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Backpacker Magazine – November 2011

Ultimate Adventure Handbook: Discover the World Off-Trail

Be a real explorer by going where others don't.

by: Kelly Bastone




»
Learning curve (+++) Some regions (think Rocky Mountains or the High Sierra) offer good visibility and landmarks, but others (like the Olympics’ dense forests or Utah’s mazelike canyons) confuse even experienced navigators.

*(+) = Low effort, low risk  (+++++) = Get a lesson and life insurance


How
» One mile per hour is as fast as you should expect to travel off-trail. Plan shorter-mileage routes, and every time you confirm your location on the map, write down the time. That helps you estimate distances. 

» Avoid bushwhacking. It’s almost always worth climbing a few hundred vertical feet if it means easier walking.

» Use social paths and game trails cautiously. “Other people go the wrong way, too,” says John Gookin of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). And who knows where the animals are going?  

» Avoid long traverses on sidehills whenever possible. “It’s fatiguing,” says Gookin, and most people inadvertently drift downhill, which can cause you to get lost. 

» Stay oriented by detouring to really obvious landmarks (called offset navigation).

 

Top spots
» Colorado Almost two-thirds of Vasquez Peak Wilderness sits above treeline, and the tundra-covered summits and ridgelines make for easy hiking. Contact: fs.usda.gov/r2 

» North Carolina In Birkhead Mountains Wilderness, the mature forest has thin undergrowth—and visibility good enough for off-trail travel. Contact: (910) 576-6391



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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Hiker
Apr 26, 2013

Beautiful scenery minus the crowds means less chance of other hikers finding you if you need help but it can still be a safe and enjoyable hike. Why? Because you read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon) before you hiked off-trail. A MUST READ for hikers who love to hike where others don't! Learn essential day-hiking skills, including items to pack, how to navigate your way with and without a map or compass, and how to get rescued. Learn to stay found by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. A compass doesn't need a signal or batteries and works in all types of weather but you need to know how to use it and this book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Hike Smart and STAY ORIENTED. This book is a fast, easy read that will definitely make hiking off the beaten path safer and more enjoyable! Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart on Amazon.

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