel. Use one end of the towel as the “sponge” and keep one end dry to pat yourself down after. Hit your face, pits, feet, and nether region (in that order!) for a quick freshening up. Lay the towel out to dry.

Skip the Perfume

And possibly the deodorant. Perfume attracts unwanted attention and wildlife, the last thing you want while you’re sleeping at night. Some people get a rash by wearing deodorant without a shower so feel free to leave the stick at home, personally I never bring it. It’s just extra weight and I smell anyways! Learn to embrace it. Sure you may be a bit riper, but no one cares when you’re in the wild. This is your chance to let it all hang out and be comfortable in your skin.

Tips and Tricks for Keeping Unruly Hair Picture-Perfect

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m very lazy about my hair when I go backpacking. Do you know what saves me? Braids. Braiding your hair will keep your locks neat and tidy if you’ve got long enough hair. Braids, hats, and beanies. Boom. Bad hair day solved.

As a seasoned pro at not washing my hair (I’ve gone 7 days once), the itchiness is the worst part. You can bring along dry shampoo or baby powder to help with the itchy scalp. For just a few nights, you should be fine, but if you’re backpacking for weeks, it might be worth it to carry along some dry shampoo.

How to Treat Your Feet

If you’re the duchess of dirt, then the feet are queen. Every backpacker knows that happy feet equal happy trails. Always treat blisters and hot spots at the first sign of injury. Wear non-cotton socks (I like wool socks from either Darn Tough or Smartwool) while backpacking to keep your feet happy and healthy. A hiking density sock (like Smartwool’s Hike Medium Crews) will give you a boost of cushion that feels fresh day in and day out.

In fact, one of the best ways to prevent blisters, in my opinion is to change your socks frequently when you are hiking. I always have at least 2-3 pairs when I’m backpacking. Usually I have 2 lighter thickness pairs for hiking in during the day, that I will switch out frequently and let the other pair dry on the back of my backpack. Another important part about preventing blisters is keeping your feet clean. So at the end of each day, bring some water to camp and wash the dirt and debris off your feet. This will help prevent rubbing and blisters in your shoes.

Keep a special pair of sacred socks just for camp. Pop those bad boys on once you’re done hiking for the day. This pair provides a loving hug for your feet and helps prevent nasty foot fungus from setting in.

Lastly, if the weather allows, give your feet some room to breathe. Take a load off and sit down with your shoes off, allowing your feet to dry out in the sun. This will also help prevent foot fungus, blisters, and other nasty tootsie troubles.

feminine Hygiene backpacking -Essential backpacking toiletries

We’ve discussed a lot of things about how to stay clean as a woman while backpacking and talked through many of the most important hiking hygiene tips. Keep organized with this handy backpacking hygiene kit packing list that you should bring on your next backpacking trip.

1) A Pee Rag Like the Kula Cloth!

2) Biodegradable Wipes (don’t forget to pack them out!)

3) A Pee Funnel for Women

4) Menstrual Cup for backpacking when on your period

5) Ziplock Bags (to carry out waste, and for your feminine hygiene kit when on your period)

6) A Lightweight Backpacking Trowel (to dig those sweet catholes)

7) Hand Sanitizer

8)..

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