Advice from Ambassador, Logan Marie of Her Oregon Life
Scared to travel on new terrain? Afraid to try backpacking for the first time but have always wanted to? I’ve been there too, and still get nervous. Here are 5 tips on how to mentally prepare for your backpacking trip, whether it be your first or 20th trip. You see, backpacking teaches you to trust your body and what it is capable of. Backpacking teaches you the art of letting go, to embracing what is in that moment. Let go of fear, let go of being in control, and get used to being uncomfortable, because you will be.
- Be Prepared With Gear
On my first backpacking trip I went with hikers who had more experience than myself which I found super helpful and helped put my mind at ease. I was able to share gear rather than buying everything which I highly suggest doing just in case you don’t like backpacking. Plus it’s super fun to see everybody’s different tricks that you can apply on your own later.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather in the backcountry-and be sure to cancel your trip if the weather looks dangerous for backpacking. Having the proper gear for rain/snow and hot sun is going to make you feel more comfortable and safer if the weather changes.
If possible, invest in an emergency device. I use the Garmin InReach device which gives me a chance to have access to emergency support if the time comes. Emergency devices can be a little pricey, but man does it help me feel safer once I lose cell service. At the very least have an emergency kit that is full of everything you might need in case of an accident.
- Read Trip Reports
There is a fine line between obsessing over trip reports and reading trip reports so you feel confident vs. becoming scared. Even though I consider myself an experienced backpacker now, I can still come across trip reports that might make me feel incapable. Elevation gain, milage, and steepness of a trail can bring up a lot of self doubt. Am I experienced enough to cross a snow field? Oh no, river crossing on a steady flowing stream, I have never done that before. Reading trail BETA like this can help you understand if the trail you are planning to backpack on is going to be a good fit for your experience and comfort level.
Reach out to people on Instagram! Reading trip reports can often leave you with additional questions. If you are able to find somebody online who recently went, reach out to them with questions. Most backpackers are willing to share trail BETA or previous experiences with you which can help ease pre-trip anxiety. Being prepared will minimize stress on trail.
- Don’t Doubt Yourself
Backpacking will not come easy to most. Especially those first few trips. Carrying a heavy pack on your back is going to be hard no matter what! Physical and mental exhaustion will come and go as you hike on the trail-so there is one mantra I always go back to when I am having a hard time on trail: “one foot in front of the other”. Worrying about how far you have to go constantly can take the fun out of backpacking, and make it feel like a chore vs. a healing journey through nature.
When I am having a hard time on trail I am always sure to communicate that with the group or my hiking buddy. Taking breaks is important, and it’s OK to take breaks. Backpacking shouldn’t be rushed whatsoever. Take your time, use your breath, and remind yourself of one foot in front of the other on those hard parts and you’ll feel so proud of your body getting you to your beautiful destination. It’s more about the journey than the destination, so savor every moment.
- Listen to Your Body
Before I depart on a backpacking trip I like to give my body extra attention through fitness and stretching. I have learned the hard way going into a backpacking trip without doing additional strength training beforehand, my muscles aren’t as happy with me. BUT, I was capable and I haven’t always felt in great shape before backpacking, so don’t think you need to become a body builder before your trip.
I like to incorporate yoga, meditation, and strength training at least a month before my trip to get myself feeling strong. I find this additional training has helped me sustain from injuries as well.
- Do You
Backpackers and hikers will do everything differently- so finding your rhythm and system that works for you is going to make backpacking more enjoyable. Creature comforts for one are going to vary to the next person, and don’t let judgment get in the way of that. If you want your tequila and lime in the backcountry, pack it! And you won’t regret it.
Gear is going to vary from person to person as well. Backpacking is not a cheap hobby if you are buying top of the line gear, which is a privilege not everyone has. You can still hit the trail with basic necessities and rented or used gear, so don’t let the hiker culture get in the way of you getting out and trying backpacking. It can be extremely intimidating at first as there is always somebody who will know more than you.
Just because that girl on Instagram said backpacking meals are delicious does not mean you need to eat that too! Get creative and do what works for your body when it comes to food. Trust me, I have had too many experiences having awful food in the backcountry, which can certainly make your trip less enjoyable.
Pro-tip: always pack Pepto Bismol just in case
Just remember, backpacking isn’t a one size fits all activity. It takes getting out there over and over again to understand how to make it your own journey and nobody else’s.
Blog post and photos submitted by Logan Dralle
Follow along her adventures at @her.oregon.life