Four Tips for Summer Backpacking in the Backcountry

tips-for-summer-backpacking-featuredHit­ting 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 HomeGo 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.

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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.