Backpacking 101: An introduction to wilderness camping

Have you ever wanted to try backpacking?

Backpacking is a form of hiking where the hikers carry all the things needed for camping on their backs. This usually includes tents, cooking supplies, food, water, and clothes.

Two young women wearing backpacks while standing in front of a river
Photo by: MJ Carnevale, used with permission.

Typically, in the USA, backpacking is associated with wilderness hiking and camping as an adventurous vacation or weekend adventure. In Europe and other parts of the world, backpacking may refer to walking or traveling inexpensively (trains, buses, etc) between towns or villages and staying in local hostels, hotels, and other accommodations.

Backpacking is one of the few ways to experience a true disconnection from society, if only for a weekend. Opportunities to experience real wilderness in Florida are dwindling, fast. This hobby helps people experience nature in a new and profound way.

Join us at Backpacking 101, this October!

The Natural Resources and Conservation program is excited to announce a 2-class workshop, Backpacking 101, to share the adventurous hobby with local residents.

The instructor for this class is Shannon Carnevale, Polk’s Natural Resources and Conservation Extension Agent. Shannon has backpacked hundreds of miles in the last 20 years in Florida, New Mexico, Virginia, Georgia, and Colorado. She has experience leading group treks across Florida State Parks, National Forests, along the Florida Trail, and on sections of the Appalachian Trail. She is a Leave No Trace Master Educator and is certified in Wilderness First Aid.

Class Details:

  • Dates: October 24 and October 26, from 5:30 – 7:30 PM each evening.
    • Registration includes both sessions and attendance is expected at both sessions.
  • Location: To Be Announced, check back in September!
  • Registration:
  • Cost:
    • Early Bird: $12 (+eventbrite fees), ends September 23
    • General Admission: $18 (+eventbrite fees)
    • Want to learn alongside your kids? Youth over the age of 14 are welcome to attend with their parent or legal guardian for only $5.
  • Do I need backpacking experience or to own gear?
    • No! This is an entry-level, classroom workshop. As a part of the workshop, we’ll discuss what gear you may need and where to get it.

What will participants learn?

By the end of this class, participants will be able to source gear and plan a successful weekend backpacking trip.

A line of backpackers hike under a large oak tree while on the Florida Trail.
Photo by: Shannon Carnevale, used with permission.

Participants will learn about:

  • Suggested equipment and skills required to use that equipment
  • Basic cooking considerations
  • Basic safety skills
  • Basic route planning and how to read a hiking map
  • and Leave No Trace ethics

Participants will take part in:

  • a cooking demonstration, with the opportunity to try a few backpacking meals
  • hands-on gear demonstrations
  • planning a mock backpacking trip

Who should attend?

Two men look at a cellphone to navigate while hiking in Florida.
Photo by: Shannon Carnevale, used with permission.

Backpacking as a hobby is appropriate for all ages but generally, the individual should be strong enough to carry a backpack loaded out with gear and hike for several hours.

As an individual, you’re able to pack as much or as little as you want; but, most packs weigh at least 20 pounds for a weekend trip and can weigh as much as 50 or 60 lbs. Additionally, backpacking trips vary in length and duration.

This class is appropriate for people with beginner or novice-level experience at car camping, or no experience at all.

This training is appropriate for ages 16 and older, but it’s designed for adult learners who will be planning a backpacking trip with friends or family. If youth (16-18) are interested, they should register with a parent or guardian.

Already a comfortable camper or an experienced day hiker?

Consider joining us for our Backpacking 101 Webinars. These webinars provide a surface view of backpacking that is more appropriate for campers or hikers who are looking to learn just the essentials for backpacking, to add to their current skills. Webinars are being offered periodically and are only one evening, for 90 minutes.

You can find all of the course dates, in-person and webinar, by checking out the Eventbrite event collection, “Outdoor Skills and Ethics.”

Visit the collection, here: or by clicking the image below:

hiking boots in a forest, overlaid text, "Outdoor skills and ethics. events related to ethical and sustainable outdoor recreation."
Image created with Canva Pro

Where can I get more information?

You can find more information on the Eventbrite page or by contacting Shannon at 

University of Florida IFAS Extension is committed to diversity of people, thought and opinion, to inclusiveness and to equal opportunity.
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.


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Posted: March 1, 2023

Event Details

Start:  24-Oct-2023 at 5:30 pm
End:  24-Oct-2023 at 7:30 pm

Event Series Details:  Not available
Event Link:  More information and registration
Event Location:  UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, South Holland Parkway, Bartow, FL, USA

Category: Natural Resources, Recreation, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Backpacking, Central Florida, Hiking, Lakeland, Leave No Trace, Natural Resources, Nature-based Tourism, Polk, Polk County, Polk County FL, Recreation, Shannon Carnevale, UF/IFAS Polk County, Wilderness Ethics

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