Backpacking – Long or Short Trip

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,652
    Backpacking Instructor Joe Gareri discusses how to go backpacking and talks about long and short trips.

    Hi, my name is Joe Gareri and I am with the Backpacking Committee of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Today we were talking about planning a backpacking trip. Now we are going to talk about planning a Long trip v. a Short trip. Planning a Long trip v. Planning a Short trip really doesn't change things all that much, there is certain things that are the same regardless of the length of the backpacking trip. Some of the things that do change are the Group dynamics, the unexpected things that may come up, vagaries of the weather and also some of the logistics that have to be considered. The length of the trip is quite a dictate how much food and how much fuel is brought and so that'll dictate the type of weight you may be carrying and then also issue that don't come up on a short trip, such as, illness or sanitation issues can really be magnified on a longer trip. Group Dynamics really come in to play much more so on a long trip than on a short trip. If there is a large group with strong personalities, that characteristics that may have been charming on an overnight might become downright annoying on a longer trip. Sometimes it's important to recognize that, and to plan activities within maybe some solo time whether it's just sitting by a lake or just some quiet time around a tent or a camp fire or something like that.

    Whether it's one of those things that the longer the backpacking trip the more unpredictable the weather becomes. On a overnight trip, we can judge with relative certainty what the weather is going to be but on a trip lasting several days. the weather forecasts that we obtain when we start off are going to be quite dead by the time we finish, It's important to plan for that, you may have to carry more equipment, more food and if it's possible, you will have to extend your trip by a day or more because of unpredictable weather. Besides weather, other things that may compound themselves on a longer trip is that by definition a longer trip means you are further away from those resources of your car or structures and obtaining help may be a lot further away. And so on a longer trip, it's may be more important to know abilities of the group, who has First Aid training, and also it would be important to know, are there any bail out points along the way. You may quickly hike to a road that's not part of our destination but it could be used in an emergency.

    Food is another one of those critical components for a successful backpacking trip. It's on an overnight trip, you can pretty much eat anything you want and you are going to be fine. On an extended trip, nutrition becomes much more important. Backpacking is a highly calorie intensive activity and the longer you are out, the more that becomes magnified, And it's important that the backpacker gets enough nutritioning, gets enough calories to stay healthy and so that it's going to involve eating things that might be absurd on a day to day basis. Eating in many thousands of calories just to maintain weight and nutritional levels. And so that's going to contribute to the amount of weight you carry and the amount of fuel required to cook those meals. Also on a long trip the issue of sanitation becomes critically important. On an overnight trip you could pretty much eat anything, you can get by without washing your hands and you may get sick but you are going to be home by the time you get sick. On a long backpacking trip, those things that you might have taken for granted on overnight are really important. The issues of proper sanitation, of washing your hands before you eat, of making sure that the spoon you are eating with has been washed, because if you are going to be sick three days from now, you are still going to be out on the trail. And you could be many miles from getting to a hospital. Where as id you are home, well you are home and you've got the medicine cabinet at your disposal.

    One of the things that doesn't change regardless of the length of the backpacking trip is essentially the amount of clothing that you are going to take with you. Backpackers get kind of dirty, but we have the ability to rinse things out, have the ability to dry things out and the amount of clothing that you carry really doesn't change. It's difficult to bring a change of clothes for when you finish hiking and the change and the clothing that you wore when you hiked. Keeping those things dry is part of most important thing that you can do. Inside a backpack it's typical to have your clothing inside multiple layers of water proof fabric or zip lock bags, things along those lines. Because keeping dry is much more important than keeping clean as far as your clothing is concerned. Another technique that backpackers would utilize is keeping their pack well organized so that they are not getting their clothing soiled with food and other things that may attract vermin or bears or other undesirable elements to the backpacking trip.

    We do want to be mindful of that, in fact in setting up a camp site, we will even look at, that this is beyond the scope of this bear, we will look at the place where we are cooking v. where we are sleeping v. where we are storing food and other things that may smell, toothpaste and deodorant things along those lines. My final recommendation would be that good trip planning takes place long before hitting the trail. It's something that takes place, at someone's home, at someone's office, sitting around a table, looking at the maps, pulling up the books, opening up the guides and really deciding where you want to go, what you want to do and all those things have to be done long before you hit the trail and certainly long before you are sitting around the camp fire at night. In fact sitting on the camp fire at night is where you probably are going to start planning your next backpacking trip.

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