I’d consider myself a pretty experienced backpacker—last summer, I spent more than three months backpacking 1,000 miles. But it was only two years before that I went on my first backpacking trip. It was 10 miles one way, I didn’t prepare properly, and I hadn’t really hiked before. I could barely lift my pack, it was so heavy, and my sleeping pad swayed precariously every time I took a step.
Despite being wildly unprepared, this trip started me on the path toward some incredible outdoor experiences. But I do wish I had known a little about packing before I took my first trip.
To help you get started on the right foot, I asked a couple of experts for their best packing tips for beginner backpackers. Here’s what they (and I) want you to know.
1. Start with the 10 essentials.
Navigation, sun protection, insulation, lighting, first aid, fire, tools, food, water, and shelter make up the standard list of The 10 Essentials, which was created by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization for outdoor adventurers.
“As long as you have these—they’re 10 categories of items that you should have with you—you’re going to be pretty well prepared,” Lindsay McIntosh, an REI Outdoor School backpacking instructor in Portland, Oregon, tells SELF. REI gives a good break down of the importance of each item here.