What is Backpacking
Put simply Backpacking is an outdoor activity where you load
everything you need into a backpack, put it on your back and
walk into the wild. After one, two or 12 days out you come
back and reacquaint yourself with the city. You will need
food, water, shelter, clothing etc. If you do not have
these things you should have the tools required to get them
while on your trip.
On the surface it sounds quite simple. Load a bunch of
stuff in your back pack and head out to enjoy nature.
After trying it out for the first time one realizes it is more
work than they had imagined but at the same time fulfilling.
As time goes by and you enjoy future trips you learn what is
good and what is bad, what is too heavy and what is light
enough, what is too bulky and what is compact enough.
Another major lesson is learning what is needed and what is not.
As you get your packing list in order and find a system that
works for you (everyone is different) the trips become less work
and more play. When this happens the trips take on the
simplicity you first imagined before you took that first trip.
It's a big world out there and back packing is one way to see
that first hand. I remember a trip some friends and I took
on the Thunder River Trail in the Grand Canyon. We spent a
few days out there and covered a lot of miles. After the
trip we decided to go over to the North Rim since none of us had
seen it yet. As we went to one of the over looks we looked
at the signs tat told us what we were looking at. We could
see almost forever from where we were, surely we could see most
of the Grand Canyon? Then we broke out a map and realized
we still could not see the area we were just wondering around in
for the last few days! Now that's big. And that's
just a small part of what is out there.
How I was Introduced
In 1995 Ed invited me on a backpack trip. The destination was
the saddle on the Harris Springs trail at Mt. Charleston. Already
having a few day hikes in the area, I was comfortable with where we
were going. The problem was, I had never been backpacking before and
had no idea how to pack or what to bring.
The plan was for me to meet Ed a few miles into the trail at the saddle
when I got off work. Ed was waiting for me sitting on a
ledge that overlooked the trail. When he saw
me coming down the trail, he started to chuckle, which got me
laughing at myself as well. I looked like a pack animal walking
upright. A small school backpack with a very large sleeping bag tied
to the outside was just the beginning of what I was carrying. The
backpack could not hold everything I wanted to take along, since
it was not very large. In
addition to the large sleeping bag, were about five plastic grocery
bags tied to outside of the backpack. As I walked, the bags would
swing from side to side hitting my legs interrupting my balance. To make things
worse, there was still no place for my water. Along with the big
wobbling mess on my back, I carried a one gallon jug of water in
Since then I have done a lot of backpacking and started buying the
proper equipment. The more I learn about what is or is not needed,
and what works and does not work, two concepts ring out loud and
clear. Lighter is better, and simpler is better. A one or two night
trip is tolerable with a heavy load, but the enjoyment can be sucked right
out of longer trips if the load is too heavy. Rather the trip
is a short over night stay or a week long journey, the trip will be
enjoyed more with a lighter load. The other thing that
rings true is the simpler is better idea. If something is
too complicated to use (say a stove for example) using it looses
the enjoyment after the first few uses. Simple items are
also less likely to become inoperable.
GPS coordinates may not be exact. This is
information I gathered myself during the trips. The coordinates
are generally accurate to within 50 feet or so, usually less
than 30 feet. I try to get as accurate a reading as
possible on my
GPS before logging the waypoint. There are times when it is not possible to get
fix or a fix at all, due to degraded GPS satellite reception.
In these cases I use the time stamp from pictures and make
note of how fast or slow we were traveling between known GPS
acquired points. From there I can create waypoints on
mapping software that are still pretty accurate. I try to
be as accurate as possible but some errors are bound to happen
because, well things happen.
Trip reports listed, are as accurate as possible but
things may be different at a later time. Things
may have changed since I was there last. The reports may
also contain a mistake here and there. With that in mind
remember to always be prepared for the unexpected.
If you would like to see some of the backpack
trips I have been on, check out my Backpacking
Trip Reports Page.
You will find maps, GPS coordinates, notes and pictures for
some of the trips I have taken. Some of the earlier trips do
not have a lot of data, but the pictures are still worth sharing.
Later trips have more information for GPS coordinates etc.
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace basically means leave it the way you found it.
Sounds simple until you think about all the little ways we
impact the areas we visit. Very few people are traveling
deep into the unknown reaches of the wild. The areas you
visit usually get more human traffic than you realize.
Knowing this makes the leave no trace thing a little harder to
accomplish. Many times you might leave (food, trash etc)
something or break down some vegetation to access something or
any other thing that might change things. You may find
yourself thinking, "that's not a lot, it's not that big a deal".
If you think about the number of people that visit an ware it
all adds up.
Some of the major things to consider are human waste (some areas
are more sensitive than other), food, trash, clean up (dishes,
bathing, etc), Disturbing the vegetation or soils, moving or
destroying things to set up camp or campfire remains.
If you are not familiar with the idea visit the
Leave No Trace
"Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photos. Kill
nothing but time. Keep nothing but memories".
Leaving things as they were is not only good for the area.
It is also good for those visiting it later. When I go
into the outdoors, I do so for fun and to escape the city.
If I get out there and see trash, food, soft spots where people
have buried feces, trampled vegetation I feel as though I did
not get away from the city. It is more like vesting a park
in the city. So if you look at the Leave No Trace idea as
a bunch of tree hugger crap, try thinking of respect for the
other people that want to visit the place when you are done with
it. Its kind of like saying if you visit my house, "Clean
up after yourself!"
My Backpacking Gear
Thoughts page includes some of my opinions on gear selection.
I have been back packing for quite a few years now. Along
I have figured out what works for me and what does not.
The page has ideas about what I consider the best for me.
The intent of the Gear Thoughts page is not to tell you what is the
best. The intent is to tell you what seems to work best for me and
why. You will develop your own ideas of what works for you.
Any external links related to this activity or any other topic
will be listed on the External Links page.
Feel free to check it out.