No Excuses: Why Everyone Should Go Backpacking!

I receive a lot of questions from people who hike and are considering backpacking or primitive camping, but are scared. Those fears are unfounded!

Here’s the quick Hiking Lady guide to help everyone quell those fears. No more excuses!

Common Fears About Backpacking:

Baby black bear
There are wild animals in the wilderness!
In many areas, the likelihood of running into a bear or mountain lion is extremely slim. In fact, many people who regularly camp never see any! If you are in bear country, use a bear canister and keep your food away from your tent. And you can take along bear spray.

Warm sleeping bag
I’ll be cold!
Get a sleeping bag that matches the weather conditions when you’ll be backpacking. Each bag has a temperature rating (ie, 40 degrees for summer camping, 0 degrees if you’re camping in the snow!) Women tend to be colder than men, so if you get cold at night, get a women’s goose down sleeping bag (they generally have more fill in the toe box for women’s cold feet!) and are shorter in length, so we don’t have to haul along a huge pack that would fit a 6 foot man.

Backcountry camping checklist
What if I forget something?
Use the handy Hiking Lady backcountry camping checklist to help you get organized for your trip.

Pit toilet bathroom
There’s no bathroom in the woods…
There’s no need to worry! Find a secluded spot for privacy (an area with some trees and dense bushes always works well), bring along toilet paper, and enjoy the view! It will be a far nicer view than your bathroom at home. Remember to follow Leave No Trace principles, which means digging a small hole and packing out your TP. And for more fun, read the book How to Shit in the Woods!

Appalachian Trail map
What if I get lost?
Bring along a map and a compass, and make sure you know how to use them. Also check out Hiking Lady’s Maps 101: How to Not Get Lost.

And most importantly, bring along a big smile, an enthusiastic spirit, and you are sure to have a great time!

Happy trails!


  1. Lynn McDougal says:

    Looks like this article has been out for awhile but I just want to give some real encouragement to first timers or anyone still in the dreaming phase. The reality is: when you first start out you will be scared, struggle with cold nights and blazing hot days, be slow, physically exhausted and mentally challenged. It is HARD….at first! What you are doing is taking yourself completely out of your comfort zone on so many levels it is mind boggling. It’s a lot of change to deal with. Take it slow. Don’t tackle lengthy and/or technically challenging trails right off the bat..ease into it. With every trip you will learn something new making your next trip a little less challenging. So, so worth every moment of the hard because you are doing something remarkable with your time, with your life. You will never regret one moment of the hard work, and pushing through your limits will count as REAL success!! Now GO!! πŸ˜€

  2. Hiking Lady says:

    You go girl! Thanks for the comment Rebecca, and you’re an inspiration to all of us! Happy trails!

  3. rebecca morrow says:

    I been packpactking for 6years now I have bad kees and still love it and never seen any wild animals to be afraid of. Im out of shape but I have this drive about me. Its the peaceful and beautiful scenery that keeps me going Up them mountains. Good gear makes all the difference. It may take me all day to do what most people can do in a few hours but I wouldn’t change a thing and im still gonna go.

  4. Kelly says:

    I can remember when I first started exploring the great outdoors (I was strictly a 5 star hotel kinda gal) I was upset with partner for dragging me out, now I absolutely love it and have never looked back. You just have to try it and I guarantee most will love it!

  5. Elevatedperspective says:

    Hey, for comfort you should look into ditching the tent and climbing into a camping Hammock! Check out Hennessy Hammocks, or Warbonnet outdoors hammocks, or hammocks.

    Best outdoor sleep I’ve had in ages!

  6. Hiking Lady says:

    Great question, Paula. I would start with The Essentials from the Hiking Lady Backpacking checklist. Most of those are very low cost. Then you’ll need to get a backpack and tent. Those will likely be your two most expensive purchases. If you have an REI store close by, they have Used Gear sales, and they are a great way to pick up good quality product at a discount. If possible, find friends who already have gear, and see if you can borrow some items from them (for example, a stove) so you can check out different models before buying your own. Most importantly, always enter the Hiking Lady Contests…we give away free stuff every month. You just might win! πŸ™‚ Happy trails!

  7. Paula says:

    I am just getting started and am slowly building up my supplies. I’m a little freaked out at the potential costs. How do I know what to buy first?

  8. Hiking Lady says:

    The carbon fiber trekking poles are definitely worth the extra money! Your arms will be very happy when lifting feather weight poles versus the much heavier aluminum alternative.

  9. Hiking Lady says:

    Hey Shonda! Thank you!
    As far as getting your daughters to come along…how about showing them pictures of the beautiful places you’ll get to see on your backpacking trip? πŸ™‚
    Happy trails!

  10. Shonda says:

    Hi Carol, Just wanted to say that I LOVE your site. You gave such great tips and I really liked the reviews on your favorite gear. I am new to hiking and I’m so excited to get started. I picked up a few essentials today. A pair of 1. Columbia Mid Shasta boot

    2. A smokey grape CamelBak L.U.X.E

    3. A compass/whistle/LED light

    I’m wondering how I can get into this and get my 2 daughters to come along. They are 3 and 5 years old. Any suggestions?

  11. Nathaniel says:

    Thanks Hiking Lady (if that really is your name…). We’re trying. Please don’t be a stranger!

  12. Hiking Lady says:

    Thanks, Nathaniel. Looks like you guys are doing a great job to help others discover fun, local hikes.

    Happy trails!

  13. Nathaniel says:

    Great post. Really reminds us of the lighthearted nature of camping. Do you have a few favorite spots?

    I ask as I’m acting as β€œChief Recess Officer” for KEEN footwear and we are looking for all the best outdoor spots to add to our global maps. Your blog seems extremely well informed, and fun (which is our primary goal).

    Here’s a link to the map:

    If anyone knows about a great trail in their area, feel free to share it with us so that other hikers can discover them too.


  14. What a great site! I do a lot of hiking in Japan and found your site linked from the “Hiking in Japan” site. I was especially impressed with your extensive reviews on outdoor gear. Great job! As the Terminator said, “I’ll be back…” πŸ™‚

    Gary in Tokyo

  15. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Kat! A one nighter is definitely a good idea for beginners. I’ve never seen a wild turkey when I’ve been backpacking, but definitely seen my share of other critters (and bigger animals too!) haha But I’ve always been very safe and never had a negative or scary encounter with an animal. I definitely agree with your point about fears being irrational due to movies… hollywood makes the wilderness seem scary, but you and I know it isn’t.
    thanks for reading and happy trails!

  16. Kat says:

    I’m a big proponent of one-nighters for first-timers. My first few were short out and backs to get the feel of it and to get a sense of how little gear you really need. I know I packed too much when starting out. Other than that, as long as you don’t go backpacking in really popular places, you’ll see hardly any animals at all. The biggest thing I’ve seen is a wild turkey, seriously! I hardly even see squirrels, much less bears. Our fears our irrational due to movies. I’d love to know how Katherine’s trip turned out… Hope it went well.

  17. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Katherine!
    Definitely keep it up! Do as much training as you can prior to your Yosemite trip, but be sure to rest for a few days before because you don’t want to start the trip sore from all your training sessions. The best thing you can do to prepare for a backpacking trip is to do as much long distance hiking as possible to build up your stamina. If possible try to do a hike or two at elevation in advance of your trip. A friend of mine who lives in New York City prepared for a Mt. Kilimanjaro hike by wearing a backpack and going up and down the stairs in her apartment complex.
    You will have a wonderful time and be sure to eat enough, stay very well hydrated, and take short rest breaks when necessary.
    Happy trails!

  18. Katherine says:

    i was just wondering if you have any suggestions, or advice. should i just go for it and deal, because it’ll be tough no matter what, or should i not do the trip and try to go later this summer when i feel more confident? i sort of feel that i’m as confident as i’ll ever be…but i don’t want to get there and start complaining 2 miles in on the first day.

  19. Katherine says:

    i am a bit worried as far as being physically fit enough, but my thinking is i’ve gotta do it anyway. still, i’m going on my first backpacking trip with three more experienced guys and am worried i won’t be able to keep up. we’re doing a four day trip in yosemite’s north rim trail and the first day is basically 4 miles all uphill, after that it’s about 11-13 miles of pretty leveled terrain from what i understand. i am really worried about that first day, especially with a pack on, and especially in warmer weather than i’d like. i went on a 6-mile hike yesterday with lots of hills that really kicked my ass, but man did i feel good about it afterward. and i might add that i have gone hiking maybe twice since january. so, basically i am looking to be in decent shape for this in about 8 days.

    i have been reading about training tips, like going up stairs with a backpack on to get comfortable with it, and have been walking all over san francisco’s hills for hours trying to get my stamina up.

  20. Gary says:

    My brother-in-law was going to go hiking with us on the Appalachian Trail, but his wife convinced him that he might have a “Deliverance” encounter! HA!

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