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The Trailhead - General Backpacking Discussion The Trailhead General Discussion forum is for backpackers to discuss non-gear related wilderness backpacking issues (e.g. technique, LNT, hiking partner wanted, trip planning...) that are not covered in other PB forums.

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Old 04-29-2006, 05:24 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Trip Tips: Helpful Tips for Your Backpacking Trips

This thread is for the sharing of tips as they relate to helping backpackers with the preparation and overall success of their trips.

These tips will not apply to every backpacker or her/his backpacking circumstances and preferences. So, use whichever tips that are helpful and ignore the rest.

I'll get this started. Here are some random tips that come to mind at the present time, I'll post more as I remember to do so.


- Weigh yourself before you leave so that you can compare it to what you weigh upon your return.

- Remember to get any licenses (e.g. fishing) or permits (NP) that may be needed for your trips.

- Be sure that any batteries that you carry are fully charged.

- For longer trips (e.g. on national trails/thruhikes), carry a calling card for calling home/office when you reach a trail town, campground, or park.

- Leave complete details about your trip (e.g where you're going, when you plan to check-in, and when you're due to return...) with a couple responsible parties.

- Hydrate, eat, and use the restroom before you hit the trail.

I'll stop there...

Please share your tips with fellow backpackers, and remember to come back to post in this thread whenever you think of more tips to share.

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Old 04-29-2006, 05:55 PM
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hoosierdaddy hoosierdaddy is offline
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Location: Western Washington
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Geez! There are sooooo many nuggets of information! Here are some from the Winter Travel Course that I teach for the Mountaineers:

On The Trail:

Remember the "3 Ws" (wicking, warmth, and wind) of layering. The layer next to your skin should be a fabric similar to polypropylene, which wicks away moisture. Next, pull on a fleece (warmth) layer to trap body-warmed air. Finally, zip on a tightly woven, breathable, windproof layer that lets moisture out but keeps warmth in. (Windshell or rain gear) In extremely cold conditions, add another warmth layer.

The same "3 Ws" apply to your hands (thin polypropylene gloves, warm mittens, breathable / water proof outer shell) and your head (thin wicking hat first, warm hat, hood for wind protection).

Mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves will.

Add fat zipper pulls to your gear so you can undo zippers while wearing mittens.

Keep a supply of quick-energy foods, such as hard candy, handy.

Drink plenty of water and sports drinks. Dehydration can lead to headaches and cold extremities.

Bring two pairs of felt liners for your boots; one for daytime use, the other for around camp.

At Camp:

Choose a campsite sheltered from the wind. Because cold air sinks, a hillside campsite will be warmer than one on a valley floor. An eastern exposure will give you direct morning sun.

Change into dry, warm clothes as soon as possible to keep from getting chilled.

Stand on your sleeping pad (only if it's a closed-cell foam pad) to keep cold from seeping up from below.

Chop, slice, dice, and remove excess packaging from foods before you leave home. This reduces the number of chores that require you to remove your gloves. Keep food preparation simple.

Insulated cups or using cup wraps (cozies) keep drinks hot longer.

In Bed:

Your sleeping bag will absorb several hundred calories' worth of body heat during the first few hours of the night to bring it up to sleeping temperature. So, do jumping jacks or take a hike before bed-anything to raise your core body temperature to start the night warm.

Sleep on top of your parka and insulated pants if you're not wearing them to bed. Put your gloves, socks, boot liners, and tomorrow's clothes inside the sleeping bag with you.

Wear warm, loose-fitting layers to bed. Always wear a hat. Down booties worn with fresh, clean, dry socks help keep feet cozy. (Always change into fresh socks before bed!)

Vent your tent. Leave one door partially open at the bottom and a second door or window slightly open at the top to allow cross ventilation and minimize frost buildup.

Slip a hot water Nalgene bottle inside your bag, but be sure the lid is tight.

Flare open your boots as wide as possible so you can slip them on more easily in the morning when they're frozen.

When nature calls, don't hold it. Keeping fluid at body temperature uses up energy that is better spent warming your body. A pee bottle can save you a nippy trip outside of the tent.

Keep some high-energy foods handy for midnight snacking. (Nuts are great!)

Be careful not to breathe inside your bag. Humid breath can lead to condensation and frost buildup.

Again, these tips are geared more for cold weather trips, but hopefully the info will be useful for 3-season as well.
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Old 04-29-2006, 09:08 PM
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Just Jeff Just Jeff is offline
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When you leave info with folks before you leave, include your car's info (year, make, model, license plate #), and a deadline for when you should make contact with them. If you "may stay out a day or two", make sure they know how long to wait before they freak out.

Soft-sided Nalgenes work better as hot-water-bottles than hard-sided ones because they form-fit to your body. More surface area = more heat transfered. Plus they're lighter and roll up smaller when not in use.

If you want hot oatmeal for breakfast, make it the night before in a .5L Nalgene and use it to warm your bag. Less worries about leaking and you'll have hot breakfast waiting for you in the morning.

Contractor's bags are great multi-use items. Pack cover, pack liner, groundsheet, vapor barrier vest, etc.

Keep a tarp in the outer pocket for quick opening your pack in the rain!

That's it for now.
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Old 04-30-2006, 08:46 PM
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jasonklass jasonklass is offline
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Great topic! Many of the ones I was going to say were already mentioned so here's one. I'll post others if I remember them:

In cold weather, start cold. Don't wear too many layers at the beginning of the hike. You'll just sweat and that's deadly in cold weather. You'll warm up from exertion shortly after you get started and won't have to take off your pack to stow that shell you put on at the trailhead!
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Old 05-01-2006, 08:35 AM
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Ohio_Trekker Ohio_Trekker is offline
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I always carry a foot print for my tents. I can use it for make shift shelter from the rain for lunch stops. Makes a good wind break. I can use it to organize gear on arrival at camp and while packing up. I can use it as a gound cloth to sleep under the stars bugs and weather permitting. It also means I save the wear and tear on the tent floor from the washings my floor protector goes through almost every week, plus it dries faster and we can pack for the next trip sooner!

I also find it is important to have first an alternate plan, and second an "escape" plan on every trip. If rain is coming and streams are swelling, I have an alternate where rain won't make the trail impassable. If I get to a trailhead and the parking lot is over-flowing, I can take the alternate. Hiking with kids it has proven invaluable, less so when hiking solo, but has saved me from sleeping in a bed instead of my sleeping bag on a couple occassions.
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Old 05-11-2006, 06:15 PM
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Perkolady Perkolady is offline
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Here's my 2 cents worth:

Every so often, examine your gear closely for wear and tear and do any repairs , seam sealing, restocking, or replacing necessary. Having gear malfunction on the trail is no fun...

Always have a plan for if you have to leave the trail unexpectedly. Check out your maps and guidebooks for places you can get off and get to civilization, should the need arise.

Sometimes weather forecasts can change... sometimes shortly after you turned off the tv and left for the trail.... Be prepared !

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Old 07-16-2011, 02:42 AM
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Bushwalker Bushwalker is offline
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Location: New South Wales
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After looking at several older posts here on various newbie's queries re: first hike/camp/major purchases/travelling solo, maybe one useful step for those who -

have no prior backpacking experience;
who don't come from a scouting, military, volunteer-rescue or otherwise outdoorsy background;
and who don't have a couple of experienced friends or relatives to learn from;

- could be to do an introductory hiking and camping short-course with a local hiking or climbing club, or evening college, that teaches such fundamentals as navigation, basic campcraft and bushcraft, dressing and preparing for local conditions, with a bit of basic first-responder first-aid included in there...

Experienced instructors/teachers with sound "local knowledge" can be a great asset to beginners under such circumstances..

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Old 07-17-2011, 06:13 PM
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Kylemeister Kylemeister is offline
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Adapted from SCUBA Diving: Plan your hike, hike your plan. Research the area, look at Google Earth, websites, anything and everything you can get your hands on. I always leave a copy of the National Geographic TOPO map where we will be hiking with family, as well as a list of all waypoints and a tentative itinerary. I also provide vehicle descriptions, tag numbers, and phone contacts of everyone hiking as well as their emergency contact.
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Old 07-20-2011, 09:47 PM
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Hanr3 Hanr3 is offline
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Always know where your next source of water is located. You can live without food, but you can't live without water.

Backpacking miles are slower than street miles.
If your breaking trail- 1mph
If your doing a rapid ascent or decent- 1 mph.
Typical maintained trail- 2-3mph
Wide open level ground- dirt road=3.5-4mph
Plan accordingly.

STOP every 50 minutes for 10 minutes. That 10 minute break is something your body needs. Drink, pee, adjust gear, stretch, sit and relax, etc. Over the long haul, you will make it. IF you dont stop once per hour, by the 6th hour your body wil force you to stop for the rest of the day. Seen it happen every year on a 10 mile Lincoln Pilgrimage. Teh paramilitary groups like to poke fun at me wehn they pass me during my first stop. I reply back, I'll be seeing you about mile marker 18, and I do. There done for the day, and Im trucking right on by.

One last tip.
Animals don't liked to be spoked any more than you do, so make some noise, especially in snake and bear country. Whistle, sing a didi, wear a bell, whatever, just make some noise so they know your in the area. The life you save may be your own.
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:55 PM
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OldSalt OldSalt is offline
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I use a trash compactor bag for a pack liner. I believe thery are even more durable than contractor bags.
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