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Backpacking Tips and Tricks

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Backpacking in the wilderness can be some of the most exhilarating and satisfying experiences of your life. A sense of wonder and curiosity, combined with heightened senses and just a hint of danger make it a habit worth getting addicted to. Nothing can replicate the satisfaction of being in the wilderness over an extended period of time, leaving the trappings of civilization behind.

There are many factors that can determine whether the trip will be memorable or miserable. Planning is essential. I have been backpacking for over 36 years, rarely going to the same destination twice, and have learned a few valuable tips and tricks to help make your trip a positive one. 
 
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Step 1: Awareness of Hazards

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Read all signs at trailheads to learn about fire, lightning, bear activity, etc. Understand the distances you are covering and become familiar with your map. At all junctions, read the signs carefully and make sure everyone is together making the correct turns.

Step 2: Socks

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Using two layers of socks can substantially reduce your chances of getting blisters. A thin polypropylene underlayer, with a wool blend on top will be very comfortable. If you sense a "hot spot" of rubbing after a while, immediately put a piece of moleskin over the spot to absorb the rubbing and keep your feet happy.

Step 4: Warm Your Clothes At Night

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Many mountain mornings can be cool, even in the summer. Consider putting your next day's clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag at night so they will be toasty warm when you put them on in the morning.

Step 5: Camp Footwear

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It's great to get out of you heavy hiking boots once you get to your camp spot. You will also want to spend time there and not always be on the go. An old pair of sandals or Teva's are great to wear around camp for swimming and lounging. Your feet will love you!
HelmutHound11 months ago
I have some questions, if you would be so kind. :)
I don't like to camp at most camp sites any more, because they are always too close to the city, or they have too many RVs and campers there with generators and air conditioners (not to mention noisy people -_-*).
So I've done some wilderness camping! It's more quiet, less busy, more relaxing, and just more fun!
I used to grab my pack and hike into the woods, but I've gotten into trouble a few times because it wasn't a "designated camp site" and the officer was worried I would be "eaten by a bear." He even tried to scare me by joking about "hatchet wielding drifters.". -_- SMH

Sorry for the long story, but can you help, or have any advice? Honestly to me, it's worth the risk, but I don't want to get into trouble, or cause any.

Backcountry camping is the best. But it's important to know your municipality's laws regarding setting up a campsite, which can be as simple as laying down a blanket or slinging a hammock. Where I live, primitive camping is allowed, but not closer than 50m from trails, or half a kilometer from high use areas like lookouts, lean-tos, and trail intersections.

If you live near a park with established trails, you're only likely to encounter other people hiking; RVs don't do trails. Search for a trail council or club in your area. They often have very good maps with trails outlined on them. Usually these people are of a like mind and are there to enjoy wilderness. Many parks have shelters, like lean-tos, that you can use for a night or two. If you go during the cooler months (I go during the winter, often,) you won't find many people out. And certainly all hikers are (or should be) off trail after the sun sets.

Read up on Leave No Trace principals. At its essence; 'Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures.' Some of the more, um, strident acolytes would have you shush away your footprints as you get back to the trail. I won't add any more to that.

The most important thing to remember, in my mind, about backpacking is that you are going out to survive in an inhospitable environment as comfortably as is reasonably possible.

Ah! Yes we don't have any 'clubs' of that sort around here, but there are a few of us that talk about it from time to time.

Mostly I like to travel out to other states and if I have a particularly spectacular year, maybe a different country! (that is very rare thought T_T)

Some of my best information has been gleaned from forums and state websites for parks, but I had absolutely NO IDEA you could camp near trails! I always heard it was forbidden, and rangers and officers always kept sending me to the 'official campsites,' where I would inevitably be stuck next to a noisy RV, or a bunch of people getting drunk -_-

So thank you very much for your advice! Do you have any websites that I could look at?

I completely agree that nature should be left unspoiled. It's a real shame what people are doing to the redwood forest these days (for instance) :,(

Start a group. If you're in school, start one there. If not, create a 'meetup.com' group looking for people of a like mind. Start simple -- day hikes, mixers; then find those one or two that like to 'get out.'

Or, do what many of us do when we can't find anyone to play with -- go solo. And if you're particularly brave -- try stealth camping. It's finding a place in your locale to spend the night undetected. Be prepared to lay down late and get up early...

If you plan well, it can be a lot of fun.

Ick :P
Although the idea is nice, I feel more comfortable alone in the woods, than having to go in groups with strangers. If you are alone and someone starts unzipping your tent, you IMMEDIATELY know they are an unfriendly. Because NORMAL people ask before entering someone's private tent.
In a group there are people who take unearned social familiarity with you, and may try to peak or sneak in on you.


I have been doing, and MUCH more enjoy your second option. But have run into problems with it (nothing serious as of yet), and I always make sure to police my area, so I've never had any complaints.
It is sooooooooooo much more freeing to be alone in the woods than to be tied down with a group, imho :)

Thank you again though, and if you do have any websites to suggest I still would love to take a look at them! Thank you!

I daresay that when you can find one or two people to enjoy wilderness with, it can be a lot of fun -- someone to play cards with when there's little else to do, someone to cook for, tell stories with. I'm not a big fan of groups, either, but have gone on numerous trips with people who share my mind about being 'out there.'

I frequent a website called backpacker.com. They have a forum with some good people. Just pay attention to the number of posts a member has before taking any advice, there. Trolls visit, too. And I also advise not hopping right in making any posts. Look around, get a feel for the place, and then introduce yourself in the 'Trailhead Register.' Tell us about your region, experience, and a short gear list.

ben maisel (author)  HelmutHound11 months ago
I do wilderness camping all the time. Often times when we are driving to a backpacking trip it's late in the day and too hard to find a designated camping spot. We will just pull off on the quiet side road and hike in a short ways and set up a Minimal nighttime camp. Just make sure you have some food and water and leave fairly early in the morning. We try to stay off the beaten track where nobody will notice us or bother us. It's fun and I've done this many times. I don't really think it's much of a problem as long as you leave no trace. Good luck!
poofrabbit10 months ago
Just wanted to say congratulations on being a finalists in the Great Outdoors Contest! This was a fantastic instructable! Good luck!
darman1210 months ago
These are some good tips; I will definitely use them. Thanks for sharing them :)
Reiff10 months ago
Where is that place, That has some good scenery.
Mrballeng11 months ago
Well done! I got to get out there.
burundanga11 months ago
Shade is good but always inspect the branches above to see if there are any that look weak enough to fall on your tent. A bit of wind could dislodge something big enough to cause damage and/or injury.
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