How to Hike in the Back Country

How to Hike in the Back CountryLeaving the beaten path behind and striking out into the backcountry can be a peaceful and rewarding experience for any hiker. Maybe you're looking for a new challenge. Maybe you're just looking to escape the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful, solitary hike.

Whatever your reasons, it is important to understand that while anyone can successfully enjoy a backcountry experience, proper preparation and understanding of the backcountry is critical for a safe and successful trip.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Compass
  • Clothing (enough to survive most probable adverse conditions)
  • Extra food
  • Flashlight
  • Fire starter (candle, heat tab, etc.)
  • First aid kit (including moleskin, tape)
  • Sunglasses (goggles or clip-on)
  • Pocket knife
  • Map (USGS topographic)
  • Waterproof matches (or matches in waterproof container)
Step 1
Check all of your gear thoroughly and perform any necessary repairs well in advance of your planned backcountry trip. Access to aid in the backcountry can be difficult at best, and you don't want to get in over your head thanks to a gear failure that could have been prevented.
Step 2
Contact the local ranger station before departing to check weather conditions, hazards, and whether it is necessary to obtain a permit for backcountry hiking or campfires in the area of your travel.
Step 3
Prepare adequately for emergency situations or sudden changes in weather and hiking conditions. Pack extra food and water, extra clothing, and a signal whistle or mirror in case you get into trouble. When packing clothing, avoid cotton. If cotton gets wet, it can cause hypothermia to set it faster. Lightweight polypropelyne, wool or fleece are good alternatives. A small flashlight is a must, even if you're planning to be home by dark, as is a fire starter kit which includes waterproof matches. Finally, should you get off of your planned course, a topographic map and compass can help you find your way, or at least your way back to safety. Even if you carry a beacon, help can take much longer to arrive in the backcountry.
Step 4
Let family and friends know of your itinerary before departure, at the very least how many days you plan to be gone. Also, check in once again with the Ranger station. Having an accurate count of hikers in their area can be essential in emergency weather or fire conditions. Leaving the contact information of a family member in case of emergency is a good idea as well.
Step 5
During your hike, be aware of your surroundings. Hazards in your path including loose gravel and rocks, stumps or twigs, wildlife, and other risks are more prevalent in the backcountry, but can usually be easily avoided if you are aware. Should you run into trouble, having a well stocked first aid kit and snake bite kit could be the difference between a bad day and an emergency.

Tips & Warnings

Carry as little as possible, though be sure to be well prepared for any situation. Extra weight adds extra fatigue.
Take frequent breaks, at least ten minutes for every hour of hiking.
If you are huffing and puffing, you are walking too fast. Slow down and enjoy the scenery.
Do not be stingy on food and water! In fact, this should be the majority of the weight you carry, as this is what fuels you for your hike.
If at all possible, hike with at least one other person. There really is safety in numbers.

Article Written By Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams has spent over 11 years working in the information technology, health care and outdoor recreation fields. He has over seven years of technical and educational writing experience, and has brought strong skills and passion to the Demand Studios team in articles for eHow and Trails in 2009.

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