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First ever backpacking trip!
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Rami Mechael
(mechael) - F
First ever backpacking trip! on 02/27/2010 14:12:22 MST Print View

Hi everyone,

I've been visiting this forum for quite a bit now, while trying to take in as much advice for my first ever backpacking trip coming this first week of May!

I'm 21 years old in Canada, and I'm planning to go to Algonquin Park, and as of right now, going to try the Western Uplands Trail because I want it to be somewhat lengthy.

However, I am planning on doing this solo. I was just wondering if this was absurdly stupid? I've been doing quite a bit of research (it's actually become more of an obsession) and, although it's all theoretical at this point, I personally feel that I am very well prepared for this trip and I'm learning more and more everyday. I just feel that the entire fascination (for me at least) of backpacking is the self reliance, and the beauty of the natural environment. Take also into consideration that if I were to invite a friend along, they would be every bit as inexperienced as me.

My main concern is that I'm going quite early in spring. I don't know if this means wildlife is, well, wilder or not. (i.e. - bears have just come out of hibernation) I don't know if the likelihood of running into a bear is greater or not in spring. I'm planning on bringing a children's cap gun for the loud sound to try and scare it if i see one. I'm very fascinated by bears :) they're my favourite animal. Otherwise I'm educated in what to do in said event.

anyways, I apologize for the lengthy post. But I was hoping for some advice and guidelines, and if everyone seems to suggest that I shouldn't go through the trip alone, maybe I'll rethink the situation.

Thanks again, for your help and time. I hope to become as experienced as you all one day.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: First ever backpacking trip! on 02/27/2010 16:21:40 MST Print View

Hi Rami,
I've backpacked the Western Uplands trail before, both in winter and summer. I can help you with some planning and gear...but a few questions first.

What is your planned route?
How many days are you planning to be out?
Do you have a gear list for the trip?

The trail is well traveled and a good choice for a new hiker, so my gut says you'll be fine as long as you have plenty of food and the proper gear.

I think you can leave your cap gun at home, the bears aren't going to bother you.

Rami Mechael
(mechael) - F
Good questions. on 02/27/2010 17:08:02 MST Print View

Thanks for the help.

Those are questions I'm still debating myself. As a first timer, I'm in the middle of purchasing all my gear. I just ordered the map so I can't say the exact route, but I've seen several reports and videos of a large loop that takes aprox. 5 days. Once the map comes I'll plan the itinerary, but it will all be approximations because I don't know what to expect of myself as far as milage. I am fairly fit and not too worried about this, but I'd hate to overextend myself.

I'm still battling usefulness of different kinds of stoves, but I'm thinking the pressurized canister types will be o.k. I plan to mostly melt cheese on bagels for breakfast, and then add boiling water to freeze dried foods for dinner, with snacks for lunch; however this being my first time, I'm not positive how much fuel that really requires.

I'm going to go the route of Iodine or Chlorine tablets as opposed to a filtration system (unless you recommend otherwise?) for water. As far as sleeping bag, tent and mat I'm somewhat clueless what brands to trust and what not. I have a few friends that work at sportcheck, with discount abilities, and they sell North Face gear, which is the only brand I've heard of before.

I'm not sure whether to buy a pack first, and be constraint with it's size, or buy all the other gear, and find a pack that will fit everything. I'm leaning towards the first idea, to keep light and minimal.

By trying to answer your questions, I see I'm unprepared. Thankfully, there's plenty of time to get this all sorted out.

I appreciate your help, and any recommendations of gear is appreciated. I should point out however that this is just one of many trips I hope to do with increasing difficulty (I dream of the rockies, drool) so I'm not planning on being stingy with equipment. Feel free to recommend reliable, long lasting gear.

(long again...sorry)

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Good questions. on 02/28/2010 00:45:19 MST Print View

The quest for gear is just that. A journey--a process. You can read all the articles you want (many good ones here if you're a member!), ask all the questions you want, and read all the books you want. They will help tremendously! BUT, each time you go out with your gear, you'll evaluate and re-evaluate how you like to do things, and how you want your gear to work for you.

You'll learn a lot just by doing.

Tent brands: Tarptent, Six Moon Designs, Mountain Laurel Designs, Gossamer Gear, Nemo, Big Agnes.

Sleeping Bag: Marmot, Montbell, BPL's quilts, Enlightened Equipment, Western Mountaineering, Nunatak.

Sleeping Pads: Thermarest, Big Agnes, Exped

Packs: Osprey, Mountain Laurel Designs, Six Moon Designs, ULA, Granite Gear

...and there's plenty more. I expect someone will be along to add to these fine companies. Don't expect to learn/buy everything right away. Its a continuous process!

My advice, which may differ from others here: start with a set of gear you can afford and feel comfortable with. One that you've done your research on and know well. Then, go hike! Enjoy your trip, but always be rethinking EVERY piece of gear. What was good or bad. What you wanted and didn't have. What you had and didn't need. You'll soon get an appreciation of what YOU need and feel comfortable with.

Just as a side note, The North Face doesn't get too much discussion time here on BackpackingLight. I'm not gonna get into the finer points of it, but there are plenty of lighter, high quality brands out there. (and that doesn't mean I'm trashing them, either)

Knowledge is the most important and lightest thing we have. That's partially why many of us are here--to learn! Good luck!

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
re: First ever backpacking trip! on 02/28/2010 05:28:44 MST Print View

Rami, Welcome! Here is a link to my gearlist page. The spreadsheet link is in the middle of the page. Gear List

For you I added the "Newbie LW tab". As your first trip I have put on gear items that won't require any advanced skills (i.e. tarp camping or quilt usage). This list contains gear that can purchased entirely from Walmart & REI. It includes: a framed pack; high end 30 degree sleeping bag; full length sleeping pad; a double wall tent; and canister stove. The base weight (weight of all items in pack) is just over 12 lbs. I've also included retail price of each item, but realize you can often do better with sales.

I hike solo most of the time, I wouldn't worry much about that. I don't know the weather for the area you are hiking in so please use others to make sure a 30 degree kit will work for you (pushable to 20 degrees).

Your questions...yes to Clorine Dioxide pills, they work great and also yes to canister stoves for your first trip. I'd say 2 of the small canisters should work for 5 days if mainly just boiling water twice a day.

I would recommend that you try your gear out first before heading out. The best thing is a quick overnighter. You will learn a lot by doing this.

Hope this helps,

Edited by jshortt on 02/28/2010 12:01:28 MST.

Mike S
(MikeyLXT) - F

Locale: Maryland
First timer on 02/28/2010 12:21:46 MST Print View

I agree that it would be wise to at least go on AT LEAST 1 trip prior to your week long hike. You will learn a lot from going on just 1 overnight trip. I have only be backpacking for 3-4 years and I learn new things every time out.

When you start to research gear just be practical. You don't need that $60 titanium pot when a $10 one from a discount store will work just as well.

As far as bears....a small cap gun is worthless. If you are worried you should take bear spray. It is basically pepper spray but in a larger canister and can shoot much further.

Just do your research and be prudent. Ask for some advice as you begin to entertain specifics and I am sure people can offer great advice.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Good questions. on 02/28/2010 12:56:36 MST Print View

I like your enthusiasm! 5 days for a first trip...there isn't really a problem with doing that but I'll just say that it isn't very common. Most people would do an overnighter to see if their gear is working well for them and maybe see how far or fast they hike etc. That said, you can plan your trip and if things are going well, continue on, and if after the first night you're not having fun, simply turn around and come back. The Western Uplands trail is essentially a 3 looped figure 8 so at anytime you can take one of the loops back to the trail head.

Good advice given here so far. The list that Jamie posted is a great example of how you should be organizing your gearlist, and it would actually work pretty well as is assuming your trip is later more then sooner in May. But you can start figuring out your gear when you lock down the length of your trip and the dates you will be going. The month of May can go either way..really nice or cold and rainy.

I guess a big factor will also be how much money you have to spend. Are you rich by any chance?

Johann Burkard
(johannb) - F

Locale: Europe on 02/28/2010 14:59:13 MST Print View

Nice domain name, Jamie.

Philip Delvoie
(PhilipD) - MLife

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Re: Good questions on 02/28/2010 16:58:21 MST Print View

I agree with both Mike and Steven. Since this is your first trip....Get out for an overnight with your kit to see what works and more importantly what does not work for you. While I am all for just jumping in with both feet, I also think this would help a lot toward having a successful trip for your planned 5 day trip.

The western upland trail is a great trail. Some beautiful scenery and as a beginer you will not get lost....the trail is very well marked and easy to follow. Like Steven...I would skip the cap gun you mentioned. It's just not needed.

In the park you will definitly need to hang your food at night, but it's as much for the racoons and chipmunks as it is for the bears.

I was on the western uplands just this past October...just after Canadian thanksgiving...for an overnight. It's one of my favorite trails in this area.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"First ever backpacking trip!" on 02/28/2010 17:08:38 MST Print View

I'm going to go the route of Iodine or Chlorine tablets as opposed to a filtration system (unless you recommend otherwise?) for water.

Good choice. I recommend you go with chlorine dioxide tablets, not iodine though. Also, what are you going to use to carry your water? Water battles are all about personal preference, but it is one of those important things to think about. You should also have a way to strain the water before adding the tablets to prevent any chunks of stuff getting into the water. A bandanna or some coffe filters in a ziploc works well, and you can pour it straight into your water container with the pre-filtration.

hope that helps, and good luck!


P.S. I think your wanting to start out solo is cool, just make sure you leave a detailed copy of your trip plan with 2 trusted persons in case you're not back when you are supposed to be.

Philip Delvoie
(PhilipD) - MLife

Locale: Ontario, Canada
water treatment on 02/28/2010 17:24:04 MST Print View

"I'm going to go the route of Iodine or Chlorine tablets as opposed to a filtration system (unless you recommend otherwise?) for water."

I would second the chlorine dioxide tablets. I use the Katadyn MicroPur tablets. In the park I don't bother with a prefilter for the "chunks". The water quality is great.

Edited by PhilipD on 02/28/2010 17:28:01 MST.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
First ever backpacking trip! on 02/28/2010 18:22:11 MST Print View

I strongly recommend practicing skills and use of your gear as much as possible in your (or a borrowed) back yard or on short car-camping trips. You don't want to be trying to put your shelter up on a dark, windy, rainy night with instructions in one hand and a flashlight in the other! Get thoroughly familiar with your gear and practice camping in inclement conditions in places where you can bail out if everything goes south, before you try a long hike.

Use chlorine dioxide tablets, not iodine--a lot of people (including me) turn out to be sensitive to iodine and it's not recommended except for exremely short-term emergency use for adults only. It also doesn't kill all the nasties (specifically cryptosporidium). Believe me, you definitely don't want to risk the reaction I had to iodine tablets!

To brand names I'd add Pacific Outdoor Equipment for sleeping pads. I have an older model of the Ether Thermo 6, an insulated air pad. Be sure to try out sleeping pads on the floor (several nights if possible) to find out which pad is most comfortable for you!

Edited by hikinggranny on 02/28/2010 18:27:46 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Iodine on 02/28/2010 18:36:52 MST Print View

I agree with what Mary D stated. Iodine can be a problem to some people. However, a portion of the problem is overdosing of iodine, not just iodine itself. After all, most of our salt has iodine in it.

Two friends of mine were each stricken with a thyroid inflammation after being overdosed with iodine. In each case, they were using double the recommended concentration and using it for a long number of days.

I used to use iodine without problem. However, I used a saturated solution of iodine from crystals. I tended to cut the concentration down by half and then increase the contact time in the raw water.

Rami Mechael
(mechael) - F
Backyard practice on 03/01/2010 06:13:02 MST Print View

Wow, thanks to everyone for responding and advice.

I have thought of trying a "practice run" myself, but where I live, I can't seem to find anywhere to go within a reasonable distance. Car camping is an alternative I hadn't considered though, and seems like it would definitely be worth it. Chlorine Dioxide is what I knew would be most effective against the microcritters, I just wasn't sure if it would destroy the taste of the water, so thanks again for everyone's input.

I was already planning to give a few practice set ups of the tent in my back yard, so that I'm not fumbling around with it when I'm on the trail. I was also going to purchase an extra cheap stove to practice with in the backyard also, and hanging a bag on a park tree for an idea of how to get it done. I figure any kind of experience is valuable.

Now, while I'm not rich, like I mentioned before I have friends that work at a sporting goods store that sell a lot of backpacking/camping/hiking gear. I'll have to go check to see the brands available again, now that I know what to look for. But I can broadly assume that if I shop at this store, I can manage around 30-50% off everything; this definitely helps.

The map has not come in yet, but I'm set on the first week of May because that's the best time to do it in between semesters. I'm anticipating the rain and cold, I'm not really too bothered by it...It's actually kind of exciting.

If you guys had any more tips and tricks that might help, I really would appreciate them.

Philip Delvoie
(PhilipD) - MLife

Locale: Ontario, Canada
cheap stove on 03/01/2010 06:36:40 MST Print View


You mentioned in your post that you are going to pickup a cheap stove. Here is a link to a fancy feast cat can stove you can build up yourself for next to nothing...and lot's of folks swear by them:

I posted a link to Andrew Skurka's site and instructions for the stove, but a quick search on this forum will give you a bunch more info if needed.

Cheap, easy to use, and nothing to break.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Backyard practice on 03/01/2010 08:21:07 MST Print View

I strongly recommend practicing skills and use of your gear as much as possible in your (or a borrowed) back yard or on short car-camping trips. You don't want to be trying to put your shelter up on a dark, windy, rainy night with instructions in one hand and a flashlight in the other! Get thoroughly familiar with your gear and practice camping in inclement conditions in places where you can bail out if everything goes south, before you try a long hike.

I agree strongly with this. While all the research you are doing is important and necessary for making sure your trip goes well, it is at the moment all theoretical for you. If you haven't experienced driving in a stake or threading a pole into its sleeve or lighting a stove while never having faced a strong wind and pouring rain before it all becomes quite overwhelming when you are actually out there, alone. Of course, getting that experience is part of what the learning process is all about and I wouldn't discourage you from making the trip, but it's nice to know you've got the basics down. Try out the stove on your porch or sidewalk. Try it several times. Cook something. Set up your shelter, like in a park, several times. If it is raining out, go out and set up the tent. See what it is like to do it in the dark. Do it until you don't have to think so much about the process. Go for a long walk in your neighborhood in the rain using your rain gear. When you've done these things then try an overnighter, away from familiar territory and see how it goes. Imaging being out there alone and actually doing it are quite different. A great part of your fear of bears is in your head; only experience in the woods will help you get beyond that fear.

So far, so good. I'd love to hear more about your preparations and then the actual account of your trip. It's always wonderful to watch a new enthusiast start out in backpacking... brings back lots of memories for me!

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Yeah, do an overnighter first on 03/01/2010 11:34:08 MST Print View

I'd third (or fourth? fifth?) the suggestion to do something shorter than 5 days first. Not so much for safety- any reasonably intellignet person can keep themselves alive for 5 days with the gear you'll have no matter what kind of gear disater befalls them. But they can be a very UNCOMFORTABLE 5 days if something goes wrong. A simple over-nighter will shake out a lot of kinks in you and your gear. You may realize something that you've forgotten. You may decide that you absolutely hate your shelter. If you aren't comfortable, you're soaking wet, and you can't sleep, then you aren't "camping". You're "enduring". Also, you will almost certainly identify something that you brought that you didn't even use. (That's something to consider not bringing next time.)

Heck, just setting up in your backyard one rainy Saturday night would do it.

All of my first sorties into UL camping were solo, as have been most since then. I must admit, love solo. It terrifies my wife, though. We have made compromises. :o)

Anyway, my $0.02.

Edited by acrosome on 03/01/2010 11:38:48 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
re local sporting goods shops on 03/01/2010 17:06:32 MST Print View

Hi Rami

> friends at a sporting goods store that sell a lot of backpacking/camping/hiking gear.

Just bear in mind that what the average sporting goods store sells is likely to be rather heavy stuff. And a lot of it is totally useless or redundant too. They do go for the machismo street market.


Edited by rcaffin on 03/01/2010 17:06:54 MST.

Rami Mechael
(mechael) - F
Found short trail on 03/03/2010 05:33:35 MST Print View

Hey guys,
I was driving around last night and I found a little conservation area not too far from where I live. It's probably not long enough for an overnight hike, but I figure I could just go in late, hike for as long as possible (will find map), cook, set up and sleep.

Also, tomorrow is when I'll be going back to the sports store, and I'll be looking out for some of those brands that you guys mentioned. Unfortunately, there's no REI around, and I'm trying to avoid shipping to Canada. If I remember correctly though, I do remember seeing a couple Osprey packs.

I'll let you guys know how it turns out. Thanks for your interest.
PS - is this sort of trip worth a trip report? (not the overnight, the 5 day)

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Found short trail on 03/03/2010 08:55:49 MST Print View

Hey Rami,
All trips deserve a trip report - even dayhikes. I make them for overnighters all the time. :)

Where are you located anyway? If your going to Algonquin, maybe you're not far from me. Conservation areas are great, even if it's just a short hike and then camp in a campground, lots of people here test there stuff in their backyard. I've hiked around my neighborhood with a full pack to see how it handled.