Whether it is for your Scout Troop or you are heading out into the wilderness by yourself or with buddies there are some things that need to be planned before you go. To get the most of your backpacking experience if you follow a few steps, you won’t forget something and will set yourself up for a worry free backpack trek.
First. Figure out where you want to go. Once you do some online research or hit a few guide books and talk to friends, pick a trek. Next, and way before you get your heart set on the amazing adventure.. Get the map or maps for that section of trail. Do an exhaustive map recon of the trip.
During your map check look for:
Trail head location. Can you get there and are there facilities at the trail head? Restrooms, safe parking, water?
If you are making your trek a loop, can you get in and get out at that trail head or do you need to move the car to a different location and shuttle to the trail head. This would apply for an in and out hike too. You may need to check with local guides for shuttles, but you better plan for it or you will find yourself in a pickle real quick.
Look on the map for camp locations along the route. What is the water availability along the way and in camp locations?
What is the terrain like. Check out those contour lines… Don’t be surprised once you get on the trail.
This is a great time to learn to really read map detail. You should know the trail so well from studying the map that you recognize the terrain and land marks as you hike it.
This is also the time where you plan for bail outs. Locations on the map that will allow you to get out if the weather turns south or someone in the party gets hurt. Road intersections, crossing trails and mile markers that will allow for quick decision-making when out on the trail.
Now that you have your map and you know where you want to go and see, how far do you want to make the trek. You will need map in hand to figure this one out also. Your distance will determine a lot in the trip planning.
How far can you go each day? How many days are you going to be out on the trail? Based on the trail, how far can you push or relax daily? What is the trail like and how difficult? This will determine how far you may get each day and how far you will want to go total. But there may be a certain location or destination that you are looking at getting to. How far do you need to go to get there and answer all the questions that we listed above.
Also consider the time of year you are heading out. Crowds, snow, and closures are all things to consider. You need to make sure that you have appropriate permits for the area that you are heading into and think about your group size.
I am a big fan of trekking to a destination. Mileage means far less to me than seeing something cool.
Planning using your map will get you started on a great backpacking trip. In our next post we will talk about gear selection and what to bring. In the next few post we will discuss food, problems, and preparation for a long trek.
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Have a Great Scouting Day!
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