I have a secret to share: I don’t actually enjoy backpacking. There, I said it! I would much rather go car camping and sleep in our luxurious van rather than hauling my provisions up a mountain and sleeping in a tent. Even though it isn’t my favorite summer activity, I still do it because nothing beats the views and the adventure along the way! As I’ve made peace with backpacking over the years, I’ve picked up a few habits that make it more comfortable and enjoyable. With summer here, I wanted to share my tips for first time backpackers with you today — and I think some of these tips will translate for experienced backpackers, too!
5 Very Real and Unfiltered Tips for Going Backpacking in Comfort
Find ways to sneak in a bit of luxury and comfort
No matter your level of experience, the number one rule of going backpacking is to make sure your pack isn’t enormously heavy. This boils down to having a minimal packing list and not straying from it. We even weigh our packs with this luggage scale. That being said… I still try to bring in at least some luxury while backpacking.
For example, I’m not bringing my beloved Avocado pillow. But I am bringing my inflatable camping pillow and then wrapping it in a fleece to make it softer and cozier. This also helps it stay in place because the material of the pillow is slick, as is my sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Little things like that make a big difference in sleep quality and comfort, especially after a long day of hiking!
Bring a delicious treat
On a similar note… you definitely deserve dessert while backpacking. We bring freeze dried meals backpacking with us because they are lightweight and easy. The problem is that they aren’t always the most satisfying… which is why we always bring dessert! Our favorite is this Creme Brulee from Backpacker’s Pantry. It has little crispy bits that are soooo good. Nothing is better atop of a mountain after hiking up all day.
Bring a cotton t-shirt to sleep in
I learned this backpacking tip from my friend Julie who is way more outdoorsy than I ever will be — and I will never not do it! After a long day of hiking, sweating, bugs, etc nothing feels better than changing into a clean, soft cotton t-shirt and tucking into your sleeping bag. Nothing! Trust me. Try it once and you’ll never go back.
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Invest in a Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad — it isn’t just for sleeping!
I cannot tell you how essential it is to have your own Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol sleeping pad while backpacking. I use mine a few different ways: first, it is a great insulating layer between my sleeping pad and the ground. I am totally that person who requires two sleeping pads and I will never apologize for me!
Second, it’s incredibly lightweight, so I also bring it on day hikes so I have something to sit on or lay down on during breaks or at the summit. We use ours all the time as seats! Sean even cut up some super-old ones into smaller segments to use on day hikes or at the crag for individual seats.
We’ve also used our Thermarest pads to make shade when we ended up in a very sun-exposed area during a beach backpacking trip. They’re so versatile, it feels like we’re constantly finding new uses every time we bring ours somewhere.
You might also enjoy my tips for taking your dogs camping and having the best time ever!
Have a plan for waste disposal
It’s always nice to go backpacking in a location with a pit toilet, but that isn’t always the norm especially the further you go out into the alpine. Pee is one thing (be sure to go away from a water source and pack out your toilet paper), but what about the other?
We invested in The Deuce, which is the best lightweight potty trowel for digging a hole. Basically, use it to dig hole that is 6-8″ deep. The edges are great for cutting through tree roots and prying out rocks. Then you can use the trowel to fill in the hole for a minimum impact toilet on the go.
We also bring a roll of dog poo bags that we use in a pinch — just be sure to double bag to prevent any mishaps when you pack out the waste. I know it isn’t glamorous, but this is a key part of leaving no trace while camping and backpacking!
These are just a FEW of my backpacking tips. I have tons more to share, so if you enjoyed this post let me know! And be sure to leave a comment with your favorite backpacking tips so I can step up my game.