Backpacking is all about enjoying self-contained travel on foot in the outdoors staying comfortable and well-fed along the way whether you use a tent, bivvy bag or tarp. With a rucksack, tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear you have the basic ingredients to whip up a variety of recipes for outdoor adventure year after year, wandering through a landscape carrying everything you need for a night or more without the need to be anywhere at any particular time. With the right clothing, offering flexibility and protection with base, mid and outer layers, the elements can be enjoyed rather than endured.
It’s not meant to be a survival challenge but more a state of mind. The simple pleasures of waking deep in the hills or by the sea after a sound night in a cosy sleeping bag are priceless. Traveling through the country with all you need to hand allows you follow impulses, explore and just have fun. For a modest price, you can enjoy your own place in the country without the ties of a fixed holiday home.
A journey of a thousand miles may well begin with just one step but a successful backpacking jaunt needs a little more forethought. Not a lot if you want to maintain a footloose feel to your trip but even the most relaxed backpacker must have, at least, a start point and initial direction. Sensibly, you should be scheming on where to go, how long it might take and where to pitch your tent safely, legally and with regard to the outdoor environment.
Plus, of course, whether you are tracing the course of a river or following high mountain ridges, it makes sense to leave details of your proposed route and alternatives with family or friends. Routes and pitches are intertwined when you are planning – something of a chicken and egg scenario – so gather as much info as you can before spreading out the maps and packing your rucksack.
How much planning you need to do depends on a variety of factors. Where you are going, for how long and at what time of year are all basic considerations. Then there is your own experience and fitness – and the weather. There is a world of difference between backpacking in Scotland in the depths of a snowy winter and a balmy summer, particularly with regard to the ground you likely to cover each day and the sleeping bag and clothing you’ll need. Not forgetting, of course, a sleep mat. You could also use a sleeping bag liner to both help to keep your bag clean as well as adding extra warmth. You might fancy a theme to your trip; summits, valleys, historical sites and rivers are obvious but the opportunities are only limited by imagination.