How to Become A Backpacking Jedi

Backpacker preparing for a journey

Do you want to transition from Padawan Hiker to Master Backpacker? Learn how you can become a Grandmaster and partake in outdoor excursions like an expert Jedi. 


Be One With The Bag

There is no chaos, there is harmony.”

TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack for backpacking outdoors

TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack (Amazon)

How to Wear Your Bag

Your pack should have adjustable shoulder and chest straps, and a hip belt. These features help lessen the load on your muscles and uses your bones for support, reducing the likelihood of strains and sprains. In the picture above, which showcases the rear, notice the vertical straps. They allow you to attach additional accessories, which can include: hiking poles, climbing axes, pots/pan or any tools you don’t want to bury inside your bag.

Heaveer items belong attached to the top of the bag; lighter items should attach to the bottom.

Chest and shoulder straps, TETON Sports Scout 3400 backpack

Chest and shoulder straps, TETON Sports Scout 3400

To easily place the pack on your back, bend over 90 degrees or far as possible, and then haul it over your shoulders. Extend your arms through the big shoulder straps.

The two big vertical straps fit over your shoulders. A pair of smaller straps at the bottom adjust the level of tightness. Insert your thumb and pull on the big shoulder straps; make sure it doesn’t extend too far outward.  Then stand tall, stick your chest out and adjust the amount tightness.

The horizontal middle strap is your chest strap. You can snap and unsnap and adjust the level of tightness. This provides support for the big shoulder straps and relief for your shoulders. Because the chest strap compresses your lungs, breathing is a challenge when you’re hiking uphill—that’s when you should unhook the chest strap and then re-attach it when you’re walking on flat ground or downhill.

Some backpacks allow you to adjust the upper shoulder straps. They’re small but they stick out. Adjusting these straps brings the bag closer to your body and lessens muscle tension. Scan the big shoulder straps and look for them.

Hip belt of TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

Hip belt on TETON Sports Scout 3400

The hip belt wraps around your waist. Once you’ve fastened it, there should be extra straps on the side that tightens the belt. Insert your thumb and pull on the belt; if it’s too loose, tighten it. Adjust as necessary until you’re comfortable.

Choose a bag that’s functional for backpacking. A hiking pack is oftentimes NOT suitable for carrying camp gear. My backpack is 60 liters, allows me to haul a lot of supplies and tools, plus there’s tiny convenient features (whistle, pocket straps, flexible drawstrings, water proof).


Pack Like A Grandmaster

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.”

Backpacker grandmaster expert cartoon pic

Ultralight

Carrying a heavy pack with useless gear becomes very uncomfortable as you progress down a hiking trail. The maximum recommendation is 25 pounds but you should strive for at most 17 pounds. Websites such as LighterPack let’s you test different combinations of gear.

Eat. Drink. Tent.

Anything dry and edible. Most backpackers include nuts, figs, wafers, cookies and other small eating items as apart of their food mix. Freeze dried food packets are also common staples. A compact fuel stove such as JetBoil is a common item in many camping gear packs.

Water is a necessity. No matter where you’re backpacking, always pack extra water bottles. You should also include a personal water filter in your gear list. If you want to bring along alcohol, first check with the regulations of the area. And don’t consume alcohol while you’re hiking; save the fun when you’re at camp or taking a long break.

Your tent should fit inside your backpack. Avoid bringing along a pop-up tent—they’re heavy and bulky. The optimal weight for ultralight tents is 2.5 pounds for a 1-person, and 5 pounds for a 2-person.

Sleeping

When you choose a sleeping bag, check the lowest temperature threshold that it can handle. Your sleeping pad should be small and long, easy to carry and perhaps not dependable on air (for quick setup and packing).

Both items can either fit within your pack or attach on the outside. Most backpackers attach the sleeping pad to the bottom of the bag (using the adjustable hook straps at the bottom) since it’s usually lighter than the sleeping bag.

Extra Buckle

Carry a buckle repair kit. These small packs are available for less than $5 but they’re invaluable pieces in your backpacking gear mix. If one of your strap buckles break, you’re normally screwed an facing an unfortunate hiking experience but with one of these you can apply a permanent or temporary fix.

Poop

You will need to take a shit some time during the trip. “Leave no trace” dictates that you bury your waste; this can be accomplished with a personal shovel.


Respect Animals, Plants and the Terrain

Jedi respect all life, in any form.”

Old man riding buffalo

 

Leave No Trace

The principle states that besides burying your waste (see above), you also bury tissue and wipes along with it. But each park and area have varying regulations. Biodegradable tissue provides an environmentally-friendly solution for when you need to wipe and bury your poop. Personal toilet seat covers are also good to have if restroom facilities are nearby.

Never trash nature! Store your garbage in your pack or your pockets until you can dispose of them. If you’re very passionate, carry a small bag to pick up loose garbage items along the trail.


Train, Train and TRAIN!

Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.”

Backpacker climbing rock

Exercise

Since I’m not a fitness expert, I’d rather point you to this infograph created by REI:

REI-Blog-backpacking-infographic-1500x2250

Hike With Your Bag

Although the graphic above recommends hiking with your pack every other week, I recommend wearing your backpack whenever you venture outdoors. Become accustomed to hauling it across different terrains and elevations. Learn when and how to adjust. Experience how your pack feels when it’s adjusted versus non-adjusted.

Know Your Gear

Before your trip, try your best to understand how to use your gear. Practice building a tent and collapsing it. Determine the best way of rolling up your sleeping pad. Note anything that’s unfamiliar and research more about it before you embark.


Protect Yourself

Jedi use their powers to defend and protect, never to attack others.”

Bear carrying giant club cartoon drawing pic

First Aid

A first aid camping kit is better than buying individual components. Other items for personal care might include: a skin stapler, trauma kit, compression bandage and butterfly closures.

Weapons

Suitable weapons can include a hunting knife, hatchet, bear/pepper spray, fire (flint, matches and lighters), an air horn and even a gun.


Pay It Forward

Jedi serve others rather than ruling over them, for the good of the galaxy.”

Woman piggybacking on hiking trail

Help, share with, and advise other backpackers whenever opportunities arise. We’re all a community enjoying the outdoors together. All of us have an equal opportunity to enjoy the pristine beauty of the backcountry.

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