Backpacking: Let’s Get Started

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By BAP45

Planning

Before any trip you will need to analyze the area and start planning. For this exercise I am going to use the mountains as the main example and just have notes for other terrain to keep it from turning into a novel.

So we have our location, now how about length? I feel that a three day/two night trip is a good baseline. Single night trips are fine too but they are so short that they feel a little anti climactic to me. Plus the amount of gear you need isn’t too bad and taking the time off is easy since it’s basically just a 3 day weekend.
Ok so now we have our location and length let’s start building it out. Get a map of the area you will be in. GPS devices like the Garmin are great tools but not a substitute for a good topo map. Unfortunately they are getting harder to come by now days as everyone defaults to their devices so you may have to order one. Worst case scenario print one out. Just make sure that you take care to waterproof it or protect it somehow. By the way if you don’t know how to read a map I will probably hit you with something. It’s a skill everyone should know.
Once you have your maps and other navigation stuff together memorize it. Sounds excessive? Well do you want to be having to stop and reference the map constantly while on the trail? (luckily as long as you stay on a clear trail you can almost forget the map but don’t rely on that). Also what if yo lose you map or it gets damaged? Memorize it, pretend you’re in Band of Brothers and it’s the Normandy sand tables.
Now in very steep mountains like the Rockies or Sierras you can go a little easy on the memorization as the terrain is usually a canyon with near impassible sides. If you’re going up you’re going into the wilderness if you’re going down you’re heading out. But if you’re in gentler terrain you will want to pay close attention to the little details. Particularly when its densely forested leaving limited visibility. Know the landmarks and compass headings.

Backpacking: Let’s Get Started

Planning

Before any trip you will need to analyze the area and start planning. For this exercise I am going to use the mountains as the main example and just have notes for other terrain to keep it from turning into a novel.

So we have our location, now how about length? I feel that a three day/two night trip is a good baseline. Single night trips are fine too but they are so short that they feel a little anti climactic to me. Plus the amount of gear you need isn’t too bad and taking the time off is easy since it’s basically just a 3 day weekend.
Ok so now we have our location and length let’s start building it out. Get a map of the area you will be in. GPS devices like the Garmin are great tools but not a substitute for a good topo map. Unfortunately they are getting harder to come by now days as everyone defaults to their devices so you may have to order one. Worst case scenario print one out. Just make sure that you take care to waterproof it or protect it somehow. By the way if you don’t know how to read a map I will probably hit you with something. It’s a skill everyone should know.
Once you have your maps and other navigation stuff together memorize it. Sounds excessive? Well do you want to be having to stop and reference the map constantly while on the trail? (luckily as long as you stay on a clear trail you can almost forget the map but don’t rely on that). Also what if yo lose you map or it gets damaged? Memorize it, pretend you’re in Band of Brothers and it’s the Normandy sand tables.
Now in very steep mountains like the Rockies or Sierras you can go a little easy on the memorization as the terrain is usually a canyon with near impassible sides. If you’re going up you’re going into the wilderness if you’re going down you’re heading out. But if you’re in gentler terrain you will want to pay close attention to the little details. Particularly when its densely forested leaving limited visibility. Know the landmarks and compass headings.Custom Topographic Maps Lake County Summit County Colorado

During this phase you will be getting a better feel for the area such as elevation gain and natural features. It the route is really steep expect to a slower pace and more water consumption. I think a good estimate is 2 miles an hour for most average conditions as that seems to account for breaks without having to specifically account for them. Water is another think to pay attention to here. If the trail has numerous water crossings or follows a river/creek/stream then you can use that to cut down on you weight by just filling a single canteen and refilling as you go. If not you will need to carry extra.

Now typically you will be heading for a destination, say a lake or mountain peak. If it’s a peak there will be no place to camp at the summit so you need to do so farther down somewhere, if its a feature like a lake well that’s easy, just somewhere near by. Often parks will have designated area for setting up camps but if not try to pick a location relatively close to water (not right on the water). Some shelter is good too, it’s hard to tell from a map alone but you can often use trail reports of even google maps/earth to see the area. Being out in the open means you will be subject to the full force of any weather you may encounter. So you will have plan the length of the day from you start point to the suitable camp location. You will have to balance it carefully as you don’t want to be over cautious and waste the day or be too far from your objective to complete it but also not over confident and be unable to reach a camp spot. Seems like I’m over thinking this part but I have made both mistakes and regretted it.

So you get the idea, know all you can about the area.

Backpacking in the Prepping Sense

So most of the above is the same but you will be looking for different things. Here I am not an expert so take anything I say with a grain of salt and defer to people with actual military type experience.

You will want to identify your main threat and adjust accordingly. Is it civil unrest? The state? or zombies? These threats will have different resources they can bring to bear on you so keep those in mind. Honestly with the amount of toys the State can pull out of their bag of tricks these days it’s probably better to stick to a populace and blend in or use urban feature such as sewers or culverts. Check out how the homeless operate honestly, they have some tricks. But if getting droned right out of the gate isn’t going to be happening you will need to study that map again. This time you will be looking for defensible terrain and water.

Water is a key. This will vary on your area but it you don’t have secured access to water you will not last too long. Good sight lines are also helpful. Being able to see someone approaching from a distance will help a lot. especially if you can also engage them from a distance. An exit will also likely be something to study the map for. If your position ends up over run you will need a back door to slip out. This also ties back in to the memorization of earlier. If something were to happen that drives you to the wilderness there won’t be time to read a map. You will have to already have good areas in mind before hand. As well as those areas strengths and weaknesses. For example, this hilltop has great visibility but no water near by. Or this canyon has plentiful water and the entrance can be easily defended but there’s no exit. Hope this makes sense and wasn’t too long winded. I think next I’ll move on to packing.  

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