It’s hard to believe, but in a week and half the #LHX2017 team will begin our five day and four night backpacking trip on the LHHT (Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail). From our respective homes in Arizona, Canada and here in Pennsylvania each of us are busy preparing for our adventure.
So how am I preparing for #LHX2017, a long distance backpacking trip? I’ll share some simple tips you can apply that can greatly improve your long distance backpacking experience.
Go on a shakedown hike
A typical day hike for me requires little gear compared to what I carry for a long distance backpacking trip. However, when I’m a month away from a trip I switch from my day pack to my sixty-six liter Teton Sports Mountain Adventurer 4000. I pack it with all the gear I’ll be taking on my trip plus water and food. I’ll then take a short overnight trip, test and become familiar with my gear, and make sure everything is working right. I also check for any repairs or replacement that may be needed to my gear. If I’m using a new tent or hammock system I’ll take time to set it up in my backyard a few times. The last thing you want to do is wait to get familiar with your gear once you’re on the trail.
Getting in shape for a long distance backpacking trip is also important. I’m not the type to go to a gym. Personally I find them boring and I’ve never been able to stay motivated. So to get in shape I hike often. I aim for a minimum of two hikes a week preferably on a trail with steep elevation changes. Hiking a few miles as your workout will improve your cardiovascular fitness and leg strength. As well, some basic exercises at home like squats, crunches, lunges and pushups are also beneficial. As you progress, add weight to your day pack to increase core strength. The key to a strong back is through your core. So get outside and hike often for exercise and enjoyment.
Break them In
If you purchase new hiking shoes or boots be sure to break them in first. Wearing new hiking shoes on a long distance backpacking trip that have not been broken in can become painful, and pull you off the trail ending your adventure early. Wear your new hiking shoes on your day hikes and even for walks around your neighborhood. I have been known to wear mine to work. The key to new hiking shoes or boots before your long distance backpacking trip…break them in. Your feet will be grateful.
Pack and repack
I tend to make lists for everything. It’s what keeps me organized so I avoid forgetting something. Make a list of all the items you’ll need and want for your trip. Then pack your pack as you would for your trip. Check the weight and be sure your pack sits comfortably on your back. Then, empty your pack and repack it. This might sound a little OCD, but I have learned by doing so I am able to, at times, eliminate items I don’t need and/or pack in a better organized way. I have watched many backpackers empty their entire pack to get to that one “need often” item. By packing and repacking you will also become familiar with your pack and know all the in’s and out’s. A general rule of thumb is to put water, cooking gear, and other heavy items close to the center of your back and pack lighter-weight items around them. This will help you maintain balance by keeping the bulk of the load close to your center of gravity. Keep snacks, maps, and other small items you might need throughout the day in the side pockets or lid of your pack for easy access. Split the weight of communal items like the tent and the cooking gear by divvying up their components among the group.
Don’t over think it
While this list is not the end all and authority on ways to prepare for a long distance backpacking trip, it is what I practice and find to be some simple basics. There are many great resources out there to help you prepare for any adventure. Take the time to research every aspect of the trip you’re planning, but no matter what always remember why you’re going and don’t over think it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of preparing and forget you’re in this for the experience. I grew up in the Boy Scouts so I’m a firm believer in being prepared, but sometimes we can become so involved in the process of preparing we forget the reason we are preparing. We can over think details that aren’t important and forget what it is we’re about to experience.
Plan your long distance backpacking experience, prepare physically and mentally, and then…get outside and enjoy life!