If you’ve got your camping setup dialed, then there’s a good chance that you’ve exhausted most of the campsites in your area. If that’s the case, you’re probably over the downsides of established campgrounds, including: noisy neighbors, paved roads, and the waft of the restroom located just a little too conveniently close to your tent.
Now, compare that experience with backcountry camping. Getting off the beaten path and carrying everything you need to survive on your back changes your camping mindset. You’ll grow as an explorer by putting your camping skills to the test and you’ll gain a new appreciation for the outdoors that you just can’t get car camping. The ability to leave the safety of your car behind and make anywhere your home is true independence.
A lot of what you know from camping will carry over into the skills needed to start backpacking, but there are a few crucial things to consider.
First is your gear. You may love piling a ton of friends into a six-person tent that’s filled with big sleeping bags and pillows, but that’s not really going to fly when you need to carry your gear for miles. Instead, divide your group into a several two-person tents and choose a lightweight sleeping bag that packs down to a reasonable size. And of course, you’ll need a reliable backpack to haul your gear.
Next you want to think about your clothes. Unlike car camping, you can’t bring half of your wardrobe and leave it in the car, just in case. Plan on wearing the same clothes for most of the trip - especially if it’s just an overnighter. Pack a baselayer, mid-layer, and a down jacket (plus an extra pair of socks, in case your first pair gets wet). Don’t forget a beanie for those chilly nights in the backcountry.
Since you’ll be hiking several miles with all this gear on your back, it’s important to take good care of your feet. That means getting a sturdy, comfortable pair of hiking boots. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether you want a shoe with low or high ankle support. Everyone is different, so try on a few pairs and see what feels right.