Packing for a trip can be a nightmarish experience when it's just for a weekend and you've got three suitcases and a duffel bag at your disposal. But the situation gets much worse when your trip is going to be for a month or two, and the only piece of luggage you'll have is a backpack. That's when methodical, step-by-step packing becomes essential. Fortunately, veteran backpacker Laura Lee Jurgens PeterGreenberg.com was willing to share her secrets, which are summarized below.
Choose the Right Backpack
This seems obvious, not to mention pretty much a no-brainier - how many variations on a backpack could there possibly be, anyway? The answer is there are thousands, from dozens of major outdoor gear designers, and every one of them is going to give the backpacker a slightly different user experience. This is why it's essential not only to research the specs of any backpack you're considering, but also to try it on and test how it feels. This is going to be sitting on you or right next to you every minute of every day on your trip, so you'd better make sure you like it.
Pamper Your Feet
There are different kinds of hiking on a long trip: there is hiking between camping locations and then hiking to explore around those campsites. Sneakers are important to have for their durability and flexibility, but Jurgens recommends bringing footwear specifically designated as "hiking shoes," because these will have the toughness and greater traction that you'll need on the trail. And when it comes to socks, go for some thick wool hiking socks; before your first day is over, you'll understand why regular-thickness socks just don't cut it on a major hiking trip.
Douglas Adams Was Right
In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, two excellent pieces of advice are given that are also valid for hiking. The first is "Don't panic." And the second is to always carry a towel, since it is "about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have," not only for signaling for help and such, but also, if it's clean enough at the end of the day, for drying oneself off with.
Over-packing is the Worst Idea
When you're going to be on the road for months, you will find that it's quite practical and socially acceptable to wear items several times before washing them - it is a rock-solid guarantee that none of your fellow hikers or campers will care, since they're probably doing the same thing with their own limited backpack space. Don't over-pack. Do have fun.