Have you ever had a backpacking trip that was a disaster – even though you brought everything you needed? Maybe you had matches, but couldn’t get that fire going. You need more than good gear to assure a safe and enjoyable wilderness experience. You need to know how to do a few things, and the following list will get you started.
1. Learn firemaking. Practice in your yard if you have to, but try to start that fire with one match. Try it the next time it’s raining too.
2. Learn to pitch a tent. Do it wrong and the rain will come in, or the the wind will tear the seams. Tents should be pitched tight, and you should be able to set your tent up in a few minutes.
3. Learn how to stay warm. Practice camping in the yard, to see how blocking the wind, wearing a hat, and eating fatty foods before sleeping can keep you warmer.
4. Learn to cook over a fire. It’s not as easy as it seems. Block the wind, cover the pan, keep the fire small and concentrated. Practice, and time yourself. Faster is better in a jam, and it’s always possible your stove will break.
5. Learn about edible plants. Knowing how to identify cattails and three or four wild edible berries can make a trip more enjoyable, especially if you ever lose your food to a bear.
6. Learn how to walk. Learning how to pace yourself and how to move comfortably over rocky terrain means you’ll be less tired, and less likely to twist an ankle.
7. Learn about animals. Can you tell if a bear is “bluff charging” or stalking you? If it’s the latter, playing dead will make you a bear’s supper. Hint: lots of noise usually means he just wants to frighten you, but you need to read up on this one.
8. Learn to watch the sky. Is that a lightning storm coming or not? It might be useful to know when you’re on that ridge. Learn the basics of predicting weather, and you’ll be a lot safer.
9. Learn basic first aid. Can you recognize the symptoms of hypothermia? Do you know how to properly treat blisters? Good things to know.
10. Learn navigation. Maps don’t help if you don’t know how to use them. The same is true for compasses
You don’t need to be an expert in wilderness survival to enjoy a safe hiking trip. It can help to know a little more though. Use the backpacking skills list above, and learn something new.
I wouldn’t have thought a backpack with wheels would actually work for backpacking, but when I saw the web site for the “Wheelpacker”(TM), I was impressed. You wear a frame that attaches you to a wheeled pack. It can even go over logs and rocks. It started me thinking about what other backpacking innovations are just waiting to be marketed. Here are a few of the things I came up with. Steal these ideas, please.
Inflatable Frame Backpack
With frame-less backpacks we often put folded sleeping pads in the pack for cushioning against our backs and some support for the load. Why not just have the part of the pack that rests against the user’s back inflate. With the same technology used for lightweight self-inflating sleeping bag pads, it would only add about six ounces. The backpack could then double as a foot-bag/pad for sleeping.
Taking this idea further, I imagine a self-inflating backpack that folds out into a sleeping pad. The backpack “frame” would be the pad, in a “U” shape for some rigidity in the pack. Self-inflating sleeping bag pads are as light as 14 ounces now, and frame less packs 12 ounces, so the combination could probably be made to weigh just 20 ounces.
Wax Paper Food Bags
Put backpacking food in wax-paper packaging instead of plastic. The packages then double as emergency fire-starters, since wax paper will usually burn even when wet.
When I need to carry more water I use the plastic bladders from boxed wine. They are light, strong, and I inflate the bag with air to use as a pillow too. To market a dual-purpose water container/pillow, it just needs a soft removable covering of some sort.
Why not a frame-less backpack with a jacket that is a part of the pack? It can be folded out of the way, and the pack would have normal shoulder straps. When wearing the jacket, though, it would stabilize the pack, keep you warmer, and make it easy to push through heavy brush, because it wouldn’t catch on things as easily. It is something like wearing a large jacket over a backpack, but with the weight-savings and stability that come from combining them. It could be called a “Jacket Pack-it.”
Print a chess/checkers board on a jacket or backpack, and you have a carry-along game that weighs nothing extra. Great for spending hours in the tent waiting out the rain. If you don’t carry the pieces, stones or pine cones could work as checkers.
Backpacking gear ideas and innovations keep popping into my head as I write this. Most are based on the idea of “dual purpose” items. They may work, some may not, but it is an entertaining dose of inspiration from a backpack with wheels.