Alright, I have camped a fair amount in my young life, but I have never truly taken on extensive hiking where a vehicle cannot be readily accessed to find the nearest restaurant because someone left the food out or a persistent rain storm is preventing a happy campfire. I am delighted by the prospects of carrying everything I need to survive on my back. During my ten month long travels across portions of South America, I truly gained an insight for properly selecting all the clothing and gear you will want access to for a year in changing climates and activities, the limitations of the carrying capacity of your backpack, and the compromise of only being able to take what you can actually lift and carry on your back.
Now travel backpacking and hiking backpacking are significantly different in a plethora of ways, however my focus is on the packing itself. I carried around a 65L pack that was consistently at 50 lbs for the first few months and 40 lbs for the last few after sending a package home to my parents. Some people would commend my minimalist abilities, especially as a female, for being able to have all the gear, shoes, clothes, toiletries etc for adventuring, nights out, and long bus rides for every range of climate from beach town desert to alpine mountains to tropical jungle. I agree, I feel quite capable to pack a bag for a long trip when the topic is travel. However, when the activity underway is trekking and camping, the pack inventory takes on a whole new dimension of consideration.
First and foremost, during my travels I was never required to carry my entire pack and all its belongings more than a few miles to or from a bus terminal to my destined hostal. Any sort of hiking endeavors were kept to day long ordeals or I repacked my bag to only carry the essentials and left the rest in a storage locker. Thus, in my ambitions to become a proper thru hiker, I want to extend my minimalist abilities into the hiking and camping spectrum of my life. I am always a proponent of being aware of your impact on the surroundings, living simply and kindly, and always doing whatever brings the most happiness to your life. Back to topic, in my preparations for the CT, I have taken a peek into the vast realm of backpacking, thru hiking, ultralight backpacking, and other associated topics. The resources are endless, the information is readily available, and the communities of people already involved are eager to share their knowledge.
Having only spent a couple days looking into these matters, I have developed a list of my favorite information sites thus far. They are in no particular order.
Backpacking Light: Pack Less. Be More.
This has probably been my most accessed information portal. They provide access to an immense amount of information. There are links to personal hiking blogs, BPL equipment review, how-to and feature articles, a community forum for reviews of gear, trails and general banter, and they even offer courses and hard to find ultralight gear. I am particularly fond of their community gear reviews. A single location to find discussion on practically any gear question conceivable, literally. I have poured over topics as mundane seeming as the gram difference in a pot lid. Though I must state that as you enter ultralight backpacking, the argument of whether shaving grams off base weight is worth the hassle will always be yes regardless if you are sans toothbrush, cooking over a Fancy Feast stove, in your one set of clothes for 30+ days.
Backpack Gear Test: The most comprehensive interactive gear reviews and tests on the planet
This lives up to its name. If you want to know about the performance of gear, seriously check out this site.
Wilderness Survival Forums
A great site for posing outdoors questions and getting great feedback from the community.
Lightweight Backpacking 101
Provides a good introduction to lightweight backpacking. Get resource for sending you in the right direction for other great resources.
Ultimate Ultralight Backpacking
Provides a good introduction on lightweight backpacking and gear selection.
Backpacker: The Outdoors at Your Doorstep
This is actually a magazine you can subscribe to, but the website itself provides a great overview of hiking ideas that you can find by locale, gear reviews, trail forums, and community input. Having grown up in Kansas, I think the interactive trail finder was my favorite part. Who knew that Kansas had trails? 😉
These are actually organization sites, but they are just as valuable in resources.
American Long Distance Hiking Association – West
Pacific Crest Trail Association
Continental Divide Trail Coalition
Finally, some of the best information is through personal hiker/backpacker blogs. There are heaps of people out there doing all the research for you and providing a concise overview of their findings and experiences so you can jump ahead of the line to the fun part. There are thousands of hiking blogs out there. Take advantage.
Section Hiker: Hiking and Backpacking for Beginners and Experts
Philip Werner provides key advice for all levels of backpackers in terms of gear, Leave No Trace, different seasons, general tips and how-tos, and trail information. This is a great resource where someone the appropriate level of expertise has gathered information in one succinct location.
Two-Heel Drive, a Hiking Blog
Tom has a fantastic blog about hiking, making a hiking blog, and so much more. I am sure I will spend more time heeding his advice as I continue my own blog. However, I view my own blog more as an information source for family and friends to keep up with my adventures than as an information source.
Andrew Skurka //Adventurer, Guide, Speaker, Writer
Andrew Skurka is an incredible adventurer. Most known for his long distance hiking. His blog is part of a fuller site that offers a wealth of information.
I have come to really like this blog. Stick began his blog to document his own progression into the backpacking realm. He is the kind of person you want to read a hiking blog from because his experiences are self contrived. There is something refreshing and encouraging to see people go through a similar experience as yourself but being so open about the follies and blunders along the way.
This is John Abela’s hiking and gear website. Great source for equipment reviews and comparisons, outdoor cooking advice, and general hiking guidance. John is part of a growing group of individuals pushing the bounds on light and ultralight backpacking into super ultralight and extreme ultralight backpacking, with how gear is constructed, used, multi-purposed, and stretched to the limits of functionality, all in the name of a lighter base weight.
Light & Ultralight Backpacking
Jolly Green Giant provides information for light and ultralight backpacking in terms of gear use and techniques. He is conscientious about researching the best materials, technology, techniques, and necessities when it comes to carrying everything on your back and surviving.
Chris’s take is to “Dork out Outdoors.” He focuses on California hiking but I am quite fond of the articles on his Tips page.
This is it for now. As I said, however, I have only just begun my quest into coupling gram counting with adventure seeking. This is sure to be an enjoyable, enlightening experience.