A trip to the backcountry is like no other. You’re surrounded by the beauty of the mountains, you’re breathing in fresh air, and the lack of cell service means that you can finally leave work behind for the weekend. While a mountainside camping trip can be incredibly therapeutic, it is important to go fully prepared. By keeping a few essentials on hand, you can be sure that your trip to the mountains is stress-free.
Even if you’re just going out for an overnight adventure, it’s important to keep track of where you are. Simply veering off the trail to take a closer look at a clump of wildflowers can leave you lost in a dense forest. Before leaving, take advantage of your internet access to do research on the trails you’ll be using. Are there any closures? Any potential threats from weather or wildlife? Plan your route before you go, and be sure to have both a topographical map and a compass when you’re out on the trail. It is especially important to teach yourself how to use these things before you go. A map and compass will do you no good if you don’t understand how to use them.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit will prepare you for anything. This doesn’t have to be overly elaborate, but it’s important to have the essentials on hand. Start with a small, pre-made kit, and add in a few extras such as homemade salves and essential oils. Tea tree is a great oil to have on hand for minor scrapes, bites, and other wounds. A combination of lemon eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint and tea tree essential oils make a powerful mosquito repellant. A small multi-tool is also good to keep on hand in this kit.
After a long day on the trail, a comfortable shelter is something to look forward to. A small, lightweight tent with a rain cover is important, as it can protect you from any extreme weather you may encounter. You should also carry a sleeping bag that is rated to withstand the temperatures you expect to encounter. A good sleeping bag is nothing without a good sleeping pad since even the best sleeping bags can let cold seep in from the ground. If you’re feeling extra minimalist, a good bivy sack can take the place of a tent.
Food and Water
You should always be prepared with at least an extra day’s worth of high-energy food, preferably food that doesn’t need to be cooked. Salty trail snacks such as nuts, granola bars, and trail mix are always good to have on hand.
Remembering to stay hydrated is one of the most important aspects of a camping trip. Physical activity can increase your risk of dehydration, so you should take frequent drinks of water even before you begin to feel thirsty. Try to research water sources before you set out on your trip. Be sure to carry a bottle of water, as well as your preferred water treatment method so you can fill up on the trail.
Insulation and Sun Protection
Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time in the mountains can tell you that the weather can change in an instant. One second it is a balmy sunny day, and the next second it can begin to hail out of nowhere. It is important to be prepared for all weather conditions, regardless of what the forecast says.
Layers are key. Be sure to have thermal underwear (not cotton), a lightweight jacket, a rain jacket, hat, and gloves. Even when it is sunny outside, you should keep your skin covered to stay protected from the sun. Wear thin, lightweight long pants and a long-sleeved top. Keep a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen on hand.
A Source of Light, and a Way to Make a Fire
Nighttime in the mountains is much different than nighttime in the city. Your only source of light is the moon, and on a cloudy night, the mountain can be extremely dark. A good headlamp can help you set up camp and cook dinner while leaving you with both hands free. Be sure to pack extra batteries or a solar charger, depending on what type you have. Fire can help you signal in an emergency, cook meals, and keep you warm. Be sure to pack waterproof matches and a fire starter - a lighter, flint and steel, etc.
Enjoy Your Trip!
Going into the mountains prepared for anything can allow you to enjoy your camping trip stress-free. Spending time in nature can help improve overall wellness, and has been proven to benefit both physical and mental health. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the mountains.
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