By Michael Lanza

Years ago, in a visitor center in a popular national park, I overheard a conversation in which one person said to another, “Backpackers? They don’t start hiking until 10 or 11 in the morning.” I laughed to myself because I know how true that is in many cases. But I also found it amusing because I prefer to start hiking early when backpacking—and I know that it’s not just about what time you get up. Some simple and easy habits can help you get out of camp faster and on the trail earlier, bringing numerous benefits that really transform the experience of backpacking for you.

Are you a backpacker who doesn’t get out of camp very quickly, either due to your own inertia or that of companions? If your answer is yes, but you’d like to be more efficient about packing up and getting on the trail, this article will help you do just that. The tips below focus on making more efficient use of your time, which will help you get on the trail faster regardless of when you roll out of your bag.

I’ve learned and adopted the following practices over three decades (and counting) and thousands of miles of backpacking, including having worked as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and even longer running this blog. Those trips have been with a wide range of companions, including my kids from when they were very young through their teen years, as well as friends of all abilities and experience levels. Getting different companions packed and on the trail in a time-efficient manner in the morning demands, at times, different tactics—all covered below.

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