Tim's Lessons-Learned Backpacking for the First Time
The year is finally ramping down to its last few months. Lauren, like any other crazy adventurer, wanted to sneak in one last backpacking trip for the year before it got too cold. I, being her loving adventure partner, decided to join her on her crazy quest to see the autumn outdoors one last time before it would be considered winter backpacking and arguably unpleasant.
The catch here is that I have never gone backpacking before. I’ve gone on plenty of hikes and camping trips over the New England area, but never at the same time. On top of that, I’ve never done either with the temperatures approaching freezing temperatures. Nonetheless, I have Lauren to prepare me for the unexpected and to lead the charge into the great outdoors. Once out there, I learned a handful of things along the way:
#1 Expect to travel 1 mph
Our first mistake was starting the day late. We didn’t get onto the trail until maybe 12:30pm. With the sun setting around 7:00 pm, that gave us roughly six and a half hours to travel seven miles and to setup our hammocks before the sun sets. Otherwise, we’d be setting up in the dark or even worse, traveling the trails at night.
We had considered that most people can walk a mile in twenty minutes and understood the terrain wouldn’t be the most ideal at times so that maybe we could pull off a forty minute mile or better, depending on the circumstances. While we were correct in assuming that we’d make up time for the parts of the trail that were even and safe, we didn’t account for how slow we’d become at certain points.
There were many river crossings that required hopping on rocks to get across or mossy rocks that needed to be climbed either upwards or downwards. These parts of the trail literally killed any chance we had at making a good time. I even planted a foot into one of the river crossings because I was rushing it which leads to my second learned lesson.
#2 Bring Waterproof boots.
I submerged my right foot into about a foot of water in the last river crossing for the day. Luckily for me, I have the ever so prepared Lauren who had bought me a pair for my birthday a few months prior to this so I didn’t have to learn this the hard way. I was wearing men's Oboz boots from LLBean.
The lower part of my right pant leg was soaked, as well as the top part of my wool socks, but nothing got into my boots, sparing me of an even colder night out in the hammocks. (I love my DoubleNest from Eno with the tandem spreader bars.)
#3 Prepared for Cold Toes
Even with dry feet, a sleeping bag rated to 25 deg F and hand warmers to get me through the night, I had some major trouble keeping my feet warm. The temperature was supposed to be around 38 deg F for the night so I should have been covered. This is really the only harsh lesson I learned on this trip.
After getting home and talking it out with Lauren and some of her more experienced backpacking friends, I should bring a fleece bag liner and down socks to help with keeping my feet warm. Furthermore, if desired, you can take your water bottle (like a Nalgene) and boil the water inside, store it next to you and have the next greatest thing to a heat generator.
#4 Bring Extra Food
Needless to say, I didn’t get the best sleep during our one night stay. This may or may not have caused some crankiness the next day. Don’t worry I didn’t take it out on Lauren; even though this trip was her idea. I took it out on my diet. I brought with me three Cliff bars, a breakfast, two lunches and a dinner to survive the trip.
I figured bringing a little extra was a good idea to be safe, but with the combination of walking close to ten miles and the extra need for a dopamine kick, I ended up eating everything I had. So for future me, I’d recommend bringing an extra snack for every day that I am out there for the very real potential of needing some good ol’ mouth pleasure.
#5 Make a list and check it off
Lauren obviously had a list for literally everything you’d need on a trip like this. I even followed it and checked them off as I went. The problem occurred for those few items that you don’t want to grab until you actually leave: things like toiletries, batteries and chargers. I remembered everything on the list except for the actual power cable for my phone which adds insult to injury since I remembered the battery pack that I would need to charge my phone in the first place.
Backpacking was definitely a blast, and am willing to try it again. I am hoping next time will be a little warmer, but I will be up for the challenge...maybe after some recovery from this trip of course.
Going forward, I will need to do my best to remember these seemingly minor things. In the comfort of ones home, all of these things can be easily solvable, but out in the middle of the outdoors, being prepared is the only way to be comfortable and safe. I hope this list will prevent others from making similar mistakes that I did.