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“OWA is a great experience in a beautiful part of Colorado. All the counselors are really helpful, fun, and flexible. They help you safely step outside of your comfort zone and personalize your experience. I became close with other campers and built good relationships”- Sage, age 14
Austin, TX

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Tips for Beginner Backpackers

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When I went on my first backpacking trip, I made a few rookie mistakes. I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I just kind of went for it. I had climbed a few mountains and gone on a lot of hikes, so it’s all the same in the long run (or should I say hike), right? Turns out it isn’t. So if you’re looking at getting into backpacking or are about to take a trip, here are a few lessons I learned the hard way. Hopefully, after reading this, you won’t have to learn these lessons:

1. Backpacking food can actually be pretty goodDelicious breakfast in the back country
Take it from me, tortillas and peanut butter will get old after a meal or two. And after hiking all day with a pack on your back, you’ll definitely want something more. Luckily, I had a friend share some delicious ramen with me since I had only brought a few granola bars, tortillas, and pb. Don’t let yourself get in that boat. Here’s a great article on foods you can bring that won’t weigh down your pack, and will make your stomach stop growling after a day on the trail!

2. Sleeping pads do make a difference
This may be a no brainer to some, but it wasn’t to me. Don’t try to save weight or space by leaving your sleeping pad at home. You’ll miss it. I spent many a nights trying to curl up to the fire for warmth. That could’ve been easily avoided if I simply had a barrier between myself and the cold, hard ground. Buy a blow up pad or strap a foam pad to the back, but please, don’t leave it at home!

3. Clothes can be worn over and over again
You don’t need a different outfit for everyday. Who cares if that shirt starts to smell? You probably won’t even notice it while hiking. Save some weight! Take one outfit, maybe two depending on how long you are out on the trail for. Then recycle this outfit. Also, I’d highly recommend investing in some lightweight, tight packing warm clothes. Hoodies and sweatpants take up a lot of space!

4. Wear your hiking boots before the trip
You’re stoked. First backpacking trip, time to get some new gear and head out into the great outdoors. You get a pack, all your essentials, and of course, a new pair of boots. Time to hit the trail and start getting in those miles and seeing those sights. One word for ya: blisters. They will come. They will hurt. And they could possibly ruin your whole trip. Get your boots well before your trip. Take them out on some short day hikes. Break them in. Then you can hit the trail. Believe me, your feet will thank you.

Backpackers after a four day trip!5. Enjoy every minute of it
This lesson isn’t just for beginners but for all backpacking levels. Life is busy and complicated. When you’re out on the trail, it isn’t. Your only plan is getting to the next night’s campsite. The only stuff you need is what you can carry on your back (and you’ll learn pretty quickly how much you can do without). Enjoy this. Enjoy the quad screaming, lung burning, long switchbacks that seem as if they will never end. Enjoy the view of the mountain lake tucked miles away from civilization. Enjoy snuggling down into your sleeping bag as rain falls down on your tent. Take a breath, look around, and enjoy it all- every last bit.

 

Written By: Lydia Huelskamp