I know you may be thinking, “How hard can it be to carry a backpack around for a few miles?” Believe me, if you aren’t physically or mentally prepared for what might be your first backpacking trip, there’s a high chance that you may be struggling on your hike which will take away from you allowing to enjoy your experience. We are a few months months away from our first MLC backpacking trip, so we wanted to provide as many helpful tips and information as we can for those joining us, or for anyone who has any future backpacking plans. Here you’ll find ways to train for your upcoming hike, what gear to buy, and what/how you should pack!
PICKING THE RIGHT BACKPACK
Overnight packs (1-2 nights) can range from 30-50 liters. The amount of space you need all depends on how long you’ll be backpacking, what activities you’ll be doing, and if you plan on doing ultralight backpacking (carrying ONLY the absolute essentials) or not. For our Supai trip in June, we’ll be staying overnight for two nights and three days. It’s recommended that you buy all of your gear FIRST before buying the backpack, that way you know how much will be going into your pack.
Your backpack should match your torso length (not your overall height). You can get measured at REI where they can also fill your pack with sandbags to test out the feel of your backpack when choosing (very glad I did this - some backpacks were super uncomfortable when I filled them with weight), or you can measure it yourself. To determine your size, reach behind your neck, bend your head forward, and find the C7 vertebra: It’s the bone that sticks out the most on your upper spine. Next, locate the iliac crest. It’s the top of the hip shelf on the sides of your hips. Finally, have somebody take a cloth measuring tape to take the distance from the C7 vertebra down to the point of your back that’s at the same level as your hips’ iliac crest. This distance is your torso length. (Source) Please be sure to test out your pack with weight before buying! Make sure all of the straps are comfortable on your shoulders, hip bones, and chest area, and of course on your back.
WHAT GEAR TO BUY/PACK
*Please note, I mostly used links from REI and Amazon, but you can also find these supplies at Walmart or other outdoor/online stores for more affordable alternatives
* PRINTABLE CHECKLIST can be found HERE.
Tent, stakes, poles, tarp/tent footprint
Sleeping pad or a floaty
FOR THE HIKE
FOOD + COOKWEAR
MRE’s / Dehydrated foods
Fuel for stove
Minimal clothing for less weight (light jacket just in case, extra undies, extra socks, one shirt, one pair of pants, swimwear) - Tips on what types of clothing to wear can be found here
Padlock to lock up your tent just in case
A tag on your backpack with all of your information just in case your pack gets lost
Sunblock, hat, sunglasses
Small first aid kit
Toilet paper (although they do have bathrooms there, but extra TP might save ya)
Small trash bag to pack your trash out (LEAVE NO TRACE!)
Rope to hang wet clothes, trash, food, emergencies
Ziplocks to put your electric stuff in just in case your pack goes in the water
Biodegradable soap for washing dishes
Cash for frybead - a must try in Supai!
HOW TO PACK
There is a specific way to organize your gear which will help in efficiently packing your backpack for more comfort, convenience, and stability. To learn how to properly pack your backpack, be sure to check this article out… or this one! My favorite tip: pack, re-pack & re-pack again.
WHAT NOT TO DO
- Pack luxuries. A good way to avoid over packing is to only pack the items you cannot survive without, such as water or your sleeping bag - the absolute necessities. The less weight, the better!
Wear your shoes straight from the box. Break in your shoes before you take them out on the trail! Fresh shoes may look nice, but they’ll hurt like a mother if you don't break them in before your hike.
Expect that you don’t need training on your first backpacking hike. Save yourself the agony. Work out a few times a week up until our trip and practice carrying your pack with weight on hikes.
Pack your gear into your backpack for the first time right before the trip. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Weigh your gear. Practice packing. Train, train, train.
Leave home without telling anyone where you’re going. Always make sure to leave your itinerary with someone back home to make sure you get back safely.
Over pack on clothing. You don’t need three sets of clothing for three days. Only pack the necessities. An itinerary will be sent out closer to the date of our trip which should help you decide in what items you'll need.
Leave trash behind. Always follow the LEAVE NO TRACE principles wherever you hike.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND FOR HAVASUPAI
There are no trash bins! You pack out what you pack in.
Bring money just in case you decide to take the helicopter ride or mules to carry your gear if you need them last minute. They accept cash and card.
Not all of the items listed are necessities. I personally pack as minimally as I can rather than what I want to bring to be comfortable so that my pack doesn’t weigh too much. I only pack what I absolutely need, but it’s up to you.
Camp fires are NOT allowed
There’s a natural spring at the campground where you can refill your water bladder or bottles, so don’t pack water for the whole weekend to save yourself the weight - only enough for your ten mile hike to the campground. You can refill at the campground, but make sure you bring two forms of water filtration/treatments. Or you can also boil the water, but that takes a lot of time.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND FOR BACKPACKING IN GENERAL
It’s a good idea to take a basic course in learning how to read a compass
Always check beforehand to see if permits are required to hike/camp, if a bear canister is necessary, fire restrictions, or what other regulations there are.
Give yourself time to acclimate to altitude. If you have never been in altitude, then do practice hikes in similar altitude.
When packing, remember to keep the essentials handy and in quick reach.
GET IN SHAPE
Please for the love of blob, do NOT attempt your first backpacking hike without physically preparing for it. Start training at least a few months before your backpacking trip.
Running, stairmaster, or any other aerobic exercise is a great way to cross-train for your backpacking trip. It builds your endurance and strengthens your joints and muscles. Be sure to add 2 to 3 days of 30 minutes - an hour of cardio in your week.
Hiking uses almost every muscle in your body, not just your legs! Arm, core, back, and booty strength are just as important. Be sure to include a few days of weightlifting in your training.
Hike/Walk With Your Backpack
There’s no better way to practice hiking/backpacking than to actually do it! For the first few weeks, go on a hike or 2 per week. After a few weeks, add more miles and add your backpack. Gradually start adding weight over time, leading up to your full pack. Keep in mind that we will be hiking over 20 miles within 3 days in Supai. Please note that the hike begins going down one mile of switchbacks (which we’ll hiking UP on the way back), and after that, the terrain is mostly flat and rocky, so be sure to practice on hikes that are similar. Hills and dirt!
In order to fully enjoy your backpacking experience, it is a must to be fully prepared by making sure you’re physically fit and making sure you have all the necessary gear. Remember that we here at MLC are NOT expert backpackers. This blog was created through research and personal experiences. There are countless articles on backpacking tips out there and it’s always helpful to do your own research, but we hope all of this information helps. Best of luck on your backpacking adventures and if you plan on joining us on our trip to Havasupai in the summer, you're in for a hell of a time.