The plan was to hike Chicago Lakes TrailAn 11-mile round trip near Georgetown, Colorado, with flat campsites and sparkling lakes at the top. In June 2016, I was about to embark on my first backpacking trip with my then-boyfriend Steve. We were new to Colorado and decided it was finally time to spend the night in the backcountry. I grew up camping in a front country campsite as a Girl Scout and with my family, but wanted to leave the parking lot and horizontal tent pads behind for a more remote experience. am. What happened is avoidable, but it’s a story version that every backpacker has. First-time guests make the same mistakes Over and over again. Maybe by sharing what I’ve learned, I can help break that cycle.

We parked at Echo Lake Lodge at about 10,000 feet above sea level, strapped our boots and started carrying the pack. Bungee cord. It was refreshing and cool, the almost blue sky was covered with clouds, including the ominous gray sky that I hadn’t noticed. It was already 4 pm. Departing too late was our first mistake.

When I started walking, the weight of the pack rubbed my waist and I was out of balance. ((((Backpacking should have been uncomfortable, right?) It was slow to climb the trail, which rises about 600 feet per mile. We shuffled the switchback, passed the wooden Evans Mountain Wilderness sign, and arrived at the Idaho Springs Reservoir, about two miles away.

Steve is smiling at the pain of hiking.
(Photo: Amelia Alvesen)

Until then, it was around 6 pm. The trees cast a long shadow on the indigo surface of the water, and the nearby ridges were pink and golden and alpine glow. The night was just around the corner, not even on the way to our destination, Summit Lake. It was cold, exhausted and lost hope.

“It looks good over there,” Steve said every few steps, pointing at a potential campsite in the woods.

After all, perhaps a quarter mile away, I agreed with him and said it was time to abandon our night goals and camp here. There was no way to reach the last lake before it got dark. We descended the trail over branches, windthrows and rocks and claimed the only grassy patch we could see.I happened to be on a slope Anyway, I set up a tent..

It was an unused two-person REI Half Dome he bought a year ago. We may have been novice backpackers, but we camp with lots of cars and thought setting up the camp was an easy part. I laid out the footprint and then the tent. I assembled the pole and put it through the sleeve. But as soon as Paul started flexing, one snapped right above the doorway. The tent collapsed immediately.

The author’s fallen tent — at least the view was beautiful. (Photo: Amelia Alvesen)

This was our second mistake. We didn’t have a tent at home before we went out. I’ve dealt with the problem (manufacturing flaws as far as we know) before, so I’ll never skip it again. I’m having a hard time in the dim wilderness. Another lesson we have learned is to always bring duct tape. Tentpole sprint For such a moment. Instead, I used a hair tie and a bungee cord to clutter the poles. It looked pathetic, but it was just enough for it to hold.

Next is dinner. We boiled the water and rehydrated two of some packets of dehydrated food I stuffed (I liked the option). I was unaware that these packs were equivalent to a whopping 6 servings of rice, beans, noodles and chicken. We were hungry, but not hungry enough between a few seconds and a third. We scooped a spoonful and then a spoonful into our mouth until we were bloated. The third mistake was to bring too much food. And my fourth? We didn’t have a grocery store and didn’t want to attract wildlife, so we ate bit by bit.

By the time we were finished, the sun was setting and darkness was enveloping us. We pushed into a broken tent and immediately felt the slight slopes like steep hills. There was also a huge rock between us. We hardly slept, slid deep into the sleeping bag, lowered the pad, and bolted it upright with a slight noise. This is due to the heavy case of jitter on the first night.

Somehow the tent was still standing on us when we woke up at sunrise. We were cozy, warm and quite proud to have actually pushed it out. Still, we called it and decided to hike 2.5 miles to the car. On our way back, we submitted some things to and shouldn’t do for our next backpacking adventure. One poor, logistic night did not discourage us from trying again.

“Above all, it was an exciting milestone,” Steve, now my husband, recently told me.

Next summer we went back to the Chicago Lakes Trail and started over. At that time, we started in the morning, packed our work tents and adequate food, went to the last lake, and soaked our toes in ice water.

Lessons learned

  1. Make it smaller: For us, 11 miles a day, at altitude, under the weight of an inflated pack, even if we depart brightly and early (rather than laughing at 4 pm), what we have never used It didn’t happen. Plan your first day of mileage from the trailhead to the campsite 3-7 miles. This slows the pace and causes frequent breaks and gear adjustments. Then leave the trailhead by the latest morning.
  2. Run the test run. Check all the gear in your house before you go out. Learn how to use it and discover flaws and problems. Set up a tent in the backyard (remember to repack the poles and stakes) and practice boiling 1 quart of water on the stove and filtering the water from the sink. And while most boots these days are pretty good out of the box, wear them at least a few times before hiking.
  3. Weigh the pack: This will give you a number that can be daunting and will help you dial your packing list to true essentials. For your first night or weekend hike with the latest gear, the pack should not weigh more than 30-40 pounds. If you’re pushing it, start asking difficult questions about what you can do without it.
  4. Don’t forget your emergency equipment: Pack repair equipment (such as duct tape and splints for big events) and a small first aid kit just in case.
  5. Menu plan: Plan your meals based on the number of people traveling and the number of days you go out, not on a whim. Most hikers burn 25-30 calories per pound of body weight.Make sure you have Carbohydrate balance, Protein, salty food. The most important thing is to pack the food you really want to eat.
  6. Find a flat spot to set up a tent: Don’t settle for a cheap campsite, even if you have to walk a little longer. When it’s time to sleep, even the slightest angle is important.
  7. Learn from experience: Don’t be disappointed if everything goes wrong. Use these lessons to let us know your next attempt.