The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared”. Prepared for what? Well, any old thing said our founder. Being prepared for your backpacking trek is an absolute must. When planning your next trek you need to consider those things that can go wrong. Preparedness will reduce the risk and make the trek a lot more fun.
Andrew Skurka, an Ultimate hiker, Adventurer, and Guide, shares on his website “When I embark on a trip, I always try to abide by the Boy Scout motto — “Be prepared” — by bringing three types of resources, either carried on my back or between my ears, to help me achieve my goals: Gear, e.g. clothing, shelter, stove, etc. Supplies, e.g. food, water, fuel, etc. Skills, e.g. how to hike efficiently, select good campsites, purify water, start a fire, navigate on-trail and off-trail, ford snowmelt-fed rivers, stay warm when it’s cold and wet, etc.”
Being prepared for those things that can go wrong starts with training yourself and your group to do things right. Practice packing, unpacking, setting up gear, looking at the individual gear and group gear that is on the trip. Map reading, first aid, and an honest to goodness understanding of where you are going.
Before a trek learn about the conditions you are walking into and how to deal with them. Trail conditions, weather, and the condition of your crew.
You know the route and conditions but what can go wrong? Plan for it. Injuries? How do we react if someone twists an ankle? Big cuts? Sickness? What are your bail out plans and how have you communicated them?
There is a fine line between over packing for your plan and making sure you are prepared to react. I have hiked with guys that carry 65 lb packs because they plan for every contingency. You can build kits for every plan, but what about that great tool between your ears.
In our Troop we have very few rules. Rule number 1 is always to Have fun. Rule #2 is no one gets hurt, if you are hurt you are not having fun. Rule #3 is refer to the Oath and Law. That is it. Not getting hurt and putting yourself in a position to get hurt is a person thing and starts between the ears.
I have heard the saying “stay low and slow” on the trail. That means to keep a good pace that reduces chance of injury and to stay grounded on the trail. Jumping, climbing, and choosing to venture on bad trail increases the chance of injury. Assess the risk and then go if it is safe.
Look at what you carry to react to or mitigate risk and risky situations. We all carry the 10 essentials and in a lot of cases we carry gadgets and neat tools to make our backpacking experience fun. Do you know how to use it all and have you ever needed it. If the answer is no to one or both, get it out of your pack.
So what can go wrong?
Injuries. Probably the thing that we worry about the most, but the fact of the matter is that we rarely have injuries that can not walk themselves off the trail.
Getting lost. This is a big one. More people get lost because they rely on guide books, GPS, and the fact that because they shop at REI they think they can take their shiny Subaru to a trail head and go hiking. Learn to read a map and use a compass. Train yourself on terrain association and staying oriented on the trail. Don’t wander or allow group members to wander off or away. Have a plan to rally should something go wrong while on the trail.
When hiking with a group always stop at any trail intersection and wait for the group to catch up. Stop and check the map every once in a while. Make sure that lots of people in the crew have a map.
Weather. We can not control the weather, but we can plan for it. Rain is not a downer on the trail if you are prepared. Know when the weather is going to change by monitoring the forecast in the area. Know that it will get darker sooner if you have heavier cloud cover.
If you are not prepared to hike during hours of limited visibility, be prepared to start looking for good camp locations before it gets dark.
Have a plan for water. Filtering, boiling, or carrying a lot of it. You need water. Plan your day around your water availability and resources.
Sit down and list all of the things that you think will go wrong on your trek. Think of ways that you can reduce those risks and plan for how you are going to address them when and if they happen.
Planning prevents poor performance and when you are backpacking you need to be aware and be prepared.
Know all of the skills that will make your trek fun. Make sure that you share that knowledge with the members of your group.
Skills, Gear, and Supplies will get you through the toughest times on the trail. What you have between your ears will go along way to making it a fun trek. Your skills and attitude will reduce the risks that come with backpacking. In short. Be Prepared.
In our next segment we will talk about preparation of gear and what to consider for your next long trek.
Have a Great Scouting Day.
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