PLAN SMART Avoid these mistakes
1. Forgotten gear It’s easy to do, even for veteran hikers, so print out a packing list from backpacker.com/checklists and tick items off as you load them.
2. Painful blisters Break in stiff boots with at least 40 miles of dayhikes before big trips. Keep feet dry with wicking wool or synthetic socks. Stop the second you feel a hot spot and cover it with moleskin, duct tape, petroleum jelly, or Bodyglide (lip balm works in a pinch).
3. Wrong partner Hiking with someone who doesn’t share your goals, skill level, and attitude can cause conflict. Talk honestly pre-trip to confirm compatibility.
Score a permit
Asleep at the wheel when reservations for primo campsites were up for grabs? It doesn’t mean you have to stay home:
>> Call the backcountry office. Many parks reserve a percentage of campsites and/or trailhead permits for walk-ins. Find out how they’re handed out (usually the same day your trip starts), and show up early, with a preferred route and alternatives at the ready.
>> Start at a remote trailhead. At parks with quotas for popular trails—like Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows routes to Half Dome—start from a more distant trailhead (like Saddlebag Lake, in Inyo National Forest, for Half Dome) and take an extra day to reach your location.
>> Rough it. Instead of camping in a designated spot, backpack into a dispersed camping zone (where you’re free to choose your own site within the zone’s boundaries), which casual campers tend to overlook.