Is early/mid 20s too old to start getting into real rugged camping and backpacking? My family is scared of all things nature so I couldn’t?
Real Rugged? If by that you mean doing something really stupid like taking nothing but a knife and axe Then any age is the wrong age. There no such thing as really rugged unless you wish to be yet one more corpse to feed both wild life and plants!
I don't see why you couldn't start camping now unless you have some physical condition that would make it impossible. Camping is fun but start out local and for very short periods of time until you get the basics. Then venture farther away from home. EDIT: Toruko is full of chit.
No, not at all. Get out there.
Yes. Stay home or you'll be eaten by bears.
No for being too old, however, you will need to lean allot of things most other people who have been doing it all their life take for granted. Start by finding someone who is good at it - and do not let them haul you someplace for a 3-7 day trips! Get them to do a series of short overnights spaced a few weeks apart so you can identify what equipment you need to bring, upgrade - and what skills you need to work on. Example. I grew up south of Boston. Nobody in my family hunted. I did weekly rifle competition at a local indoor range starting around age 11 but never any hunting. When I arrived in Alaska in 1982 at age 27 the guys who took me out deer hunting were horrified at my lack of outdoor skills. Especially whining about all the noise I made.... one day while stalking a nice buck I scared it and it ran 250 yards and stopped. The two guys with me, very honked off they had 'lost it'. I just put the rifle to my shoulder, aimed, and dropped it. 250 yards is nothing - I shoot 200 yard to 500 yards standing all the time in silhouette competition. Both of them were born and raised in Montana - over the next years they taught me to be a hunter and I taught them to shoot better. I was not a quick study or fast learner...… but living in a place that allowed 6 deer a year and a hunting season from August to March was a big help. You want to get into a situation like that, where you can learn from experts but not start off trying to keep up with experts. Your expert friends need to start you off slow...… otherwise it is going to feel like work and not fun. I have one last piece of advice. Do not buy cheap equipment to 'get started'. Sure, that $35 sleeping bag at WalMart will work... but the $300 one from North Face will only weight 1/4 and the zippers wont fail - it will last a lifetime. If you don't see the 'value' in lighter, stronger, more expensive equipment - you are doomed to many camping trips with failed equipment, lots of cold and wet nights. Hopefully your buying cheap stuff, it does not get you killed or permanently injured. Consider this - we 'all' know to use a lock back knife so it does not accidentally close and cut you...… my boss lost his main folding knife and grabbed a cheapo he had stashed in his kit as a 'spare'. It was not a lock back. Trying to cut some frozen bait it closed and cut off a finger... he wrapped the stump in duct tape...but the injury was on the same hand that ran the throttle for the snowmachine. 4 hours on a snowmachine and 6 hour drive to the nearest hospital. They could not re-attach. He keeps the finger in his freezer now. I have a pic. That's allot of pain and recovery, and a disability for not having a locking knife. It's the little details like this that will ruin you.
Of course not.
Nope. Lot's of people who have never hiked a day in their life being with the AT.
I don't see why. Go for it. Just do some research so you'll be safe.
No. I know older people traverse underground in Kentucky upwards of 10 hours to reach cave base camp. Eat/rest 2 hours. Before walking another 8 hours in light of helmet lamps doing cartography. Returning to base camp again there's usually 8 hours of sleep. In muddy sleeping bags. Activity is repeated following day where a sun never shines. Then all walk out of cave . Half a day's travel to a wood staircase. Above there's a bunkhouse. Cold water wash sinks, warm bunk beds, email, hot food and drinks. The explorers choose to sleep or resume travel homeward. Aircraft or Amtrak sleeper fares due to long distances. The cave has more than 100 surveyed miles of dry and wet extent..
No; it's not too late. But don't go the full Grizzly Adams all at once. You've got a lot to learn before you can camp in deep backcountry.