Backpacking For The Novice

Whether it’s sitting in front of a computer all day, behind the wheel of a car navigating through traffic, or just laying on the couch watching the day fade away, sometimes the monotony of the busy routine can become all to familiar. When the four walls of the great indoors seem to be closing in just a little too tight, it may be time to get out and enjoy God’s creation.

Backpacking has always been a favorite among outdoor enthusiast, but recently it’s been catching on among urbanites and non-mountaineering metros. Backpacking combines the workout of hiking, travel elements of camping and the adventure of exotic locales. It’s a cheap way to get out and experience a little adventure in your own backyard, whether it’s taking to the trails of a state park or exploring a major city in an urban hike trek. The best way to get started is to get your hands on a good pack and some quality equipment. The first essential step for any hiker is to find a good pair of shoes that offer durability, support and comfort (after all you’re going to be doing a lot of walking).

[Get Your Kicks]

New Balance has always been a leader in comfortable walking shoes that are even somewhat fashionable. Their prices range anywhere from $60 walking shoes, to running shoes that cost well over a hundred bucks, but even the cheaper ones are a quality investment. New Balance also offers a variety of cross-training, tennis and even trail hiking shoes to fit the different styles of backpackers. Salomon footwear also offers a large variety of hiking shoes that are more high end. Their footwear line has a range of products that include everything from mountaineering boots and amphibious shoes, to cross trainers and hiking boots. Other brands like Adidas and Nike are affordable footwear, but remember, shoes are the most important piece of hiking equipment, so look at it like an investment.

[Finding the Right Pack for Your Back]

Obviously, if you’re planning your first backpacking trip, it’s pretty important that you have a good backpack. Backpacks can range in price anywhere from upwards of $400 to below $80; it all depends on what you’re looking for. The first thing to figure out is what kind of trips you are planning on making. Longer excursions can last for days or even weeks with all of your supplies on your back while shorter day-trips can last just for an afternoon. For those planning on making long, overnight camping trips, picking a good pack can be a combination of finding out what suits your equipment the best, but for those planning on more brief adventures, a daypack may be your best choice. Sierratradingpost.com has a lot of quality daypacks at discount prices; most of them are well under $100. Your local sporting-goods store can help you find the best fit for your frame.

[Planning for an Urban Excursion]

Urban backpacking trips offer the adventurous travel of camping trips except they give the hiker a more cultural experience. No matter what part of the country you live in, there are cities that present great day-hikes with tons of things to see, places to eat and affordable places to stay. West Coast cities like San Francisco, San Diego, Portland and Seattle are known for their eclectic offerings that include boardwalks, museums and diners. Also, depending on what cities you decide to visit, there’s a good chance that some form of public transportation is offered so that you can see a lot in just one day. Major middle-American cities across the country like Indianapolis, Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago also provide great day-treks. East Coasters can check out Washington D.C., Boston and New York for urban trips with plenty to see and plenty of ground to cover.

[Taking to the Great Outdoors]

Though city trips are a fun way to get out and see the metropolitan side of the country, nothing is like a trip into one of our nation’s state and national parks. These wilderness outings can be day-trips through novice trails of the Appalachian, to weeklong camping tours of the towering peaks of Yellowstone. Check out http://www.backpacker.com/bestbackpackinginamerica/0,4252,,00.html for a list of the best backpacking destinations in every state across the US. Most of these backpacking locales are free; park maps and brochures full of local features usually only cost a few a dollars or a small donation. Remember that there are safety measures that should be taken whenever backpacking, especially if you are going alone. Always make sure you know your way around with the help of a good map and learn how to read trail markers before you go solo. Always have plenty of water and first aid gear, and of course have a good time. There’s a lot of country out there, but it’s up to you to go and see it.

[Jesse Carey is a journalism student at Oral Roberts University and is currently living the dream as a RELEVANT intern.]

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