The backcountry is a sexy word these days. For adventurers, it can make them salivate just by hearing the word and for good reason. The backcountry is an amazing place. Normally it means getting away from the crowds and going further than most are willing to trek. You get to see things, or step foot in places, most people will never experience. That is a big draw for many outdoor enthusiasts, but it isn’t all beautiful scenery and euphoric hikes. The realities of backcountry backpacking aren't well known but if you are looking to start adventuring further off the map, you should know a few things before you jump in.
Be Prepared to:
Carry a Heavy Pack – Unless you are a pro at lightweight backpacking, you will probably overpack on your first few backcountry trips. After all, you don’t want to forget something your first time out or not have the creature comforts of the car camping experience.
Poop in a bag – Every backcountry location is different. There are some with vault toilets, even others with full running water (don’t expect it), and then there are some where you have to dig your own hole. But for others, you aren’t even allowed to dig a hole. You have to get yourself what is called a WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) bag. Please read up on heeding the call of nature in the backcountry so you know protocol and to keep your impact to a minimum. http://www.trailspace.com/articles/backcountry-waste-disposal.html
Sleep Well – Backcountry sites are not for the faint of heart. As we mentioned, the draw of these locations is the lack of noise and people. These sites are usually far from anything resembling civilization and are not easy to get to. Sometimes the hikes to these locations can be hours to a couple of days with stops along the way. One thing is for sure, after hiking that far you will have no trouble sleeping once your head hits your make-shift pillow.
Be Alone – You may be with a group but, depending on the backcountry site, you may not see another soul the entire time you are on the trail, at least once you get a few miles from your starting point. Bring everything you need and double and triple check each other’s packs if you are in a group to make sure everyone has what they need. Because, once you are out there, you won’t be able to run to the store to grab extra food or water.
Acquire your Permit Months In Advance – As we continue to mention, every backcountry site is different (are you tired of reading that yet?) which means the process of booking the site is going to be different. Often, backcountry sites can be booked ahead of time, but that process on how to book those can change from park to park. It might depend on if it’s a National Park, State Park or Wilderness Area and who the location is managed by. Do your research! Some of the best backcountry sites are booked MONTHS in advance and even include a lottery for spots. Others are only able to be booked the morning of your trip at the backcountry rangers office.
The backcountry is a special place to be sure, but it isn’t to be taken lightly. We aren't writing this to discourage folks out of backcountry camping, quite the opposite we are telling folks this so they can be prepared when they do take that adventure. Have fun, enjoy sights and sounds (or lack thereof) that most people never get to experience and take a backcountry trip!