What Is Backcountry Camping?
Backcountry camping, also known as backpacking, is a style of camping that requires you to hike your camping supplies to an isolated area in nature. Unlike frontcountry camping where you can easily drive up to a campsite, backcountry camping doesn’t have modern conveniences or facilities nearby. You leave your car behind and bring everything with you in your pack including your tent, sleeping bag, clothes, and food.
While the lack of accommodations and hauling your own supplies may not appeal to some, many outdoor aficionados find this to be the epitome of camping. Backcountry camping is more immersive than a drive up campsite, taking you away from crowds and deeper into nature. It’s an opportunity to explore lesser-traveled areas of the wilderness and get connected to the environment around you. There truly is something satisfying about taking a long hike, getting to create your own home-away-from-home in the outdoors, and waking up to the sounds of nature.
As idyllic as backcountry camping sounds, there are some extra steps you need to take to make your trip as smooth as possible.
Research, Research, Research!
Backcountry camping may seem like the perfect opportunity to have a rugged, off-the-cuff experience, but researching your destination is key. If you decide to camp in a state or national park, there are usually park resources like a website or social media to get a feel for the area, its rules, and even recent updates and trail or road closures. If you are backcountry camping in a less-regulated natural area, outdoor sites and hiker forums will have helpful information about weather, flora and fauna, and existing trails, and tips to give you a better sense of the land. This may take some effort, but your research keeps you safe and informed!
Make a list, Check It Twice
Now, take what you’ve learned about your backcountry destination and apply it to your packing list. Verify the camping supplies you already have, what you need to buy, and anything you need to fix or replace ahead of time. Use those googling skills from the step above to look up camping essentials for your area. If you still need some help, your local outdoors store is a great resource for backpacking advice and product recommendations.
Next up are some important “insurance items” to protect yourself and your stuff. These should consist of a compass, a waterproof map of the area, a knife or multi-tool, a small lighter (if the area allows a fire), rope or twine, water purifier or tablets, a phone charger, a battery bank, and your West Slope Case to protect your phone from the elements.
“Pack it Up, Pack it In”
After researching and gathering supplies, be sure to stuff your backpack ahead of time. You’ll find the most efficient fit for the things you need and edit the things you don’t. First, lay all the supplies out and organize the “big” items. The rule of thumb is to put fuel at the bottom (in case of leaks). Heavier and less used items should be in the center, and then lighter, more frequently used items will go at the top – think jacket or snacks. Your pack may have some nifty slots and stretchy compartments that are perfect for softer items, so feel free to get creative.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T the Backcountry
This is an obvious tip that cannot be overstated. The backcountry is beautiful for a reason, so do your part to keep it that way. Practice “Leave No Trace” rules like staying on a designated path, picking up your trash, and leaving nature the way you found it. You want to be a good steward of the land that you’ve come to enjoy and keep it preserved for others.
Be Respectful of Other Campers
While you may be backcountry camping as an escape, others are likely thinking the same thing too. If you encounter other campers, be wary of those around you and how your presence may impact their experience – positively or negatively. Don’t be too noisy or play music at your campsite, let people pass you on trails if they are going at a faster speed, and just be a good neighbor overall. We’re all trying to enjoy nature’s beauty together!
Take a Beat
Unless you are racing against daylight, slow your pace, pick up your head, and take in the beauty around you. You planned and prepped to be out here so BE out here. Another way to recall your trip is to bring a small journal and let your mind wander. Doodle, draw, or describe with detail your trip to recreate vivid images that are great for reminiscing when you’re jonesing for the outdoors.