So you’ve got you’re gear, you’re over your fear, and you are determined to spend the night in the woods. Excellent you’re half way to going on a trip. What else do you need to do?
Pick a trail
Do some research of some trails around you. There are many paid and free resources to finding good trails that suit your abilities and what you want as well. I have been using the Alltrails App and it has been working out quite nice. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. You can always turn around if it gets to be too much. Consider things like driving distance/time, and give yourself a little extra time to find the trailhead, get your things together, and do a final check of your gear. Planning your arrival time can set the pace for the rest of your hike. For instance, if you arrive at the trailhead later in the evening you may find yourself either spending the night in the lot or hiking in by headlamp. Both are experiences in themselves, but be sure you have a good light and a good map before you go traipsing in the woods at night. Things often look much different when the sun goes down, and remember it gets darker much earlier in the wilderness.
Another part of your research should be what kind of terrain the tail consists of. The terrain can tell you what gear you should be bringing aside from your 10 essentials. If the terrain is going to be rocky and steep maybe a set of trekking poles might be a good idea. If the water situation seems a little dry consider bringing more bottles or a bladder to store more water in between sources. Reading online forums and studying your maps should tell you a lot about a certain trail or system and should allow you to tailor your gear to that hike. Be on the lookout for trail associations or clubs that exist in that area. They are usually a wealth of knowledge when it comes to real time planning. Sometimes the information you will find can be weeks old.
Plan your meals
If you’re starting with a smaller trip it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it can be confusing sometimes. Think of what you need and what you want. Hot foods like instant mashed potatoes or ramen are often good for overnights, or you can opt to go stove-less and simply bring energy bars, hard meats, and jerky. You can even try cold soaking oats and soups as well. All are good options and each one has its pros and cons. Whichever you choose don’t get too wrapped up in it.
If you’re planning a 3 day, 2 night trip a sample meal plan may look as follows.
- Breakfast- on the road
- Lunch- on trail Cliff Bar/ Jerky tuna packet with mustard
- Dinner- beef ramen
- Breakfast- oatmeal
- Lunch- pepperoni sticks with cheddar cheese
- Dinner- noodles in cream sauce with tuna
- Breakfast – Cliff Bar
- Lunch- couscous
- Dinner- off trail- local restaurant for beer!!
You’ll notice that meals don’t have to be complicated and in fact are quite simple. As long as they meet your caloric need for the type of hike you are doing. It’s possible to burn in excess of 11,000 calories on a strenuous hike with lots of elevation gain and loss so be sure you won’t be too calorie deficient and you will be just fine. Just in case, always bring a little extra food to be on the safe side. If you’re trying cold soaking maybe try it at home first to be sure that you enjoy that type of fare. You may find that cold food isn’t for you and the extra weight of a cook system is worth it. Once you’ve chosen your method of sustenance go tell some people what you’re doing.
Let friends/family know
Don’t just disappear. If something were to happen no one would know that you were gone or even where you went. This could make rescue very difficult. Give a trusted friend or family member a run down of your plan. Let them know when you’re leaving and when you’ll be back. Tell them trail names and the closest town to the area you will be visiting. All this info will be helpful in the event you don’t come back on time.
You can also opt for a rescue device or an emergency communication device, but these are sometimes unreliable and require monthly plans for service. There are many out there that offer an array of different services. Do your research first and make sure what you buy will fit your needs. stores like REI or your local outfitter can help you out so you can get your hands on one. Well, there is only one thing left to do.
Get out and hike!
So you’ve got your gear, you’ve picked a trail, let your friends and family know, now what? You get out there and hike! Just keep in mind not to take your trip so seriously and enjoy the nature. Stop and take pictures, take in the morning air, and take a break if you want. Remember, it’s your hike and you can do whatever you want with it.
Don’t worry about things that may not be perfect because hiking and backpacking are constant processes. You’ll always find ways to improve every trip. It may be gear you carry, how you carry it, how you set it up, or even how you tear it down. Take mental notes each trip and just work on it.
I hope that this article had helped give you some confidence in deciding to get out there and spend some nights in the woods. Be sure to leave some comments and tell us what you think.