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How to Start
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Elijah Ziemann
(MrBlondyable) - F
How to Start on 08/02/2012 15:10:57 MDT Print View

I've recently become very interested in backpacking. I've been on plenty of day hikes, I love camping, and I thought it would be cool to combine the two. Anyways, I have most of the gear needed (boots, backpack, stove, sleeping gear and a tent), but I don't know where to start. The biggest problem is my age. I'm not old enough to go backpacking alone (I'm 14). My family would be willing to go with, maybe, but none of them have gear. I don't want to spend a fortune buying gear for them, and they aren't into it enough to buy it themselves. If also don't know any friends or anything that would pay for gear to go with me. Any suggestions on a way that I would be able to go?

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: How to Start on 08/02/2012 15:22:26 MDT Print View

Youth clubs, church groups, hiking club at school, scouts

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How to Start on 08/02/2012 15:29:21 MDT Print View

In some regions, there is a big outdoor group such as the Sierra Club, the Appalacian Mountain Club, the Mountaineers, or something similar. Find out what they are doing in your region. One problem is your age. Lots of groups will not let a minor go on trips without some responsible adult. Some of these groups actually have trips specifically for minors, so check that out, but you will probably need to get some form signed by a parent.

The biggest organization for a kid your age is the scouts, but that may or may not be an option where you are.

I just got down from hiking Mount Whitney (California). There was one scout troop there from Texas and another scout troop from Southern California, and most of the scouts were 14-16 years old. You want to get in on the ground floor of that.


Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Check for a local Meetup group. on 08/02/2012 15:48:28 MDT Print View

Check and see if there are local family-friendly backpacking Meetup groups in your area. I'm meeting most of my outdoorsy friends through Meetup these days and it's a good way to meet like-minded folks.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: How to Start on 08/02/2012 17:17:44 MDT Print View

Boy Scouts?

I had a great time when I was young

Totally depends on the group - some are good, some not so much

My only complaint is they're sort of anti Gay and anti non Christian, but that depends on the group

Elijah Ziemann
(MrBlondyable) - F
Thanks Guys on 08/02/2012 20:39:59 MDT Print View

I looked on, and found a backpacking group. And yeah, I know a lot of people my age in the scouts, but they're all republicans and are really weird about me being an atheist.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Thanks Guys on 08/02/2012 21:07:46 MDT Print View

Elijah, one of the problems that you will run into is leadership. With some large organizations, they tend to have official leaders and standards and training for leaders, so they tend to be run pretty good. With other loose organizations such as you find online, there are few standards. I've had friends go on some of these non-standard trips. They said that some were OK, and some were most assuredly not OK.

It is sort of a matter of "You get what you pay for."

Don't feel compelled to join up with the first group you see.


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Thanks Guys on 08/02/2012 21:26:45 MDT Print View

"And yeah, I know a lot of people my age in the scouts, but they're all republicans and are really weird about me being an atheist"

When I was in scouts, they never said much about religion, except you had to say the oath about "a scout being reverant" and such. If saying that bothers you then scouts are out. Otherwise, maybe a different group would be more tolerant.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Thanks Guys on 08/02/2012 22:03:35 MDT Print View

When I was a scout, we had to uphold allegiance to President Buchanan.


Jace Mullen
(climberslacker) - F

Locale: Your guess is as good as mine.
Minor on 08/02/2012 22:44:51 MDT Print View

This is Minor, live from the PCT.

Let me first say that I have been in your position, and that I am currently on the PCT, which I started this year at 17.

I got my start backpacking in Scouting, check it out and definitely check out a few troops. Some do tons of backpacking and "high adventure", some none. Some emphasize religion, in others it is never mentioned.
My other advice is that backpacking is not hard. It is just walking. It's really pretty difficult to mess it up.
I did my first solo trip when I was 16, I wouldnt recomend doing one until you have a few trips under your belt and know your limits.
Backpacking will teach you a lot and will help you be a better person (I promise!) maybe approach from that angle when you talk to your parents. Telling them I wanted to thruhike the PCT was a tough comversation, but it ended up being and immensely valuable one. Just talk to them and tell them you are interested in backpacking and want their help starting. It can't go wrong.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Camp Fire USA on 08/03/2012 09:46:20 MDT Print View

As an alternative to BSA there's Camp Fire USA. They aren't nearly as widespread as BSA but if you're lucky there might be a council nearby. (Where are you?) They are a self-declared "inclusive" organization. They do outdoor activities, but it really isn't their focus.

Unfortunately scouts have the youth outdoor market pretty well cornered and as others have said troops differ, but all it takes is one bigot in a position of authority to totally sour a troop. The BSA's discriminatory policies make this possible- in an organization without discriminatory policies such individuals could be removed, but as it stands they actually represent the BSA ideal. This is why I don't support BSA, though it can be very difficult to explain that to the scouts themselves, who would usually rather have their non-religious friend from school be included. It's mostly the higher adult leadership that are the problem.

Oddly, the Girl Scouts are a different matter entirely. Heck, they just got a "Diversity Advocate" award. Do you own a wig? :)

Edited by acrosome on 08/03/2012 10:10:11 MDT.

Elijah Ziemann
(MrBlondyable) - F
Parents n' Stuff on 08/03/2012 13:30:06 MDT Print View

My mom knows that I'm into backpacking. The problem is that she has to work CONSTANTLY, and my dad's situation is worse. He had a really bad accident in 2008, cracking open his skull and causing a lot of trauma to his brain. He's not really the same person anymore. The lawsuit over his injury also caused problems, because we got quite a lot of money from the lawsuit, and now my dad's new girlfriend (my parents are divorced) is trying to get the money. It's really made it hard to hang out with him, since my mom doesn't like the whole situation, and I live with her. Sorry for all that, I just really think it relates.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Thanks Guys on 08/03/2012 14:26:29 MDT Print View

Have you looked into an explorer post? Find one with an outings specialty and you might like it. Your religious preferences would probably be less of an issue, also.

A good one will really be boy-run, so adult idiosyncrasies will be less of an issue. When I was in one (many moons ago) we were generally nice enough to let our adviser come on some of the trips. :)

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re How to Start on 08/03/2012 17:59:03 MDT Print View

The divorce does relate. I wonder if you qualify for Big Brothers program? You might check to see if there is a BB that has an interest in backpacking. It doesn't sound like either parent is available to go with you, which means you do need some sort of guardian. The Scouts/Campfire suggestions were good, but if you're more of a solo type the Big Brother idea might be an option if you can find a compatible BB.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
hikes? on 08/03/2012 18:11:03 MDT Print View

Elijah Ziemann, is there anywhere close you can go for long day hikes? Day hikes are a really good practice for real backpacking, trains all the same muscles, develops the same rough hand/eye stuff you need to not slip and tweak ankles or knees, and offer a lot of the nice parts of backpacking. And they don't really require parental permssion. When I was your age I used to go for long bike rides out into the country side, then I joined a bike club, where we did club rides and things, then I started doing bike touring as I got older. But that is better out in less urban settings. Didn't start backpacking though til I was old enough to be on my own. Did camp with parents though.

From what you say, if you can't find scouting things, or other activities, you might have to wait a bit, the time passes, believe it or not. Don't stress your dad out though, he's got enough things to try to deal with as it is, head injuries are not a joke.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2012 18:12:30 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: How to Start on 08/03/2012 22:22:26 MDT Print View

A brother of mine was close to a woman battling cancer. She was also mother to a daughter and her goal was to live to see her daughter through high school and strong enough to continue on her own. Both goals were achieved, the first just barely but the second was surpassed, perhaps beyond mom's wildest hopes. If I recall correctly, Outward Bound and NOLS played prominent roles in that result.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
National parks and ski resorts. on 08/06/2012 02:02:03 MDT Print View

When I was 17 I spent the Summer waiting tables in Yellowestine National Park, got to pack 100's of miles there and up at glacier. Went back two years later at 19' and worked again at , Bug sky, and in Alaska. Met lots of liked minded folks, some I am on touch with 20 years later. I also, got a lot of experience from those more knwledgeable, ice climbing in the Tetons, etc. find out who runs concessions at Yosemite or Yellowstone, maybe glacier, and apply for a seasonal service industry positio. You'll get it. You'll live it. I did. Best choice I have made to this day.