Category Archives: Safety

Planning Backpacking Trips

Planning Backpacking Trips is both an art and a science, but I know more about the science. When I plan a backpacking trip, I always start out by making a chart. I include as many campsites, road crossings, and other useful way-points as possible. I then list the cumulative mileage and elevation gain from the beginning to each way-point. Then I calculate cumulative hiking hours to each of these way-points. I use this chart to decide the ideal starting and ending point for each day of the trip.

planning backpacking trips
Trip Details with Peaks and Campsites
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Winter Backpacking Rules

I’ve had close calls with hikers getting hypothermia, so I always insist on a few basic rules for winter backpacking. These rules should always be followed in order! They are based on your survival priorities: “You can survive for three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food.”

Fire at Governor Clement Shelter
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Maine Appalachian Trail: Rangeley to Grafton Notch – ABORTED!

In May of 2019, I lead a group of backpackers from Hudson Valley Hikers on a trip in Southern Maine. Our plan was to hike from Rangeley to Grafton Notch, some 34 miles over rough mountains. Southern Maine has a reputation for being one of the most rugged sections of the Appalachian Trail. My biggest concern in the weeks leading up to this trip were late season snow conditions. The northeast had seen an unusual amount of snowfall in April and May. Many locals I spoke with warned me that snow in their yards had just recently melted. No one had any information on the trail at high elevations. There are no 4000 footers in this section, so no one had made any trip reports. We were going in blind.

Height of Land
Height of Land on Maine 17 near Rangeley (Photo Credit: Paul Ferlazzo)
Continue reading Maine Appalachian Trail: Rangeley to Grafton Notch – ABORTED!

Long Term Water Treatment Methods

long term water treatmentMike wants to know more about long term water treatment methods.  Mike will be participating in my upcoming Intro to Backpacking event at Hariman State Park with Hudson Valley Hikers. Mike asks:

What’s the best long-term method of water filtration? E.g. Trump leads us into nuclear war, city water will be undrinkable for 5 years and you can no longer buy whatever filtration straw, tablet, etc, and we all retreat to the woods for survival…

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Backpacking Water Strategy

I used to use Poland Springs bottles to store water while hiking, but now I use Fiji Bottles.
Stopping for a drink from one of my 1.5 Liter Poland Springs bottles on a rainy day.

Today we will discuss a simple backpacking water strategy for staying hydrated.  According to studies, up to 75% of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration. Many of the signs of dehydration are overlooked or attributed to other causes. These include fatigue, headaches, dry/itchy skin or eyes, or dizziness.  Proper hydration is critical for every system in the body. Water is necessary for carrying nutrients, regulating temperature, flushing toxins, purging digestive waste, and much more.  When we’re exerting ourselves on hot days in the woods, it is all the more important to have a sound backpacking water strategy. Continue reading Backpacking Water Strategy

Essential Backpacking Skills

Checking out my map one last time before we begin.

Ahead of my upcoming “Intro to Backpacking” event, Andre asks about Essential Backpacking Skills:

I have been attending the HVH Beginner Series hikes to get in shape and acquainted with the area and gear, and Mary F. and Timothy from HVH (Hudson Valley Hikers) recommended I sign up for this one. My medium-term goal is to be able to backpack on my own, which leads to my question: What kind of skills do I have to learn to do solo backpacking/camping, and what challenges can I expect as opposed to doing it with a group?

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Overnight Food Storage

An American Black Bear at the Bear Mountain Zoo.

There’s only one week to go before my  “Intro to Backpacking” Seminar at Harriman State Park with “Hudson Valley Hikers.”   If you’d like to attend, please sign up soon. Anyone who joins will be put on the waitlist until they email me a backpacking question.  For more information about the event, please write a comment at the bottom of this post.

Today, we will answer Liz’s question about overnight food storage.

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Water Treatment

Water Treatment
Platypus Water Bladders

In a few weeks I’m going to be hosting an “Intro to Backpacking” Seminar at Harriman State Park.  I’m hosting this event via the Meetup Group “Hudson Valley Hikers.”  Meetup events tend to get a lot of RSVP’s, but also a lot of No-Shows. In order to vet people out before giving them a spot at the seminar, I’ve asked them to email me questions about backpacking.  Some of them are pretty good and I’ll be sharing the answers via a series of posts called “Ask CampingJay.” This post will discuss Water Treatment Methods. Continue reading Water Treatment

Winter Backpacking – Backup Plan Implemented

A snowy winter backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.
A snowy winter backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.

When heading out into the wilderness, one must always plan ahead, study the route and weather predictions, carry the correct gear, and have a back-up plan. Perhaps these rules are never more true than when winter backpacking.  Knowing your the route, the weather, the abilities of your crew, how to properly use your gear and having some survival skills make a fun time out of a potentially dangerous situation. Continue reading Winter Backpacking – Backup Plan Implemented