Basic Backpacking Tips
Ask any avid backpacker. There is nothing like the reward of an exquisite view after a long, grueling hike. While most people visiting national parks are satisfied with the main attractions that can be seen after short walks or bus rides, hikers want more. They want the views without the crowd. The peaceful solitude of the back country contrasts sharply with the chaos of the rest of the park, and backpackers can't get enough of it.
Now you may think to yourself, that sounds great! But, I'm in no shape to hike miles with a heavy pack, and I don't even have any equipment! If this is you, I have some good news. Living the life a backpacking adventurer is not as out of reach as you might think.
The first thing you need to know is your limits. If you are not in great shape, a trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is not only too difficult, it is downright dangerous. Most national parks have trails varying in length and elevation change. To find the hike that is best for you, contact the park ranger station. This information can be found on the park's website. Park rangers are familiar with the trails and will be able to help you find one that is appropriate for your skill level. If it's your first big hike, you probably want a trail that is pretty short and flat. Rangers will also be able to assist you with the next step, which is a back country permit. Some parks charge for this pass, others don't. It is usually a minimal fee. The park rangers will tell you where you can camp for the night. They will also let you know if you need a bear canister. Some parks require that you keep all your food and cosmetics in bear canisters when it is not in use.
After you have chosen your trail, you need gear. With backpacking gear, often you get what you pay for. If this is your first trip, you probably don't want to invest hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, you can rent gear at many sporting goods stores. When you rent your gear, make sure the pack is the right size. Ask questions about how to set up your equipment. You want to be comfortable with your gear.
After you have your gear, you need food. You have the option to rent a portable camping stove. It is not necessary, but I nice hot meal after a long day's hike is pretty amazing. Many sporting goods store have dehydrated meals that are easy to pack and prepare. If you don't want to deal with a stove, you can bring trail mix, energy bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or other dry foods. Make sure you carry plenty of water!! Also, bring iodine tablets so you can treat water you get from natural sources. This is very important. Drinking untreated water in the back country could make you sick.
When you are hiking in the back country, be very careful to leave no trace. Trash left in the wild can disturb the delicate ecosystem of the park.