SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Countdown to a Successful Hike

Stop trailhead snafus with this pretrip checklist.

by: Jason Stevenson, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Backpacking and Hiking

A detailed map shows alternate trails in case Plan A falls through. (JS)
A detailed map shows alternate trails in case Plan A falls through. (JS)

professor hike
Got a Question for the Prof?

Email us directly at
profhike@backpacker.com

T-minus: One week
Now is the time to finalize your route. Selecting a trail (or trails) lets you calculate daily mileage, pick campsites, and locate water sources. Once those details are lined up, you can start printing maps and/or downloading waypoints to a GPS device.

Gathering maps isn’t a task to leave for the night before. Obscure routes might require specialty maps like USGS quads that need to be ordered weeks ahead of time. For tips on acquiring unusual maps, check out Backpacker’s Get Maps and Go article from the New Tools/New Rules package. For more common routes, however, maps and waypoints are often available online—like at Backpacker.com’s destinations homepage.

Other reliable map sources include guidebooks, park and USFS websites, and local hiking groups. Print or photocopy maps in color when possible, and choose topographical maps (i.e., with contour lines that show elevation changes) over simple drawings. If you find narrative descriptions of the route, print them too. This week is also when you should call the local ranger station or park office to make sure the route info is still accurate, and that no developments (like a recent forest fire) might imperil your trip.

One-week pitfall: Scheduling too many miles
Your Friday night plan to hike five miles from the parking lot to your first campsite seems feasible on paper, but it’s asking for trouble on the trail. Not only will you be hiking in the dark, but you’ll be pitching your tent and cooking via headlamp, too. To prevent nocturnal death marches, reduce the mileage for your entry and exit days, and when topographical maps indicate significant elevation change. Of course, starting with a night hike might be your only option to access some routes. In that case, be prepared with headlamps, a detailed map, and a no-fuss dinner once you arrive.

T-minus: Three days
It’s grub time. If you’re planning a weekend hike, start thinking about food the Tuesday or Wednesday before you leave. Since most of us lack time for regular grocery shopping, here’s how to boost your pre-hike shopping efficiency:

  1. Plan a menu first. For new meal ideas, scan Backpacker.com’s Recipe Center
  2. Check your cupboards so you only buy what you need
  3. Stock up on essentials (i.e., gorp, energy bars, bagels) beforehand
  4. Shop at a store with a familiar layout.


For more food tips, read Backpacker’s Guide to the Grocery Store.

Besides helping you create tasty meals, shopping mid-week gives you extra time to re-package food to save weight and time. For a just-add-water breakfast, mix instant pancake batter, blueberries, raisins, or chocolate chips inside a zip-top bag.

If you can’t grocery shop ahead of time, a highway rest stop or convenience store might become your pre-hike supply depot. If that’s the case (and we know it happens), Backpacker’s got tips on how to fuel your stomach at a gas station.

Three-day pitfall: Check your perishables
This tip comes from reader Roger Pool. Roger writes: “I headed out on a spontaneous overnight and found that all my firestarting items, except for one nearly empty lighter, were no good. My 'emergency matches' had disintegrated, either from humidity or rattling around. Two lighters were empty, and my 'lighter blow torch' didn’t have a lighter in it at all. I had just enough lighter fuel to start my stove for one evening meal; no hot breakfast; and no cushion for an emergency.”

Even though Roger carried four lighters on his trip, only one of them worked. Packing essential gear like lighters, matches, headlamps, and bandages isn’t enough—you need to double-check that they function and can last the duration of your trip. Here’s Roger’s recommendation on how to avoid similar mishaps:

"I suggest making a list of such 'perishables' for all your stuff, and then doing a 'real, hands on, make-it-work' check at least this often: 1) at the beginning of your outdoor season, 2) before any trip longer than two nights, and 3) anytime there might be below-freezing temperatures.



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Joanaviva
Apr 21, 2011

Being in a tropical country (Philippines), we always bring extra tarps to place under and above our tents for sudden rains even when the tent promise to be rainproof ...

Andrew
Apr 18, 2011

The only thing I could see that would be different from the typical described would be if you wanted to go to a national park... permits for choice trails run out quick - I tend to apply for mine as soon as the window opens in March-April.

Scout
Apr 14, 2011

I also like to keep a running e-mail or google wave going for constant updates for party members. Gear, fitness, questions those kind of things. That way I can make appropriate changes to planned trails, areas and any special dietary needs.

Mel
Apr 13, 2011

Thanks for the great tips!! Our pre-trip meeting is Monday so this was perfectly timed. Look forward to the next post.

Christina
Apr 13, 2011

Two weeks out, I generally start planning my menus so that I can scope out great new recipes, gather ingredients, and dehydrate what I need to.

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
What Year Did You Get on the Information Highway?
Posted On: Jul 21, 2014
Submitted By: Ben2World
The Political Arena
Religion confuses children about fact and fiction
Posted On: Jul 21, 2014
Submitted By: Drift Woody

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

>
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions