Hitting up the backcountry can be one heart-stopping experience. Breathtaking scenery, fearsome yet majestic wildlife and the pure joy of being off the beaten path are enough reason to lure outdoors-people to get lost in the wild. And whether you’re new to summer backpacking or you’ve done it a million times, there are a few simple tips that, if followed, will make your experience safer, simpler, and overall, more badass.
Where There’s Smoke…
There’s fire. Wildfires are a necessary part of nature. Unfortunately, with the heating climate wildfires are becoming more severe and more common. Fires are an ever-present danger, especially of the more arid climates in the West where mountain systems block moisture from passing. Wildfires can sweep through acres of forest without warning and do so very quickly. When camping and backpacking, be sure to check if there are any fire bans in effect for your area. Better yet, check the NIFC’s fire prediction reports to see if you’re in a hot zone. Also, when building and maintaining a fire, follow a few simple rules to ensure that your small pile of flames doesn’t grow into a blazing and uncontrollable inferno:
- Avoid situating fires under low-hanging branches of trees or near overgrowth that can easily catch
- Be sure to contain your fire with stones and various rocks
- When you extinguish the fire, make sure it is thoroughly drenched and leave no cinders burning
Go Light or Go Home
Trekking across the wilderness requires the appropriate water, gear, and food; however, overpacking can make your journey burdensome. When possible, practice minimalist hiking by bringing only the bare essentials and leaving the rest in your gear closet.
Water, Water Everywhere (Or Not)
Many first-timers in the backcountry mistakenly think that they can simply stop by any ambling brook or raging river to quench their thirst. But many lakes, rivers, and streams (even those found in the seemingly pristine wilderness) contain harmful pollutants, bacteria, and even brain-eating amoebas that can be harmful to humans. Be sure to pack enough water for your journey or purchase some form of water purification, such as tablets, iodine drops, or a purification filter.
Tell a Friend (or Three)
Regardless of whether you’re traveling into the backcountry solo or with a group, it’s always wise to tell at least three people where you’re going, when you’re planning to return, what vehicles you’re driving, and the type of gear you’re taking. This is basic information that could be used to rescue you should your backcountry extravaganza go awry. Three is the magic number because it often takes at least three people to get all of the details straight: if you find yourself in a survival situation in the backcountry, you’re gonna wanna have as many accurately informed people as possible hunting you down.