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A beginner’s guide to backpacking: How to pack, eat and enjoy life on the trail

Let’s get one thing straight: I did not grow up in an outdoorsy family. We spent the occasional summer road-tripping through Colorado, sure, but I was just as likely to spend an entire school break playing Super Nintendo in my cookie-cutter suburban home. So, I understand how intimidating it can feel to get into backpacking late in the game.

With national parks making headlines this year for their record attendance, long gate lines and timed entry reservations, there’s no time like the present to escape the crowds and enjoy a simpler, quieter experience in the nation’s public lands. With the right gear, backpacking can easily become a safe and comfortable sport for literally anyone who can carry thirty pounds for 2-3 miles. Yes, really.

My first backpacking trip was a hilarious fiasco at age 28 that involved a child-sized sleeping bag, a leather jacket and two adventurers crammed into a tiny single-person tent. I didn’t know what altitude was or that it significantly decreases your oxygen and hiking speed, so the majority of the day was spent huffing and puffing my way along a trail above 9,000 feet, wondering why I felt so gosh darn out of shape. But, I still had a blast.

The magic of skipping the crowds in favor of pristine sunsets and sunrises over crystalline alpine lakes cannot be overstated. I’m convinced that it’s the perfect antidote to our overscheduled, cell phone-addled lives. As National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Mike Libecki, told us, “We will never stop learning, and let’s not stop pursuing our passion… the time is now, why ration passion for life?”

Continue reading the full article written by Emily Pennington here.


September 27, 2023

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Emily Pennington

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