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First Night Out: Packing and Planning

Tips on packing and planning for your first night under the stars.
Contest-02_FNOSmartStart_445x260.jpgSmart Start to Packing and Planning (Photo by Ben Sapp)

»Pack food Extra packaging—or worse, extra food—is just dead weight. Unwrap or unbox items like tortillas, granola, and oatmeal, and take only as much as you’ll need. Ditto for condiments and spices: Stow them in mini plastic bottles (sold at outdoor stores) or bring single-serving packets. Keep dinners organized by measuring the portions of rice or pasta you’ll need and packing in zip-top bags; premeasure and combine any other dry ingredients and pack them in their own baggies.

»Leave word Write down your itinerary—including the trail you’ll hike, anticipated campsite, and when you expect to be back—and leave a copy with a friend, family member, and/or rangers. Arrange to have a designated person contact rangers if you haven’t returned by a certain time, but build in a buffer for a leisurely hiking pace, poor weather, no cell reception, and other non-emergency delays. (HikerAlert automates the process, sending a text-message to your predetermined contacts;

»Learn first aid Backpacking injuries range from the minor and common (blister) to the severe and much rarer (broken leg). At minimum, read up on backcountry first aid ( and pack a stocked med kit. Also consider sharpening your skills with a Wilderness First Aid course (backpacker .com/wfa).

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