Advice sought on extended trip planning

3:10 p.m. on April 16, 2008 (EDT)
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Well, as you may be able to see, I am new to the forums, but hope to become an active member. My main reason to join is that I am entertaining the idea of taking a 2 week hiking/camping trip this summer as a way to just take a break from everything, but have no idea where to start with the planning. My experience with the outdoors is mainly concentrated with my military service and did complete jungle and desert survival training, but those were all in semi-controlled environments. Aside from the Marines, I also have experience hiking a portion of the Colorado Trail with a group of friends for a week, some camping trips up in the Rocky Mtn National Park, and a few adventures here and there. So, needless to say, I am not a novice, but not experienced either.

My current idea is that I get at least one friend, preferribly two, to come along on this adventure with me. I am not ready to fly solo with this and have no intentions of doing so. I would like to start at one end of a trail and go to another, preferribly outside of Colorado. Maybe Oregon or Washington, but am open to recommendations. I want to carry in all my food as to limit my impact on the local wildlife, but am willing to consider limited hunting and fishing if need be. As for water collection, I have always planned my camping trips to take me around water sources so that I can filter my water as to limit the weight in my pack.

So, what I am asking of you all here is for advice, tips, recommendations on locations, and so on. This is not set in stone for a particular time aside from hoping to do this during the summer as I am a full time college student. I thank you all for your help iun advance and if you have any questions of me, please do ask.

12:57 p.m. on April 17, 2008 (EDT)
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As you imply, your military camping is not really all that applicable to backpacking. If you plan and prepare as you should, you won't use the survival training (especially the part of military survival training that had to do with avoiding the enemy and capture, and if captured surviving the "interrogation".).

In general, you should plan, as you say, to carry all your food. Hunting is mostly not appropriate in areas you would be backpacking, though fishing only requires very light tackle and can add a pleasant taste of fresh food on a week or longer trip (make sure you have the correct license for the area, which can be extremely expensive for states where you are not resident, plus some areas may only allow catch and release).

If you search back through the many posts here on Trailspace, you will find a lot of helpful information, so I won't repeat it here, just mention a couple more things that will differ from your military experience. Your idea of not going solo is a very good one, from both the safety standpoint and companionship (sharing the backpacking experience is a lot more pleasant for most people, especially when just learning - try to seek out an experienced mentor).

In the military, especially Marines, you carried heavy loads. This is neither necessary nor desirable for recreational backpacking. It also means you don't need (and should not wear) military boots - you won't need the aggressive ankle support, since you won't be carrying the hundred pound pack.

Your military map-reading and compass skills will serve you well, although you will be staying on trails for your first few trips (or should be). You will find a simple base-plate compass to be much more useful (and a lot lighter) than the type of compass you used in the Marines (you don't need to direct artillery and mortar fire, just get the general orientation of the map, then use the terrain to guide you).

There are a number of lightweight backpacking stoves, with the simplest (and least expensive) being the type that use compressed gas canisters (butane-propane mixes) with a burner that screws directly onto the threaded coupling on the canister. Freezedry meals are lightweight and many are fairly tasty (no need for MRIs, especially the self-heating type). For your cooking water to rehydrate the freeze-dry foods, you are bringing it to a boil anyway, so no need for the pump-filter. However, boiling all your drinking water requires extra fuel, so a small backpacking filter is useful. - I don't mention brands here, since Trailspace has lots of gear reviews (click at the top of the pages to get there). Besides everyone has their favorite make and model (my choices are, of course, far superior to anything else on the market).

Places to go - you mention Oregon and Washington. Add Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada (everything from the Rockies to the Pacific), since you are apparently in Colorado (add the New England, Appalachians, Smokies when you decide to go farther afield, then the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia Coast Ranges for your foreign backpacks, and the Chugach and Alaska Range when you want to travel still farther). In other words, there is a plethora of wonderful places to go backpacking, any of which will fit your criteria. I have backpacked in all those states and found fantastic places in all - you just can't go wrong with any of the places in any of the National Parks and designated Wilderness Areas.

11:27 p.m. on April 21, 2008 (EDT)
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I do agree with a lot of what Bill S (OGBO) has to say about trip planning.
The one thing I think Bill S may have missed is that you might want to try a couple of shake down trips with your buddies before the main trip.
If you have not hiked/camped with them before you might be unpleasantly surprised with the group interaction on or before your main trip. We had some interesting issues about directions to go with some of our more vocal members. (Dead Reckoning verses GPS) Stay away from GPS for now as it would be an unnecessary cost. Do spend time learning as much about the area you intend to go to. It will help you to enjoy the trip more and boost confidence should trouble rise.
The other reason for this would be to learn about, test your gear, before your main trip. My last winter trip was with 5 friends, for 4 days and a planned distance of 6 km on snowshoes with packs. As we sorted out and loaded up our packs at the trail head, we started with gear issues, and had gear issues all along the trip. A brand new back pack, zippers failed, wrong clothing packed (cotton), feet cold with non insulated boots, wet boots, boots broken. A lot of the gear was brand new at that point and was found wanting. One of our friends had taken a chance and ordered the gear from his suppliers. He spent a long time on the phone at the beginning and after the trip. We also had food issues, too much heavy type food was packed about 25lb too much. And the last thing about the trip was that one of our members was a rookie to backpacking, as well as snowshoeing. His pack was not properly adjusted, and over loaded. His physical conditioning was not up to what it could have been. He paid dearly for this. All in all we had a great time. Just learn from these things before you go.

12:32 p.m. on May 23, 2008 (EDT)
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X10 on the shakedown trip for a couple of reasons. You'll get a good feel for the gear (which is important) and for the friends (which is essential) - keep in mind that personality quirks that seem charming in town can really get on your nerves when you're with someone 24/7 for a week or more.

7:44 p.m. on May 23, 2008 (EDT)
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If you will only by using a stove to boil water for rehydrating food. Then the one I recommend for a more than one week trip is the $5.00, box shaped, fold open, Hexamine / Trioxane solid fuel stove. Made by Coghlans http://www.camping-survival.net/camp-stove.html Called an Emergency Stove, but it's one of my favourites. No stove is lighter. It uses waterproof solid fuel tablets. One tablet is enough to boil the one cup of water needed to rehydrate pack meals. The tablets can be used as fire starters to get wet wood burning. Plus, they are non-toxic. You get 24 tablets with the stove, and another 24 are only $2.75. So, a 100% reliable stove, with a 100% reliable fuel source. Heck, you can even burn twigs and pine cones in it if you run out of real fuel. When I go on ANY trip. Two days or two weeks I always bring this stove with me. As a matter of fact, even when I'm going for a couple hour hike while at a camping spot I'll bring it with me in my daypack, along with my METAL drinking cup. You can't boil water in plastic. Important note. You MUST use a windscreen in ANY wind with this stove. Tin foil folded over twice works well and is very light.

1:29 p.m. on May 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Hi Richard, I am also new to this site, it is good to get so many different perspectives from knowledgeable people. I would recommend finding a local hiking club and go on a few outings with experienced people who have developed skills that are applicable in your area / type of terrain. Couple of short trips to get the hang of it is excellent advise. On extended trips it is simple exposure to the elements that will prove to be the biggest problem, sunburn/windburn, foot blisters, infected cuts and scrapes, insect bites, rashes, also lack of sleep, running low on food and someone getting on your nerves whining about their blister or rash.
But since you have military training you probably already know that.
Just seek out a mentor and you won't waste time learning things the hard way. Some of the best trips I have been on were with ex-military guys (and gals).
I am sure you will excel in your outdoor endeavors. Good luck to you and thank you (and all others)for your service in the armed forces.

2:22 p.m. on May 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Since you already have some experience, you probably have an idea as to what worked on those trips and what didn't, but it wouldn't hurt to read a few books on backpacking to give you a more complete picture. The "bible" for backpackers is "The Complete Walker" by Colin Fletcher. Get the 4the Edition the latest one)which can be ordered online from stores like Amazon, B&N or Borders. REI should also have it.

One problem you will have if you don't have all your gear yet,is choosing from the bewildering array of choices for equipment at all different price points. There are dozens of packs,sleeping bags, tents, stoves and so many different kinds of clothes made from a wide variety of fabrics that you can easily be overwhelmed.

You can buy gear everywhere from Wal-Mart to specialized retailers like REI or smaller stores or online at dozens of outdoor gear websites.

Avoid any suggestion that any one piece of gear is "the best." That may be generally true, but it may not be the best choice for you, for various reasons. You already have two choices for a type of stove posted here, and that is just the beginning of it.

You can avoid making most gear selection mistakes by figuring out where you will be going most of the time and then tailoring your gear to those trips. For example, you don't need a 4 season mountaineering tent if all your trips are in summer in temperate climates and you don't need a multi-fuel stove if you have ready access to canisters or white gas, as you do here in the US.

One thing to be aware of is the trend among many backpackers towards lightweight, or even ultralightweight gear. Some of this gear is a good replacement for "mainstream" i.e. heavier gear, but some is more suited for experienced hikers who don't mind sacrificing comfort and to some degree, safety for a lighter pack. On the other hand, you don't need and really shouldn't be carrying 50 or 60 lbs on your back.

The more you read, here and elsewhere, the better position you will be in to ask questions about specific pieces of equipment, so don't hesitate to ask.

9:19 p.m. on May 28, 2008 (EDT)
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Not sure about your gear situation.

Couple comments:
1. Bear. Some areas require use of an "approved" bear resistant food container. I have a Garcia(?) plastic unit that was relatively inexpensive, but clunky and heavy. Wild Ideas makes a lighter more practical but mega $ unit. Then there is the Ursack. Use to be Kevlar, now Vectran bag. Light & functional, but now not approved for use in some areas.
2. Stoves. For the past few decades I've used white gas units. Actually only two. An Optimus that came in its own self contained blue fold open box and an early gen MSR Whisperlight. "Downgraded" to the simple, light and inexpensive alcohol burner (Trangia). If your cooking is going to be boil water add to dehydrate food and you don't mind waiting about 5 minutes for 1/2L to boil this stove seem to be the ticket. I tested some 70% and 90% isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) and didn't really notice much difference. 1/2 ounce required to get the 1/2L of water to a boil. So your fuel now has dual purpose. Stove and 1stAid. Use some Everclear and the fuel has 3 uses.
I think the stove, Clikstand + windscreen, 1.3L Tipot, cup, spork weight about the same as the worn out Whisperlight.

8:51 a.m. on May 29, 2008 (EDT)
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Did you do your jungle training in Panama? Jungle Expert certificate? I spent 2 years in Panama in the service and once you get used to that jungle, you can camp anywhere and be comfortable.

Last year I went on a 15 day backpacking trip in February w/o resupply and brought all the winter gear I needed along with an MSR Simmerlite white gas stove and a stout four season tent,etc. My entire kit with food came to around 75 pounds. I always take extra fuel and food and several books to read and I didn't mind the weight. The more weight(within reason), the longer you can stay out in harsh conditions(blizzards and high winds).

I'd say for a long trip the first thing is to thoroughly research the area and trails you plan on backpacking. Of course get the pertinent maps but also see if you can find a relevant guide book on the trails in the area and take the book with you to study while out. Proper prep beforehand makes the trip more predictable.

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