Traveling into the wilderness for a couple of weeks may seem daunting at first. No cell phones, wine bars, ice cold drinks, or hospitals nearby. Yet, this is part of the adventure of immersing yourself in the woods, far from town. Keep in mind, though, that adventure does not suggest reckless abandon. Planning is vital, especially if that longer duration finds you heading deep into the wilderness. This won’t be an exhaustive list of what to bring, but rather some considerations to help keep you out of trouble.
Two weeks can be a long time if you don’t plan correctly. That is, don’t begin planning a few days or a week before you leave. Give yourself at least a month—and don’t just do some minor planning a month in advance, then dive in when your departure date looms.
Reevaluate Your Gear Checklist
If you have a checklist for backpacking—an excellent idea, even for short trips—build upon it. Look at each item afresh, thinking about its importance when backpacking for more than just a few days. For example, you might choose to ignore your supplements (vitamins) is gone for three or four days, but a long trip should change your mind if they are a part of your health regime. Have enough socks, or the ability to wash them, to keep your feet dry and clean.
Distance and Capability
Consider what is comfortable, and appropriate, as to how far you go in, how far from “civilization” you are. Think about how many miles a day you are comfortable traveling, and how many miles you would have to travel to get out if an emergency comes up. If you feel like hiking 10 miles a day, then halfway through your trip you’ll be 70 miles out; but don’t forget you’ll have to come back another 70 miles. Remember to factor in your physical fitness and your wellness, taking into account any particular susceptibility you may have to medical situations possibly requiring a hasty retreat.
As to distance traveled, while you could travel 140 miles (or more) in fourteen days, it could be gentler to head in perhaps 4–10 miles, set up a base camp, then day hike from there. Alternately, you could hike in twenty miles, or so, again dependent on your comfort, preparedness, and health, then set up that base camp. Ultimately, it is up to you (and your companions, if not traveling alone) to have a base camp in only as far as you would be comfortable heading back home from.
No matter how short or long your trip, leaving an itinerary with a trusted family or friends is important. Leave instructions on when these guardians should be prepared to contact appropriate authorities if you don’t return according to your agreement. Keep in mind that there could be significant costs billed to you if a rescue team is sent in, especially if it is determined that you were negligent or unwise in your backpacking choices.
Quality Check Your Gear
For these longer trips, it is especially important to pre-check your gear, especially boots and whatever keeps you insulated from the elements. Since the gathering of firewood is often disallowed, your camp stove must be in perfect working order, with plenty of backup fuel. Your first-aid kit needs to be a bit beefier, since you may need a daily change of bandages or additional application of first-aid ointments.
Be Proactive in Case of Sickness
Pay close attention to any considered onset of illness. Pack up and head closer to the trailhead if you have any doubt about your up-and-coming well-being or that of anyone in your party. Watching the flu potentially take hold 20 miles in, and then finally deciding to pack up and head home doesn’t end very well.
Weather is More of a Factor
The farther in you go, the more you need to pay attention to potentially dangerous weather. It’s not that you ignore this if on a short trip, but a heavy snowstorm when you are two hours from the trailhead is quite different from a two-day journey to get out.
How do you get help? Ask a ranger about the options where you are going. Sometimes there is a remote ranger station closer to you than the trailhead, though this is not typically the case. There are satellite communications devices such as Personal Locator Beacons that send an emergency distress signal, or Satellite Messengers (fee-based) that let you send emergency “text” messages.
If you are relatively new to backpacking, make your first trips short ones. There is a great deal to know and pay attention to when in the wild. In other words, don’t head out for a long wilderness excursion until you are clearly an experienced backcountry traveler.