A few weeks back a dear friend called out of the blue and said she was going on her fist backpacking trip into Rocky Mountain National Park. She had scored a permit for the park and was over the moon with excitement, the only problem is that she had no idea what she was doing or where to start. The thought of vanishing into the wilderness for a weekend or week sparks the innate wild spirit in all of us and gives us the opportunity to truly disconnect. Turn off cell phones and escape into pure withdrawal. So where do you start when trying to tackle the wilderness head on? Here are the essentials for your first backpacking trip:



Photo courtesy of tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of tumblr.com


If the majority of your adventures center around your meal plans, don’t worry, backpacking does not mean you have to eat beans out of a can for three days straight. There are plenty of recipes and helpful tricks to pack food efficiently.

Start small and delicious. Pack items for sandwiches or simple foods your first time out. Find food that can multitask, transforming to be at least two meals. Bagels are a perfect example, good for breakfast, lunch and dinner, also they are packed with carbs which will help fuel your body for the long trek into camp. REI and many outdoor stores also have a good collection of dry food in the camping departments that can be rehydrated on the trail if you are going super light.

Protein in key. Muscles need protein to help rejuvenate for the next day’s activities. Make sure that protein packed items make their way into you bag before you pack in sugar. Peanut butter, beef jerky and trail mix are ideal on-the-go protein snacks.

Insider tips: Don’t skimp on spices. Spices will enhance your cooking in and out of the wilderness, so don’t forget to pack them. Create your own blend of spices and store in a zip lock bag or empty spice bottle for on-the-go spice.

Need more campfire cooking inspiration?



When you are carrying all of your food, supplies and gear in and out, weight counts down to the ounce. Packing only the essentials will make your journey far more enjoyable.

Backpacking 101



Head Lamp

Light up the night and see where you are going.


Beanie or Hat

Camping at elevation the temperature can drop ten or more degrees at night, even during the hot summer months. Keep your body temperature up and pack a hat or beanie if you run cold or if you plan on staying up late around the fire.


Rain Jacket

If this spring and summer hasn’t trained you yet, you will most likely get rained on once during your trip. Packing a true rain jacket will help keep you dry and warm. Look for jackets that have fully taped seams this will keep water out and help keep you warm.


Dr. Bronner Castile Liquid Soap – Travel Size

Mother Nature is beautiful and we need to keep her that way. When heading into the backcountry soap needs to be biodegradable. Dr. Bronner’s formula is gentle and this soap can be used to clean dishes and you if you want to take a cold dip into a nearby stream or lake.



Combing a sunburn with carrying a heavy backpack is a form of self-torture that you should avoid. Lather up.


Flip Flops

A little bit of luxury can go a long way. After a long day of hiking and strolling through the woods having flip flops or slippers to wear around camp can make you feel like a king.


Party Time?

Depending on how far you are hiking a portable speaker could be worth the extra weight. The battery life of this iHome speaker is extremely impressive. It lasts up to 48 hours puts out great sound. The compact design makes it easy to throw in your bag and go.


Every camper has their own sense of style and can pack clothes accordingly. Think layers so that you can change your wardrobe as quickly as the weather.

Insider Tip: When starting to load up your pack, do it strategically. Load the heavier items, most likely food and water, first toward the bottom of the bag. This way the majority of the weight will be on your hips and legs, not your upper back and shoulders.


Water, Always

Bring more water than you think you need, summers at altitude are super dry. If you have committed to the outdoor backpacking lifestyle a Life straw is an investment worth every penny.