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Who bushwhacks? Why?
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Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Who bushwhacks? Why? on 03/18/2013 10:51:19 MDT Print View

How many use an old-fashioned wood staff to whack the bushes? Swatting briars and fighting limbs with a carbon fiber pole isn't a very good idea.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Who bushwhacks? Why?" on 03/18/2013 11:14:30 MDT Print View

In Alaska, even a "trail" can require a big of bushwhacking. Our brush grows in thick and many of our trails are little more than game trails a foot wide. We also have thorny stuff like wild rose, raspberry, and devil's club you have to push through. And off trail hiking can be the best way to see some new country. Generally I try and stay in the higher Alpine stuff, but you have to bushwhack a bit just to get there.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Who bushwhacks? Why? on 03/18/2013 11:34:39 MDT Print View

Tom, I still use a pair of aluminum Leki Ultralites. I'm not worried about fighting briars with them, they've already been bent once. I just bent it back and have been using them that way for 4 years. I'd upgrade to carbon fiber poles but I've made a special bond with my Leki's and couldn't bear to relegate them to the back of the closet after all we've been through together.


Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: OP on 03/18/2013 13:56:52 MDT Print View

Have not read the whole thread, just responding to OP:

"So, if you actually bushwhack,"

I do. I spend about 20 nights out backpacking a year, and about half of these nights are off-trail/bushwhacking trips. I do a lot of day trips too, especially during berry and mushroom season, and I would say 75% of my day trips are not on any official trail for at least some (if not most) parts of my hike. This is one of the main reasons I opted to have my go-to pack (Zpacks Zero) made in all hybrid Cuben, including the front pocket, and I love it. No holes or major damage after a year of use, and hardly any minor damage either. I put one tiny patch of duct tape recently on a tiny (1cm) scratch in the outer fabric, but didn't go through the inner Cuben.

"where do you do this?"

Sweden and Norway. Sometimes Spain.

In Sweden we have some of the best laws (if you ask me) as far as backpacking and nature go. It's both a trail hiker and bushwhackers paradise IMO. You can read more here:

"Why do you do this?"

Less people, and actually most of the time no people where I go. I enjoy experiencing a more wild nature experience, less or not disturbed by humans. I also enjoy the peace and quiet of hearing only the sounds of the woods--no talking, no cars, nothing civilized. And privacy is nice for a variety of activities ;)

I see more animals, and I very much enjoy observing them. The time I watched a gray fox walk down to an isolated lake I was meditating by and have a drink and then calmly trot away without noticing me will stay with me forever, for example. Or the time I sat on top of a boulder and watched deer feed under it, about 3-4 meters away. I could go on.

For my day trips to harvest berries and mushrooms, the further out there I get, the more bounty I can collect. Two years ago I was able to harvest a total of 16kg of wild mushrooms--it was a particularly good year for mushrooms that year, and I also found a few new spots way out there that are some of my best kept secrets.

Sometimes when I hike on trails there are areas on the map that look interesting that I will want to explore. Here is an example of that:

"How far do you bushwhack at a time?"

Depends. I have done three day trips, they take more planning and attention to detail, especially for obvious safety reasons. But it can be much slower than trail hiking, so usually around 10-15km a day is what I aim for rather than 20-30km when I am on a trail. I am definitely more tired after off-trail/bushwhacking trips at the end of the day, I would note.

On day hikes I can cover more ground because I usually go to areas I know, but it's hard to give estimates of day hikes for me--I just don't pay as much attention.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Who bushwhacks? Why? on 03/18/2013 14:09:32 MDT Print View

In the desert southwest almost all of my trips are off trail and like Craig and Nick said it is hard on packs mostly from rubbing up against rocks or hauling packs up and down short stretches. I now have three packs with the main body in dyneema or Xpac and no wear to that but the mesh side pockets all have holes in them and the silnylon roll top in one has tears from cactus. These kinds of trips are multi-day and many miles.

In the humid southeast not so much bushwacking but we do do some to connect up trails to make loops instead of point to point trips or in and outs. These bushwacks are usually very short, less than a mile.

My next pack will be all dyneema to take the abuse, don't need it to be waterproof to 200 meters, just a good pack liner.

Edited by abhitt on 03/19/2013 05:52:49 MDT.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Bushwhack on 03/18/2013 19:38:23 MDT Print View

I avoid bushehacking but as soon as I am above the treeline I like to roam and ridge walk. There is no feeling more free than off trail hiking above the tree line in alpine meadows. Most of the major trails here are in and outs and by going off trali you turn them into circuits. All you need to do is find a scrambleable pass.

RA Amundsen
Re: Who bushwhacks? Why? on 03/20/2013 03:23:51 MDT Print View

I bushwhack above the treeline - not sure if that counts.

Mostly it is in order to shortcut modern, "scenic" trails or get from one trail system to another. Always nice to go somewhere nobody else has ever been - then I stumble across a couple of fire rings that could be from the last Ice age...

A bit more picky if in the woods. Far more terrain there that will slow me down or steer me off course.

Haven't used light packs while bushwhacking yet, but far as I know, what gets eaten fast are pants and anything hanging on the sides of the pack.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Who bushwhacks? Why? on 03/20/2013 10:38:05 MDT Print View

A lot of my hiking in my local backcountry involves some amount of bushwhacking... sometimes the entire trip.

I live in an area dominated by chaparral. We've got lots of tough, scratchy, thorny brush and it grows in thick in our Mediterranean climate. Our mountains are made of gritty sandstone and sharp edged shales. Bashing through this brush and scrambling along these rocks tears up pack fabrics, clothes, skin, etc.

Why do I do it? Well, several reasons... the simplest being the FS can't keep up with basic trail maintenance on many of our trails, in the wilderness areas or otherwise. There's too little money and too much growth.

There's lots of interesting places out there that don't have trails going to them or no longer have trails going to them. It's still worth a visit to some of these amazing places but you've got to earn it with bashing your way through miles of brush. Native American rock art sites come to mind as one good example. I spend a fair bit of time exploring remote canyons, caves, and crags for signs of old encampments, etc.

Richard Reno
(scubahhh) - M

Locale: White Mountains, mostly.
Lots of bush whacking in the White Mountains... on 03/23/2013 16:21:59 MDT Print View

Mostly to get to out-of-the-way mountains that don't have trails.

Why? Ummm- because it's fun?

Of course it seems like I also do a lot of winter bush whacking, because I lose track of the trail!

wiiawiwb wiiawiwb
(wiiawiwb) - F
Several reasons to bushwhack on 03/24/2013 19:29:33 MDT Print View

I've hiked for many decades but am new to bushwhacking. For me it offers both a challenge to get someplace solely on my own and an opportunity to be completely alone with nature. Most of the bushwhacking I do is to secluded ponds or other points of interest.

Bushwhacking alone does allow me to test and hone my wilderness navigation skills. It also dramatically heightens my attentiveness to surroundings much more so than when I hike on trails. I watch where I place my steps, sometimes very carefully, and in certain instances even step count. That never happens with me on on trails.

There is also a sense of accomplishment going to a place that few have gone. Most hikers cruise up and down maintained trails like cars on a freeway and that describes 98% of the hiking I've done. Bushwhacking is more akin to driving an SUV off road.

joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
Who bushwhacks? Why? on 03/24/2013 20:12:27 MDT Print View

If I need to get from point A to point B and there's some bushes in the way then I go through them. It is all a part of off trail travel. If you are into, if not, that's cool too. Yeah it can get wild, but I like that kind of stuff. I get out for the adventure of it all.

If you are the type of person that gets frustrated easily, or are just looking for a pleasure cruise, bushwacking isnt for you

Edited by sparky on 03/24/2013 20:14:39 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
bushwacking on 03/25/2013 10:29:08 MDT Print View

"Other than that I try to avoid bushwhacking like the plague. Why? I am going long-distances so my main goal is making progress. In order to reach a certain goal within a given time frame I have to make a certain amount of progress every day. Bushwhacking is unpredictable and will slow me down tremendously - which is why I try to avoid it. "

If you define progress in a way which doesn't equate to miles than hiking on trails makes little sense.

Jim Milstein
(JimSubzero) - M

Locale: New Uraniborg CO
Off-trail in the Foothills of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado on 03/26/2013 20:24:20 MDT Print View

A great deal of my walking in the foothills zone of the San Juans is done off trail, necessarily, because there are very few trails. It's principally ponderosa, juniper, and gambel oak country with some other species in moister areas. I go for months, sometimes years, without seeing other people or their traces on my excursions. In winter, if there's sufficient snow, I ski. I see a lot of wildlife. By being quiet and non-threatening, sometimes they tolerate my presence. I have hiked with a flock of turkeys for a quarter mile. I have watched a doe nurse her twins up close. I have come face to face with a mountain lion and a bobcat, but not at the same time.

It is decidedly bushwhacking country due to the oak brush, which is frequently impenetrable. Sometimes I carry a carbon fiber pole, and I use it to whack away dead brush. So far, so good. (It's a ski pole)

I also ski the backcountry up higher in the Wolf Creek Pass region. Lots of people in the woods there. When I want solitude and a wilder experience I stay down lower where few go. No issues with damage to gear, of which I carry very little, but my skin takes a beating. When I return home scratched and bloody, I know I've had a good time.

Edited by JimSubzero on 03/26/2013 20:28:22 MDT.

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
rough on 03/27/2013 10:28:37 MDT Print View

Until you have seen what lies on the other side of the slide alder, gamble oak, micro-chicken-headed, limestone bluffs, and rotten granite chasms, then yes, why "bushwhack"? ;-)