From the rocky outcrops of the Talladega National Forest to the waterfalls of the Sipsey Wilderness, Alabama is home to many excellent backpacking trails that practically beg for an overnight adventure.
If you’ve only done day hikes, however, a longer overnight trek through the backcountry can seem slightly intimidating. But with a little research and planning, your first backpacking trip can be an amazing experience that paves the way for future adventures.
The rewards are well worth the planning and effort. Deep in the woods, you’ll discover the kind of scenery, solitude, and natural wonders that many people never experience. At night, beneath the stars, far away from civilization and crowds, you’ll savor a sense of calm that’s hard to find in today’s fast-paced, tech-saturated world.
To help you launch your first outing, we’ve compiled 10 insider tips to help you plan your route, choose the right gear, and travel comfortably and safely in the backcountry. Follow these guidelines, and your first backpacking trip will likely be the first of many.
There is a string of mountains in Colorado I hold near and dear to my heart, where green high-alpine valleys dotted with wildflowers like confetti meet dizzying rock spires, and steep, grassy hillsides tumble into the shimmering waters of untouched lakes. The effort to reach this pristine wilderness is not for the faint of heart: Getting there often involves steep elevation gains, poorly maintained trails, or sometimes, no trail at all. It took me four years to find these spots, and I could spend a lifetime discovering every valley, ridgeline, and high alpine creek among them.
This glorious sense of discovering something new is at the heart of exploring the wilderness, but it’s getting harder and harder to do these days. People are getting outdoors in record numbers, which is generally a positive, but one downside is the increasing difficulty of finding that “secret” spot that no one knows about. But it’s these very places that keep the adventure alive. Here, a few tricks to finding your secret wilderness spot.READ MORE
What’s a hiker’s worst and most common enemy? Bears? Weather? No! It’s the common, but painful, blister.
Even a short day hike can seem like a death march when you have blisters, but there are ways to prevent this suffering, or at least reduce the pain. The key is to know potential pressure points where a blister can form, and to know how to recognize when one might be forming. Plus, you can take certain precautions before hitting the trail.READ MORE
Building the perfect campfire: an indispensable skill for any outdoors enthusiast, given the life-saving properties of an emergency blaze—not to mention the fundamental bragging rights. (Take that too far, though, and you’ve got one of those arenas prone to obnoxious contests and condescending tutorials by insecure campers compelled to demonstrate their outdoorsy and macho bona fides.) Really, there’s no one formula that translates to the “best” campfire: There are certainly various options for fuel arrangement and materials, as long as you understand the basic principles of combustion.READ MORE
So there is plenty to be said about the benefits of merino wool! We can talk about it’s ‘fabled warm when wet’ properties. We can talk about the ultra soft, non-itchy texture. Or how about it’s durability and breathability. Even its moisture wicking and temperature regulating properties. All of which have been well documented, tested, and talked about. All of which has made merino wool the most versatile and sought after outdoors fabric… But what about the smell?READ MORE
For many of us, menu planning for a backpacking trip is a last minute consideration. Stop off at a grocery on the way up to the mountains and grab the essentials: mac and cheese, ramen, oatmeal, and, of course, bars, bars, and more bars. But the longer your hike (around the third day of a backpacking trip is usually when it becomes tough to eat another energy bar), the more important it is to vary your diet, both to maintain a high interest in your food and to keep your energy levels up and active. If you’re planning your first long hike, whether it’s for six days or 60, you’ll want to spend some time considering what to eat, how much, and when.READ MORE
Hiking the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, which begins on Georgia’s Springer Mountain and runs all the way north to Mount Katahdin in Maine, is certainly a hardcore adventure. But making it through the 100-Mile Wilderness in Maine—generally considered the wildest, most remote section—earns another level of bragging rights. Signs posted by the Maine Appalachian Trail Coalition at either end of the trail sum it up nicely:READ MORE
Winter doesn’t mean the camping season is over. With proper gear and planning, savvy outdoor lovers can immerse themselves in nature year-round—and savor the solitude and serenity of a winter landscape almost all to themselves. Cold weather camping is quiet and peaceful, and comes at slow, even introspective pace, since most other campers are long gone, but the sunsets are every bit as beautiful, and the campfires are even more comforting. Here’s how to do it, without dropping a bundle on gear.READ MORE
Check, re-check, then check it again. That’s how I plan and pack. Whether it’s for travel or hiking. I try to go as lite as I can but carry what is necessary.
This trip was no different. I was antsy and excited. I had another knee surgery two months prior and this was to be my first hike. As John Muir put it – the mountains are calling, and I must go. Cabin fever had more than set in, and it was the summer.READ MORE
Peakbagging – “An activity in which hikers, climbers and mountaineers attempt to reach a collection of summits, published in the form of a list.”
I got into peakbagging almost 3 years ago. At first I would just hike up mountains to enjoy the views. I would only stay on trails and after a while, my trips became fairly limited. That is when I decided to literally go off the beaten paths in search of new adventures.READ MORE
When you think about going on an adventure, you may not think about how important training off the trails is. Or you may think “all I have to do is hike” to have a successful adventure. Sure, this may be applicable for some smaller treks, but larger, more ambitious ones require additional exercise.READ MORE
It might sound silly to someone who spends most of their time on well-beaten paths, but for some of us, coming across the right adventure partner can be as difficult as finding the right life partner.
There are a lot of things to take into account in order to create the right chemistry and make sure that everybody comes home safe and sound.
I couldn’t go to the swimming pool without developing a rash from the chlorinated water. I went through spouts of eczema and allergic reactions most of my life. I cannot wear any synthetic fabric for too long and I can definitely not have polyester on my skin when involved in intense physical activity. As I’ve learned to avoid those situations altogether, it has never been a major problem for me. But it eventually changed, when I moved to Alaska and felt compelled to take on the outdoors through various sports.READ MORE
Everything from the type of gear you carry, the food you bring, and the trips you take are becoming more demanding and extreme. Over the past fifteen or so years, backpacking has really seen a new trend: going lighter.