Eight Mistakes To Avoid Your First Time Backpacking

For people who love to hike, or just love to get away and enjoy the outdoors, backpacking is something that many will choose to do at some point. It’s the perfect way to explore more remote areas and relax under the stars at night. There’s nothing worse than being on a beautiful hike, taking in all that nature has to offer, only having to turn around and head back just when the scenery is getting really good. Fortunately, with a little preparation and some quality gear like a hiking hammock from Hennessy Hammock, you can avoid some of the common mistakes that most first-time backpackers tend to make. 

Mistake #1: Not Spending Enough Time Planning

Sometimes you just want to get outside and go wherever the road leads you. Unfortunately, this is a bad idea when it comes to backpacking. You might be able to get away with minimal planning when it comes to a short day hike, but going on an overnight (or multiple night) backpacking trip is an entirely different animal. 

Not taking into account the weather, road conditions, terrain, or getting necessary permits can derail your adventure before it even begins. Even if you have no trouble getting to your starting point, not knowing about the upcoming forecasted rainstorm or historical record high temperatures just around the corner will mean that you won’t be able to pack the things you need. 

Mistake #2: Packing Too Much

This is by far the number one mistake of novice backpackers and there are two reasons for it. First, you probably already have a bunch of hiking and camping gear that you’re going to use for your backpacking trip. The problem is, it’s probably big, bulky, and heavy, and not intended to be carted across a mountain or forest on your back. You could run out and buy a second set of ultralight hiking and camping gear — but you might have to sell your car to do it. New gear can be expensive, so it’s best to pick and choose the most important pieces. 

Your shelter, for example, is probably going to be the heaviest item in your pack — but it doesn’t have to be if you decide to trade out your old heavy tent for a lightweight hiking backpack from Hennessy. The Ultralight Backpacker from Hennessy weighs in at less than a kilogram and packs down to about half the size of a pillow (something you’ll be doing without since you’re backpacking — a rolled up jacket or sweatshirt will do just fine). 

Not only is this hiking hammock convenient to carry, the included rainfly will keep you dry and the tightly-woven netting will ensure that you won’t have to lie awake while a mosquito hums in your ear. When you can find gear that is not only high-quality and lightweight but also serves multiple purposes, those are the pieces that you want to invest in. 

 Mistake #3: Signing Up For Too Many Miles

When planning their first backpacking trip, many people have delusional thoughts of trekking across the country, exploring miles of wilderness with smiles on their faces. However, reality will set in when you strap on that pack for the first time and you realize that 30 pounds feels more like 300 hundred pounds as you’re hiking uphill, over boulders, and crossing streams. 

Backpacking is no walk in the park, but it can be incredibly fun and rewarding if done correctly.  That means not planning a 100 mile trip the first time you go backpacking — around four to six miles is more like it — especially if you’ve never done it before and you have limited experience carrying a heavy pack. Plan to do a short trip the first time around and you’re more likely to have a great experience. If you want to go further, there’s always next time.

Mistake #4: Not Testing Your Gear In Advance

Many people who are planning their first backpacking trip will invest in a bunch of new gear and then never touch it until they are taking off the tags on the day of their trip. This is a huge mistake! When you’re relying on your gear to protect you from the elements, get you from point A to point B, or cook your food when you’re miles away from civilization, do you really want to trust that it will work perfectly without even testing it out?

If you bought new hiking boots, they should already be worn in and tested for comfort when you head off on your backpacking adventure. Did you buy a compact and fuel-efficient camping stove? Make sure you know how it works so you aren’t trying to light it by the light of the moon when you’re starving after an all-day excursion. 

The same goes for your hiking hammock. It only takes a few minutes to unpack it and set it up, but it’s something that you’ll want to have already done at least once before you take it on a trip. Need a little help the first time around? If you bought a Hennessy hammock, you’ll have access to tons of reference guides and step-by-step videos to make sure you’re completely comfortable with setting up your shelter. Check out the set up video now to see just how easy setting up your sleeping quarters will be. 

Mistake #5: Not Bringing Enough Food

It can be hard to estimate just how much food you’ll need for your trip. If you pack too much you’ll have added weight that you don’t want to have to carry, but not enough and you’ll be turning back with an empty stomach. Determining how much food you’ll need can be tricky, even for experienced backpackers, but here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Keep It Simple

Now is not the time to plan an elaborate meal that will have to be cooked over the fire for hours. Keeping meals simple and not using a bunch of complicated ingredients is the best way to keep your sanity when it comes to meal time. An all-in one dehydrated meal will be delicious when you’ve hiked all day and you’re exhausted. The only thing better than how it will taste is knowing that it will be ready in just a few minutes using nothing more than some hot water.

Keep It Light (Not in Calories, But in Weight) 

As far as figuring out what types of food to bring, it’s always a good idea to try to find lightweight items that are calorie dense. That’s why dried foods like jerky, oatmeal, and dried fruit work so well. If you’re wondering what a typical day would look like for meals, here is one example. Keep in mind that you may need to eat more or less depending on your activity level. 

For breakfast, oatmeal is a popular choice because it’s lightweight and easy to make. You can also add other ingredients to it to increase its caloric and nutritional value. You could add nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter, or even protein powder to it for a meal that is sure to keep you going until lunch (or almost until lunch...that’s where snacks come in handy).

If you’re covering a lot of miles, or gaining a lot of elevation, you’ll be burning a lot of calories. So, by mid-morning you might be ready for a snack. Protein bars and trail mix are easy, portable snacks that you can munch on without having to drag out your camping stove. For lunch, you might just have more of the same, or try some other backpacking favorites like tuna or chicken packets with crackers or sausage and cheese. 

By the time dinner rolls around, you’ll need to replenish your body with a little more sustenance and you’ll no doubt be ready for something a little more satisfying than a piece of beef jerky. You’ll be amazed at how a warm, satisfying bowl of macaroni and cheese will taste like the best thing you’ve ever had after a long day on the trail. Dehydrated meals are also a great option. Although they may not sound very appealing, they’ve come a long way in the last ten years, and you might be surprised at just how good these convenient, all-in-one meals can be.    

Mistake #6: Not Drinking Enough Water

Staying properly hydrated is one of the most important things to remember — your health and survival depend on it! When you’re backpacking, you obviously aren’t able to carry all of the water you’ll need with you because it would just be too heavy and take up too much space. That’s why you’ll need to plan your route around places where you can refill your water bottle. If you don’t put the proper time into planning, you may find yourself with a dry bottle and no water in sight — and that’s a very dangerous situation to be in.

Even if you have ample access to water,  it’s another thing to remember to drink as much as you need to. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, your body needs a minimum of a half liter every hour — you’ll need more if it’s hot and dry, if you’re sweating a lot, or if you’re doing a particularly strenuous hike. 

Mistake #7: Forgetting About the Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep

Although a good night’s sleep may not be life-threatening (unless you’re so tired that you stumble into danger), it can make all the difference in truly enjoying your trip or having a miserable experience. Sleeping in the wilderness can be difficult, or it can be relaxing — it all depends on your gear. Sleeping on the ground in a tent means you’ll be dealing with a sore back, cold that seeps through the ground and into your bones, and probably a heavier piece of equipment than what you’d like to carry. 

A better shelter option is a hiking hammock from Hennessy. More people are trading in their tents as they learn about all of the benefits that a hammock has to offer. Comfortable and roomy, Hennessy’s patented asymmetrical design lets you stretch out and sleep more comfortably. The tightly woven anti-mosquito mesh keeps you safe from all kinds of flying and crawling critters. Plus, the waterproof rainfly means you’ll be dry and warm all night long.  

If you tend to get chilly at night, opt for a two-layer bottom hammock that can hold an insulating pad for extra warmth. This, combined with your sleeping bag will keep you much warmer than staying in a tent. Best of all, Hennessy hiking hammocks are lightweight and easy to set up and take down. Are you counting every gram? Then you’ll want one of the ultralight hammocks that weigh in at under a kilo! 

Mistake #8: Not Making a List and Checking It Before You Leave

Even experienced backpackers tend to forget things every now and then, but you can usually avoid having to turn back because you forgot your head lamp or hiking hammock if you just do one thing — make a list!  Crafting a list of all of your essentials is a good way to not only ensure that you’ll have everything you need, but it will help prevent you from “packing on the fly” and bringing far more than you need. 

If you’re new to backpacking, chances are you may forget little things like matches or a spare pair of socks. But those little things can create big problems if your socks get wet or you need to fire up your stove. Even if you’re just heading out for an overnight trip, taking the time to prepare and make a list could make all the difference when it comes to your comfort and safety.   

Enjoy Your First (and all) Backpacking Trips With Hennessy Hammock

Everyone makes mistakes the first time you go backpacking, but it only takes that one time where you had to carry 50 pounds or you forgot your rain jacket to learn a valuable lesson that you’ll never forget. To avoid these first-time blunders altogether, the best thing you can do is plan ahead, make a list, and invest in high-quality gear like a Hennessy hiking hammock. It’s the one piece of gear you’ll never want to be without!

Have a question about our hammocks or want to learn more about their features? Visit our hammock features page or check out this handy comparison chart. Ready to find your perfect hiking hammock for an upcoming trip? Shop our populare Ultralite Backpacker Classic or any of our other hammocks and order yours today!

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