A camping trip into the back country can be the most therapeutic, testing and exhilarating experience one can have. You can endure a long, trivial hike with little rest – feel the pain of sore feet and the wonder of what lies around the next switchback. You can choose to completely absorb the experience and take every challenge as one of natures lessons.
For some people, exploring off the beaten path or taking the “road less travelled”, can turn into a horrifying experience. It takes more than just good equipment and a guide book to feel comfortable and confident exploring in the backcountry.
Here is a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” of backcountry life for all you hiking enthusiasts, weekend wanderers, once a month trail walkers and new-to-moleskin-ers:
Do: Bring a first aid kit: Though you may think bandaids, duct tape and a small bottle of saline might be enough, your wrong! Here are a couple things one should always carry when straying away from civilization:
Gloves (Because YOU are important too)
CPR Mask – you can get a quality mask with a filter for around $12 (Kissing isn’t always the only option)
1” athletic tape (For all you ankle rollers)
Gauze and dressings – non – adherent so your buddy isn’t cursing you out later
Tweezers and splinter kit
String and trauma scissors or knife (also string for gettin’ those nasty tick off your leg: Visit: http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Tick-Lasso-Remove-Ticks-Easily/ to learn how!)
Abdominal pads, tensor bandages, triangle bandages, compression bandages, metal-foam splint and medical tape
Wound cleaning- a 60cc syringe with an irrigation tip: Super lightweight and gives great spray pressure when cleaning a dirty wound.
Blister care: Blister bandaids, moleskin, duct tape for pre-blister care
Over the counter meds such as: Advil, chewable sugar pills, Tiger Balm, allergy medication etc,.
Do: “Know before you go!” There is nothing worse then starting a new hike and learning that there is a huge washout, bridge missing, mud pit, crevasse, missing trail signs, rock slide, roped off area (you get the point…) Pre- plan your trip. Go online and find personal comments from recent users – Don’t always rely on a guidebook that was written 5 or more years ago. There are tons of great sites devoted to updating info and keeping you aware and SAFE!
Do: Learn how to “shit in the woods”. You should be at least 60m away from any water source, dig a hole to help decomposition and try your very best to leave no trace.
Do: Buy gear – but the right gear. Once you’ve done your research consider what you will bring to make you as prepared as possible. Though we cannot plan for everything, we can almost plan for everything. When it comes to clothing, know your layers: Base-layer (under layer that moves sweat away from your body and helps regulate your body temperature), Mid – The mid-layer provides insulation and continues the transportation of moisture from the inner layer, and lastly outer-layer: Protects you from all of mother natures elements (rain, sleet, snow, dirt), try to find one that is breathable and waterproof like Gore-tex. Bring proper footwear, the right tent for the right season, and don’t carry things you won’t need (the entire Harry Potter book series). Once you know your route you can plan accordingly.
Do: FUEL YOUR ADVENTURE! Bring the right kind of food. After a long hike the last thing you are going to want to eat is a single granola bar or instant ramen noodles. Make sure you are set up with proper nutrition to fuel your tired body. Get calorie crazy (good calories, not empty ones like cookies) and eat something heavy and packed with protein!
Do: Bring water purification! You don’t need all that weight. Bring enough water for your hike and purification for after. There are tons of awesome products out there to make sure you aren’t drinking a lovely cup of Giardia. Consider boiling, Pristine Water drops, Life Straws, gravity bags etc,.
Do: Bring friends! But good friends. Ones that won’t leave you behind – Hiking as a group is always a good idea.
Do: Be animal aware. Bring bear spray, bear bangers and use those o’l camp songs to louden up your trail. Always research your area to find out what kind of wildlife you could see to know how to act if encounters happen.
Do: Know your limits. It is always good to push your limits and try new things but know just how far you can go. Falling from a peak or scramble will almost always be lights out. Know your skills, bring proper equipment for each climb and know the skill level of your whole team.
Do: If you get lost… HUG A TREE! Just like you were taught in elementary school. If you are beyond all hopes lost, stay put. It is easier for you to be found just a few metres from the trail then deep down in a shady gully.
Do: Read articles, read books, learn survival skills, take a course, attend a adventure seminar – Become a survivor-man!
Now for the don’ts:
Don’t: Take the untravelled route. In some cases (rock talus, flat ground, woody forest) it can be okay. But most of the time it is just an excuse to destroy life. All around us new plants and fungus are trying to grow! One boot step can crush an ant colony or disturb a precious flower bed. Try to stick to the pre-worn path to minimize impact on the land.
Don’t: Eat random berries. Nothing worse then having the runs from a mystery berry for 15 days on your trip.
Don’t: Assume your friends will have it. Plan for your safety and for others. Try and bring a little extra or write a “to bring” list for partners.
Don’t: Not tell anyone. If you are going alone or as a group make sure someone back home knows. Write out a trip plan of when you are leaving, where you are going and when you plan to be back.
Don’t: Assume weather will be in your favour. How many times has the weather man failed you? A lot. Plan for the elements.
Don’t: Pack heavy. Remember: You’re the sherpa.
And there you have it! A small list to help you with planning before you head out! Now this is obviously not everything you need to know but at least a basis to get you out there enjoying the backcountry.
If you have some more tips and tricks feel free to leave a comment or hit the contact tab!
Now the adventure is waiting so get going!