Complete Newbie!!

3:22 a.m. on June 7, 2001 (EDT)

Hello all and thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully respond to this post!

I am an absolute newbie when it comes to hiking- backpacking. However, I have purchased, over the last year or so, all the equipment I think i will be needing for a 5-7 day trip into the backcountry of california/oregon/washington. My dillema is that i dont know how to navigate in the backwoods and I dont really know what to expect... I have done my share of camping and day hikes but I'm suspecting its going to be alot tougher out there when Im a few days out. Any help, recommendations and/or advice would be greatly appreciated!
I am very passionate about this undertaking and determined to become quite the adept backpacker. Not too much needed on the medical aspect as I am a Paramedic but any backcountry/med tips would be helpfull.

Go ahead... Im ready for the flames ...but you gotta start somewhere right?

TIA to all who reply!

5:01 a.m. on June 7, 2001 (EDT)

Re: Me too!

Hi Jerry,

Welcome to the forum. I too am a greenhorn in this backpacking thing. I have many day hikes under my belt but have never tried backpacking. You have come to the right place for some great advice and tips. There is a lot of backcountry wisdom and knowledge to be gained here. This is one of the best sites on the web!

I am supposed to go this weekend. Gonna rain, but I guess I'm still going for it.


11:17 a.m. on June 7, 2001 (EDT)

a.k.a. G.L., Greased Lightning, Irv

Jerry - First of all, welcome aboard! I hope that you will have many, many years of magical and excellent adventures. As far as "tips" are concerned - my experience over the last 40 years of hiking and navigating all over the planet is that experience is by far the best teacher. Get out and do it! I know that's much easier said than done and that the back-country can be quite intimidating and very, very unforgiving. My suggestion is that you team up with some other folks in your area - hopefully with a bit of experience and learn from them. Go hiking with them and you'll be absolutely amazed at how much you learn. Most of the "tricks" of being safe and comfortable in the bush come only through experience, but can also come through reading everything (especially trail journals) that you can get your hands on and talking and hiking with as many experienced folks as you can. If you have not already done so, I'd recommend joining the Sierra Club as well as any other outdoor clubs/environmental groups active in your area - they offer classes and organized outings which I would recommend for an absolute virgin in the boonies. As far as land navigation is concerned, get a decent compass, a USGS 1:24,000 topo map of the area in which you live and a good map and compass book and learn the principles of staying found and moving about on familiar turf before you head into terra incognita. I should also advise you that your paramedic skills are a very valuable asset in the outdoors - for yourself as well as for others that you might encounter. However, as my Wilderness First Aid instructor stated, Paramedics in the front country have ambulances, immediate access to first line medical care, lots of gear and lots of support; in the back country, we've got duct tape, a small first aid kit, and the stuff between our ears to think ourselves through emergency situations. Learn to improvise with what you've got in your back-pack or better yet in the victim's backpack. The bottom line is to get out there and enjoy the miracle around you. Hope this helps - GL

11:19 a.m. on June 7, 2001 (EDT)
28 reviewer rep
1,261 forum posts
Hmmm, surprised Bill S hasn't given you the poop yet....

If you follow his advice you'll be hitting points on a topo map within 2 feet with just a compass.

I won't dare get into navigation tips for you. Part of my camping fun is going bushwacking at night with no flashlights, just a light stick (Krill Lamp) on my head and a tequila buzz going. Now if your into deliberately getting lost, let me know. I have great camping games for that!

Don't forget a mini hammock, tarp and rain cover for your pack.

11:24 a.m. on June 7, 2001 (EDT)

a.k.a. G.L., Greased Lightning, Irv
Just do it!

Hikergirl - Enough with the rain nonsense. If you're healthy enough to put on a pack and walk during mild sunny weather - you're good to go in just about any weather that you can encounter - barring obvious things like hurricanes, tornados, blizzards. i think you get my drift. You'll never be the outdoorswoman that you can be if you don't get out there and hike in less than ideal weather. Additionally, you're missing an entirely new and exciting dimension of the woods in the rain and snow and fog - Go for it and enjoy - GL

3:50 p.m. on June 7, 2001 (EDT)

Re: Just do it!


Hikergirl - Enough with the rain nonsense.

GL, You're absolutely right! I'm leaving in the morning - tarp, hammock, raingear, wine and all.


11:36 a.m. on June 8, 2001 (EDT)
4,419 reviewer rep
6,010 forum posts
Re: Hmmm, surprised Bill S hasn't given you the poop yet....


If you follow his advice you'll be hitting points on a topo map within 2 feet with just a compass.

>>> Nah, 100 feet is good enough, since you can usually see your destination when you are that close (except in a whiteout, heavy rain, thick woods, rough terrain, and a few other situations).

Actually, it's hard to know where to start with the questions that Jerry posted. Jerry, your best bet, as GL posted, is to get together with a outdoors club in your area. Many colleges have outing programs as well. Go to a backpacking or climbing - oriented store in your area (EMS and REI are the big national chains, but there are a number of others that are regional, or better yet, the local specialty shops). They usually have a bulletin board and offer seminars in how to get started. Since you say you are a paramedic, these groups will probably welcome you with open arms (and draft you into teaching wilderness first aid for them - if you are in the SF Bay area, we are looking for a replacement for our MD who has taught the classes for years and wants to retire).

A suggestion for navigation is to find your local orienteering club (look on and go to the clubs section, that's the US Orienteering Federation). This will teach you the basics of reading the terrain, routefinding, reading the map, and relating all these things together.

You could also take a course from one of the professional outdoor schools - Outward Bound, National Outdoor Leadership School spring to mind - or professional guide services - American Alpine Institute has good basic courses as well as advanced mountaineering and climbing courses.

And as the others posted:

1. read this group and the climbing companion group, and, and about a dozen other boards

2. read a few good books (Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills is the bible, but Mountaineers Press and NOLS have other good books - remember that book learning is not real-world, though)

3. just get out there and do it! (cautiously, one step at a time - don't attempt a through-hike until you have done a few carcamps, a few day hikes, a few 1 nighters, a few 3 nighters, a few 1-week, etc.) Talk to lots of people while you are out there.

4. Don't believe everything your hear and read - use lots of judgment and combine from all the sources.

9:37 p.m. on June 8, 2001 (EDT)

check that load

Look over the stuff your taking and decide if it is really worth it's weight. If it's a none essential leave it behind on a short hike and see if you really want it next time. Kepping the weight down will much improve your enjoyment of the day.

June 20, 2018
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