While I've been an avid day-hiker and car-camper for years, I've just recently gotten the time and money to get into backpacking. I like to think I've got all the right gear and I've got experienced friends and resources that have prepared me so much, but with that, there are things you can only learn from experience.
I hope we're all aware of the ten essentials, listen to your body, bring paper maps, never skimp on water, etc., but I'm looking for something a little deeper than that...
So I beg the following questions: If you could take your first trip again, what's the one piece of advice you wish you'd known? Is there one piece of gear you can't live without? How can you physically and mentally get the most out of the experience? Deep down, what's the reason you keep getting out there?
Feel free to expand on those questions or not. Looking forward to learning from you guys 😊
I want to second that idea to have at least one backup for purifying water. I had a trip where we had a pump water filter; the piston driving the pump shattered on the second day. This led to hours of purifying water over a fire and asking those passing through if they had any spare chlorine or iodine tablets. (This is part of what I like about the gravity feed system--I use the Katadyn one--there is no strong force being applied anywhere). The lightest backup are the tablets.
Oh and building on hikermor's comment, if you do get stuck having to drink untreated water, know that the most common waterborne disease where most US people backpack, giardiasis, takes ~7-14 days to be evident. Dehydration hits you right away (yes, have had a mild case of that). When picking a water source to drink directly from, think of what is upstream. Whitney Creek, for instance, coming out of Guitar Lake is a bad choice: lots of campers, probably lots of poorly buried feces. Springs are usually the best possible source, and side streams without trails above you are second best.