Backpacking Around the United States

I was backpacking around the United States for two months in 2012. And since it was one of the most memorable trips in my life, there is no way I can skip putting together some tips now. They have helped me a lot during my coast-to-coast trip.

The United States boasts a variety of geographical and cultural differences. From the magnificent coastal cities to the Midwestern countryside, backpacking across the United States can be a real treat to those with the wanderlust genes. Being a vast country and covering a huge geographical area consisting of lofty mountain ranges, canyons, and deserts, road trip planning can be a bit daunting. However, everything is possible. A little planning and careful execution is a lifesaver for a perfect backpacking trip across this country.


plan your backpacking gear


Traveling Across the United States

With 50 states under its name, there are not many things that can actually disappoint avid backpackers. From the Appalachian Mountains to the grape vines of Napa Valley, the country is a melting pot of diversity. With almost all popular cities located on the coasts, tourism infrastructure is less developed in the Central United States. This usually implies the lack of well-developed hostels and hotels.

There are many national parks in the country, however. They are very popular backpacking and hiking destinations. If you plan to visit all of them (or at least the major part) consider obtaining an annual pass that covers most of the national parks in the United States. Although separated from the mainland, Alaska and Hawaii also have an important presence on the backpacker’s map. While Alaska has the highest mountain peak in North America, Hawaii are the islands to enjoy beautiful beaches, soak up some sun and to watch people. Skip renting a car while on Hawaii and stick to “TheBus” transportation system to get the best prices.


Things To Do Before Hitting the Trail

It is crucial to know exactly how to plan your trip. I always carry out a research on the region, climate, and culture long before I depart. Another thing that used to overwhelm me some time ago is packing my backpack. It is really important to know what items may come in handy during the trip, and prevent overstuffing at the same time. Familiarize yourself with your gear and ensure that you know exactly how to use it. This is even more essential when backpacking solo.

Since I was departing from Germany, one of the first things to do was obtaining cheap airline tickets. So if you reach your destination point by air, use the following tips. Book tickets in advance to avoid the last minute rush. Booking flight tickets somehow earlier can save you lots of money. Find a reliable source of information on the good camping sites and grounds in the region you’re traveling to.

Keeping an eye on the latest weather forecast cannot be compromised. Check the climate and weather of the place you are going to. An unannounced rain while you are in a tent can be distressing, hence take care to research about the weather before setting out on your adventure trip. This will ensure a hassle-free backpacking experience. Some trails might be more suited to visit during the summer months, whereas the others may be more enjoyable in fall.


Getting Around

There is a wide array of transport options to choose from for reaching your backpacking destination in the United States. Prices are usually daunting, however. Since buses are the cheapest option for traveling between most cities, they don’t go everywhere. The United States is still a car-loving country. Flights are easier but expensive.

Road trips are great for young people who travel in groups. Renting a car or van can make your trip fancy and much easier. Hitchhiking is another travel option for backpackers. Although the popular misconception might have made hitchhiking scary, it is not true. Make sure to stuck you thumb out at the on-ramp entrance, not on the side of a major highway, so that the ride is legal.

I hitchhiked three times during my US trip. The longest ride was from Memphis to Little Rock, but I was lucky enough to go that far. Usually, my single ride never exceeded 40 miles.

I hitchhiked not just for reaching my destination and saving money, but for getting more information on how they live (and yes, as a historian, I’m really interested in knowing that), discussing recent news (I love that! But avoid discussing politics!), and historical events from time to time. You never know who will be your next driver, so take security measures every time you ride.


Backpacking Around the United States



After a long day of backpacking, I usually needed to rest my head somewhere. Find a campsite or grounds that is aesthetic, convenient (or with no fee). If you are planning to camp on river banks, don’t pitch the tent too close to the water. Always remember to take out what you bring in. Never leave the campsite, until you sure the area is clean. Otherwise, some campsites may charge you. Plastic and other non-biodegradable waste will not only pollute the area but also pose a threat to wildlife.

Picturesque view is the most common reason why go camping. With several other things, I always take into account if they allow open fires.

If I find the firewood wet, some dryer lint with candle wax or cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly help me to get an instant fire. Dryer lint is a great igniter and using it to lit a fire can give you nice results and prevent from constant feeding or blowing.


What to Pack

This point is probably the most complicated to deal with while planning a backpacking trip. The packing list is largely determined by the climate of the region you have decided to visit. The easiest way is to bring clothes as per the temperature. Lightweight clothing, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters or fleece jacket is always a good idea even in hot environments. Determine the water quantity you might need, since drinking enough water is a must on a hike. The backpack is everything while on the road. I remember myself amazed at how many things my backpack actually swallowed when I packed it efficiently for the first time. While packing might seem like a daunting task, you can make it much easier by breaking the list down. Here are the main categories of things you’ll most likely require.



Backpacking around the United States is essentially a strenuous activity and hence no compromise can be made on healthy and nutritious food. Bring snacks and ready-to-eat foods in ample quantities. Make sure that the food you carry meets your energy requirement for the entire backpacking trip. When I’m outdoors I prefer to keep my food in separate pouches. Therefore, I can access it any moment and don’t have to pack and unpack each pouch frequently. Campsites sometimes provide facilities for making barbecue and some breakfast potatoes. I greatly discourage you from cooking inside the tent, lest you want your temporary residence on fire.

Backpackers are the lucky ones who can reduce food expenses by cooking their own meals. Hit the cheap supermarkets or grab some fresh food at farmers’ market. Save money by skipping restaurants. While branded food chains like Subway and McDonalds are omnipresent these days, they can be expensive if you’re on a budget backpacking trip.


backpacking in the United States


Emergency Measures

Hiking around the United States usually implies visiting areas with little human presence. While mountains and rivers are beautiful, you must be sure there is something that will help you in the case of emergency. Build your own first aid kit and keep it a hand during your trip. Better safe than sorry. I always gather information on the phone numbers I may need and the nearby hospitals before I hit the road. This would help if I need to make an emergency call. It is also a great idea to learn basic CPR principles. Make sure to keep your phone’s battery healthy. Phones can be of great help in many instances. I also prefer to carry a portable power bank.

With an abundance of backpacking destinations in the United States, there is also no lack of national parks. The country possesses numerous heritage centers, museums, forests and deserts that add flavor to any backpacking trip. Having a pleasurable and adventurous backpacking experience requires only a little attention. Pack your necessities for the trip, plan well and be properly equipped to deal with emergencies.

Last but not least. Consider carrying guidebooks and maps of the region. It is also helpful to know the regulations in advance, in order not to be surprised later on. A particular trail might be closed during the time you are planning to visit. Thus, a sufficient research must take place to acquaint oneself with the region, any permit requirements and other regulations.


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