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Intro to Backpacking: How to Plan for Your First Overnight Adventure Backpacking in the Cascades

Washington Backpacking

Backpacking season is almost upon us. There’s no better way to experience nature in Washington than with a trip backpacking in the Cascades. Backpacking is an adventurous blend of backcountry camping and hiking that takes you deep into the wilderness. If you’re an experienced car camper or hiker and want to take your exploration to new heights, backpacking may be just what you’re looking for. Traveling into nature for with just the supplies on your back can seem daunting for first-timers, but with the right gear and preparation, anyone can enjoy backpacking. If you’re curious about Backpacking in the Cascades, Gearhouse can help with our Backpacking Introductory courses and outdoor gear rentals. Continue reading below to learn How to Plan for Your First Overnight Adventure Backpacking in the Cascades.

What is Backpacking?

Backpacking in Washington

Backpacking is the best of camping and hiking combined. In backpacking, you carry everything you need for your travels on your back, including your shelter, bed, kitchen, food, and water, and travel to remote areas in the wilderness. Backpacking can be done on longer out-and-back trails or loops and take you to otherwise hard-to-reach places. To best prepare for your first backpacking adventure, we recommend taking a course with us or joining an experienced group for an easy to moderate adventure where you can learn by doing.

Picking the Right Backpacking Adventure

Backpacking in the Cascades

When in doubt, choose an easier route. If you’re new to backpacking, don’t push your limits, as you want to be sure to have energy left to set up camp and enjoy the beautiful scenery. To find the ideal backpacking route for you, consult with Gearhouse’s experienced trip planning staff who will help you pick a place close to home to ensure you have ample time on the trail to get to your destination. Gearhouse has a plethora of shorter distance routes that access amazing lakes, beaches, and peaks within only a few hours of Seattle .

Picking the Right Backpacking Campsite

Backpacking Campsite

While finding an off-the-beaten-path route to a lake all by yourself may sound tempting, it's best to pick a well-established trail with a designated campsite for your first time. Make sure your campsite is near a water source so you can easily fetch water for additional drinking water, cooking, and cleaning. Springs and creaks can dry up easily, so always confirm that there’s going to be a water source nearby. Some trails and sites require permits to spend the night, so be sure to consult with our staff to ensure you have all the permits you’ll need to complete your backpacking trip

The Best Time of Year for Backpacking in the Cascades

Backpacking in the Cascades

In backpacking, good weather is essential, not just for staying comfortable but for staying safe. When planning your first trip, go in summer or early fall unless you’re going to a particularly hot and dry location. Pay attention to the weather forecast in the weeks and days leading up to your trip to make sure you are packing the right gear and clothes for your adventure. But fear not, Gearhouse’s rental gear and trip planning are always at hand if you need to change plans last-minute or add a lightweight tarp in case of forecast showers.

Essential Backpacking Gear

Gear is perhaps the most essential part of backpacking preparation. Since you’re carrying your supplies on your back, backpacking gear has to toe the line between practical and lightweight and easy to carry. Gearhouse carries everything you need for your next epic backpacking adventure, from lightweight but comfortable backpacks to tents and more.


A backpacking backpack should fit comfortably on the hips and shoulders and be able to carry about 30 pounds of assorted items. Be sure to take your pack on a long test hike to ensure it fits well before your trip backpacking in the Cascades. Gearhouse staff will help make sure your pack is a perfect fit and has the right amount of room for your trip. We have everything from ultralight, one-night packs to week-long packs with amazing suspension.

Backpacking Shelters

Unless you’re an ultralight backpacker, you’re likely traveling with a tent. You might be tempted to share a tent since packing two tents can add unnecessary weight, but your own lightweight tent only adds a few pounds and is a nice splurge to carry your own space. We’ll help you choose a tent based on capacity, seasonality, weight, and livability.

Backpacking Sleeping Bags

Backpackers can go on and on about the pros and cons of down vs. synthetic fill sleeping bags. S Your sleeping bag should be able to pack tightly into a waterproof compression bag and be carried on or inside your backpack. Gearhouse offers a variety of sleeping bags for all sizes and types of sleepers, and our all-inclusive membership makes premium down sleeping bags and quilts accessible.

Backpacking Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pads are incredibly important. Not only do they provide cushioning, but they also help your body retain heat by insulating you from the ground. Gearhouse provides complete, integrated sleep systems for backpacking with easy-to-carry sleeping bags and inflatable pads, and even some special gear like double sleeping bags and pads that integrate together.

Kitchen supplies and water filtration

When you backpack, you travel with your food for the entire journey on your back, as well as a single burner backpacking stove, a water filtration system, and other cooking supplies. If you’re new to backpacking, Gearhouse has everything you need to prepare meals in the backcountry (and even a delicious selection of lightweight, freeze-dried meals from Good To-Go and other brands). Stay hydrated and energized for your entire journey with our gear.

Backpacking Fitness

Backpacking in Washington

Fitness is an integral part of backpacking. At Gearhouse, our Intro to Backpacking courses help gauge your fitness level so that you can better prepare for the journey and choose trips best suited to your experience level. We use moderate day hikes to help you assess your level of fitness as you prepare for your backpacking adventure.

Gearhouse is your one-stop shop for backpacking this summer. Whether you’re backpacking in the North Cascades, the Enchantments, the Olympics, or beyond, we’ve got you covered with top-of-the-line gear, trip planning, and courses.

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