10 Tips When Backpacking
Hiking is a great way to escape the rush of everyday life and get back to nature. In the peaceful solitude of nature you can relax and recharge, so that you can go back to your life with a renewed focus. However, a hike is also something that needs to be well planned, so I have ten tips for those of you who may be new to backpacking.
Spend the extra time and money to get good footwear.
Obviously, hiking requires you to be on your feet a lot. Therefore, your feet take a lot of abuse. For that reason it is a good idea to invest the time and money necessary to get footwear that really fits your feet. And I'm not just taking about shoes. You need well fitting socks as well if you want to avoid blisters.
If you buy a light weight pair for every day of your hike then you will just need one or two heavy pairs to wear overtop. The light weight pair will help keep your feet cool and dry and can also be used with your camp shoes (more on that later). The heavier hiking socks will provide extra cushioning for your feet as you are on the trail.
Whatever socks you decide on, bring them with you when you go to purchase your hiking boots. Take the time to walk around in the boots before you make your purchase. If possible try walking up and down an incline. Trust yourself and how the boots feel on your feet. Don't let a salesperson pressure you into boots that don't feel quite comfortable.
Break in your hiking boots.
After you've found a pair that fits well, take the time to break in the boots. If you wait until the last minute you will develop blisters. Try taking a short walk everyday for at least a week before your hike. This will also help get you in shape for your hike.
When deciding what to bring on your hike, remember that you will be carrying whatever you bring--all day. So try to find light weight versions of the things you will need. And since every ounce counts try to find items that can pull double duty. Sporks are nice because it means only one piece of silverware. It also cuts down on the number of things you will need to wash each day.
I once went hiking with someone who brought disposable clothing. Each night he burned the outfit from that day so he would have one less thing to carry the next day. While that may be a bit extreme it is still important to think light.
Don't forget the safety items.
That being said there are a few items that you shouldn't leave behind. Safety is definitely not a place to cut weight. While they may only prove useful on one trip, when it happens you'll be glad you carried it along. Or you might find yourself on the trail with someone who didn't carry a first aid kit.
Also, while only one person in the group needs to carry a full first aid kit each group member should have a few basic safety items. Emergency blankets, whistles and flashlights are all small items that even the youngest members of your group should be carrying.
Bring camping shoes.
Another item you should make room for would be camping shoes. After a long day's hike in heavy boots it feels good to slip into some light weight shoes. These shoes are also good to have if you have to make a late night trip to the bathroom. You wont have to worry about fumbling around in the dark to lace up hiking boots.
Bring a camping chair.
Light weight camping chairs or stools are also a good item to have along especially if you have a larger group. You can usually find one or two natural seats (fallen logs or large rocks) but unless you have camping chairs someone is going to be sitting on the ground to eat. Another tip about camping chairs: if you strap them to the outside of your pack you can use it during lunch time as well. Plus it makes packing and unpacking everything else a little easier.
Sleep in a hammock.
Returning to the idea of packing light a hammock and small tarp are lighter than a tent. However, they are only marginally lighter. The real advantage to a hammock is that it is more comfortable. Even with an inflatable sleeping pad, the hard, rocky ground is never going to be as comfortable as sleeping suspended in air. One word of caution, you are suspended in air and not enclosed in a tent so it will be colder.
Eat on the trail.
Another item to consider when hiking is food. Lunches are best if they can be eaten on the trail. A few slices of cheese and salami or a handful of trail mix or granola can easily be eaten as you are walking down the trail. Lunch food can be distributed to each group member so that each person can eat whenever he needs to recharge his batteries.
Take a break for lunch.
That being said it is still a good idea to stop for lunch--even if you've been eating all along. It allows the slower members of the group to catch up. Everyone is allowed to rest their feet for a few minutes. (This is also a good time to do a blister check and administer first aid as needed.) Lunch is also good time to determine how much further you'll go before stopping for the night. And, perhaps most importantly, it allows you to refill everyone's water bottles.
Know the trail.
If you are deciding at lunch where you will be stopping for the night this means you need to know the trail you are on. Where are the stopping points? A good map is always handy to have along. It's also a good idea to check ahead with people who've been on the trail. Are any bridges washed out? What are some of the pros and cons to the different camping sites?
If you can't get a first hand account on a camping site, skipping the first stopping point is usually a good rule of thumb. Most anybody can make it to the first campsite, so they are usually not as well cared for as those sites that only the serious hikers reach.
Hopefully, these tips will help make your trip a success. Enjoy your time on the trail.
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