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#176960 - 05/09/13 10:45 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
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.


I agree with that, but I'd say that bushwhacking solo is a good way to keep them sharp too. You don't need to go far off trail into the wilderness to experience the solitude and newness of traveling on seldom tread ground though. Even out west I could find that by hiking just a few miles or less.

You know, more than anything, the weather is what scares me and it really doesn't matter if you're 6 hours from your car on a trail or off trail if you're not prepared to deal with it.

It's not near so wild out west as it is here. We get weather fronts pushing through here that can be just vicious. I think knowing how to get and understand the weather forecasts is really an important skill to learn and practice too.

In fact, it's probably one of the most overlooked, underused, and underrated skills, while at the same time the being the one most likely to save your butt around here, and probably right up there in the top three out west too.

The NOAA puts out some great products. Their radar images offer incredible coverage for the mainland US and if you can get them off the web you can estimate down to a few minutes when a storm front will be hitting you.

The NOAA hourly weather graph is amazing, and it's darn accurate for 72 hour out and pretty good for as far as it goes. I make it a point to study it before I go out, and I make it a point to find some high ground to try and get an update after 48 hours if I haven't got one before then.

The great thing about that hourly graph is it gives you so much important info and you can adjust your plans accordingly. It will tell you which way the will will blow and how strong, and when. If a front is passing by in the middle of the night and the wind will be changing directions and blowing hard you can set your shelter up to deal with that, and in a spot that will offer some protection. I always use that info when setting up my shelter. Sometimes I don't use anything but a groundcloth if I know there's no chance of rain or dew.

I've planned short trips that were just amazing with that forecast. Get in just after a hard rain, and get out just before another and spend one or more perfect days hiking to waterfalls.

I've got the NOAA weather radio on my GMRS handheld talkie, and it's worth carrying if the weather is iffy and on longer trips. It will often get a signal when there's no cell service, even down in the canyons and hollows here.

If you really pay attention to the weather forecasts you'll know exactly when the perfect time to be out there will be, and exactly when to bail out or hunker down.

I know there is a "weather be damned" sort of mentality to backpacking, and I admire that somewhat, but the truth is we have choices in the matter. All you have to do is make it a point to use a weather forecast and there really isn't any compelling reason not to.

I've used the weather forecast to practice backpacking when it's nasty and to experience being some particular spot in extraordinary conditions. I think that's great fun, but it's sure nice to have a bailout option. I've used it to cut trips short too, and was home safe, dry, and warm before things got really ugly out.
_________________________
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"You want to go where?"



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#176963 - 05/09/13 12:43 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: billstephenson]
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1911
Loc: Southwest Ohio
I agree that keeping a weather sense about you is also a survival skill, and I agree that modern technology sure helps out a lot. But, in the spirit of "Hey, you crummy kids, get off my lawn," I feel obliged to point out that, way back when, forecasts were at best a shot in the dark, accurate only in the sense that the Farmer's Almanac was accurate.

One of the early books I bought (after Colin Fletcher's original Complete Walker) was a book about predicting weather in the backcountry. It was very heavy on cloud shapes and wind shifts, and what they told you about coming weather. I never did get it all committed to memory.

Now, who else can I distract with stories about the good old days....

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#176966 - 05/09/13 02:21 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
Quote:
"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."

I think that a significant factor here might be long-term vs. short-term memory. It's possible to learn something, perhaps via a class or another way, and then not do it much after the initial exposure. But then retain the memory of having known about it, having once known how to do it. I think that sort of thing can get you into trouble.

Things that truly do become "muscle memory" are more likely to come back at need ("it's just like riding a bike").

There are also "detail nuances". E.g. (for example), even if you're good at lighting a fire, you might not be any good at finding/making dry kindling and just in general about getting a fire going and sustaining it in really wet conditions.
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#176979 - 05/09/13 05:30 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: rockchucker22]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By rockchucker22
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.


I have to agree with this. I understand how to build a crude shelter. We used to that when we were kids, but I don't practice it now. I mastered all the skills needed a long time ago, and I still use those skills, but I don't apply them directly to bush crafting.

Not everyone has those skills though, and as Lori pointed out, they are not required to backpack. That's really the sticky part of this business.

I suppose it's easy to pick up an issue or two of Backpacking Magazine and romanticize about doing something you've never done before, to the point of convincing yourself you know all you need to know.

I grew up doing stuff. I tend to forget that a lot of people don't. I used to ride my bike ten miles to get to a park big enough to do some bushwhacking in. I rode it to the Kishwaukee Forest Preserve when I lived in Illinois and to Griffith Park when I move to LA. By the time I was 15 I was cutting up cars and putting them back together, and by 16 I was driving to and bushwhacking in the Sequoia NF when I could get away.

But most of the city kids I knew and grew up with in LA didn't do that. I asked one guy I worked with for close to 12 years to come with me to Sequoia once. He declined, said he hadn't left the San Fernando Valley in 22 years and had no desire to. He leads hikes out there now. He's probably good at it. He would have learned and practiced enough to be good.

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"You want to go where?"



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#177018 - 05/11/13 09:57 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
ndsol Offline
member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 678
Loc: Houston, Texas
Might I suggest another approach. You grew up in the Scouts. There are many troops that would love to have you work with the boys on being the adult leader for backpacking trips.

I did not grow up as a scout. But a few years ago I became the high adventure adult leader for a troop even though I don't have a son. It gave me a way to ensure that I could go on big trips and, hopefully, the scouts would learn. We have been to Big Bend, the Winds, Yellowstone and a few more local areas. This summer we are scheduled for the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness in Colorado. It can be a win-win situation.

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#177031 - 05/13/13 05:15 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: ndsol]
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
Originally Posted By ndsol
Might I suggest another approach. You grew up in the Scouts. There are many troops that would love to have you work with the boys on being the adult leader for backpacking trips.

I did not grow up as a scout. But a few years ago I became the high adventure adult leader for a troop even though I don't have a son. It gave me a way to ensure that I could go on big trips and, hopefully, the scouts would learn. We have been to Big Bend, the Winds, Yellowstone and a few more local areas. This summer we are scheduled for the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness in Colorado. It can be a win-win situation.



I definitely would if I could!
I'm technically a registered Nature and Enviornmental Science Merit Badge Counselor, but I'm insanely busy: full-time work at night (graveyard shift) and full-time school during the day (Parks and Rec Management and History) I barely have time for laundry during the week.
I really, really wish I could pay my Scouting Career forward, and I hope to be able to do so once I've moved on to a University, but for the present time, I gotta become self-sufficient in solo backpacking.
_________________________
"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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#177222 - 05/21/13 12:10 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6738
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Wearing my moderator hat here:

This discussion of solo backpacking has gotten derailed into a discussion of weather forecasting. (Partly my fault!) I have therefore taken the liberty of moving those portions to the Off Topic forum.

If you want to discuss solo backpacking, carry on here. If you want to discuss weather forecasting, head to Off Topic and carry on there!

Moderator hat now removed.


Edited by OregonMouse (05/21/13 12:32 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#177497 - 05/31/13 01:48 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
GlockGuy619 Offline
newbie

Registered: 05/31/13
Posts: 6
I am going on a 6 day, 5 night trip this summer and here is my plan.

I am going to email my family a document with the following information:

1: My Hiking Itinerary, including a map. (which I will stick to)
2: A recent photo of me and everyone in my party.
3: A photo of the tred pattern of the shoes I, and others in my party, will be wearing (SAR guys will love you for that).
4: Phone Numbers of the local law enforcement agency of where I will be hiking.

This will all be put into a single email, that way if something happens, it can easily be forward to local law enforcement or search and rescue.


Edited by GlockGuy619 (05/31/13 01:49 PM)

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