Backpacking

BluuGnome Backpaking Page Mascott

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 each hand.

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.

Data Disclaimers

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 an accurate 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.

Trip Reports

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 web site.  "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!"

Gear Thoughts

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 the way 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.

External Links

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.