Backpacking – Elements of a Good Plan

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,049
    Backpacking Instructor Joe Gareri discusses how to go backpacking and the elements of a good backpack plan.

    Joe Gareri: Hi, my name is Joe Gareri and I am with the Backpacking Committee of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Today we are talking about proper planning for a backpacking trip and now we are going to talk about the elements that make up a good plan. Every trip plan is made up of similar elements and that is, whether it is a very informal trip between a couple or a more formal trip that maybe a number of people that have come together specifically for an extended trips. Setting goals initially of what the expectations are of the trip, then researching destinations that meet with those expectations and then finding out what is necessary to go to that particular destination, researching the weather that could be expected and then deciding on what types of equipment are necessary and then also considering what other activities may take place on the trip. It maybe that there is a great swimming hall and so the equipment is certainly going to include a swimsuit. Maybe that there is fishing and so you want to make sure you are packing fishing gear and those types of things.

    It is important that the whole group understand each other's expectations for the backpacking trip and also to know everyone's limitations, then it is much easier to plan for those expectations of the members of group. It is quite possible that people are going to come with different levels of fitness where one person -- an easy hike might involve several thousand feet of elevation change, for someone else, that is too much to ask. Well, there are a lot of things involved with choosing a trip destination that may not be readily apparent. You clearly have to look at the area, but then once you decide on where you are going to go, you need to look at the types of the terrain we are going to encounter, where are the water resource is, how are we going to get there. Do you need a four wheel drive to have access? Is the type of backpacking trip that we are going to do going to be more of a circuit, kind of a loop trip or is it going to be an out and back or even are we going to need to leave the car at the end because we are just going to hike on a linear hike?

    So all those types of things go into choosing the destination and matching the goals for the backpacking trip. You may choose a destination where different members of the group can do different things, so that everyone gets a bit of something. It maybe that we hike into a pretty lake and the less fit of the more people who are going out for the relaxation; that is enough for them. But those who want more, could plan the nearby mountain.

    The weather is one of those things that we always have to be conscious of when it is just our backpacking, group out on the elements and so it is important to get is the most accurate weather that we can or the weather forecast, but we know that they are just predictions. So probably some of the best resources out there are internet resources, NOAA weather; the weather channel, calling the local Land Manager, maybe one of the best options for a group because of microclimates that might exist and then the weather that you may find on the internet source is going to be for the nearest metropolitan area where you maybe backpacking at 3000, 4000 or 6000 feet.

    Having good maps is really important in planning a backpacking trip. A road map simply would not cut it when getting in to the backcountry and getting those maps may involve ordering something online, going to an outfitter or going to a hiking club. Once you have the map, then it is important to get a sense of how far you are going to be hiking and a good way to do that is to take a string and start at your beginning point and follow the trail while extending the string until you get to your endpoint. Once you have that, you can take the length of string, stretch it out straight, go to the scale of miles located on any map and then you will know how long you trip is by measuring the length of your string.

    When someone gets out on the trail, they are a bit different than they might be sitting around a room and learning how to compromise is one of those things that is paramount to any sort of successful group endeavour and getting out and backpacking is important because the goal as we stated at the beginning is to have fun and to get out there as recreation and so the ability to roll with the punches and to compromise is really critically important in the planning process as well as on the trail.

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