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We are planning 29 guided backpacking trips this year. They are scheduled until October and run for 3-7 days, scattered throughout the high deserts of North America, the eastern woodlands, the Mountain West, and Alaska. We also prepare over 240 clients with a mix of age, gender, fitness level and experience.

To do this efficiently and minimize mistakes, I’ve spent years developing a planning process that works on every trip and can be used by any backpacker.

Looking north at Arapa Hopas and Lake Dorothy, Colorado, towards the west ridges of Apache Peak, Lost Tribe Lakes, and Lone Eagle Silk. (Andrew Scarka)

1. Define travel parameters

A common question is a good starting point for travel planning. Not all questions need clear answers right away, but you’ll want to start narrowing down your options.

Start by asking where you want to go, when and what kind of trip it will be. Why hiking Not a car camp?

Then add the details. How long do you travel? Which specific trail, route, landmark, or campsite do you want to go to? How many miles or how many vertical distances are you going to cover? Who else would you like to join?

Finally, let’s think about logistics. Do we need permits? If so, how, when and where do you get them? How do you get to the trailhead and come back? Are there any unique or notable land use regulations or requirements that you need to know?

We recommend that you take all these details and drop them in a document that you can share with your emergency contacts before you leave.


2. Research conditions

In case of downpour, do you rely solely on rainshells or rainshells and umbrellas?
In case of downpour, do you rely solely on rainshells or rainshells and umbrellas? (Andrew Scarka)

Once you have a reasonably defined travel plan, you can investigate the situations you may encounter, prepare appropriately, mitigate risk, and rule out unfounded what-if scenarios.

I’m interested Conditions that influence the choice of gear and consumables Or request a specific skill. Climate, sunlight exposure and time of sunlight, scaffolding (most common type of walking surface), vegetation, wildlife and insects, navigation aids (signs, flames, avalanches, stanchions), water availability, remoteness , And it is advisable to investigate the possibility of natural disasters such as avalanches and protracted snowfields, river flows, flash floods and tides, and lightning.

Summarize the findings in a separate document and cite the source to make it easier to compare conflicting information later found elsewhere.


3. Select the gear

My Alaska-Yukon expedition winter clothing, footwear, and a few other items
My Alaska-Yukon expedition winter clothing, footwear, and a few other items (Andrew Scarka)

For novice backpackers, the task of gear selection is usually the most time consuming, certainly the most expensive, and unfortunately the most frustrating. Getting off the rabbit hole here is very easy.good Backpacking checklist Gear wear is a great place to start.

To make this process easier for the client, I will provide the client with a proven one Gear list template What I designed and an example Completed gear list A trip similar to the one they plan to go and a copy of it Ultimate hiker gear guide.. These resources should help cut noise.

Clients can get travel-specific advice by emailing guides and groups.If you don’t have a direct contact that really knows you, I recommend a community forum like Reddit. r / super lightweight.. Adjust your gear according to your itinerary and expected conditions.


4. Plan your food

9-day yo-yo food from the Fifner Traverse in Colorado. My BV500 was worth 6 days and ate an
9-day yo-yo food from the Fifner Traverse in Colorado. My BV500 was worth 6 days and ate an “overflow” before entering Rocky Mountain National Park, where a canister was needed. (Andrew Scarka)

We are vulnerable to cramming fear. If you’re afraid of the cold at night, bring an overly warm sleeping bag. If you’re afraid of bears, we sleep in a full-sided tent (which doesn’t help, but may make you feel better). And if we’re afraid to get hungry, we pack too much food.

I gave Detailed dietary planning recommendations Before, let’s talk about some basic pointers here. First, plan to burn 2,250-2,750 calories per day. (I usually assume an average calorie density of 125 calories per ounce, which means about 18-22 ounces per day.) Elderly women, petite trips, or low-intensity trips. If, select the lower limit of this range. .. If either of the opposite is true, use the high end. Variety is the spice of life, so pack foods of different tastes (spicy, sweet, salty, sour) and texture (chewy, crunchy). Treat yourself early on your trip with real foods such as ham sandwiches, avocados and apples. This will also delay the onset of cooking boredom.

Try these for breakfast and dinner Field tested options Instead of spending hard-earned cash on exorbitant freeze-dried meals or punishing yourself with through-hiker dishes like ramen and Liptonside.


5. Create or collect navigation resources

This is a complete navigation system.
This is a complete navigation system. (Andrew Scarka)

For my first hike, I used resources that seemed convenient and sufficient.For example, before hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2002, I Appalachian Trail Data Book And download Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association Through Hikers Companion.. To explore Colorado’s front range next summer, I bought an illustrated map of several National Geographic trails covering the area.

But when I started adventuring on the beaten road, I had to create some or all of these materials from scratch.Through this process I developed what I believe Optimal system for maps and resources This includes large and small paper topographic maps and digital maps. Download to GPS appRoute descriptions and tips, and datasheets (list of major landmarks and trails or distances along the route).


6. Acquire fitness and skills

A training hike in the hills of Boulder, Colorado.  I carry an Osprey Aether Pro 70 pack loaded with 50 pounds of bricks.
A training hike in the hills of Boulder, Colorado. I carry an Osprey Aether Pro 70 pack loaded with 50 pounds of bricks. (Andrew Scarka)

There is no better way to improve hiking fitness than hiking. Also, there is no better way to develop your backpacking skills than backpacking.

But who has the time and ability to do it? Not me, probably you.

The next best thing is to work more intensively to maximize the potential of your time. Personally, I do this by running 60-70 miles a week.Ultralight backpacking professional Alandixon Training plan It’s more hiking-oriented (and more realistic). You can also read and watch skill tutorials such as my series. navigation, Poop in the woods, Find a great campsite, Pack your backpackWhen Tie a knot..

Test hike It is also very valuable. This system check is intended to be done in a relatively low risk location. The environment, and the goal is to help you prepare better for your actual trip. It can be done locally like in a nearby park or backyard, giving you the opportunity to use gear, practice some skills and identify room for improvement before embarking on a more devoted itinerary. Will give you. Focus on recreating the elements of a real trip. Hiking with loaded packs, refilling water bottles, changing layers, setting up shelters, cooking meals and more.


7. Perform a final check

Complete the rest of the housekeeping the day before your trip. Use the checklist to put together all your equipment, including maps, resources, and permits. Buy the fresh food you need, such as cheese, butter, and tortillas. (this Travel planning checklist There are details. ) Watch the weather forecast for 5 days and adjust the gear accordingly. Finally, proofread the travel planner document and leave it as an emergency contact.

Want to know more about backpacking for beginners?Check us out Backpacking 101 Online course Learn outsideOutside + members have full access to a library of over 50 courses on adventure, sports, health and nutrition.