New to Backpacking

Introduce yourself to the group! We welcome novice and expert alike! We especially love hearing from those new to Portland and those new to hiking
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Joined: October 2nd, 2018, 2:42 pm

New to Backpacking

Post by EstimatedEyes » October 2nd, 2018, 3:06 pm

Hi all. Been browsing this site for five years and have decided to make an account now that my girlfriend and I have decided to start backpacking.

I've done a couple backpacking/fly fishing trips in the past but nothing serious. I've hiked a bit around Portland, and I did some more in parts of Central and Southern Oregon with my grandfather and my parents as a kid.

Looking forward to reading about safety, technique, stories, and what to bring/what to skip. If anyone has some wisdom or experience they'd like to impart, that'd be most welcome!

Just wanted to say hi and thank you for this resource. I'd like to be able to contribute to it in the future if I can. All the best.


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Re: New to Backpacking

Post by Water » October 3rd, 2018, 11:40 am

Welcome David!

There's a wealth of information out there already on the internet regarding gear and such and it sounds like you've already done a few trips at this point maybe?

If you haven't a few things I'd recommend for a first trip:
- short distance/easy hike (1-3 miles). This keeps it easy for if you need to retreat to the car for any reason. You can also ostensibly bring a lot more 'in case items' if you're not doing something difficult/long to start with.

- don't go nuts at REI buying things before hand. Start with a bare essentials list, ask here to borrow, rent, etc. After your first trip or two or three you'll have a better idea about things. Like "why the hell did I buy the REI camp whisk?...this weighs 3oz and I did not whisk any pancake batter, and couldn't I do that with my spork if I needed to?" REI has a lot of good gear but they are also into marketing and selling the 'image' of the outdoors so there is a ton of relatively useless stuff there that in the moment make sense but in reality are just noise/clutter for backpacking. In the store you might look at a 'spork carrying case' and think, well yeah, I should carry my $20 titanium spork in this $6.99 nylon case, of course! in reality you can just throw it in with your food or stove etc. There are so many things like that at REI... (and outdoors stores in general but REI has slick marketing to make you think you need these things).

- figuring out your desires will help with a lot of gear things. For instance I never want to clear a dish while backpacking. I mean even wiping grease off a plate is almost too much. We almost exclusively boil water and pour it into freezer ziplocks/pre-packaged dehydrated meals. If fires are OK we might do pre-cooked sausages, peppers, and onions in tin foil in it. That said, there are some awesome people who backpack to cool places and manage to make mini-gourmet meals which always look incredible when I see them. This type of thing will affect what kind of stove you get, etc. But it applies to all area.. some people like a thick sleeping pad to sleep really comfortably. Others are ok scrimping with a little piece of 3/4th length foam because they want to be ultra light, go 20 miles, and will be exhausted and will make due putting that pad and their backpack under their feet--the sleep component isn't as important.

-safety, always tell someone back in civilization where you plan on going, or leave the 3 options or whatever if you don't have it narrowed down. Just send an email to a friend etc with your expected return time. Preferably someone who won't freak out if they don't hear from you before that exact time.
-trust your gut. If it looks scary or you feel in danger, in most cases that's your body giving you good feedback about the environment. There's always a plan B.

-have a map. I don't always bring one these days depending on what I'm doing (lewis river trail...probably not). But when I was new to the area, always.

-one gear tip I like is that basic hardware store gloves.. $5-10, made of nylon on the back with a synthetic leather on the palm and fingers. They work great for doing anything like boulder scrambling where you might have your hands on rocks. Offer a bit of warmth for cool nights or early morning hikes. Great for if you have to move rocks at camp, or if you're collecting firewood (keeps sap off hands), etc. They're cheap-all lightweight gloves wear out!
Feel Free to Feel Free

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