Exploring the Backcountry

Golden, Colorado: Backcountry exploration is a wilderness experience unlike any other! The term “backcountry” refers to locations that are not commercialized or mainstream - distant locations that offer no electricity and often no running water. It is an experience involving raw nature and solitude while utilizing the hikers' physical and mental capabilities.

Many backcountry locations include treks over rocky, uneven terrain and occasionally hikers will encounter dangerous conditions such as inclement weather and wild animals. Preparation and knowledge is key in ensuring a smooth and safe trip when embarking out into uncharted territory.

In the next few weeks, we will be venturing out of the city and into the remote backcountry of the Tonto National Forest and the Saguaro National Park in Arizona.  Before any outdoor expedition, you should always allow yourself plenty of time to prepare and that’s just what we have been doing!

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When preparing for any outdoor excursion, safety is always our number one priority. By Planning Ahead and Preparing, we are ensuring our success and endurance. Those who fail to plan, generally plan to fail. Adequate trip planning and preparation helps backcountry travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. Establishing our priorities now will be our key to survival in the end.

Here are a few of our top priorities to consider while preparing for our upcoming backcountry adventure:

Weather: Know the weather forecast before you set out on your expedition. The weather can be the key reason for becoming lost or injured. It is important to know what systems have passed and what is headed your way. Know the specifics, such as wind direction, rain or snowfall amounts and duration.

Warmth: Knowing the weather forecast will also help you determine what type of clothing to bring. Layering your clothing is a tried-and-true way to ensure your comfort in the outdoors. The beauty of this simple concept is that it allows you to make quick adjustments based on your activity level and changes in the weather. Each layer has a function. The base layer (against your skin) manages moisture; the insulating layer protects you from the cold; the shell layer (outer layer) shields you from wind and rain. You simply add or subtract layers as needed.

Food: The best backpacking food is lightweight, tasty, calorie-packed and quick cooking. However, each meal type is different - lunch is usually heavier, more bulky, high energy, and no-cook. Dehydrated foods, nuts, fruit, energy bars and peanut butter and honey sandwiches are good choices. Food prepared for the backcountry needs to be repackaged into sealable bags that will secure food and reduce bulk. This method can reduce the amount of garbage you must pack out at the end of the trip and eliminate the undesirable need of stashing or burying unwanted trash.

Water: One vital element to backcountry travel is the accessibility of water. The most important part of your plan should focus on locating possible sources of drinking water, potential sources of contamination, and choosing a water treatment system. The goal of backcountry travel is to move through the backcountry while avoiding damage to the land. Understanding how travel and water collection causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal. It is extremely important to know your route before you begin your journey and use trails whenever possible. Look at current topographical maps covering your trip area and identify possible water sources such as lakes, springs, rivers, and glaciers in the areas where you are going. Make sure you know how to use a map and compass properly and don’t forget to pack a quality water container!

Attitude: Venturing into remote destinations can be challenging in many ways. Backcountry exploration allows you an opportunity to utilize natural resources and basic survival skills while enjoying nature at the same time. Having a calm and positive attitude may help you overcome any challenging situations that may arise. When stripped down to the basics, your will is much stronger than you may think. Knowledge, mental clarity and a calm demeanor can help you to think straight and make the best decisions for your given circumstance. The power of the positive can help you persevere!

Nothing about a wilderness trip in the backcountry is easy but unplugging from technology, waking up with the sun, and sleeping under the stars cannot be matched. Isolation and solitude helps us regain mental strength and clarity - we love the opportunity to learn more about nature, ourselves and to practice our Leave No Trace Ethics in the backcountry!

Ninjas for Nature – dani & roland