Backpacking 101

It would be impossible to cover absolutely everything there is to know about backpacking in a single book.  Perhaps that’s what many of us love about it – the duality of the activity. Backpacking is enjoyable and rewarding because of both its simplicity and complexity. Because of that, when your coworker asks you why you like hiking 30 miles in a weekend with 25 pounds on your back, it can be difficult to give them an answer that satisfies their curiosity. For those who remain curious as to why so many love spending a weekend or more in the backcountry, this book offers a well-balanced and comprehensive blue print for getting started.

Title: Backpacking 101

Author: Heather Balogh Rochfort (find out more about the author here by visiting her blog)

Publisher: Adams Media

MSRP: $16.99 USD

Structure of the Book:

  • 13 Chapters with subtopics and three appendices
  • Each chapter ends with a bulleted summary of topics discussed.
  • Chapters include illustrations and graphics

Chapter 1: Mental and Physical Preparation

Chapter 2: Appropriate Footwear

Chapter 3: What to Wear

Chapter 4: Packing Your Backpack

Chapter 5: Navigation

Chapter 6: Food, Hydration, and Nutrition

Chapter 7: Backcountry Etiquette

Chapter 8: Camp Setup

Chapter 9: Setting up Your Camp Kitchen

Chapter 10: Pitching Your Tent

Chapter 11: Making Your Bed

Chapter 12: Backcountry Hygiene

Chapter 13: Emergency Situations

So, as you can see, these chapters and their subtopics really do cover almost anything that someone brand new and interested in backpacking would need to know to get started. I would look at the book as a blue-print for getting your backpacking trip and experience started.

Some chapters and topics discussed that I found especially helpful and insightful:

Chapter 5: Navigation

You will get lost at some point when you are backpacking. What really matters is just how lost you are and if you have the skills to get back on track. Ask anyone who has ever been backpacking with me and they will tell you of a story of how we got lost. Everyone can get better at navigating in the backcountry. In fact, the better you are at it, the more enjoyable and safer your time will be.

Chapter 7: Backcountry Etiquette

This might be the most valuable chapter in the entire book. While Leave No Trace principles are covered in other articles and books, this chapter folds LNT in with other topics like who has the right-of-way when hiking and being aware of other who are in the backcountry with you.

My Thoughts:

Heather really covers it all in this book. It’s written for an audience who has zero experience or knowledge about backpacking, but covers topics and includes tips and wisdom that even seasoned backpackers can learn. Backpacking 101 covers the entire gambit of what it takes to go on a backpacking trip; from how to prepare yourself physically, selecting the right gear, and even tips on what to do when nature calls in the woods.

I’ve been backpacking since early high school and to be honest, most of what I know today has come from trial and error (and believe me, there have been many trials and more errors than I can recall). That being said, there were numerous times while reading Backpacking 101 that I thought to myself “Gosh, I wish I had known about this on that trip…” Learning on your own has immeasurable value, but in the backcountry, sometimes it’s best to learn from others who have made those mistakes long before you. This book does just that; it offers the wisdom and experience of one who has countless hours in the backcountry written for the express purpose of getting someone out on perhaps their first of many backpacking trips.

Some of you may be like me and have experience backpacking and are asking if there is any value of reading a 101 level book about backpacking when maybe you should really be looking at 500 level graduate course? The answer is, yes. I found myself making notes in the margins and dog-earing pages to go back and review. There is always room to learn more about backpacking. And while you may not necessarily need to carefully ready the sections about selecting the right backpack, you may learn a thing or thing in another chapter or section of the book. I have a trip planned a few weeks from now, and I fully plan on implementing some of the things that I learned while reading. Heather made specific mention of staking down the four corners of your tent before installing the poles. This had never even crossed my mind having set up a tent probably hundreds of time, but it sounds like the author swears by it, so I am going to give it a whirl.

Conclusion:

If you are new to backpacking, then this book is a great resource to get you started. The book really does lay out a solid framework for both the essentials that you could find on a checklist at your local outdoor shop, but perhaps more importantly, Rochfort provides intangible insights on topics that may be hard to find in other backpacking resources.

Perhaps the best example of how useful this book is: I’m taking a friend along on his first backpacking trip in a few weeks and already plan on handing this book off to him prior.

Thanks to 4AllOutdoors and Adams Media for the chance to read and review Backpacking 101!

Kaleb R.