While getting outside and reconnecting with nature always sounds appealing, more often than not figuring out where to start can become more daunting than the actual trip. After you have purchased all the necessary gear, next comes the fun part of planning. So grab a guidebook to your chosen destination along with a detailed topographic map and keep these essential tips in mind when planning your big trip.
Choosing a Destination
Consider planning your first few backpacking adventures in areas that are within driving distance of home; this will allow you to reschedule should bad weather unexpectedly strike. Setting out on a well-marked trail with easy terrain, established campsites and ample water sources will aid in alleviating some of the first time jitters and allow you to focus more on the fun and beauty.
A successful hike always starts with research. Your most up-to-date resource are the rangers who roam the area and are well acquainted with the area in which you are about to travel. One phone call or visit to the nearest ranger station can supply you with current trail conditions, permit requirements, what critters to be watchful of and any trail or campsite closures that may be in effect. When researching possible trails keep in mind your physical conditioning and if your skill set (and gear) can handle the worse weather you could possibly encounter. If you find yourself wavering towards maybe (or no) consider modifying your trip and your goals.
Know Before You Go
Plan to hike no more than five to seven miles a day, depending on your physical conditioning. Before setting off be sure find out if the area in which you are traveling will require a backcountry permit, check the weather religiously before departing and most importantly, where you can find a post-trip beverage! Also, do not forget to let someone back at home know your plans and stick to your chosen route. So if for some reason you run across trouble you will be easier to locate.
On the Trail
Stay flexible as surprises are bound to happen eventually. By doing your homework you will be prepared to improvise if need be. Consider keeping a log, at least on your first few excursions. By recording the weather and trail conditions, how long it took you to get from point a to point b, how long it took to set up and break down camp, you can use this information for planning future trips.