Sunrise in Sierra: Early risers enjoy the sunrise in High Sierra. (Photo courtesy of Matt Johanson)

When the wild bear I saw nearby for the first time passed the backcountry camp, I grabbed the camera and took pictures like crazy. Yosemite tourists always see bears, but somehow avoided me during the first few years of park visits. It’s unwise, but I tracked the wreckage as I completed the roll of film and loaded yet another film.

My fellow forest resident didn’t like it, so he groaned and suddenly went in my direction to let me know. The bear’s bluff charge was about to pop my heart out of my chest. I received the message and it was canceled a little more wisely than before.

Devastated Wilderness: Only backpackers can see this kind of scenery. (Photo courtesy of Matt Johanson)

The 50 years of outdoor experience has taught me a few things. Hope it’s worth sharing. Throughout this series, I provide 50 tips for you to judge for yourself. This column is the fourth of five and focuses on backpacking. Whether you’re heading to a nearby park for a few days or the Pacific Crest Trail for months, the wilderness awaits a vast and wonderful world.

  1. Start easily and build up gradually. Going out to camp overnight will help you learn to make longer trips more comfortable. Of course, it can be quite helpful if you are exercising before a backpacking trip, especially a long trip and achieving good fitness. To build your strength and test the weight of your pack, first try hiking with your pack for a few days.
  2. Travel light. The lighter the pack, the easier and happier the hike will be. This sounds obvious, but we all still learn difficult ways. For example, do you really need a tent? In many cases, sleeping bags and camping mattresses are all you need to spend the night comfortably. Shoot with a base weight of 20 pounds or less. Some ultra-lightweight professionals weigh less than 10 pounds. Even veteran backpackers find new ways to lose weight as increasingly lighter gear hits the market.
  3. Consider these gear suggestions. Trekking poles help relieve pressure from your knees as you climb and descend hills. Some people swear on hiking boots, but lighter options also work. I often wear running shoes. Wear whatever shoes you choose before your backpacking trip to ensure your comfort. Wearing sandals allows you to take off your shoes and rest your feet in the evening.
  4. Learn how to use maps and compasses and don’t rely solely on electronic devices to navigate. Phone apps and GPS devices work well until they stop working. If your battery runs out, your signal goes out, or your gadget breaks, you need a backup plan. Surprisingly, few backpackers have map and compass skills, but some backpackers avoid costly route search errors. By the way, if you think something is wrong, please stop and re-evaluate. You cannot find the course fix just above the next hill. Maybe it’s behind you.
  5. Please be careful of water. This greatest need is of utmost importance, so it is important to carry the right amount and plan in advance where to refill the bottle. Guidebooks, maps, and fellow hikers can all provide this information about dry stretches on the trail. I hesitate to rely on electronic devices, but many hikers use apps like Guthook that provide up-to-date information on seasonal water sources. In addition, it filters out suspected contaminated water. This is not always necessary, but be careful, especially around livestock.
  6. Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and not being bothered by insects. First, time your outing to avoid annoying vampires. They hatch in the lowlands in the spring and climb mountains in the summer. Then wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers to prevent them. Many people use chemicals like DEET that definitely help, but those who are concerned about potential health hazards can get rid of them by observing the first two tips. increase. After a dry winter like this year, thankfully the number of mosquitoes is low.
  7. Leave 3 leaves as they are! Learn to recognize poison oak. Enemy leaves fall from plants in green in spring and summer, red in autumn, and in winter, but the stems are still dangerous. Thankfully, oily plants don’t grow over 5,000 feet, and hiking in the highlands is fine. But if in doubt, don’t touch anything in doubt. If you touch it, wash your skin and clothes. It’s a good idea to wash your dog too.
  8. If you are camping in a potential fishing area, bring your fishing gear. Backcountry lakes and streams offer much better action than fishing spots that are easier to reach. Fish chew best in the early morning and evening hours. You don’t need a lot of tackles or expertise to land a few in the right waters. By doing so, you become a camping hero.
  9. Think realistically about your schedule, especially at altitude. Mountain miles require more time and energy than Roland miles. When my family first hiked part of the John Muir Trail, we seriously underestimated the difficulty and time needed and were forced to leave 20 miles on the final day. The trail doesn’t care if you’re in a hurry. If you take enough time, you can enjoy it more.
  10. Finally, leave the wildlife alone! For starters, don’t stalk bears as I stupid. In addition, take steps to protect wildlife from the effects of passage. In the bear country, we carry cans of bears. Hanging a food bag on a tree rarely works. Clean the camp and do not leave food for animal access. Reliance on human handouts means the death of our furry friends.
Inyo National Forest: Backpacker trekking past Split Mountain (Photo courtesy of Matt Johanson)

I try to hit the trails every year for days or weeks. Every trip creates a special memory. Looking back over the years, my backpacking trip is the event I remember best about them.

Ansel Adams Wilderness: Matt and his companions enjoy a visit to Lake Ediza. (Photo courtesy of Matt Johanson)

Finding wildlife is always thrilling. I was fortunate enough to find bald eagles, California condors, rattle snakes, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and quite a few bears. I love taking those pictures and I enjoy taking them from a polite distance.

Shadow Lake: The setting sun sets on a summer day. (Photo courtesy of Matt Johanson)

Matt Johansson enjoys exploring and writing about the outdoors. Climbing Mount Shasta, hiking the John Muir Trail, and skiing in the highlands of Yosemite are one of his favorite outings. Matt’s books include the California Summit, the Sierra Summit, Yosemite Adventure, and Yosemite Epic. He has been teaching and advising award-winning high school journalism programs for over 20 years.


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