Best Places to Start Backpacking

Feb 3rd, 2016, 01:59 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2016
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Best Places to Start Backpacking

I am planning on staarting backpacking soon. My first trip will be a 14-mile hike through Devil's Den State Park in Arkansas. It's a local park and it isn't anything extreme. My next for sure planned trip will be the Narrows of Zion Park sometime in mid-2017. Before I go to the Narrows and do some really cool backpacking I would like to get some more time on the trail under my belt.
My friends and I are very comfortable camping and spending solid weekends outdoors but the preparing and actual backpacking is something I want to get some good practice on. So, if any one has any good starter locations or trails, or really any good advice for someone stepping into the culture for the first time I would love to hear your thoughts and opnions. Thank you!
camcole is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2016, 05:39 PM
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Backpack--or pretend backpack--for a weekend. Pretend you are going for a week and prepare for that. And walk around a lot with what you decide to take.
As a wise person said, who had been shopping at a REI type store for lightweight rations/gear--many lightweight things add up to a heavy pack.
You might want to read Cheryl Strayed's book Wild. At least the first chapters. It has some lessons.
But it is a whole lot of fun--and fun to work out.
Gretchen is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2016, 07:19 PM
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Cheryl hiked the Pacific Crest Trail which is not too far from where I live (central Oregon). I have hiked several sections returning to my vehicle before sundown.
For a through hike you need to have someone who will transport you and food to a starting point and leave your vehicle at the point you will be coming out.
Be sure to carry a GPS and a well charged cell phone. If you end up in trouble, text your position if you can't get cell service for voice. Make sure someone knows where you went into the wild and when to expect to hear from you.
tomfuller is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2016, 07:28 PM
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> really any good advice for someone stepping into
> the culture for the first time

> if any one has any good starter locations or trails

Shenandoah NP has a major advantage for beginning backpackers: if you mess up, or find you really don't enjoy this, then you just hike a few miles and you go from wilderness to Skyline Drive. From there you can get to "civilization" fairly readily. The number of possible trails and loops is almost endless, and the hikes have the reward of (potentially) great views
PaulRabe is offline  
Feb 4th, 2016, 03:46 AM
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Look up and get involved with your local Sierra Club chapter, or another outdoors club. REI can also help you. Our UT REIs teach backpacking classes.

The best way to learn is through experience. Each time you go you will learn more from the more experienced backpackers in the group. Go as often as possible!

Study up on the desert southwest. It's very different from AR!

Invest in good equipment if you find you really like it. Good equip makes a big difference.
Dayle is online now  
Feb 4th, 2016, 05:37 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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I've been backpacking since the early '70's and still at it. Sounds like you are going to love it.

I originally learned by reading Colin Fletcher's "The Complete Walker". The book is no doubt dated now, but still may be worth browsing through.

Check out this site:

You need to register or subscribe to see all the content, the articles and gear reviews. There are various price points, but you can browse a lot of the forums for free. Plenty of pointers from experienced people to be found there.

Backpacker magazine is OK. Maybe pick up a copy if you see it on the shelves somewhere.

Ditto what Dayle said: the desert southwest is way different than backpacking in the eastern US. Not sure I'd make Zion Narrows a first southwest desert trip but it's definitely an amazing place to see and a worthy goal.

Also ditto Dayle: invest in the best equipment that you can, do all you can to keep the pack weight down. You don't have to be a total gear head, but good equipment can make the difference between a fine, miserable, or even dangerous trip.

Have fun planning!
Nelson is online now  
Feb 4th, 2016, 06:01 AM
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P.S. Backpacker magazine trips in Arkansas:
Nelson is online now  
Feb 4th, 2016, 09:44 AM
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The Zion park is certainly lovely. There is wonderful backpacking in the Smokies and the NC mountains. Mt. Mitchell, the Linville Gorge area is wonderful.
The best gear is the properly fitted/fitting pack as is alluded to above, although plenty of Boy Scouts have hiked a lot with lesser packs!!
You may want to consider the heat at the time of year you go. You will also want to consider altitude and acclimation to it for choosing a trip.
Gretchen is offline  
Feb 4th, 2016, 10:10 AM
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I agree with Gretchen. Practicing is more about getting familiar with what you need / like to carry with you, and enjoying time nature. You don't need a big trip /long hike to ease into this. Something as simple as a local state park where you can hike in as apposed to car camping would be where I would start. You'd need to carry everything with you - except water, so a water source that you can purify would be key.

When you car camp (park the car next to the camp site) you probably tend to pack everything including the kitchen sink. Backpacking you need to be much more selective - both gear and food.

My bucket list backpacking trip is a week in the Grand Canyon. Hike in from the North Rim to the Deer Creek area and camp at 2 or 3 locations.

I agree that Zion is a great place too. You can easily backpack for 2-3 days or more using the valley/Springdale as a start/end point. Valley to West Rim and back would be a great trip. I've done ~20miles of that as a one day out and back, so spreading the same 20 or more miles over a few days would be a nice trip. There are camping sites ~10miles hike from the valley. Be sure to secure the proper back country permits for any place you go, and to notify others of your itinerary.
J62 is offline  
Feb 4th, 2016, 01:56 PM
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GPS time?
Dukey1 is offline  
Feb 4th, 2016, 06:44 PM
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Thank you everyone for all the input. I greatly appreciate it. Like I said, the Devil's Den park is local to me so me and my friends have good knowledge of the area, so it makes a great practice run. We can have a generally safer weekend there than we can most other places around. So this trip will be our finding what equipment we like and what equipment we don't. Also be a gauge on how well we pack.

J62 mentioned water purifying. I have been browsing around and a forum, can't remember the name at the moment, named the Platypus GravityWorks water as their best value and performance purifying system. Can anyone testify to this? I love what I've seen of it, but I've never been without my own source long enough to need a purifier so I don't want to just make buy on the first "this is great" I see. Granted I've read many good reviews but haven't had the chance to discuss it with anyone.
camcole is offline  
Feb 4th, 2016, 07:31 PM
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> as their best value and performance purifying system.
> Can anyone testify to this?

WhiteBlaze.Net is a site specifically for people in love with long-term backpacking. One of the most oft-discussed topics is, "What is the best way to purify water?"

The answer inevitably ends up as, "It depends."
is a good place to start.
PaulRabe is offline  
Feb 4th, 2016, 08:53 PM
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We used the Platypus GravityWorks (not mine) on a 6 day trip in the Escalante Route of the Grand Canyon, among other places. I thought it was the best filter I've ever used for purifying silty river water. A simple backflush cleared all the silt out of the filter.

Of course it also works great on clean mountain stream water.

Only negative I saw was that it can be difficult to fill the reservoir if the water is shallow: less than 5-6 inches or so.

But if I was buying a new filter that's the one I'd get.
Nelson is online now  
Feb 5th, 2016, 03:44 AM
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Your local area is of course exactly where to start--and do it a number of times for practice.
If it were me, I would wait a while to determine if a water purifier was even necessary. And of course, there are always tablets to fall back on. Will you be hiking in places with poor water.
Gretchen is offline  
Feb 5th, 2016, 06:23 AM
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Purification tablets, mentioned by Gretchen, are a great lightweight alternative to filters. I used them for many years and still don't own a filter. All my hiking buddies own one so I've got to try a few.
Sometimes they make me carry them.

But in the desert southwest you might need some kind of filter because there can be silt in the water sources.
Nelson is online now  
Feb 5th, 2016, 03:47 PM
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Really appreciate everybody's input. I don't know if it is a necessity on this two day hike we're doing but as discussed I'd like to practice with it so when I go to Zion I know how to use it well. But again, thank you everyone for the input.
camcole is offline  
Feb 5th, 2016, 04:57 PM
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You always need to filter your water, unless you want to enjoy a case of giardia. Trust me, you do not!

There is no potable water on the Zion Narrows thru hike. You will need a filter system.

There are many places in the desert SW where there is NO water at all and you have to carry your own. Those are the packs I skip. Water weights 8 lbs. per gallon and personally I could not carry enough as I drink a lot.
Dayle is online now  
Feb 5th, 2016, 08:24 PM
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IF you live in the flat lands and plan to hike in the mountains(Which Zion is), be aware of altitude sickness. Nasty.

IF you want a knee breaker, start IN zion valley and hike up to Observation point that is the best overlook in Zion. Better than Angels Point. I've been to all of them.

I took the short cut to OP - my knees don't need that rigorous exercise.

Hiking the Narrows from the top -chamberlain Ranch - is not difficult as you are going down stream IN the river. You need an overnight permit. They are difficult to obtain. A one day hike is foolish. Also, hike in fall season during low water flow.

RVvagabond is offline  
Feb 24th, 2016, 09:00 AM
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Check the national Sierra Club outings and do a trip to the desert Southwest. The learning curve is steep coming from the east coast to the desert. It really is worth it to go with a group your first time out here. You could even look up the Utah chapter to see what weekend or week long backpacks they have planned. All trips will be in the spring or fall.

Sierra Club tends to be cheeper than REI,FYI.
StantonHyde is offline  
Feb 24th, 2016, 09:46 AM
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If you don't want to do the Zion narrows top down hike (which requires a permit), I've done a one day bottoms up Zion Narrows hike and thoroughly loved it.

I did it in early season high water (as high as allowed), and wore a dry suite. The hike was not overly difficult. Bottom to turn around point and back was a full ~6 or 8hrs on the move so it was a long day, , but wearing the suite was cumbersome but definitely needed for early May water temps.
J62 is offline  
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