The Journey Begins

It didn’t occur to me until I was 27 what that nagging feeling inside was. Yeah, you know, the kind of feeling that keeps you lying awake at night staring at the ceilings.

I discovered what it was while jogging on a dirt country road on a cool spring evening. My eyes were drawn to some chickadees fluttering about in the trees. As I watched them scamper from branch to branch, my attention was drawn to the green buds at the end of each limb. They were opening. It was then I realized with a sudden clarity that the feeling I hadn’t been able to identify was calling to begin a whole new journey into the wild (wilderness backpacking, anyone!?), and also into myself.

Wilderness backpacking hadn’t crossed my mind much over the past 15 years, though. It was something I’d imagined doing as a child, as I spent countless hours in the woods, traipsing about the lush forests that surrounded my home. But I’d forgotten about it, let my passion for exploring nature fall to the wayside as I tried to embrace the routine of adult life, doing what I felt I “should” do rather than indulging my true callings.

It was on that cool spring night that my journey to becoming a wilderness woman began. Though, if I’m honest with myself the journey started long before that, back when I was that small child in the woods. So maybe on that night I just found the trail again and was able to resume my journey.

Either way, the journey has begun.


2 Indispensable Resources for Beginning Backpackers

Beginning Backpacker

So you’ve made the decision: You want to go backpacking for the first time.

There’s mounds of information out there on how to prepare for your first foray into the woods. But where do you start?

Many turn to the Internet to begin learning how to become adventure women, exploring gear sites and well known blogs, reading articles on other women who’ve gone before them. These are all great resources to beginning your backpacking education, but there are two indispensable ones that are often overlooked: Meetup and Reddit.

Meetup. Meetup is a social networking site where people can form local groups based on their interests and then organize, well, meetups (e.g. social gatherings, trips, hangouts, adventures, and what have you).

Why’s it an indispensable resource, you ask? Because it’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to begin your journey, as once you find a group to join, you’re suddenly fully immersed in the backpacking culture. You gain immediate access to a whole network of backpackers with varying levels of skill and knowledge, and who are happy to share their experiences with newbies.

Search Meetup for backpacking or hiking groups in your area. Look for the active ones that hold regular events including backpacking trips organized by skill level, regularly scheduled social gatherings, and educational sessions that you can register to attend. When you find a group that appears active, browse through their entire page, making sure to check out reviews of the group, their rules of participation and organizational structure, and upcoming meetups.

If you have questions, feel free to reach out to someone on the group’s leadership team by sending them a private message. Or if you’ve decided this is the group for you, join and RSVP to the next meetup!

Note: Sometimes events require a minimal fee for participation.

Reddit. Several backpacking communities can be found on Reddit, a social site that supports community forums on specialized topics.

Again, you ask why is this place an indispensable resource for a beginning backpacker? Because Reddit allows you to participate in discussions on all things backpacking, which are curated by every skill level out there. You have a whole community of backpackers, novice, intermediate, and expert as your disposal. And you, yes you!, can post questions, browse links to articles others have posted, and read and respond to Q&As.

Head over to /r/CampingandHiking, a subreddit that describes itself as a “backpackers who hike with camping gear in their backpacks.” Here you’ll find a thread of conversations taking place on everything from gear reviews to more personal questions like how to backpack while wearing contacts. This subreddit has done a great job of providing links to similar subreddits too, such as the new /r/WildernessBackpacking, which is gaining a quick following.

At both of these sites, Meetup and Reddit, you’ll want to gather information, weigh your opinion against other’s suggestions, compare and contrast ideas and facts, and question every method you come across to see if you think it’d work for you. After all, everyone approaches backpacking a tad bit differently, and ultimately, everything comes down to your preference.

You’ll want to utilize many resources (more to come later!) when you begin to backpack, but don’t forget to include Meetup and Reddit in our list of go-to sites.

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