Whether it’s your first time or fiftieth, a backpacking trip will be more enjoyable if you plan ahead. You can’t just throw things in your backpack and go trekking, as a little bit of preparation is necessary and you’ll be better off for it in the long run.
If it’s your first time to go backpacking, look for an experienced backpacker to accompany you just to be safe. If you have to go alone, set the date and duration of the trip so you can pack the right amount of supplies.
Bring at least a couple of topographic maps of the area you’re going to visit, preferably USGS (US Geologic Survey) or British Ordnance Survey maps as they are high resolution. There are also detailed maps available for mobile devices so you may want to consider those.
Bring a compass and learn how to use it.
Plan the route ahead of time and decide if you’re going to do an out and back, a loop hike or an end to end. An end to end is not recommended for beginners but if you’re going to do this make sure there’s a car at both ends of the trail. You should also look the area up on the Web and find out what the weather is like at this time of the year, the terrain etc.
Assess your physical condition and remember that the terrain and weather plays a huge role in determining how many miles you can travel a day. Weekend backpackers can do 6 to 12 miles (9 to 20 km), while experienced hikers can double those numbers. But do not try to reach these numbers if you cannot and just go at the pace you’re comfortable with.
If you’re going to camp for several days, plan the camping areas before you go and make sure there’s a water source nearby.
National parks and public locations require permits for camping so work on those as soon as possible.
Bring more than enough water to last from one water source to the next, and bring at least two filters in case one gets clogged up. Bring enough food to last you the trip as well.
Bring only necessary equipment like maps, compass, first aid kit, food and water, flashlight, sleeping bag, pots, pans, communications device and a portable stove. The amount of equipment you’ll need to bring depends on the duration of your hike, which is why planning ahead is very important.
Tell someone you’re going backpacking and provide that person with all the details concerning your itinerary and when you expect to get back, so if something goes wrong someone back home will know.
Last but not the least you’ll need backpackers insurance. No matter how careful you are, and even if you’ve been backpacking for several years now, backpackers insurance is still necessary so you’re ready in case anything happens.