Intro-to-backpacking Lessons

CHAOS hosts a student-facilitated course (Decal) on UC Berkeley's campus!
All of the course material, including lectures and assignments, can be found on this page.
Here are the 5 simple steps to planning a backpacking trip:


Choose your Trip Location, Make your Map, and Write an Itinerary 

Your itinerary should include:
  • a location
  • trail map
  • a date
  • elevation / day estimates
  • mileage / day estimates
  • each night’s camping location(s).

You do not have to follow this itinerary exactly when you actually go on your trip, but it’s always nice to have a rough idea to refer back to.

Your gear list should include
  • backpack
  • clothing
  • sleep system
  • cooking system
  • water system
  • navigation system
  • hygiene system
  • first aid and gear repair
  • food and water
  •  trip-specific items


Make a Food Plan

Create a list of all the food you plan on bringing, including calories if possible. You should try to break these items down day-by-day.

Keep in mind that you will be exercising all day, so you’ll want to make sure you are bringing enough food to nourish your body. Being hungry can really ruin a trip.


Make a Safety Plan

Write up a brief description of the precautions you will be taking to stay safe on your trip. This can include any items you will be bringing with you, the people you will be informing about when you plan to return, and any other safety information you find relevant. Include any safety considerations that are specific to the trail and location that you have chosen.


Plan to Leave No Trace

Make sure you fully understand the principles of LNT before you go into the backcountry. Figure out what you may need to do before your trip to make sure you minimize your impact. Some questions to consider: 

Are there bears? How can you make sure they won’t get your food? Will you be bringing fire starters? How can you minimize your fire impact? What are the rules on disposing of human waste (poop) in your area?