Osprey’s Complete Guide to Backpacking


Executing an adventurous backpacking trip takes time and preparation. In our complete guide to backpacking and trekking we cover everything you need to know; from a backpacking gear checklist to a guide to bad weather hiking.

What This Guide Will Cover

We’ve written this complete guide to backpacking and trekking to cover the core areas, from start to finish, that you’ll need to consider on your trip. If you’re new to backpacking then the best way to read this guide is from start to finish, ticking off each area as you go. If you’re a little more experienced you can click the links below to skip to the sections relevant to you.

Each section also has a reading list. If you’re just looking for a specific blog on a specific topic then you can head there first!

1 Equipment

Your equipment is going to reflect the destination you’re heading to and length of your trip. For example, a week long backpacking or trekking trip will mean you need to consider food, water, shelter, clothing and safety equipment in quantities that reflect a week.

The climate and weather of your destination is also going to have a big impact on your gear. Is it going to be warm? Will you need a hat and sun cream? Or is it going to be snowing and therefore require layering systems, down and waterproofing? In our ‘Backpacking Checklist’ blog we’ve written an extensive kit list, covering the clothing and equipment you’ll need for a multi-day backpacking trip.

A key part of this equipment is the backpack. It’s the gear that carries your gear after all. It’s also the difference between sore shoulders and an enjoyable trip. For multi-day backpacking you’ll need to consider:

  • Volume – How much space will you need?
  • The Backsystem – Will you need ventilation or a close and stable fit?
  • Features – Will you need specific features like a raincover?

We’ve covered these areas in more detail over at our ‘How to Select Your Backpack’ blog.

“A key part of this equipment is the backpack. It’s the gear that carries your gear after all. It’s also the difference between sore shoulders and an enjoyable trip.”

2 Preparing For Your Trip

After you’ve sorted equipment, there’s still plenty of preparation to do in order to execute the perfect trip.

It’s advised that you take plenty of time to learn the route to ensure there’s no mistakes or surprises along the way. You can pick up a guide book or an official map to do this and write a rough itinerary of where you expect to be on each day. Be realistic with the distances you believe you can hike, factor in breaks and food stops and consider where you will be sleeping at the end of the day. If you’re going to be trekking and camping (wild or paid) look for locations that fit your preferred hiking distances.

While we’re on the topic of distances let’s also consider comfort. You need to ensure that you’re carrying no more than 20% of your bodyweight on your back. Prioritising your kit using the backpacking checklist will help do this, but it’s also important to distribute this weight correctly. You can learn about how to do this with our ‘How to Pack Your Backpack’ guide. The next step is fit. The fit of your backpack again determines how the load is distributed throughout your body. Ideally, the weight is transferred into the glutes and legs. We discuss this at length in our ‘How to Fit Your Backpack’ guide.

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3 Getting the Most Out of Your Trip

You’ve put all the prep time in, your gear is packed and your legs are stretched and ready for beautiful landscapes and idyllic wild-camping. We know we don’t need to teach you how to enjoy this trip but we do have a few tips on how to get the very most out of it.

Weather can have a massive impact on any outdoor activity. Backpacking and trekking are particularly susceptible to this. In order to enjoy even the rainiest excursions it’s important to head out with the right mind-set and have the confidence to know you are prepared. Our ‘Guide to Hiking in Bad Weather’ covers all the basics you’ll need to come out smiling, if a little soggy. After all, there’s no such thing as poor weather, only poor preparation.

Something else to consider is the landscape around you. Map reading is an excellent way to engage with the land you’re travelling through, irrespective of its value as a navigational tool. Distinctive landmarks, historical monuments and gems of nature can be found by combining a basic understanding of map reading and a keen eye. It’ll also ensure that you stay on track with your itinerary and keep you in safe backpacking conditions. To get started with map reading head over to our ‘Introduction to Map Reading’ guide.

It’s worth remembering that you’re bound to make mistakes, we all do. This guide isn’t about eliminating every variable from your trip but instead, giving you a foundation to work with. You can, however, learn from the mistakes of others by reading our ‘Top 5 Backpacking Mistakes’ blog.

"Distinctive landmarks, historical monuments and gems of nature can be found by combining a basic understanding of map reading and a keen eye."

4 After The Trip

Your feet hurt. We get it, we really do. You’ve returned back to civilisation and all you want is a bath and to flop on the sofa with some rubbish TV. This is in fact a recommended approach to recuperation after time in the wild. Once your feet have soothed and you’ve slept on a mattress, here are some practical suggestions:

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