Backpacking for Beginners?

I found this story on CNN this morning about backpacking. I’m pretty sure the author has never been backpacking. I have some issues with the content and recommendations, which are very ambitious even for experienced backpackers.

The five places listed for great backpacking are:

  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Denali National Park
  • North Cascades National Park

These parks are AWESOME for experienced backpackers that have years of hiking under their belt. NONE of these parks are acceptable for first-time or novice backpackers. Even an experienced backpacker could get into deep trouble in these parks, as they have varying challenges that could absolutely kill a first-time backpacker’s interest in continuing, or actually kill the backpacker.

The extremes of desert hiking in Grand Canyon should only be faced by someone who has been hiking for a few years. Another issue: the hike is all uphill to come out of Grand Canyon–and with a backpack, that is a recipe for disaster for a first-timer.

As far as the other parks go, you will most assuredly be hiking in Grizzly Bear country. Ever been hiking and had to face down an apex¬†predator from a few yards away? Yeah, carry pepper spray and wear bells, but if you never had a pack on your back before, and you had to face down an animal that wanted to rip you to shreds…well, it might be your last trip, in every sense of the phrase. Also, the weather could be an issue in these other northerly mountainous parks. At night, you will be really, really cold. You could be caught in a snow squall even in July or August.

Our recommendation here at TrailDirt for first-time backpackers is this: go to a state park close by and plan to be gone for two days/one night. Or, if you can research a national forest hiking trail that is a smaller two-day loop, try a backpacking trip there. At least you will be a day away from the trailhead and you can build up your confidence, experience, and experience in packing your pack and your gear choices.

If you are a novice backpacker and have had a good experience on the trail, let us know in the comments below. Or, if you are an experienced backpacker, share your tips and ideas with novices. We’d love to hear about it.

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