Backpacking – Is it for You? Part 2

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You need to look carefully at the area into which you are hiking. If it is in a well-marked and maintained trail system in a State or National Park, then one set of considerations need attention. But if it is into a wilderness area an entirely different set of rules apply. These areas are for experienced and physically fit people, not for the novice. Did I mention there are wild animals in most areas where you’ll be hiking?

Now the cute doe might be fun to watch while she manages her fawn, but an angry grizzly bear takes on a whole different viewpoint. Knowing what an animal is capable of and what to expect from one, might not only help you enjoy watching it, it could also save your life. Realize that we are trespassing and invading the private lives of those animals. ‘Nature’ is their home and we are but visitors to it. It is not likely that you will encounter any adverse reactions to your presence, but being aware of actions to take in case you’d come upon a mother mountain lion with her cubs or other such occasions can be beneficial.

Aspects to consider regarding equipment is its weight, ruggedness, water-resistance and in cooler weather — its warmth. The backpack, for example, should be light and ride on your hips, not your back. Therefore, a ‘hip-belt’ is important. The pack, tent and boots you’ll wear need to be waterproof or you may spend a miserable night during or after a downpour. Also, keeping your body warm is paramount in cold weather; therefore the sleeping bag needs to accommodate the temperature range in which you are sleeping.

Since you can only comfortably carry one canteen of water, you’ll have to find some along the way. This is another aspect of the planning done before you leave. Take tablets along to sterilize creek water, or be sure to boil it for at least ten minutes before drinking. This means that a stove of some sort is another piece of equipment to take along. They make some pretty small and lightweight butane and propane stoves these days, so finding a suitable one shouldn’t be a problem. A nylon tent is usually the tent of choice for backpacking because it’s lightweight and durable. Other materials are available, which serve as well but might cost more, so shopping for the right tent might take some time.

Finding the right footwear is almost a science in itself, many articles are available about that selective process. Of all the articles of clothing worn, equipment to take, supplies to procure and precautions to understand, none is more important than what you wear on your feet. Your body moves along a path by using your feet and nothing else. Therefore, it is important to make sure they receive the best possible care. Foot powder and a double-layer of socks are important components of the footwear-backpacking recipe. The inner sock needs to wick up moisture from your foot. Wool works well, along with a sprinkle of foot powder. The outer layer should be thick to absorb shock and act as a shell for the inner layer. Putting foot powder in the bottom of the boot will aid in keeping the foot dry as the day moves on while hiking.

If you think checking your Christmas list twice is important, then know that checking the one you create for the journey you are contemplating is significant.

While a tent, pack, stove, sleeping bag, food, water, first-aid kit, footwear and clothes are basic and obvious, there are many items needed that are not so obvious. A change of clothes, extra socks, matches, lantern, flashlight, raingear, headgear, rope, string, compass, maps, plastic bags, a shovel, toilet paper, baby wipes and emergency items such as a flare should also be on that list. Consider every possible situation that could occur while you are out there enjoying nature, and prepare for its occurrence.

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