5 Tips to Start Hiking Earlier While Backpacking

Backpacking trips that require major mileage also require early rises. Getting to camp before the sun goes down is the goal, and it’s nice to have some buffer time for lunch and longer breaks.

But those of us who don’t consider ourselves morning people are especially not morning people when faced with the cold, sometimes wet mornings the mountains have to offer.

So how can you get from sleeping bag to the trail as quickly as possible with minimum morning suffering? Here are a few ideas.

1. Sleep with Your Clothes in Your Sleeping Bag

For me, one of the most painful things about early mornings at camp is putting on cold clothes. If you have room in your sleeping bag, stuff what you plan to wear the next day at the bottom of your bag before going to bed. Your body heat will keep the clothes warm, making them less painful to slip into the next morning.

2. Pack from Inside Your Tent

Re-packing a backpack every morning gets old, but the more you do it the quicker you get. I found that a lot of packing can be done within the comfort of your own tent, or even within your own sleeping bag if you prefer. The key to early mornings is to start moving as soon as that alarm goes off; it doesn’t matter where the productivity takes place. If all you need to do once you emerge from your tent is pack your tent, I’d call that a major success.

John Muir Trail Backpacking

3. Do Camp Chores the Night Before

Filtering water, rinsing dishes, cleaning clothes — all of these things take time. Complete camp chores before going to sleep so in the morning all you need to do is grab your gear and go. If you’re a regular bathroom-goer, you can even dig your cat-hole the night before, or at least find a prime pooping location. It might not seem like a big time-saver, but it makes a difference. The more you can do the night before, the quicker and easier your mornings will be.

4. Eat a Quick Breakfast

I’m all for personal preference when it comes to fueling your body. Some people need to eat big breakfasts while others are fine skipping it completely. I need to eat something before I start moving in the morning, but I’d rather eat something small and pause for snacks along the route than take the time to make a meal that requires clean-up. (Let’s get real: No matter what you eat you’ll be stopping for snacks.) A quick protein bar is an ideal breakfast for early morning hikes.

John Muir Trail
Peanut butter makes for a great addition to breakfast.

5. Raining? Pack Gear Wet

As soothing as the sound of raindrops on your tent can be, it’s one of the most dreaded sounds when you need to get up early. Waiting for the rain to stop is pointless since you won’t have time to let your gear dry. When it comes to wet mornings, you just need to do it, Band-Aid-removal style. You can let your tent dry once you arrive at camp.

What helps you get up early at camp?

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