With temperatures rising and summer well on its way, many of us are starting to make plans for some backpacking adventures.
You know who you are. And if you’ve done a lot of it, there probably won’t be much said here that you don’t already know.
If you don’t have a lot of backpacking experience but would like to try it, perhaps I can offer a bit of guidance based on my own hard-won experience.
Be a self-contained unit
OK, so that sounds like something out of “Star Trek.” Kinda nerdy. But the idea behind backpacking is going somewhere a vehicle can’t take you. We’re used to going to the lake, forgetting something, then hopping into our car and buying what we need at the nearest corner store. Cars equal speed and convenience, neither of which is possible when you’re on foot, several hours or even days away from civilization. So you have to have everything you need with you, in your pack.
Your list should include some basics: Food. Shelter. A means of water purification (notice I didn’t say “water”; NEVER try to haul all your water in). A compass, knife, first-aid kit, matches and a select change of clothes are also musts. And a map of where you’re going.
Other needs will depend on the type of area you’re heading into and your own desire for creature comforts. Stoves are nice, and I pack mine every time I go. But if I’m backpacking in the summer here or in another Sun Belt state, it’s not something I absolutely need. You can go a long way on trail mix, peanut butter and tortillas. However, if I’m heading into a cold, snowy environment, the stove becomes a necessity. I’ll need it to melt snow for water.
I’d also include a cell phone in this list. Wild areas aren’t great for reception, but you’d be surprised how many bars you can get from a high point, such as a hilltop or ridgeline. Having some emergency form of communication with the outside world can be a lifesaver, and there’s no sense in leaving a cell phone behind. Just keep it turned off until you need it.
Other tools come in handy, and can even be lifesavers. A headlamp comes to mind as one such item. You can imagine being lost in a hot environment where trekking around in daylight hours could be deadly. So you move at night. In that case, a headlamp will help you find your way through the darkness.
There’s a lot more that can be said on this topic, so I’ll be back with other installments soon. And of course, I’m happy to hear your views/advice on this subject.