The snow is melting, trees are sprinkled with spring growth, bringing life to once barren branches, and the birds are back, chirping away in the early morning hours, waking me from my deep slumber. That could only mean one thing, it’s backpacking season. My friend is backpacking the Grand Canyon for her first time and I offered her some tips. By no means am I an expert, but I have learned a thing or two throughout my backpacking adventures. I figured I might as well share with you, what I would be sharing with her.
The most important thing is weight. Your life and hike will be a helluva lot more enjoyable and pleasant with a lighter pack. I’m talking saving ounces in every way possible. Let’s begin with water.
Water is necessary, water is also heavy, weighing about 2 lbs for every liter of water you carry. Typically, you’ll want to drink 2 liters a day, but hiking in hot or extreme temps will have you drinking much more than that. If you’re able to filter water, I highly recommend Sawyer Squeeze Filter. It weighs about 2 oz and has a huge payoff for a minimal amount of work. My friends and I actually used it to filter water out of a pothole filled with rain water and tadpoles. Under normal circumstances, you should NEVER attempt to drink this water, but we were desperate, had zero water, three miles left of our backpacking trip back up the Grand Canyon walls. We lived to tell the tale with zero butt explosions, call us lucky. Be proactive, hydrate yourself double the week before your trip, and be conscious of taking mini sips of water throughout your hike, not only when your mouth is dry, because that’s typically too late.
Your tent is your shelter. I’m an avid camper and outdoorswoman, but I hate bugs, specifically spiders. So, I tend to lean heavily on mesh tents versus just a tarp and a sleeping bag. You want to keep your tent as light as possible. Definitely not more than 5lbs when backpacking. Ultra Light 3 season 2 person tents should be around 2-2.5 lbs. 4 season backpacking tents will get you maxed out at 5lbs for a 2 person capacity. If you’re braver than I, you could go the fly/trekking poles route and really cut down on your shelter weight.
Food. Don’t be a rookie and bring canned food. Pack snacks, but don’t go overboard. Remember ounces are everything. Peanut Butter, nuts, chocolate and granola are great trail munchies. Annnnnnd I never hike without beef jerky, personal preference. We have found that skittles are a heavenly burst of happiness during water/snack breaks. Dehydrated/freeze dried food packs are easy “Just add boiling water” options. Be conscious of the serving amounts when you’re buying them. Usually one pack serves two people. My fave-anything with mashed potatoes and the lasagna. If you’re going that route, sea to summit sells a super light extra long spoon that works perfect for those containers worth the purchase.
Extras like hygiene can be unnecessary for some, essential for others. Remember, when you’re backpacking, whatever you pack in, you pack out. So leave room for your trash that you’ll be hiking back out with. There are ways to save weight on toiletries. One ply toilet paper, silicon toothbrush head covers, squeezing toothpaste into straws and burning the ends to seal, or you can just make sure you’re bringing a small tube of toothpaste. Don’t forget your headlamp, first aid kit and pocket knife.
So you’ve got your gear, now you’re set. But you’re not. Packing your pack is just as essential as what you’re putting in it. You want the distribution to be optimally balanced for your back. This will save your shoulders/back and neck from days of soreness afterwards. The bottom pack is for your lighter things like your sleeping bag. Focus your heaviest items in the center of your pack with medium weighted items and things you’ll need to easily access on the top portion. Make sure you get fitted for your pack, REI does it for free and can help with any adjustments that you need.
Last but certainly not least, have fun. You’re backpacking, that means you’re going to be in stunning scenery away from the normal hustle and bustle. Take lots of breaks, look up, around and behind you and just soak up as much as you can. And take stupid amounts of selfies and photos and max out your camera, why? Because, nothing is ever promised or guaranteed to be there as it was the next time.