Episode #5 of the course Beginning Backpacking by Alice Morgan
Good morning! Today, we’ll talk logistics, so you can get started planning your first trip.
For your first trip, aim for a one- or two-night route, covering four to five miles a day. Don’t worry about doing too few miles. You’ll need extra time to figure out gear and get used to carrying extra weight all day. Try to pick a trail that does not have extreme elevation changes, unless you want a challenge. To estimate travel time, there’s a simple equation: the average backpacker on level ground travels two miles in one hour, with one hour added for every 1,000 feet (305 meters).
Maps and Trail Guides
As you’re planning, make sure to use all the resources available to you. There are a plethora of free maps you can find online or in books at your local library. Make sure to find a copy of your desired route that has details like streams and elevation change, which will help with your navigation. You can also look for trail guides. These give milage-by-milage descriptions of trails and note key features along the way.
Kinds of Trails
You’ll also need to decide between an out-and-back trail or a loop trail. Out-and-back trails are when you hike for a specified distance and then turn around and make your way back the same way you came. These are the most common trails you’ll see on the map. A loop trail is a trail or sections of trail that make a circular route, so you never see the same mile twice. You can also coordinate being dropped off or picked up at one end of a trail. Some more popular trails have shuttle services available at local outfitters.
The Fun Stuff
When planning your trip, make sure to include interesting way points. You’re out in the woods to enjoy nature, so pack your trips with as many waterfalls, beautiful views, caves, wildflowers, rivers, peaceful campsites, and interesting rock features as you can! Experiencing everything the wilderness can offer will give you the best stories to tell back home.
If there’s one key piece of information that I want you to take from this whole course, it’s that you always need to have an emergency plan every time you go backpacking. In my opinion, most of the accidental fatalities and misadventures people have while backpacking could have been prevented by thinking through an emergency plan and sharing it with a friend.
Your emergency plan doesn’t have to be complicated. At minimum, you should record your intended route (with any alternative routes you might take), a rough idea of where you’ll be camping, and what time you plan on arriving home. Give all of this information to a friend or family member. You should instruct them to call the authorities if they haven’t heard from you by a prearranged time. If you do get yourself into trouble, having an emergency plan will mean that helps gets to you sooner rather than later.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to set camp up once you get there. See ya later!
Backpacker Magazine’s “Trips” section
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