Things to think about before hitting the woods
Before any backpacking or camping trip, it is very important to get a good map and become familiar with the area you are planning to enter. If you are backpacking, plan a route. Does your trail loop you back to your starting point, or do you need to leave another vehicle at a predetermined spot. Do you have to back track? Is there plenty of water available. How difficult is the terrain? Also, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. If possible, hike with a friend and check in with the park ranger. In case of an emergency, they will be able to locate you easier. In some areas animals like bears and snakes can be a concern. Ask your park ranger for any information that may pertain to where you are going to be camping,.
The following information would be for a backpacking trip of 3-4 days.
- Backpack- Get something that fits the size and shape of your body. Try one on with some weight in it. Is it comfortable? Can it be adjusted. You can choose internal or external frames. Internal frame packs keep gear closer to your body improving your center of gravity. External frame packs allow for more gear to be lashed on the outside of your pack.
- Sleeping bag- The type of sleeping bag you choose depends on the type of camping you will be doing. Summer season camping requires a bag that is breathable and comfortable in warm temperatures. A 30º-40º bag would do. If you plan to camp all four seasons, a bag rated at 0º or better should keep you toasty. Also consider a bag that is filled with a synthetic material such as HOLLOFIL vs a down material. If it gets wet it will still insulate you from the cold.
- Ground mat- A ground mate is essential during the winter season. It insulates you from the cold ground that can pull the heat from your body, leaving you shivering and cold in the middle of the night. It also adds some comfort on hard terrain.
- Tent/Bivy sack- Depending on what type of protection you want, a tent may be your choice. It keeps you dry and keeps wind and bugs away. Some backpackers prefer bivy sacks (sacks that cover only the sleeping bag.) because they weigh less and can basically do the same thing as a tent, only with less room. A hammock is another option and has become very popular recently. What ever you choose set it up once before you hit the trail to get familar with the item.
- Hiking boots- Good footwear is important for obvious reasons. Boots come in many variations and styles. I recommend a boot that is comfortable, waterproof and breathable, and has a solid lug sole. Be sure to change socks regularly to reduce the chance of blisters. Never sleep in the same socks you have been hiking in all day.
- First Aid kit- Always have a good first aid kit available.
- Cook set- This includes a pot, pan, cup and utensils.
- Cook stove- Some thing small and light weight to heat water for food and drink.
- Water filter- These are a necessity when hiking in areas where the only source of water comes from a stream or lake. Water filters also allow you to carry less water.
- Head lamp- This also makes life easier while camping. Compared to a flashlight, a head lamp allows the camper to be hands free will performing typical camping activities. Don't forget an extra set of batteries to.
Other Things to Consider
- The conditions you are going to be camping in determine what type of clothing you will need to bring. The colder the weather the more cloths you will need to bring. If it's raining you will need rain gear to protect you from the elements. If you plan to travel a long way, extra energy food, such as power bars, dried fruit and pasta dishes may be good choices to take. Make sure you have plenty of water or access to water.
- The outdoors are perfect. The people who use it are the problem. I have seen many people abusing our beautiful natural resources. Things like, cutting live trees for firewood, defacing rock and trees with graffiti, camping in the middle of trails and worst of all leaving trash behind. I wish I could change how people looked at our natural wonders. Hopefully they would do more to take care of what God has given us. Please follow the posted restrictions. They are not posted for the other guy. Try not to beat down the area you are camping in any more then necessary and always pack out any trash that you find.
- Leave the places you visit in better condition then when you arrived.
Get out and enjoy what God has blessed us with before it's all gone.
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