Lessons learned in the backcountry

Red Rock Sunset - WM - 3-18
Plan, plan, plan, plan, and then plan some more
Campgrounds, routes of travel, weather, so much planning goes into preparing for backpacking. I will usually be planning a 3-day trip for 3-4 months prior. Once I find a location I want to go to, I’ll look into the best trails and campgrounds we want to stay at. Checking out the weather forecast to see what type of gear we need. Make reservations, get wilderness permits, watch out for seasonal hazards such as wildfire or avalanche. When you’re in the backcountry, you’ll be thankful for the hours you spent researching your trip.

Stick to the plan you made

You put all that work into planning your trip, trust yourself and leave it as is unless absolutely needed. We had planned our trip perfectly out to mileage a day, where to park the car, even as far as having checked into the wilderness desk to get permits. Then? The wilderness ranger on duty talked through the risk of snow and freezing temperatures and we chickened out. Instead of backpacking in the mountains and snow (which we had the proper gear for) we spent a couple days in the desert backcountry. Wearing the improper gear (snow instead of sand) and carrying too much gear, as well as having to deal with cacti turned the trip in a different direction than planned.

Be flexible

Sometimes when you’re backpacking, you’ll come out at the wrong trail head 6 miles away from where you parked your car. Solution? Hitch-hike back to the car or be prepared to walk along the highway. Ended up on a stock trail along the canyon bottom instead of the hiking trail along the canyon rim? Enjoy being out of the sun and catch up to the right trail when you can.


It’s hot. You’re tired. Your pack straps are digging into your hips and shoulders. Your too-tight boots have left your feet bloody. What are you going to do? Are you going to sit down, and pitch camp right where you are? (News flash, depending on the wilderness you’re packing in, you will need to camp in a designated spot) Or will you muster the grit to keep on walking to finish out the day with three more miles to your campsite? Spending time out in the backcountry has been one of the best ways to grow. There have been times where I just want to sit on the ground and pass out. But, we have a trip itinerary to make. Take a break, and then keep on walking. Rest don’t quit.

Learn to love the view

Not every minute of every trip will be filled with jaw-dropping gorgeous views. Sometimes you’ll be stuck looking at scrub bush. Not the most appealing thing ever. BUT you can have gratitude for the opportunity to see something different during each part of your trip, and be even more thankful for the great views when you get to them.

Be quiet and listen to nature

While I’m a huge fan of turning up a speaker and listening to music as motivation to finish the days trip, sometimes you learn so much by turning it off, stop talking with your group, and just listening to the sounds around you. Hearing bird whistling overhead. A stream trickling by. Even a rattlesnake rattle to give a little extra room.

Even when one trip sucks, get back out there and focus on the good

Out of all the backpacking trips I’ve been on, every single one could have gone better. One trip we over-packed and tipped a canoe. One trip rained the entire day and we didn’t have proper rain gear. One trip we forgot some food. One trip we had to climb boulders with our full packs. But guess what else happened? We had the most gorgeous campsite along the lake shore. We got to go on the first full trip with the dogs and made some great friends. We were able to see sweeping views of Montana mountains. We were able to spend the night out in a desert canyon surrounded by red rock formations.

Just like life, there is always going to be the good and the bad, what you focus on is what you will remember

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