Just Do It: Breaking Into the Backpacking World

"Backpacking is so intense"

"I need so much gear!"

"I don't know where to start"

"I'm not outdoorsy enough for that..."

Sound familiar? These are the most common things I hear from friends when trying to convince them to try backpacking with me. Some of those things I've even said before - it wasn't too long ago that I was a complete novice backpacker myself! Now, though, I'm planning my first multi-week foray into the wild.

I'd say the most important thing to do when thinking of going backpacking for the first time is to go with someone who's been out there before. It's so valuable to have their guidance around for the dozens of little things that could go wrong, or that you might be unsure about. I remember being so thankful on one of my early backpacking trips when I friend who'd hiked ahead left arrows drawn in the ground with his trekking pole to direct us through sections where the trail was difficult to find - which is something I even thought I was fairly good at!

The other important thing to remember is that you don't have to commit financially to buying all the expensive gear. finding gear for a backpacking trip can be intimidating - there's a lot out there, and people who backpack often are willing to shell out significant money for the newest, most lightweight and durable stuff. Don't panic! You can still have an amazing experience without all the top of the line stuff. Chances are, you have a few friends (or the friends who are inviting you backpacking have a few friends) who can loan you some gear.

If you don't have friends who can loan you some gear, there's still hope. See if there's an outdoor retailer near you who sells slightly used gear. In Portland, Oregon, Next Adventure is the go-to spot for that. I have a friend who scored lightly used Salomon hiking boots for $20 there once! If there's nothing near you, consider renting gear from Camp Kit. They're an incredibly cool company where you can order a whole weekend package worth of gear, or gear a la carte if you're just missing a few items.

I went for my first 2-day, 3-night backpacking trip just over a year ago, in March of 2015. I had moved to Portland just two months ago and agreed to go on this wild adventure to the Mount Jefferson wilderness with this cute guy I'd been seeing for just 6 weeks and a few of his friends. I wasn't too sure what I was getting myself into, but I knew I wanted in. The idea of a weekend spent waking up in the woods, walking in the woods, and sleeping in the woods seemed way too good to pass up.

Sure enough, it was a fantastic weekend. We had some minor snafus - unexpected waist high snow banks, unstable snow bridges over melting streams, slippery snow trails - clearly we should have planned better for March weather. Despite all of that I had the time of my life, and came out the other side feeling at peace with myself and proud that I survived.

Since the trip last March I've gone on quite a few backpacking trips, and I'm working on making all of my friends come backpacking with me at least once to get a taste of it. Between borrowing gear from friends, buying it secondhand, or even renting it, I think backpacking is something that is within reach for everyone.

I'm no expert yet, but I've spent more nights in a tent and hiked more miles since I moved to Portland than in my entire life before that - and I'm nowhere near done. My next challenge? Mountaineering.

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