Proper Preparation for Backpacking Trips

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Many forces compete in the quest to find a weekend activity, and potential weekend warrior have a variety of choices when it comes to finding an activity. However, one of the most rewarding and simplest activities to do is a backpacking or hiking trip (for my suggestion on backpacks, check out my post on my new The PNW Ultralight Backpack). These types of trips are easy to organize, simple to plan, and fun for entire families or groups. However, even though many go backpacking, too few are aware of the proper equipment that should be brought on a trip. Without a few essential items, backpackers can potentially put themselves in danger. For that reason, and to get the most out of your adventure, potential backpackers need to remember to keep the following vital items with them at all times.

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1. Water (extra if needed)

Often, in the case to save some weight, and travel a little bit lighter, potential backpackers abandon the idea of taking extra water or liquids with them. However, this is a very poor choice. During physical activity, the body needs a good amount of water in order to remain in good condition, and water also serves other important purposes while out on the trail. For instance, if one needs to clean something or to put out a fire that may have been started, it will be necessary to have extra water. Remember to consider the time that you plan to be away, the conditions, and plan ahead to bring enough water to last you for the entire trip, running out of water can be very dangerous, and is something that should be avoided at all costs.

2. Food (extra if needed)

Very similar to the idea of bringing extra water to be prepared is the idea of bringing extra food as well. Remember that in colder weather a person is going to burn more calories and thus must consume more food to stay active and energized. However, also important to remember is bringing the right types of food. Home made trail mixes, containing various nuts and fruits are an easy way to bring nutritious and energizing food without taking up a lot of weight and space. You do not want to go hungry on your trip, and one of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to make sure that you bring enough food with you.

3. Map

Even if you know the area in which you are traveling well, it is nonetheless very important to bring a map with you. Even the best can wonder off the trail or become lost in poor conditions. Bringing a map is one of the best ways to make sure that you stay on your path and do not get lost going to your destination. Being lost is never fun, but simply throwing an extra piece of paper into your backpack is really all you need to prevent this from happening.

4. Clothes

Don’t think that just because you are out in the woods extra clothes won’t be needed. If you plan to travel through wet conditions, or the area that you are traveling in contains natural bodies of water, than it is a fair assumption that your clothes may get wet. Wet clothes make it hard to travel and can also make for a miserable night if you have nothing else to sleep in. Also, remember to check the weather and bring clothes accordingly. If you are leaving on a hot day, but the weather is going to get colder in the night or over the next day or so, than remember to also bring cold weather clothes with you. Simply bringing some extra clothes is incredibly beneficial, and it can make all the difference in the world when determine whether you have a happy backpacking trip or a nightmarish one.

5. Compass

Speaking of preventing nightmarish backpacking trips, one of the most important things to do is to bring a compass. A compass makes sure that you will remain on the right path and going in the right direction. When out in nature, it can be very easy to become disoriented or lost. In order to prevent this from happening, bringing a compass is the best thing to do. Also, remember that you bring a high quality compass, one that comes from a toy store or quarter vending machine isn’t likely to do you much good.

6. Flashlight

Darkness has taken many unsuspecting backpackers by storm, and being caught unprepared in the dark is both dangerous and easily preventable. Although it is recommended that you bring two flashlights, a smaller one for easy access while traveling, and a larger floodlight for different situations, if possible, even a simple flashlight will do. Just remember that bringing that single flashlight is very important, and can save you from a lot of trouble when the nightfall comes. Remember that if you are going to be in the woods, tree cover can sometimes obscure natural starlight or moonlight that might otherwise be an excellent light source.

7. Rain Equipment

Even totally clear skies have been known to cloud up in a matter of seconds, and weather forecasts have been totally wrong many occasions before. Even your best attempts to plan your trip for a sunny weekend may end up meaning very little if an unforeseen rain storm occurs. However, in order to prepare for this, make sure that you bring equipment with you that is necessary to fight the rain. Clean, dry clothes, ponchos, coverings for shoes or pants, whatever you need, make sure to pack it, regardless of what the weather appears to be like. Rain can ruin a good trip, and without any ability to fight the rain, you will be forced to abandon your trip.

8. Fire Equipment

Since surprisingly few people lack the ability to start a fire with sticks, it is very helpful to bring matches or a powerful lighter. While a cheap $.99 cent lighter may serve the purpose, your probably going to want to bring a butane lighter or something of that nature. Also, if you are backpacking in wet conditions, and think that you may have problems starting a fire, it can be very helpful to bring some chemical fire starters or other items to help you get a fire started in even the wettest conditions.

9. Pocketknife

Never underestimate the benefits of a simple pocket knife. From helping you cut things to providing other essential tools in one convenient package, a small pocketknife can easily be carried with you, is readily available, fairly cheap, and will serve you for a long time to come. Of all the simple, last minute things that may be forgotten, remember to pack your pocketknife, you will not regret it.

10. Medical Supplies

One of the most important parts about planning for the unforeseen is to bring enough medical supplies and first aid equipment with you for safety. If you take any kind of medicine, remember to bring extra with you in case anything should happen and you are not able to get back at the time you planned. Also, remember to bring some disinfectant and bandages, if you get a cut while walking or on the trail, you do not want it to become infected. Allergy medicines and necessary treatment for any possible bug bites or allergic reactions is also a must to bring.

Of course, when packing your backpack, you also want to make sure that you balance everything by not bringing too much. A heavy backpack can make for a trip that’s not too fun, not to mention great inconvenience to the walker. However, a heavy backpack is always better than not having the necessary supplies and equipment to make it through your trip safely. Always remember to be prepared, and, if in doubt, bring extra with you. Backpacking and hiking can be a lot of fun, but you will have the best time and the most fun if you are prepared and ready for your trip.

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