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#176852 - 05/02/13 02:23 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: wandering_daisy]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6738
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Random thoughts here:

I also do nearly all of my hiking and backpacking alone. However, I have many years' experience in the back country behind me.

Since my pace is quite a bit slower than most, I've found that I'm actually safer alone. With a group, I'm always pushing to keep up, which makes me more prone to falls and accidents. I'd rather go at what is a comfortable pace for me, and that's no longer 2-3 miles per hour, more like 1 to 1 1/2. I do not need the anxiety of knowing that other people are either way out ahead of me waiting or that they are deliberately slowing their pace so I can keep up.

Since I am alone and am therefore more vulnerable, and since I'm well aware that at my age even a minor accident will probably end my hiking career for good, I am extra careful.

I always leave an itinerary with a family member who (1) can be trusted to call at the specified time if I'm overdue and (2) will not panic and call if I'm just a few minutes late. I specify a specific time to call if she hasn't heard from me, usually 24 hours later than I plan to come out (I'm always prepared for that much delay and it wouldn't be unusual--I've also been known to come out a day early). Since many trailheads have no cell phone reception, I always allow plenty time for me to drive out to where I can call. In some cases that's not until the nearest town, which may in some cases be several hours' drive from the trailhead. When in doubt, for planning purposes I assume no cell phone reception except within a few miles of towns.

I carry a PLB in case of serious emergency. Like the "ten" essentials, it comes with me when I'm way from camp fishing, finding water, etc. The chances are therefore excellent that if I'm past the 24 hours after I said I'd emerge and I haven't pushed the button, that I'm just running that much more behind schedule, or that my car broke down. The only other likely possibility is that I'm dead!

I will go off-trail if it's easy off-trail (no more than easy Class 2) and I've indicated it on my itinerary. There is quite a bit of off-trail travel that involves following officially abandoned trails still in use or various "use trails," some of which are more-used than the official Forest Service version, and don't involve anything more strenuous than sharpened navigation skills. I always go well off-trail to find a camp site and, in case of a lake, generally prefer to camp in the less-impacted areas near the inlet or outlet. If the off-trail stretch becomes too difficult, I turn around.

Like W_D, I'm pretty much of a loner and prefer it that way.

And also like W_D, I don't consider traveling a well-populated trail (to me that's where you regularly meet 3-4 people in a day) to be traveling alone.

As with every other aspect of hiking and backpacking, for going solo start slowly and work up. First, acquire plenty of experience--a lot more than you think you need--with all your gear and your navigation skills in all sorts of conditions and weather. If you've had no experience being stuck in a three-day storm in the high Rockies which ends with 6-8 inches of snow and then a night down to 10* F, going alone is not the time to learn to cope. Ditto backpacking for several straight days in our steady Pacific NW rain.

Second, once you have a good fund of experience, start with short overnight trips (close enough to the trailhead that you can easily bail out) and work up from there. Stick to well-populated trails. Do be more cautious and remember that alone you're more vulnerable. If you acquire new gear, start by testing it thoroughly, first in your back yard or car camping in a nearby state park, then on short overnight trips. Pick bad weather for some of those testing occasions!

As for finding people to go with: generally you'll find any number of hiking clubs and a number of meetup groups in and around the nearest population center of any size in your area. Google (or other search engine) is your friend! That's a good way to gain experience with a group and meet potential hiking/backpacking partners. That's what I did when I started getting really into backpacking after my kids were grown and were no longer around (or just not available) to go out with me.


Edited by OregonMouse (05/02/13 02:29 PM)
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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#176853 - 05/02/13 02:30 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: billstephenson]
lori Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I am not trying to make anyone think it is so dangerous you should never hike solo. The facts are there - stuff happens, and some stuff is more likely to happen to a solo hiker than a group hiker. Additionally, solo hikers who are not aware of the risks rarely ask, so this is a golden opportunity to provide information.

In the context of the thread we are talking about a backpacker who wants to know the risks - not a lifelong outdoorsman who practically lives out there. They are different creatures. I would assume for example Larry Conn was injured or killed, not that he was lost. Being lost is more likely with the occasional hiker who just doesn't see the need for a map, let alone know how to read it. Level of comfort doesn't mean much sometimes - you can make a mistake in the sierra many times before it becomes a problem....

Should i be writing a two page disclaimer that taking risks into consideration is your choice and you can assume i'm full of it if you like? Or provide links to the many cases where the risks are published clearly in the media, so you don't have to assume it's personal?

You won't be searched for unless someone reports you missing, by the way, so not sure where you are coming from there.
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#176855 - 05/02/13 02:38 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: squark]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2912
Loc: NorCal
Couple seasons ago I had two very different fall backpacking experiences.

* An October trip into Desolation Wilderness--reputedly the nation's most heavily traveled--and mine was the only car in the parking lot, I saw nobody on the trail, I camped two nights without seeing or hearing anybody, and I finally met two people when I was a couple hundred yards from my car on the walk out. Camped on a small creek at a canyon lip and had a glorious, quiet time. Even the critters had all fled for winter.

* Weather held and I took a November trip into the Grouse Ridge area with a couple friends. Because of the late date we presumed we'd have the place to ourselves. We would be wrong. We got stuck behind a caravan of what turned out to be UC Berkeley students headed for a day hike on the very crappy trailhead road in (pro tip: leave the Camry at home). We left them behind on the trail but when we got to our destination lake, there were a couple DOZEN parties already camped there. We found an overlooked hunk of rock to camp on and cooked before the sun set, then listened to kids yelling until about midnight. Was this November or August?

Yeah, I like soloing.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#176856 - 05/02/13 02:51 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: billstephenson]
Glenn Roberts Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1911
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Could we have a case of apples and oranges here? I've never hiked west of the Mississippi, but I'm wondering if the wilderness areas in Bill's area are significantly smaller than the wilderness areas in Lori's area? That would make a difference in the risk level they each have. Yes, it's possible to get hopelessly lost in even a tiny bit of wilderness - but the risk of doing so is probably a lot less than in a huge area. As you come east, even "wilderness" areas are more heavily traveled, making the risk of being hurt and not found for days somewhat smaller. Likewise, hiking in the woods is different (I assume) from hiking in the Sierras or other western areas. So, I'm wondering if both of you are on the same page, generally, but the miscommunication is coming from slightly different frames of reference?

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#176857 - 05/02/13 04:39 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: wandering_daisy]
rockchucker22 Offline
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Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 751
Loc: Eastern Sierras
Thank you WD! You put my exact thoughts into words.
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#176862 - 05/02/13 08:22 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
aimless Online   content
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Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3141
Loc: Portland, OR
Robotmoose, as you can see the question of solo backpacking does generate quite a few comments and advice.

I agree with much of the advice given so far, especially about leaving an itinerary, gear description and instructions with someone who will notice if you do not come back on time. I presume after reading the discussion above that you understand that if you suffer any injury or incapacity while you are solo and off-trail, you'll either need to self-rescue or else carry a signaling device such as a PLB to summon help. Further, you can't predict when injury or incapacity might happen, so you'd better have a plan for it.

Now that you understand that, I expect what you had in mind when you posed the question was something more mundane than that. I backpack solo almost exclusively. It is a lot like hiking with someone else, but not quite. You listen more to your own mind when you are alone, surrounded by quiet. This can be a double-edged sword, especially if you aren't used to that much solitude.

You can always take something like an MP3 player to give you a way to distract your mind and give it something soothing to focus on, but I hope you'd reserve it for 'emergency' use only, because, as inane and fretful as your mind can be at times, I think the greatest gift of solo backpacking is that you get to hear yourself think. It isn't always pretty, but if you stick with it, it is very informative, even humbling.

It is especially humbling because there is never anyone to save you from your mistakes and no one else to blame when you do something incredibly stupid, as almost certainly you will. Lucky for you, there are no other witnesses, and those mistakes are rarely fatal.

Anyway, good luck. I think every experienced backpacker should give solo hiking a shot. Stay in familar territory to start with, with similar weather and terrain to that where you normally hike. A known trail is best for the first trip. I hope you try it and love it.

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#176886 - 05/03/13 10:53 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Glenn Roberts]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
Bill's area are significantly smaller than the wilderness areas in Lori's area?


Absolutely. The corridor along the Buffalo River is a pretty big stretch of wilderness, but nothing like Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia.

Still, you have more of this out there too....

Lost Hikers may be charged for SAR

I don't think they went more than a mile on a trail and got lost.
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#176895 - 05/05/13 08:04 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
verber Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/04
Posts: 269
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
I understand the buddy system issue. It's good to have the second brain, the person who could render aid or go for help. When solo you have to find ways to adapt.

My solo trips aren't much different from trips I take with others. I will do off trail routes, though I map them out carefully and leave marked maps behind. Other than that, I mostly second everything Lori said.

I would add them when I find myself confused, scary, thinking something is risky, I have found the best thing to do is STOP. Don't let emotions / fears drive you. For example, if it's dark and you are having trouble navigating (can happen to the most experienced folks), consider sleeping where you are and figure things out in the morning when you have light and are rested.

I think a Sat Phone or even better, a real PLB (not a spot) can address most of the really scary issues of solo except an even which results in your suddenly being rendered unconscience and never waking.

--mark

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#176897 - 05/06/13 03:28 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
Robotmoose Offline
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Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
Thank you everybody, it's been very insightful and encouraging to read all this. I've mostly just been reading all these replies and thinking it all over. Anyway, I've left this discussion with this general consensus summed up in ten points:

1. Take a quality map and compass, rely on them more so than electronics. (GPS is nice as a tool, but I've always kept my use of it to scale. It's nice for getting a UTM coordinate of where I am and where I want to be and translating that onto a paper map, but total dependence on the device is foolish.)
2. Know that I'm out there on my own, and act accordingly.
- also, don't be surprised by some loneliness, or need for outside stimuli. Ideally seek said stimuli by the feedback from nature, and less electronic noise-makers (my preference).
3. Don't be an idiot/drunken fool.
4.Leave an itinerary, and clothing description with friends or family, and instruct said friends and family to relay this information to the authorities should I fail to return within an acceptable timeframe (24 hours was suggested).
- I really liked Bill's idea of selecting a perimeter zone within the destination to remain within, thereby giving some freedom to roam, but also limiting myself to a searchable zone that can be communicated to SAR.
5. Topo maps are always a plus when going off-trail because they can be used to navigate away from potentially deadly terrain features.
6. Use my brain. If I wouldn't normally hang out on a cliff face alone, I likely should't backpack there as well.
7. Recognize that I alone am and shall be responsible for my own choices, actions, and safety.
8. Stop. Stop to check the map, stop to think, stop when I feel lost. Blundering on is bad.
9. Be aware. This is why I dislike ipods and iphones,they generate a bubble of ignorance around many of their owners. Said bubble, generated either electronically or simply through stupidity could be at best idiotic and at worst deadly in the woods.
10. Be prepared.

Finally, two quotes from my personal hero have definitely been useful to me while preparing myself:
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

I might have some nice trips, I might have some lousy ones, but it will be greater to try despite the risk of potential failure than to simply hang up my hat because I can't get a buddy. That would be choosing a nightmarish life lived shaking in cowardice, threatened by the mere specter of risk.

"Speak softly, and carry a big stick"
Behave quietly and thoughtfully, but be prepared to take action should the occasion arise.
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#176903 - 05/06/13 06:22 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
Glenn Roberts Online   content
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Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1911
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Nice summary.

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#176923 - 05/07/13 11:46 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
Agreed this is a pretty good summary.

On the first item, rather than relying on a quality map and compass more than electronics, I would say instead just bring a plenty adequate map and compass and have good experience at land navigation, and to a lessor degree, compass skills. But if my GPS tells me that it’s got solid signal from 10 satellites and I have no data to suggest the GPS-given location is wrong, I’ll err on the side of using that data point over my current best guess on the map, particularly if I’m in an area without long sightlines.

I don’t mean to dispute your overall point here, just saying that practically speaking “don’t rely on GPS” is quite different than “don’t trust GPS results”. I certainly have seen situations where the GPS just flat gives an incorrect result. Part of using the tool is understanding the limitations. In practice, the GPS pretty much “just works”, however (within the constraints of how it works and what it can do).

Ahh, this stuff gets tricky to talk about, doesn’t it? For example, by “quality map”, I hope that no one thinks that they have to go out and buy an expensive and tedious to fold/refold big paper map (Green trails, USGS, forest service, blm, whatever).

The idea of a perimeter zone depends very much on the type of trip you contemplate. For trips I hike solo, the idea of an itinerary or a perimeter zone doesn’t make sense. What I do instead is call or email or text when I can to update the home front on where I currently am, plus establish ahead of time a best guess at resupply stop locations. On one such trip I brought a SPOT and punched in “I’m here” at lunch and dinner each day --- but with a solid “set expectations” discussion with my spouse ahead of time about what it would (not) mean if I failed to check in a time or two.

The “bubble of ignorance” with smartphone or mp3 player --- again, very situational. Many, many people walk very long distances solo and listen to music and/or audio books a lot with no issues. It depends on experience and on the nature of the trail in question.

With the above, I don’t mean to detract from the many good points made.
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http://postholer.com/brianle

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#176925 - 05/07/13 12:45 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: BrianLe]
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
Originally Posted By BrianLe
Agreed this is a pretty good summary.

On the first item, rather than relying on a quality map and compass more than electronics, I would say instead just bring a plenty adequate map and compass and have good experience at land navigation, and to a lessor degree, compass skills. But if my GPS tells me that it’s got solid signal from 10 satellites and I have no data to suggest the GPS-given location is wrong, I’ll err on the side of using that data point over my current best guess on the map, particularly if I’m in an area without long sightlines.

I don’t mean to dispute your overall point here, just saying that practically speaking “don’t rely on GPS” is quite different than “don’t trust GPS results”. I certainly have seen situations where the GPS just flat gives an incorrect result. Part of using the tool is understanding the limitations. In practice, the GPS pretty much “just works”, however (within the constraints of how it works and what it can do).

Personally, I regard the combination of paper map, compass and GPS as kind of the "Holy Trinity" of land navigation. When used properly, it's a fantastic system, and I hope what I'd written earlier wasn't disparaging toward GPS navigation. It's very nice because someone who knows how to use one can jot down the UTM coordinate the unit is reading and transpose that on a map and know exactly where they are. It's also nice in areas where, as you've mentioned line-of-sight is troubled at best.
Tracks are also nice, because if you have to retrace your steps, they're right there in your handheld.
So, maybe I should have said something to the nature of "Keep GPS use in perspective: it's a useful tool, but not something that should be relied on solely. Be aware that not all tools work properly, and when something doesn't look right, use the other tools (map, compass and visual) to discern the trouble and work around it."
I really think that's more in line with a safe mindset regarding GPS, thank you for bringing that up.

Originally Posted By BrianLe
Ahh, this stuff gets tricky to talk about, doesn’t it? For example, by “quality map”, I hope that no one thinks that they have to go out and buy an expensive and tedious to fold/refold big paper map (Green trails, USGS, forest service, blm, whatever).


What? I only buy maps that're made out of paper pressed from rare tropical rain forest tree pulp and printed using expensive inks made from dyed organic llama tears and the hopes and dreams of little children in sweatshops!

Naw, what I meant by "quality" was quality of information. I am partial to USGS quads because they work with UTM, their level of detail is very good, and they tend to be relatively up-to-date, but they're not the end-all of maps.
Ultimately any topo map that's the right scale, has UTM grids in a standardized format (NAD27 or WGS84), it's recent to within a decade and from a reputable source (not a necessarily a high-end brand, but not some chicken tracks scrawled on a Post-it either) will work.


Originally Posted By BrianLe
The idea of a perimeter zone depends very much on the type of trip you contemplate. For trips I hike solo, the idea of an itinerary or a perimeter zone doesn’t make sense. What I do instead is call or email or text when I can to update the home front on where I currently am, plus establish ahead of time a best guess at resupply stop locations. On one such trip I brought a SPOT and punched in “I’m here” at lunch and dinner each day --- but with a solid “set expectations” discussion with my spouse ahead of time about what it would (not) mean if I failed to check in a time or two.


Checking in is a good idea if ever possible. I have an In-Reach on my "sometime this year, maybe" list which could facilitate that. I think the itinerary and perimeter are still reasonable to utilize as a primary system, though. Too many variables can count against the favor of electronics, making it conceivable that serious trouble could ensue without a failsafe.
I am in the habit of taking my phone with me. I chose the phone I have because it is rugged and water-resistant so it could live in my pack. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to fire off a text message or two on some of my hikes, sometimes not. It would be useful for sending out "checkpoint" messages whenever possible, but I like to reserve the battery for serious emergencies. It's still a basic "phone-phone" not a "smart-phone" so it does have ten days worth of juice, and SAR can locate the last tower it pinged. It is essentially my current failsafe.


Originally Posted By BrianLe
The “bubble of ignorance” with smartphone or mp3 player --- again, very situational. Many, many people walk very long distances solo and listen to music and/or audio books a lot with no issues. It depends on experience and on the nature of the trail in question.


You're right about that, music players have revolutionized how people hike alot these days. They can change up the BPMs on their music and up their mileage considerably, or listen to audiobooks, which can offset some of the loneliness. I won't argue these tools aren't useful, but they're certainly not for me. All it takes is that clash of high-hats on the end of a drum solo to mask the rattle of an upset snake, or spacing off listening to a book to miss a turn.

It comes down to one of those "do what works for you" things, but know that if the electronics interfere with awareness or safety, maybe it's time to unplug. Perhaps that was the point I should have stressed when elaborating on the be aware point.

Originally Posted By BrianLe
With the above, I don’t mean to detract from the many good points made.


Not at all!
One of the reasons why I posted that list up was for feedback to evolve and refine the points made, and I'm very glad you gave your thoughts because they have been used to refine and enhance the statements into things that're more practical if not more realistic.

Now I'm gonna go back to reading my gold-plated organic llama tear map thingy...


Edited by Robotmoose (05/07/13 01:06 PM)
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#176927 - 05/07/13 12:58 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: BrianLe]
Rick_D Offline
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Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2912
Loc: NorCal
Shockingly shocked a lot of maps are wrong. Most maps probably contain errors--they're usually tiny and sometimes critical. A GPS will often identify and clear up such errors and keep a trip on the right path, literally. For XC the value can't be overstated.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#176930 - 05/07/13 01:24 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Rick_D]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6738
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Lots of maps contain errors, including the supposedly sacred Google maps. I've seen quite a few! GPS can steer you wrong, too, although most of those are the car navigation variety ("turn left at the next intersection") that have sent people down closed Forest Service roads to their doom. I would say about that navigation "trinity," don't trust one item alone without some backup from the other! I personally don't use a GPS, but if I were going to be navigating in deep snow (I'm not), I would undoubtedly change my mind.

With maps: I haven't taken a whole map with me in years. Instead, I photocopy (on my scanner) the portion(s) of the map I need. I used to cut up the original maps, but I soon realized that copying was an easier way that would preserve the original maps. In the case of maps on waterproof paper, the copies make a far less heavy and bulky wad! I keep the copies in a gallon plastic bag so I can read the maps through the plastic and keep them dry. If they get folded to bits, no big deal, because I have the original map in pristine condition at home to copy for the next trip.

I like to use Forest Service maps (the maps of wilderness areas are particularly helpful) or similar large scale trail maps for planning. I could pore over them for hours! For the actual trip, I use USGS maps. I have the old TOPO! software for Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, but unfortunately it is not compatible with the newest Mac operating system. As long as my old computer keeps working, though, I'm fine.

I agree with Robotmoose about getting spaced out on music and missing a hazard or a turn. I've seen it happen! I don't take music with me (there's plenty in my head if I want it), but if I did I'd listen to it only when in the tent at night.



Edited by OregonMouse (05/07/13 01:28 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#176932 - 05/07/13 03:08 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: OregonMouse]
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
I used to carry the whole map, but alot of the retail maps have gotten huge lately, including weird booklets and things, it's just too complex for my "Keep it simple, stupid" life philosophy. So lately I've gotten into the habit of measuring our the sections I want, and then marking them off in a blue-tape rectangle. Then taking the map to a copy store and asking them to copy the blue-taped area onto two or three pages of legal paper, which I hose down with water proofing spray at home. It's worked out well so far.

I also use TOPO USA with my Earthmate, and thus far the maps have been decently accurate. Sometimes I'll run a print copy of the Delorme maps along with my copies of the master map so I can compare the two.

It's funny, because when I was a young Scout, I never took navigation seriously. Everywhere we went, we had incredible trails all over to follow, with signs even. Why bother with a map and compass when these nice trails took me where I wanted to go? Now, the shoe's on the other foot: I'd rather not follow the trails if i can help it, which got me into maps.


Edited by Robotmoose (05/07/13 03:37 PM)
Edit Reason: I had to kill off a giant run-on sentence
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#176937 - 05/07/13 05:46 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
topshot Offline
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Registered: 04/28/09
Posts: 242
Loc: Midwest
Yes, a good summary. I think I've followed all those points (most of the time). smile

I prefer to hike solo, but my first trip out west I hooked up with another person "just in case". The next summer I did 7 days on my own, including some off-trail or rarely traveled areas. I did turn around a couple times when the terrain was more challenging then I cared for.

My biggest "weakness" I have is not having a SPOT or similar device should I become seriously injured that I can't self-rescue. Not worth it for one trip a year, but if I'm able to go more often or have more money I can spend, I'll get one for my wife's piece of mind.

The only stupid thing I know that I've done (after the fact) was setup my shelter in a 12,000' rock basin as a storm approached. Kept me out of the rain and hail and the thunder was really cool in surround sound (!), but the hiking pole (aluminum) needed for my shelter could have spelled my doom in said lightning I suppose (though the surrounding peaks were much higher targets and I never felt the tingling you get before a strike). As an electrical engineer, I fully understand the dangers of lightning, but I never even thought about that (I love thunderstorms - just not getting wet).

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#176940 - 05/07/13 07:01 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: topshot]
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
Originally Posted By topshot

The only stupid thing I know that I've done (after the fact) was setup my shelter in a 12,000' rock basin as a storm approached. Kept me out of the rain and hail and the thunder was really cool in surround sound (!), but the hiking pole (aluminum) needed for my shelter could have spelled my doom in said lightning I suppose (though the surrounding peaks were much higher targets and I never felt the tingling you get before a strike). As an electrical engineer, I fully understand the dangers of lightning, but I never even thought about that (I love thunderstorms - just not getting wet).


I've actually done the total opposite of that when I was younger: my buddy and I were pinned in a canyon when a rainstorm started, so we set up camp in the first flat spot we found.
Bad idea, the one flat spot in the bottom of a canyon. By sheer fortune I'd failed to talk my buddy out of taking along a tent, and no sooner had we had it up did we get thunder, lighting, hail, driving rain. We ended up with a standing inch of water on the floor of the tent.

I think that falls under both the "be aware" and "don't be an idiot" points... blush
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#176942 - 05/07/13 08:43 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
ohiohiker Offline
member

Registered: 07/20/07
Posts: 127
Loc: Ohio
I think survival knowledge, skills, and experience are important for any backpacker, and especially so for one who goes solo. It's your safety net for when people, gear, or the weather forecast fails.

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#176945 - 05/08/13 09:51 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
Maps and MP3 players:

I'm heavily biased towards USGS maps just because anyone can easily print a good topo map for free in that format. Some collegues and I surveyed the options for doing so and wrote up instructions for use by folks in our local outdoor club, but these are applicable anywhere in the U.S.:
http://www.mountaineers.org/foothills/hiking/docs/how_to_print_usgs_maps_for_free.html

I do understand the MP3 distraction issue. I can't recall it ever causing me a problem, as I guess I sort of manage to split my consciousness sufficiently well. I did have an experience 2 years ago of setting up camp and then walking a forest service road uphill a ways in hopes of getting internet connection --- watching the signal strength on my phone screen I sort of tuned out the warning rattle and almost stepped on a snake right in the middle of the road. It wasn't that I was listening to anything, just that my concentration was elsewhere on this easy-to-walk surface.

I will say that even on shorter trips I'll sometimes bring an MP3 player as a sort of "mood changer". In particular I find that the right music can help me easily deal with a long climb that might otherwise feel like a slog. That doesn't mean that I stay disconnected from my surroundings all day (!). My own tendency is to use music or stories for long relatively boring stretches, "long green tunnel" or really barren, viewless terrain.
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Brian Lewis
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#176946 - 05/08/13 10:06 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: ohiohiker]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By ohiohiker
I think survival knowledge, skills, and experience are important for any backpacker, and especially so for one who goes solo. It's your safety net for when people, gear, or the weather forecast fails.


The problem is that the "bushcraft" sort of skills die quickly and are not often practiced.

Contingency planning is what I encourage... Prevention, prevention and prevention, with a healthy respect for edges, steep slopes, fast water and gnarly weather.

Convincing people who have survived bad conditions to reconsider hiking into the night in the driving rain up a high pass while wearing shorts and tank top is a lost cause, since their "experience" tells them you're just making unnecessary noise. Convincing them they need survival skills would be about that hard...
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#176948 - 05/08/13 12:40 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
Originally Posted By BrianLe
Maps and MP3 players:

I'm heavily biased towards USGS maps just because anyone can easily print a good topo map for free in that format. Some collegues and I surveyed the options for doing so and wrote up instructions for use by folks in our local outdoor club, but these are applicable anywhere in the U.S.:
http://www.mountaineers.org/foothills/hiking/docs/how_to_print_usgs_maps_for_free.html

*explodes*
That's fantastic, I'll have to bookmark that for later use!


Originally Posted By BrianLe
I will say that even on shorter trips I'll sometimes bring an MP3 player as a sort of "mood changer". In particular I find that the right music can help me easily deal with a long climb that might otherwise feel like a slog. That doesn't mean that I stay disconnected from my surroundings all day (!). My own tendency is to use music or stories for long relatively boring stretches, "long green tunnel" or really barren, viewless terrain.

I can definitely sympathize this idea. Music and audiobooks are great media, and could be useful tools, I guess I should have said "it's just a matter of knowing when it's appropriate" in my summary than to advocate disavowing them altogether.


Originally Posted By lori
Originally Posted By ohiohiker
I think survival knowledge, skills, and experience are important for any backpacker, and especially so for one who goes solo. It's your safety net for when people, gear, or the weather forecast fails.


The problem is that the "bushcraft" sort of skills die quickly and are not often practiced.

Contingency planning is what I encourage... Prevention, prevention and prevention, with a healthy respect for edges, steep slopes, fast water and gnarly weather.

Convincing people who have survived bad conditions to reconsider hiking into the night in the driving rain up a high pass while wearing shorts and tank top is a lost cause, since their "experience" tells them you're just making unnecessary noise. Convincing them they need survival skills would be about that hard...


I couldn't agree with your statement more. People should know the basic "keeping alive" skills for bad situations, and better yet should just assume an attitude of preparedness and general readiness. However discipling in bushcraft and "survivalist" ideals is a truly lifelong endeavor that can in some ways be antithetical to the core ideals of backpacking.
It's good and necessary to be prepared, but it's overkill to be Bear Grylls.


Edited by Robotmoose (05/08/13 12:42 PM)
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#176951 - 05/08/13 03:22 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
ohiohiker Offline
member

Registered: 07/20/07
Posts: 127
Loc: Ohio
Originally Posted By lori

The problem is that the "bushcraft" sort of skills die quickly and are not often practiced.

Contingency planning is what I encourage... Prevention, prevention and prevention, with a healthy respect for edges, steep slopes, fast water and gnarly weather.

Convincing people who have survived bad conditions to reconsider hiking into the night in the driving rain up a high pass while wearing shorts and tank top is a lost cause, since their "experience" tells them you're just making unnecessary noise. Convincing them they need survival skills would be about that hard...

I agree. Prevention is definitely the first and best defense.

Isn't survival training hands-on contingency planning? Such as, "how do I avoid hypothermia after slipping and losing my pack and getting soaked at the swift water crossing?"

Some "bushcraft" sort of skills die quickly and are not often practiced. Essential ones, such as knowing how to start a fire with wet wood, or even just how to start a fire is more at the training wheels level where it's not easily forgotten even if not practiced often. Some essential survival-related knowledge is of the easily-remembered "trick" type, such as stuffing clothes with dry grass or leaves for insulation or knowing that wet wood will usually burn well if de-barked or split.

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#176952 - 05/08/13 06:24 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 751
Loc: Eastern Sierras
Originally Posted By lori
Originally Posted By ohiohiker
I think survival knowledge, skills, and experience are important for any backpacker, and especially so for one who goes solo. It's your safety net for when people, gear, or the weather forecast fails.


The problem is that the "bushcraft" sort of skills die quickly and are not often practiced.

..
I don't see how fire building/ making, knife skills,shelter building, finding food off the land....ie "bushcraft" die quickly. Most of these skills, once learned, are life long. Simple knoledge that isn't easily lost to lack of use.
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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#176953 - 05/08/13 07:28 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: rockchucker22]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
That would be why search and rescue trains so often on navigation and survival skills, no doubt - we're all remembering them that well.

Navigation and knots are very perishable... shelters, fire building, and the like less so. Remembering everything when the adrenalin is high, especially difficult - which is why we try so hard to get it down to the point some of this stuff is almost muscle memory.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#176955 - 05/08/13 07:47 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 751
Loc: Eastern Sierras
Originally Posted By lori
That would be why search and rescue trains so often on navigation and survival skills, no doubt - we're all remembering them that well.

Navigation and knots are very perishable... shelters, fire building, and the like less so. Remembering everything when the adrenalin is high, especially difficult - which is why we try so hard to get it down to the point some of this stuff is almost muscle memory.
That makes since. Navigation was taught to me as a very young boy in the mountians of Colorado, so I always find it baffling that anyone who enjoys the outdoors that doesn't know how to navigate. I know it's way more common than I realize. Actually I have a friend who I hike with that never knows where he's at. Amazing really, I just have to shake my head.
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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