How to Prepare for your Backcountry Camping Trip
Backcountry camping can be some of the best, most secluded camping you will ever do. However it is important to prepare for anything nature can throw at you, especially when you are far from civilization. Here is a start on how to prepare for your backcountry trip.
You need a big backpack
Especially if you plan on going more than two nights, a 30L just won't have enough room for what you need. A safe bet would to get a 60-85L pack depending on how long your trip might be. Make sure the back has good support because these packs can weigh a lot. Getting measured in the store for the right pack is a smart idea to avoid uncomfortable packs.
Make sure you know the requirements for your backcountry visit
Many national parks require permits for any backcountry camping. In this case you can usually apply online for a permit or get walk in permits at the national park's information center.
If you're planning to camp in an area you know is popular, book early to ensure you reserve a spot. Permits are no joke and they help monitor the usage of certain areas, protect the environment, and also let the park know who is out in the backcountry in case of emergencies.
Bring enough water
Carrying water out in the backcountry can be very heavy and almost impossible to pack enough when you are on a multi day trip. You have options. If you are traveling to an area where streams and lakes are abundant then you can pack less water and carry either a water purifier or chlorine tablets (bought at local outdoor shop).
Having the tablets on hand even when you have a purifier is always a good idea because purifiers can break or become clogged at times. If you are travelling to an area with very little water, than pack more and whenever water is available fill up completely. You may even want to schedule in your trip time to hike to refill areas.
Bring fire starting material
Not all national parks allow backcountry fires, so check with the information center with rules on fires. Many backcountry campgrounds have a good preparation area with a fire pit. If there is not a fire ban in place then you can pack supplies for a fire.
Carrying a light handsaw is a lifesaver. They have saws available that can fold in half and are very sharp to get through small dead wood. Dead wood and fallen trees can be collected for fires but do not cut down live trees or plants. Try to collect wood off the main trail and minimize disturbing the natural environment. Having fire starter sticks (also found in outdoor stores) can be extremely helpful if wood is damp or you have trouble starting fires.
Waterproof matches are also an essential part of your pack that should be packed at all times, fire or no fire. Be respectful and do not leave any fires unattended. When you are finished make sure the fire is completely out and no hot spots are left in the pit.
Bear-proof your food
All food should be stored in a sealed bear-proof bag and hung in a tree far away from the sleeping area when not in use. Many backcountry campgrounds have a bear pole or wire. A tree works fine as well.
Parks are very strict on hanging your food the moment you get to the site. Bears have a very keen sense of smell and food will attract them from miles away. Make sure the food is far out on the branch or wire so if the bear climbs the tree it cannot reach the bag.
When you are done preparing food, any waste or packaging should go bag into the bear bag. A portable stove or Jetboil are always handy ways of cooking meals in the backcountry.
A tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag are the most essential parts of your overnight gear. When buying your overnight gear you want to look for light items. There are many well-built tents that weigh only 2 pounds or so.
Try and save for good quality equipment because it will last longer and will be more durable. Ask yourself the following questions, what time of year will I be backpacking the most? What are the lowest temperatures I will be in? Can this equipment fit inside my pack?
These questions will be important when buying a sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tent. Make sure the temperature rating on the tent and sleeping bag match the conditions you wish to camp in. It's always a good idea to ask someone at the local outdoor store.
Again what to pack for clothing is always dependent on how long you are in the backcountry and how stinky you wish to be. For a weekend trip, one spare change of clothes is usually enough. This is good in case your clothes get wet. Packing a warmer set of comfortable clothes is a good idea too, as weather can shift quickly!
Clothes that have dual purposes will keep the weight in your pack minimal. A warm jacket is also a good idea. A pair of light sandals for around the campsite or by areas of water is sometimes nice when your feet need a break from hiking boots.
A pair of wool socks for sleeping can save your footsies and a pair of extra socks will save your neighbor of foot stench. The number one thing you should always carry in the backcountry is a rain jacket or poncho. Mountain weather is the most unpredictable and being prepared for everything is being smart.
- Bear Spray is essential if you are traveling in bear country. Hopefully you never have to use it, but it could potentially save your life. Make sure it is easily accessible in your pack.
- An emergency blanket and first aid kit are two items that could help save your life if you ever find yourself in trouble. Small first aid kits can be available through a drug store or outdoor store, as well as a foil blanket, which is light and extremely warm.
- Cell phones work as great cameras because they are light, however you may want to bring your larger camera because you have opportunities to see the most beautiful places in the backcountry, it all depends if you want the extra weight in your pack.
- A little extra food such as a power bar or nut mix is never a bad idea.
- A map or book on where you will be hiking should be apart of your pack.
- Don’t forget a headlamp!
- I don’t need to mention the importance of Toilet paper.
- Sunscreen and bug spray should also be apart of your pack.
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
- Make lots of noise on the trail and avoid traveling at dawn or dusk due to bear traffic.
Leave a small ecological footprint, which means whatever you bring into the wilderness comes back out with you. Try to remember that if everyone wants to enjoy the backcountry and they want to enjoy it as the untouched beauty it is.