I love helping people get connected to their bodies and to their outdoor adventures! Here are my Top 5 Tips for a successful backpacking trip:
1. Train the Body.
Any fitness trainer/adventure guide will tell you to get in shape! The most important muscles to backpacking are those that make up ‘ the core:’ the butt, back, and stomach. They’re the biggest muscles in your body, the central point where all the forces exerted on the arms and legs transfer, and will take the brunt of the extra weight in your pack.
My favorite methods are Pilates, abs classes, dynamic warm-ups. My ‘flowing with core fitness’ concept of combining all the exercises you like and doing what ‘feels good next’ is a great way to train on your own. Start by noticing your breath, coordinating it with your movements, and check in from time to time to see how your body feels doing the exercise you’ve selected. Your goal is harmony of the mind, body, and feelings. It’s ok to pause and think about what your body wants to do next, but don’t be afraid to just run with something that feels good now!
2. Know Your Gear.
Camping has come a long way since our caveman ancestors slept in caves under skins of animals that they hunted and skinned with their own two hands. Go to your local outdoor store and you’ll find thousands of high-tech items to choose from. But it’s not enough to buy the latest and greatest gadgets if you don’t know how to use them when it counts. Take that gear for a test drive before you use it ‘out there’ and you can save yourself a lot of trouble.
An example is shoes. Last year I led one of Sol Fitness Adventures backpacking trips in Parunuweap when one gentleman, an accomplished outdoorsman, brought his new water boots. Within an hour his toenail had jammed to the point that blood was spilling out from under it and he was gimping in pain. He was a good sport and cut the toe of the boot out, covered it with duck tape, and soldiered on; but had he not it would have been the end of the road for him.
3. Do your Due Diligence.
Proper research for a successful backpacking trip is critical. Boxes to check off include:
Permits – does the area require them? (Think Havasu Falls, Yosemite, Zion Narrows), if so, how far in advance can you get them; is there a lottery; or do you have to show up in person?
Human waste – what is the environment you’re going to and what are the requirements for human waste? Will you need to use a poop-tube, and if so, are you up for that?
Water sources – This one’s a biggie – will you carry your own water or are there sources that you can treat and drink?
Buddy system – Appoint a base camp point man who knows your plans and when to expect you back. Think 127 Hours – Aron Ralston’s mistake was not that he went alone; it was that nobody knew where he was or when to expect him.
Communication – Cell phone towers don’t exist in the back country, satellite phones don’t work in deep canyons. A little research goes a long way so you and your friends at home will know what to expect.
4. Learn to Save a Life.
Acquire wilderness first aid skills. If you’re going ‘out there,’ you should know how to recognize common illnesses such as hypothermia, dehydration, anaphylactic shock, as well as deal with accidents such as broken bones, lacerations, and head injuries from falls. There are several certifying bodies offering Wilderness First Aid courses which are leaps and bounds ahead of the average First Aid classes that teach practical skill sets for treating injuries in the wild. Don’t rely exclusively on Search and Rescue teams or your friends when you’re out there. You have a responsibility to your backpacking partners to educate yourself before heading out.
5. Listen to Your Instincts.
The Navajo begin teach children how to listen to the elements at a very young age. John Muir, who spent his adult life exploring Yosemite, California used to say, “Go to the woods, and hear their glad tidings.” Take advantage of being far away from the negative energy of other people and the city buzz and enjoy the quiet. Not only will it enhance your life back in the real world, but also your instincts will help you detect many things in your environment: changes in the weather, danger, peace, joy, and abundance, which could save your life, if not enhance your adventure to the outdoors altogether!