Boys learning backpacking skills

BACK COUNTRY Black Hills : Top 10 backpacking Tips

The Black Hills are a backpacker’s paradise. The trails found throughout the Hills offer something for backpackers of every experience level. If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll need to make sure to be prepared for whatever you come across on the trail. Our friends at The Club For Boys sent us a really brilliant list of 10 backpacking tips that are sure to keep the back pain out of your next backpacking adventure.

The Club for Boys is a proud sponsor of summer adventures

Top 10 Backpacking Tips

#1 Navigation

Have more than one way to navigate in the backcountry. If you are using a mapping app, remember to download maps before you get to the trailhead because you may not have cell service during your hike.

Brush up on your map/compass skills. 

Be sure that you get a waterproof map and a compass that has a baseplate compatible with your map.

#2 Plan Plan Plan

Even for an experienced backpacker it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B. Let a trusted person know Plan A and Plan B. Let them know the location, planned direction of travel and an estimated time of return.

#3 Gear up

Finding a pack that fits will be the difference between a fun trip and a miserable one. Do your research when it comes to packs. That free pack at a garage sale looks tempting now, but 10 miles down the trail you might regret that choice. 

Roamin’ Around in downtown Rapid City offers rentals and pack fittings so you can try it out before you buy it. This is a great route if you aren’t sure about investing in a pack yet.

A good backpack is a hiker's best friend

#4 Footwear

Trail running shoes work great for backpacking. They are lighter weight than traditional hiking boots and do the job well. When in doubt, your favorite pair of sneakers work just fine. It’s all about you and your feet. 

#5 Hydrate

Hydration is important. Your hydration needs will change based on how hot it is and how much you are sweating. Drink water before you get thirsty and make hydration fun by bringing along electrolyte powder tablets like Nuun or Liquid I.V.

#6 Nutrition

Planning what you will eat while on the trail is important. According to “The Backpackers Field Manual,” during the summer you will need to consume around 2,500 – 3,000 calories. 

A favorite high calories snack is a tortilla wrap with peanut butter, trail mix and honey. Have some fun with your meal planning. Use things like tortillas for multiple meals.

For dinner, a favorite go-to is mac-n-cheese with pre-cooked chicken packs. 

# 7 Leave No Trace

Get familiar with the LNT Principles. Double check the rules and regulations for your hiking area. For example, some areas require a reservation for backcountry camping. Some areas may not allow campfires. 

Always pack out what you pack in.
Most importantly, pack out what you bring!

#8 First Aid

It’s a good idea to check your first aid kit before you head out. Replenish band-aids and replace expired medicine and creams. 

Extras to add to your kit are a good set of tweezers, a lighter, aspirin and TUMS. 

#9 Sleeping

For a good night’s sleep in the backcountry, try using a Wet Wipe to wipe the dried sweat and dirt off your face, legs and arms. Store a clean and dry cotton sleeping outfit in your sleeping bag.

#10 Luxury Items

It’s standard to keep the weight of your backpack to about 20% of your body weight. But whether you’re an ultralight backpacker or a beginner, everyone will want a luxury item. For some, it’s a hammock. For others, it’s a book. 

As you gain more experience, you will figure out what is worth breaking your back for.

Extras to Bring:
  • Lollipops are a fun treat to have when you’re on the trail or after a mountain summit!
  • A waterproof deck of cards can be a great extra to have when you are hiking with a group
  • Bring shoes like Crocs or Chacos. These types of shoes are great for giving your feet a breather if you get blisters, for walking through streams or  for going on a midnight restroom run.

If you’re a parent of littles and want to introduce your miniature hikers to something a little more tame, check out our list of Top Black Hills Trails for Every Age.