7 Secrets To Avoid Hating Your First Backpacking Trip

Let’s be real, no one can honestly say they’ve hiked for multiple days and enjoyed every single second of it. And if you can, please tell me your backpacking secrets! 

Hiking with a backpack that’s of similar weight to a small child, with constantly changing weather conditions and uneven terrain sounds, well, terrible. But we continue to engage in this activity time and time again, forgetting the negative thoughts that swarm like the infuriating amount of bugs around our heads while we’re on the trails. 

But before you scold me for talking so negatively about backpacking, or before you swear off multi-day hiking for good, let me continue…

While the not so enjoyable parts of hiking are inevitable, the rewards tip the balance monumentally. With every challenging step comes the feeling of achievement and pride. With every infuriating insect comes a magical animal encounter. With every scratch and prod from the unavoidable flora comes a view that takes your breath away.

The feeling of being immersed so deep in nature that the outside world seems to be light-years away is one that will refresh the soul time and time again. And luckily, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your time in the wilderness is as enjoyable as possible.

These are my ultimate secrets, which may not be so secret, that keep me blissfully happy on the trails… most of the time! 

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Hiking to the base of Cradle Mountains Summit on the Overland Track

Be Prepared For Any Kind Of Weather

While this tip may be an obvious one, it’s still the main topic people either overlook or fail to properly prepare for. 

The mountains are notorious for disregarding any form of predicted weather. We’ve been hit with snow in summer, extreme heat in winter and enough wind to turn even the sanest crazy. 

And while heavy rains and extreme winds aren’t all that fun, there are ways you can prepare for hiking in bad weather, allowing you to continue enjoying your hiking trip. 

As a rule, we never leave home without our rain jackets – especially when venturing on our favourite Tasmanian hikes – and some form of shelter for multi-day hikes. A tent is our usual form of shelter but if you’re planning a long day hike, it might be best to add a stashable tarp in case you get caught out.

The one time we hiked unprepared was in the Walls of Jerusalem, and let me tell you, we learnt from that mistake! Many unfortunate events led us to endure our coldest and most uncomfortable sleep yet, but the worst part is, all could have been avoided with a little preparation. 

Hiking to the summit of Stacks Bluff in the heavy snowfall showing it's easy to have a successful first backpacking trip

Learn How To Read The Weather On Your Backpacking Trip

Taking your research a step further than your phone’s basic weather forecast app will be incredibly beneficial in planning your backpacking trips. Learning how to read weather maps can help you avoid unfavourable weather or, at the very least, pack appropriately.

Websites such as BOM offer extensive insight into the weather predictions in Australia. Utilising their MetEye Forecasting Tool webpage can offer you detailed information on rain, temperature, wind, fog, snow, storms and much more, in three-hour blocks. 

For global weather forecasts, the best three websites are:

Mountain Forecast even offers information on the particular mountain range you’re planning for, including temperatures from the peaks and valleys.

But to truly get the most out of these websites, you can do a little research on reading a weather map. The most important aspects to understand for hiking are pressure systems and fronts. BOM explains it perfectly in this post. 

However, many multi-day hikes are remote with no reception. In these circumstances, it is super handy to have an understanding of the different types of clouds and what they mean. Tatonka offers a great explanation with additional information on how to use a barometer to predict bad weather.

Now you don’t have to become a weather expert, but having a basic understanding of important principles will go a long way in having a successful backpacking trip.

Stormy weather pattern blowing in over the peak of mountain ranges in Tasmania while backpacking

Don’t Skimp On Hot Meals While Backpacking

You will quickly learn that a hot meal has the power to lift your mood enormously when you’re cold and tired. Even in the height of summer when you couldn’t fathom eating something hot while walking through the blistering heat, a hot meal that’s full of tasty nutrients will make all the difference in the world when you’re at camp.

Some choose to ditch the hot food to save weight, but if you live for a good meal like us, this may not be the right choice for you. 

Food is our number one priority when we’re hiking – behind our photography of course – and we make sure we’ve got plenty of tasty treats and a delicious meal to dream about as we walk. 

Our three favourite backpacking meals that are sure to boost your mood mid-hike are miso ramen soup, a big bowl of delicious pasta or veggie stir fry.

Cooking a hot backpacking meal on Mt Victoria in cold hiking conditions

Don’t Rush The Hike – Give Yourself Enough Time

I know that some love to speed hike, but unless that’s your passion and you’ve mastered the art of walking many miles in a day, I suggest you take as long as you can.

While we can somewhat comfortably walk for 20 km a day, we choose to keep our days around 10 km. We love to take our time, look at all the scenery and stop for snack breaks regularly… and a lunchtime coffee never goes astray either. 

Slowing down allows you to see everything, take in the wilderness and avoid being burnt out on the first day or two. Pushing yourself with a heavy pack will cause fatigue and pain, nothing else. The reason we hike is to enjoy nature and trust me, when your feet are torn to shreds, this is nearly impossible.

Plan your days to have a minimum amount of kilometres that you can possibly do and if you decide to do more, great. But if you’re rushing to get to camp and it’s already hitting dusk, you won’t enjoy your time nearly as much.

Watching the sunrise from the peak of Mt Freycinet while hiking the Freycinet Circuit

Choose The Right Hiking Buddies For Your Backpacking Trip

Have you ever travelled with a best friend, only to realise it was the worst idea ever? Not all friends are the same and not all will be your best choice in every situation. 

You may love your best friend dearly, but when you jump on the hiking trails and realise you don’t walk at the same pace, disagree on directions, and one becomes very lazy around camp, your friendship may form some cracks.

Many of you could have a similar friendship story from your younger years, travelling through cities, staying in nice accommodation, with the biggest argument of the day being over where to eat. But trust me, it becomes a whole lot worse when you’re sleeping in a tent and expending almost all your energy each day. 

Do you and your friends a favour and take the time to choose wisely. It can be as simple as embarking on a few smaller day hikes with your potential companion before the big event.

Hiking with great people is the best way to have a successful backpacking trip

Invest In Reliable Backpacking Gear

The turning point for our hiking experiences was when we decided to ditch the cheap stuff and splash the cash for some good, reliable and durable hiking gear. When you have a tent that doesn’t leak or fall apart in a storm, a rain jacket that actually keeps you dry, and hiking boots that help you avoid blisters rather than rip the skin right off your feet, you’ll feel as if you could conquer the world! 

This is perhaps the most important tip of all. You can do all the planning in the world, but if you don’t have good, essential hiking gear that is comfortable and does its job correctly, you won’t enjoy your trip. 

Our favourite source of information for the best gear to buy is from fellow adventurers. You can ask a friend, join a Facebook hiking group, ask the Instagrammer who inspires you to hike or do a little research online where you’ll be sure to find loads of helpful blog posts on the matter.

Candace standing in the Australian Alpine equipped with all the essential hiking gear

Expect Most Of Your Hike To Be Type 2 Fun

Type 2 fun, type B fun, whatever you know it as, is the type of fun that isn’t so fun until you’re warm and comfortable, laughing and reminiscing on your misadventures after the fact. 

If you go into the hike understanding that most of the time, you will be 2 parts miserable and 1 part ecstatic, you’ll be prepared and ready for the worst in high spirits. If you think you’re going to be walking on a cloud with a weightless bag and the trees and rivers will part for you, you’re going to be in for a terrible awakening. But if you know you’ll most likely be wet, cold, sore and grumbly, you’ll take that on the chin and enjoy the moment.

Some of our favourite moments to look back on are when we are stumbling towards camp, almost delirious with fatigue and laughing uncontrollably at the incomprehensible chatter that’s escaping our mouths. 

We hope these tips help you to get out there and enjoy your first backpacking trip. Please let us know how it went in the comments below! And if you have secrets of your own, we would love to hear them!

Happy Hiking. 

Heavy snow falling on hikers while backpacking in Tasmania
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