Beginning Backpacking, tips and things to think aboutby Dustin Twiggs
This is just a short article on backpacking. Books upon books have been written on the topic, and magazines are published monthly discussing trends both new and old. There are lots of reasons to backpack. Some go on long hunting trips, fishing trips, camping, bird watching, or just exploring. Some will pack for mountain climbing adventures, while others simply want to experience the 'zen' like quietness of the great outdoors. Backpacking is great because once you get it down loading up and taking off into the wild blue yonder is no more than just quickly grabbing your pre-packed bag and hauling off!
So where do you get started? I'd say first pick a season. Most likely summer as there are fewer weather-related risks. This will also allow you to pack less clothing and warmth-related gear resulting in a lighter pack. Good for the beginner. Now what about food? Do you want to cook, or take precooked? Truthfully, I feel this discussion is null and void, but it comes up a lot. It's all about your preference. Some argue that taking food that doesn't need to be cooked saves weight because you don't have to haul any utensils, fuel, or stove. I disagree. This type of food typically weighs more, therefore it offsets the weight savings. It also doesn't taste as good as grits at 5am while watching the sunrise over Mt. Rainier on a beautiful August morning. What about water weight? Take a filtering device and filter fresh water when you get to your destinations or along the way. This will also limit your pack weight.
Don't forget the 10 essentials. Map and compass (make sure you know how to use it), extra water/filtering device, emergency food, first aid kit, flashlight and/or headlamp, the proper clothing, some sort of a multi-tool or pocket knife, pencil paper, large trash bag or emergency "space blanket" (for surprise weather... we get a lot of that in Washington..., and a signaling device. Be it whistle, flare, or other.
Start out with day hikes. Find yourself a local trail in the 2-4 mile range if you are not in shape, maybe 5-10 if are feeling pretty good, and 15 or so if you are adventurous. I find a good 15 mile hike should take well over 5 hours. So expect to hike 2-2.5 miles per hour as that seems to be the average. Pack your back pack with everything you would need, and food. After a few successful day hikes... no broken gear, all the food and water you could need, and perhaps even coping with surprise, you may be ready for your first overnighter away from civilization.
For me, a tent is huge. Make sure if you take one, you are ready for the extra weight. You may consider a 'tarp tent' or other light weight backpacking tent. Many go without them at all during the summer. I prefer something to keep the bugs away.
Really, once you have the 10 essentials down, plus your basic gear (food prep, sleeping bag, tent, tools/fishing) you are ready to go. Experiment with different tools and devices. Some stoves are better in high elevations, while others provide all the heat needed at lower elevations and save substantial weight.
I always like to add a 'theme' to my backpacking trips. Either exploration of a new area to find a hidden lake, or hunting/scouting out the land for new signs of game. Often I'll take friends or family to new lakes to explore the fishing scene. Nothing quite matches the feeling you get of finally stumbling over a beautiful lake miles away from the nearest road to find fish and game galore.
Visit my Mule Deer Hunting In Canada site for more info on combining backpacking with hunting!
About the Author
Dustin Twiggs writes articles for carcasherdotcom seocontest