Backpacking in the mountains: A guide for newbies

Living in the moment is what humans are born to do. So the next time you’re going on a holiday adventure with your best buddies, you might want to try something new. Like backpacking in the mountains.

Whether you are an adventurous crew down to the core or are only beginning to realize your love for such activities, then a mountain safari trip is definitely a good choice for you. While it may be daunting at first, you should be just fine if you have ample knowledge about what you need to bring and how to go about planning your trip.

What you need to bring

When hiking, it is important to remember to pack light. To achieve this, you should know which items are absolutely necessary when backpacking in the mountains. Also, knowing the different types of material can reduce your bag’s weight significantly.

packing light clothes for backpacking in the mountains

The right clothes

Since you are going to a higher place, there is a good chance that the temperature will be a lot colder there than when you are at the base of the mountain range. Because of this, you need to have multiple layers of clothing to protect you from the weather. The bottom line is to wear something that you usually use during winter.

But since you will be exerting effort, you may get a bit sweaty from the climb, which is why you need to have a base layer that is made from wool fabric wick the moisture away. From there, you can add extra warm clothing and something waterproof on the outermost layer of your ensemble to ensure that you don’t get cold during the climb.

You should also wear a winter hat that can be slipped on while you hike, and other necessary accessories like a visor to protect your eyes from sweat and the sun. You should also break in your hiking boots (the lighter, the better) before your climb to ensure that you remain comfortable during the climb.

provisions consumed while backpacking in the mountains

Enough provisions

The effort from climbing up is greater compared to when you pass through flat grounds, which is why it is important that you have enough provisions that can give you the energy you need. The trick is to choose the food and water containers you will be bringing carefully.

As mentioned earlier, the items you bring should be made from lighter material — remember to keep this in mind when choosing a water container. As for the food, you should eat nutrient-dense food bars and bring a few more on your way up in case you get hungry.

If you’re planning to stay longer in the mountains and camp out, make sure to have a portable stove with you and something more filling that you can heat up. This will also help you relish the moment you have with nature, albeit amidst a wintry cold climate.

proper tools for backpacking in the mountains

The proper tools and gear

Many newbie hikers have no idea what types of gear they should bring, which is why they often over-pack. Since you’ll be going in a group, it would be wise to plan which items you need with your companions and distribute the weight evenly. Of course, you may need individual items each of you can use on your way up.

One of the must-haves that each hiker should bring is a hiking pole. As the name suggests, this is a pole that can help hikers climb up the steeper parts of the mountain without exerting too much effort. Hiking poles are particularly useful for getting steady footing on parts of the mountain that are rocky or have loose sand.

On top of that, each hiker should also have their own emergency pack that contains a beacon to alert authorities should you need rescuing, and a first-aid kit for when someone gets hurt.

5 tips newbie backpackers should follow

Aside from knowing what you should bring, it is also good to have an idea of how best to prepare for your backpacking trip to the mountains.

If this is your first time doing this activity, you should consider following these five tips that can help even newbies enjoy backpacking to the mountains:

research before going in the mountains

1. Do your research on the place

Learning about where you are going can help you acclimatize to the place before you even get there. This is also a critical part of the planning process where you can take note of some specific details like the culture, geography, and tourism so you can enjoy your hike up the mountains.

cabin to sleep in while backpacking in the mountains

2. Book a great place to stay at for the night

Experts in backpacking often camp out when they reach the peak, but as a newbie, it is recommended that you book a place where you can spend the night. Most popular destinations have hotels and lodges where explorers can stay in comfort while enjoying the unique experience, so you shouldn’t have any trouble looking for one.

people backpacking in the mountains at sunset

3. Hire an expert tour guide

Having an expert in the place guiding you through the hike is definitely a good decision for newbie backpackers. While it may cost more, it will be worth it. Not only will this help you avoid getting lost, but it will also help you focus on enjoying the experience without worrying too much about where to go and what to do next.

Aside from that, you can make the most out of the experience since you have someone to ask and to help you avoid trouble when there is wildlife in the area.

woman in the mountains with backpack and camera gear

4. Choose an easy itinerary

There are tons of holiday tours and packages you can choose from, but you can always opt for one with an easy itinerary when backpacking with your crew for the very first time. These tours vary in difficulty, depending on the mountain you’re going to climb. Some peaks can also be reached via several trails.

Aside from searching on Google for the easiest trail, you may also seek comments and suggestions from others who have hiked or climbed the mountain you are eyeing for your backpacking trip. This will give you more personal insights into the experience and help you decide if it’s the right one for you.

man hiking with backpack and sticks in snow

5. Plan around the weather

Since you will also need to consider the altitude when backpacking to the mountains, you should always plan your trip with the weather in mind. This can be done with a simple Google search, but some tour operators also offer an advance notice when the weather is not very suitable for a climb.

Even so, make sure to check the forecast yourself. This way, you can pack the appropriate gear and clothing based on the temperature and climate. Also, remember that the local weather reports often only offer a general forecast of the weather for a day, so always bring clothing and tools you may need for when the weather changes.

people planning a backpacking trip while sitting with heads on backpack

Ready to pack your bags?

Backpacking to the mountains for the very first time can be daunting if you have no idea what to do and bring during the trip. Make sure to do enough research and plan your trip thoroughly with your buddies to make the most out of the one-of-a-kind high-altitude hiking experience.

About the author

Hafiz Umer Ali Zaib is the Social Media Specialist at Luxury Tours, a leading provider of tours, cruises and safaris across the UAE. The company’s top offerings include the Dubai Desert Evening Safari, City Tours, Dhow Cruises, Mountain Tours, Limousine Service, Discounted Tickets for theme parks and a variety of many other excursions.

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32 Thoughts to “Backpacking in the mountains: A guide for newbies”

  1. Really nice article. I only recently started to explore more the outdoor world. I now love Trekking, camping and climbing and I think this is a really good starting point for newbies!

    1. Oh, Alice, you’re just being modest. You’re doing great, I recently read your wild camping kit list and I loved all your advice! 🙂

  2. This is a really good article for those like me starting out with hiking. I’ve not done any major treks, only short hikes around my local area. Will definitely be utilizing these tips for when I start going further afield. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m really happy you found this useful, Louise! Good luck on your new hiking adventures, with proper planning you’ll do great! 🙂

  3. Great tips- I especially like the idea of booking a lodge or somewhere to stay if you are a newbie hiker. I know camping is part of the experience- but after your first big, long hike- I bet a nice lodge to relax in would be a great treat!!

    1. So true, Elizabeth! I remember how exhausted I was after some hikes in the mountains. Once, after I went backpacking in the mountains during a snowy winter, I came back and I took a bath. I was so exhausted I only had the strength to hang my wet hair over the edge of the bed when I finally got to lie down. Luckily, someone took a hairdryer and dried my hair for me :))

  4. This sounds so cool. I’ve never done more than a day hike but have been wanting to expand my repertoire. This post is super useful!

    1. So great this is useful to you, Nina! Good luck in reaching new heights 😉

  5. Great tips and quite informative post. Booking an alternative space like lodge surely a great idea.

    1. Thank you, Anuradha! I’m happy you found this guide for backpacking in the mountains useful 🙂

  6. I completely agree with you and especially the luggage you’re carrying should be as light as it could be. I’d faced problems earlier with carrying lots of stuff in my bagpack.

    1. It sounds familiar, Rajat! And when I was backpacking with male buddies I was so embarrassed when they took stuff from my backpack into theirs. It helped me go faster, but I didn’t like not being able to pull my own weight (literally!).

  7. Very good piece of advice. Booking the place to stay in advance is a great tip, as in some populate sights even the mountain shelters can be fully booked. I had such situation once that I had to go back to the previous site, about hour away, as the place we wanted to stay at was full.
    Planning according to the weather is crucial too.

    1. Thank you, Anna. Yes, booking in advance is very important. I haven’t hiked a lot outside of Romania, but here it can sometimes be difficult to find a place to stay in the mountains. There are mountaineering schools with tens or hundreds of students hiking in the weekends and they fully book mountain lodges months in advance. I know that because I was part of one of those schools :)) It was easy-peasy to go with them, but on your own or in a smaller group, one really needs to plan in advance.

      Is that common where you’re from, too?

  8. This is a great checklist for new backpackers! In India, I usually backpack in the Himalayas as part of organized groups. As a family, we prefer staying in homestays in villages. I like your tip on acclimatization. That is very important to avoid any untoward incident.

    1. Thanks, Richa! It must be amazing to have the Himalayas in your backyard, so to say. You’re really lucky!

  9. Really great tips. Its shocking how some newbies get themselves into trouble on mountains because of lack of preparation for the outdoors and the weather they are going out in.

    1. Thank you, Bianca! And yes, it is. In Romania, we actually have a term for those who go backpacking in the mountains without preparing: pantofari! Pantof means shoe in Romanian, but the kind one would wear at the office or at an event. So, in other words, they’re the people wearing pretty shoes and we even have a funny song about them. If only it were enough to make people think again before going unprepared into the mountains and putting themselves at risk!

  10. We went back packing in Europe and I wore sandals to go up a mountain in. So I really was unorganised. My 8 year old loves to see the world by backpacking. Your trip looks lovely.

    1. It happens in the beginning, Vicky. However, there are special hiking sandals you can check out. They’re good for easy hikes when it’s warm outside and really comfortable to wear for long walks in new cities from your travels. You should try this! 🙂

  11. I’ve been backpacking in the mountains for long time. The last trip was to Nepal, I did Three passes trek which was pretty tough. Your suggestions are very good and I agree with most of them. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Bravo, Joseph! That’s quite an achievement 🙂

  12. Marc

    This was a very useful article. I love the outdoors and will definitely be using some of your tips on my next trek ?

    1. Thank you, Marc! Have fun on your next trek. Do you have any idea where it will be?

  13. These are good tips! And I agree with research and choosing an easy itinerary at first. I think a lot of newbies underestimate nature and also the amount of work to hike.

    1. Thanks, Christine! And yes, you’re right. I was in a mountaineering school in 2010 and the guides told us so many stories. For example, they made a point of not telling people how to prepare for the first hike (which really wasn’t difficult or dangerous), to see how the students dressed and planned for it themselves. The most famous is a girl who showed up with a pink carry-on. They ended up using rope to improvise a backpack for her. 🙂

  14. This is a detailed and useful guide for travelers who are new to backpacking. I consider myself a newbie backpacker even after a couple of attempts at it. These tips sure come handy to me as I plan to take a backpacking trip soon with my daughter.

    1. Hi, Anjali, I’m happy you found this guide useful. Have fun backpacking with your daughter and let me know how it went! 🙂

  15. Yukti Agrawal

    This is a very useful post regarding what to pack and what to do before going for mountaineering. Packing light is the most important feature because on mountains we have walk many rugged paths while carrying our own luggage. Also to hire an expert guide of that local place is extremely necessary as sometimes mountainous weather is very unpredictable.

  16. NIce, looks like I hit most of the points you have listed when going for a mountain hikes myself. Your guide is useful form those, who are starting.

  17. You definitely shared some useful post every beginner should read before heading to the mountains. I wish there was a guide like this when I took my first mountain trip ?

  18. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest you few interesting things or tips. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read even more things about it!

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