Three (More) Tips to Improve Your Next Backpacking Trip

1. Ditch the CamelBak

Hands-free hydration bladders like CamelBaks are convenient to drink from while on the move, but if a hiker has access to water sources throughout the day, the bladder will likely make their day harder. Hikers can save themselves from carrying an excessive amount of water (which is heavy!) by filling up at every source they pass, but hydration bladders discourage this. They are often a pain to retrieve from a backpack and harder to fill up and treat. Many CamelBak users simply tank up on water in the morning and ignore the water sources that they pass throughout the day, stopping to fill up only when they must in order to avoid inconvenience.

Alternatively, bottles can easily be dipped into a stream crossing and treated with chemical drops or a simple squeeze filter in a matter of seconds. If both the bottles and the water treatment are accessible in side-pockets, this can be done with the hiker hardly breaking stride, meaning it is still easy to fill up frequently. The hiker carries only as much water as is needed to make it to the next reliable source and can monitor exactly how much water is consumed while traveling between sources.

2. Eat dinner on the trail

A stream crossing near the end of a day on trail is a great place to break out the stove for a cooked meal, which will usually require a good bit of water. Eat, fill up on water, finish the day with a couple more miles of sunset-lit hiking, and then stop to sleep whenever, without worrying about making it to a campsite with a water source. For hikers in bear country, this also reduces concern about food odors lingering where they sleep. Be sure to have enough water to make it to the first source of the following day; this practice is not preferable if sources are scarce.

3. If you can, let your sleeping pad and backpack work together

Those who generally carry fewer than thirty pounds while backpacking can forego a pack with rigid and heavy internal frames. Lightweight backpackers in the market for a new pack can find great weight savings in designs with only semi-rigid frames. Some packs today use as little as a rectangle of foam padding to give the backpack some shape.

With these minimalist packs, one can easily remove the foam “frame” and replace it with his or her sleeping pad, folded to fit the backpack’s shape. Inflatable pads work well when left very slightly inflated. The result is a pack that can carry a light-to-moderate load but that itself weighs no more than the cloth it is sewn of.

Jesse Metzger

Jesse Metzger

Jesse Metzger, class of '19, manages content for the Catalyst's website. A former contributor for the Active Life section, he is a Film & Media Studies major with a minor in Journalism. In his free time, Jesse enjoys spending time outdoors, cooking, and playing intense games of bananagrams.

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