Backpacking Trip 5-7 Days

5:58 p.m. on January 3, 2018 (EST)
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Hello!

A friend of mine and I are planning a backpacking trip early this upcoming March. We are open to go anywhere in the US. We have not backpacked before but we’re experienced hikers, etc. Any standout recommendations?

Snow is OK, but muddy/wet path doesn’t seem appealing.

10:06 p.m. on January 3, 2018 (EST)
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What kind of equipment do you have, or plan to buy? That time of year your gear will dictate your options to a certain extent.

That time of year can also be hard to predict snow vs. mud/slush, unless you go somewhere that is still in heavy snow season, which I wouldn't recommend for novices, or somewhere where snow is rare or nonexistent.

In what part of the country are you located? While you said you are open to anywhere in the US, generally speaking I think for a first BP trip you are better to be closer to home, at least within driving distance. It's a lot to deal with flying with backpacking equipment and then renting a car for a first BP trip.

I would further recommend that since you both are new to BPing that you don't bite off too much -- stay where you are close to roads and civilization, for example. Think of it as a learning experience about backpacking at least as much, if not more, than about the destination. I think a great location would be a spot where you could park the car and then have 3 different directions to go about a day's worth out, so day 1 you go out one direction and camp, day 2 come back and camp near the car, day 3 go out a day in another direction and camp, day 4 come back and camp near the car, days 5-6 same thing in a third direction. Gives you options to stash gear in the car, maybe food (depending where you are), opportunities to bail if needed but if not it could still feel like a 6-day trek (because it is).

9:32 a.m. on January 4, 2018 (EST)
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We plan on buying whatever we needed once we figured out where we wanted to go, so currently I don't think we have anything specifically related to BP, but are generally equipped. 

We're in MA. I had assumed we would go further south to the Appalachians or west to Zion or something, but your idea regarding not going too far and having access to the car makes sense. Any suggestions for something near the NE?

10:01 a.m. on January 4, 2018 (EST)
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If you have never been backpacking, don't start with a 5-7 day trip.  I say this for two reasons.

1.  If you are three days into a hike and decide that you are desperately unhappy, three days is a long way to hike back out again.

2.  Just carrying food for 5-7 days is a lot of weight, and the more weight you carry, the less fun you have.

I would suggest that you start with three things: 

1.  A sleep-out in your backyard or in a car campground near your house, where you can field test all your gear and make sure that it works---and that you are comfortable with it.  Do this first.  Every serious backpacker does this with every new piece of equipment---because we hate finding out that something doesn't work  9 miles from the trailhead.

2.  Then do a  shorter basecamp or overnight hike.  Nothing more than 6 miles, so that you can get back the car relatively easily if something goes wrong.  A base camp in the southwest would allow you to explore a bunch of side canyons, for example, as day hikes on day two, and then hike out on day three.

3.  Then you can tackle a longer hike of 3-4 days of hiking, knowing that you like doing this, and that all your equipment works, you can eat the food you brought, you're warm enough, and you're going to have fun.

Zion/Canyonland/Escalante has lots of options. 

11:30 a.m. on January 4, 2018 (EST)
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I agree with balzaccom.  Backpacking takes some skill acquisition to be really fun.

Be careful about Zion/ Escalante. It can be really cold and snowy in March, April and even May in the high desert. March is pretty early for backpacking.  I would suggest southern or central Arizona, coastal California like the Los Padres NF or the middle coast. Big Bend would be closer and a lot of fun.

4:20 p.m. on January 4, 2018 (EST)
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My suggestion of doing a series of 1-day or 2-day out-and-backs or loops was trying to find a way to do an overnighter but then also to make a 5-7 day trip out of it if you're doing well and enjoying yourselves.

From Massachusetts I think you'd need to travel pretty far in March to make sure weather isn't a major factor. All in all you may be better off waiting until later in the Spring when you can stay close to home and not be too concerned with weather.

6:13 p.m. on January 4, 2018 (EST)
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Good advice by everyone on this thread.  I like JRs ideas a lot. 

6:56 p.m. on January 4, 2018 (EST)
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I would have said Maine, VT, NH or the Adirondacks but not in March for the inexperienced.

11:31 a.m. on January 5, 2018 (EST)
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JR I was just seeing this post...What about Shenandoah National Park in Virginia...100 miles of the AT goes through the park...They could do an out and back..The waysides are open at the end of march and if it doesn't live up to what they expect they could get a campsite or a room at the lodge and then head home...Thoughts?

3:28 p.m. on January 5, 2018 (EST)
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Charlie,

You say you "I don't think we have anything related to backpacking, but are generally equipped."

I don't think you know what you are getting yourselves into at all, especially in March.

Try some 2 or 3 day trips near home to start to figure out what you are doing.

6:39 a.m. on January 6, 2018 (EST)
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Denis has a good idea.

12:22 p.m. on January 6, 2018 (EST)
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I'm not specifically familiar with Shenandoah or the weather there in March, but it does sound promising.

I also agree with ppine, if you don't have any backpacking equipment then you aren't "generally equipped". There's a lot of stuff that doesn't apply much to dayhiking but is critical for overnights and extended trips: shelter, sleep system, cook kit, food storage, camp comfort, extra clothes, etc. And you shouldn't just go grab stuff at the nearest store, you need to learn about your options and get a sense for which you might prefer. Many of your best options may be from online-only vendors. Do a lot of reading and ask a lot of questions. And then once you have your stuff you'll need a new backpack to fit it all in. A longer trip also has spillover considerations for things you carry on dayhikes that you may think you are already equipped but actually may not be -- emergency beacons/communications, battery life for electronics, rain gear, water treatment, FAK, etc.

So you've given yourself a big homework assignment, and the good news is you're starting off right by coming to a forum like this to ask questions.

1:18 p.m. on January 6, 2018 (EST)
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After further consideration, I would suggest you abort your mission.  Nothing wrong with a long car camping trip.  You need some experience before you head "Out West" into unfamiliar territory to go on your first backpacking trip in March with no skills and little equipment.  That is how you become a statistic in a book somewhere.  There is no one out there. There is no phone reception most of the time. You mess up and you can be  in real trouble. 

3:06 p.m. on January 6, 2018 (EST)
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Awesome!

I like the idea of contiguous day hikes + overnight hikes to get started.

I am not sure where we'll go to yet, but will definitely look into Shenandoah.

Thanks!

9:36 p.m. on January 6, 2018 (EST)
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My .02 is that you should get some basic gear (after careful consideration of course) and try to get in one or two easy one-nighters in not-too-unfriendly conditions before you go wherever. Watch the weather forecast and pick a weekend when it won't be too horrendous. Find a shelter or campsite (maybe in western MA or southern VT) not too far from a road -- the goal would be to get some experience with your gear, not cover any distance. If there is significant snow you will need to have snowshoes and/or find a well-trodden trail. Winter camping can be pretty miserable, but if you play the weather right and go with a competent friend or two you shouldn't have too bad a time (but you may still be surprised at how darn cold 30F can be at 6:00 in the evening). You'd be better off getting your first experience in the spring/summer but if you're young and determined and careful you can probably pull something off without killing yourself, and gain some valuable experience. 

10:27 a.m. on January 7, 2018 (EST)
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See next post---

10:29 a.m. on January 7, 2018 (EST)
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balzaccom said:

2.  Just carrying food for 5-7 days is a lot of weight, and the more weight you carry, the less fun you have.

 My best trips are when I have a 21 day food load and don't see syphilization for 3 weeks.  Long trips are the most fun for me.

12:02 p.m. on January 7, 2018 (EST)
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But you have done this before, Walter.  And the OP has never backpacked. 

7:39 p.m. on January 8, 2018 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said:

 My best trips are when I have a 21 day food load and don't see syphilization for 3 weeks.  Long trips are the most fun for me.

To be fair Tipi, you are in a different class of camping. You live in the wilderness more than you sleep in a bed, and I've seen you post about carrying 100lb packs. 

I agree with what most are saying, start close to your car for a couple of days. Work up to the longer hikes. When I test critical new gear (hammocks, sleeping bags, etc) for Trailspace's Review Corps, the first test is in my backyard. The second test is in woods about 1/2 mile from my house (My ATV sits a few feet away.). Only after I feel the gear is working according to claims do I take it out on the trail. I want to know what I'm doing, before I'm stuck days from a way out of the situation. 

10:16 p.m. on January 8, 2018 (EST)
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Charlie even if yall wanted to do dayhikes and camp in one of the many campsite locations shenandoah has its doable.If you wanted to stay in the lodge and do that to doable...I am just giving options and were all concerned with you and your friend getting to know your gear before you have a miserable experience..It porbably has happened to all of us...Trust me on that...LOL

8:42 a.m. on January 9, 2018 (EST)
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denis daly said:

Charlie even if yall wanted to do dayhikes and camp in one of the many campsite locations shenandoah has its doable.If you wanted to stay in the lodge and do that to doable...I am just giving options and were all concerned with you and your friend getting to know your gear before you have a miserable experience..It porbably has happened to all of us...Trust me on that...LOL

 I can vouch for what Denis is saying! On one of my first solo trips I neglected to verify that the rain fly was in the bag with a boy scout pup tent I had borrowed. Guess what happened that night? lol

10:09 a.m. on January 9, 2018 (EST)
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From my SAR times, the overwhelming common denominator in our victims was inexperience, coupled with improper equipment and lack of understanding of its proper use.  Start in familiar territory with short trips and extend as your competence develops, which it surely will. 

12:23 p.m. on January 9, 2018 (EST)
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charlie, 

Listen. These people know what they re talking about. 

6:22 p.m. on January 15, 2018 (EST)
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hikermor said:

From my SAR times, the overwhelming common denominator in our victims was inexperience, coupled with improper equipment and lack of understanding of its proper use.  Start in familiar territory with short trips and extend as your competence develops, which it surely will. 

 ^^^This!^^^

Last week I was involved in a FaceBook discussion between 2 women who were planning a week long, 160-mile hike with 4 kids. They were talking about "Billy" just carrying a backpack with his stuffed animals. To save weight, they were just going to take sheets and blankets. They were discussing their new Walmart tents and they were going to bring hammocks in case they didn't want to tent. 

I jumped in and urged them to think about what they were doing. I pointed out I have hiked in wet July's where I needed a 40F bag to stay warm at night. I explained Walmart tents are fine until the weather's not. I pointed out that for a week on the trail each woman would have to start off with close to 40lbs of food, plus gear. 

Thankfully, they actually heard me and decided to begin with overnight trips closer to their cars. I can't imagine what might have happened if they had been dropped off at a trailhead in less-than-ideal conditions.

11:44 p.m. on February 4, 2018 (EST)
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I love Grand Canyon any time of the year. : ) 

February 20, 2018
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