Backpacking Tips and Tricks:
                      For The Novice Backpacker


Not fit enough to even think of backpacking?
Simply begin walking on a regular basis with a friend, gradually increasing your distance as your fitness level increases. Add a hill or two to your walking routes as you feel more competent. Then, carry a small daypack and gradually add a bit more weight to it each time you walk. Increase your speed as you're able.

Once you can walk briskly for half an hour without being short-winded, you may wish to attempt carrying a backpack. Begin carrying ten pounds in it, gradually adding more. Before long, you will be prepared for an simple overnight backpacking trip. Read as much as you can, join a group and enjoy!

Instead of carrying a tent on your trip, take along a backpacker's hammock and tarpaulin. For mosquito protection, include a large sheet of noseeum netting. What a marvelous, relaxing way to follow a hard day of backpacking.

Once you arrive at your next campsite after a long, hard day of hiking, it's great to drop your pack and explore the area. Before you do, put on your fanny pack! Light in weight, but loaded with essentials for survival, it's worth its weight in gold should you suddenly become lost.
Make certain it holds some bug repellent, matches, space blanket, leaf bag, power bar, your water bottle and a whistle!

Here are a few items to include in your wilderness first aid kit:
* Pencil and paper
* Telfa pads
* Accident form
* Space blanket
* Signal flare
* Waterproof adhesive tape
* Tweezers
* Flynn air mask
* Rubber gloves
* Prescription medicine and

Don't wait until your mouth feels dry to take a drink of water. By that time, you're seriously dehydrated! When you're dehydrated, and water is needed for cooling, your body steals it from vital organs. Water is crucial if these organs are to perform their functions. To avoid becoming dehydrated, carry a minimum of two one-litre containers of water. As one bottle is emptied, re-fill and treat it with iodine or filter it right away! Only then resume your hike.

Leave a copy of your hiking route with a trusted friend back home. As soon as you complete your backpacking adventure, call your friend and thank him.

Carry a weather radio with you into the wilderness on your next trip. The National Weather Service broadcasts on several bands to most areas of North America and provides current conditions for your region and a forecast of upcoming weather.
Just in case the radio malfunctions, learn to recognize natural signs that a change is coming in the weather - wind direction change, temperature change, changing cloud forms, noisy birds feeding, etc.

Leave the coffee at home! Coffee dehydrates you just when you need water more than ever. Water is always required for such bodily functions as circulation, respiration, digestion and cooling, but the demand for water is magnified greatly whenever you backpack and particularly in the summertime. Consider that dehydration worsens the severity of virtually every medical emergency in the backcountry.

Before you depart on a backpacking trip, get a physical check-up by your physician. While you're at it, obtain a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the last five years.

As you go to pitch your tent, look up! Is there a widow-maker (standing dead tree) nearby?

Food-drying is simple to do and can remove about 80 per cent of the water from food, which makes it a great deal lighter to carry in your pack. Whether consumed dry or later rehydrated by soaking them in warm water while in camp, dried fruits and vegetables are a tasty, nourishing addition to your diet on the trail. Some of the best are apples, pears, pineapple, all kinds of peppers, parsley and celery leaves. You can even make fruit leathers and beef jerky. Dry it - you'll like it!

Leave the alcohol at home. First, it dehydrates the body. Second, it impairs judgment and balance. In a wilderness environment, you need all your abilities at the ready to cope with an emergency. Last, alcohol numbs the senses at a time when your safety and enjoyment depends on a keen awareness of your surroundings.

For sleeping bag insulation, select a synthetic fill rather than down. If down gets wet, it's useless because it takes so long to dry out. Synthetics like Polarguard or Thinsulate Liteloft will keep you reasonably warm even when wet and will dry out fast in the sun.

Whatever can go wrong, will! Before taking a wilderness hike, assess the risks associated with each of the following:
* The route
* Typical weather for the area
* The readiness of each of the members of your hiking group, and their wilderness experience
* Equipment
* Next consider ways to eliminate these risks or at least find ways to manage the risks
* Last, sit down with your friends and work out an action plan to follow should a wilderness emergency occur

Wear extractable insoles in your hiking boots. At the end of a long day of backpacking, remove the insoles and dry them out, ready for the next day!

When you get into camp, drop your pack and give your feet a refreshing soak! Then, slip into a comfortable, lightweight pair of camp shoes. One word of advice - avoid sandals! One badly stubbed toe can destroy the rest of your backpacking trip.

Why pack a watch? If you run into a serious injury in the backcountry, the casualty must be monitored regularly. A watch is critical for checking the pulse at fifteen-minute intervals until medical help arrives.

Take along some duct tape on your next trip. It's outstanding to repair boots, pack straps, broken glasses, etc. and can even serve as a useful sling or bandage.

Before you purchase equipment, ask around what works best for other people. Then, either borrow or rent promising items. When you're ready to purchase, take some time and comparison shop for the best deal. Finally, if a store clerk is impatient with you or doesn't know answers to your questions, walk out!

A simple bandana can be a welcome item in your pack. It can keep the sun off your head or serve as a sweat band. It also can substitute for a mop, a sling, a basket to gather blueberries, a cooler (when wet) and even a pot holder!

Do yourself a favor and purchase a 4-litre container of wine. Discard the wine and the cardboard box and you are left with a really tough plastic or foil bag. With a little care, this bag can serve as a personal bulk water supply. It can even become a shower if you hang it from a tree. At night, it can also serve as a very comfortable pillow. When you return from your trip, you can even drink the wine if you want!

Buy yourself a headlamp rather than a regular flashlight. It can leave your hands free whether you're cooking after dark, hanging your food pack for the night or fighting with a stuck tent zipper or a knot that needs to be untied. The lamp can be aimed, so it's particularly helpful for dealing with medical problems in the middle of the night!

Don't depend solely on a GPS device! Take a navigation course and discover how to use a topographic map and compass. If a Global Positioning System breaks down, it's useless! You should always have a backup plan anyway, so a map and compass still makes sense.

Finally, take a wilderness first aid course - it could save your life!

Visit The Official Canadian Tourism Sites