Everyone’s idea of a great backpacking trip is different. Some people like to get away from things and seek solitude, while others want to spend quality time with a significant other. We encourage you to, every so often, get away from things with a group of friends to reconnect and enjoy a trip with other outdoor lovers. You will enjoy the camaraderie and maybe even learn a few tips and tricks from others in your group. Now, planning a trip with friends isn’t always an easy process, but it can be a very enjoyable, enlightening and rewarding experience. This can also be a great way to introduce those who aren’t as adventurous as you to the outdoors with the help of more seasoned backpackers. These tips can make planning your next friends backpacking trip a little easier.
Pick a Date, Pick A Trail – This may be a challenge depending on the personalities in the group, but try to include everyone in the choice of date and location. We like to pick a spot no one has been so everyone is excited about the trip, but don’t rule out spots people are familiar with and want to go back to. Most groups will inevitably have at least one person who doesn’t care where and when but just wants to join in the fun. At least ask before assuming that so everyone feels included and you don’t start off with a tense situation. Remember to take into account everyone’s fitness level, abilities and preferences. Not everyone can hike for hours on end or handle large elevation gains. Make sure everyone is comfortable with the hike's length (distance and time), elevation gains and terrain. Always take into account the number of people in the group and make sure your final destination can accommodate you.
Spread out the Weight – The nice things about backpacking with several people is that you have lots of backpacks to carry your gear. Spread out the weight amongst the participants, especially if you will be sharing tents. If you can bring a larger tent that accommodates more people then there will be additional room in other packs for items you don’t normally get to bring (See Below). There is no reason for each person to carry a tent and sleep alone.
Spread out the Cost – Whether it is sharing the cost of transportation for your trip (gasoline for your car or car rental) or sharing the cost of food for a group trip, make sure to spread those out. Often, you can share costs to get things cheaper than you would if you were alone. Food, for example, is a large part of a trip's budget, but you can get some great backpacking meals in bulk from several companies. Depending on the location, you can even take a group trip to Costco to prepare.
Splurge On Extras – Beer is always a big favorite of mine at night at a campsite, but often is too heavy to justify putting in my backpack. Now, with additional backpacks to load up with camping goodies you can bring items that you want and not just the ones you need. Camp chairs can also be a big ticket item that you normally leave home for a backpacking trip, but you might be able to fit some of the more comfortable ones into a pack or two.
Pick Everyone’s Trail Name – Ok, so this step is more for fun than anything, but every step of this process should be fun. You can wait until you hit the trail, but making some up before hand can be a fun project to get your creative juices flowing. You can always tweak them once you hit the trail if you don’t know some of your fellow hikers that well.
Choose a Leader – Time to think serious again about the trip. The leader for your group won’t be the person telling everyone what to do and when to do it. This is more of an honorary title and the person that will be leading the pack on the trail. This person will set the pace for the group so make sure you pick someone that knows everyone and their abilities well. It can also be helpful to choose someone that can change pace by reading the group throughout the hike. Having a good eye for spotting beautiful spots to stop and take breaks is also a very useful quality in a leader.
Don’t forget the permits – Backcountry sites often call for permits so don’t skip this step. They also may require more than one permit depending on the group size. Keep in mind the size of the backcountry site and make sure you don’t overcrowd the site or leave it in disrepair for the next campers.
Don’t ever rule out camping with friends. It can be a great time and if you remember these steps it can be just as relaxing and enjoyable as a solo or couple's trip. Take your friends backpacking and make memories and friends that last a for a lifetime!