iBackpack By: Grant Carroll

Spring Break Trip

I was very excited to backpacking over Spring break. This backpacking trip was going to be on the 7th section of the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT), and I was going with my old Boy Scout troop. I had been looking forward to going on this trip for a long time, one reason was because I was going to use my new one-man tent, and the most important part was because my sister was going to be coming along! I had never been backpacking with her before, so the trip was going to be an interesting and fun experience!

Before we even got to leave the house there had been several of my friends that had to back out from the trip, so that wasn’t fun. Then we started on the 2-hour car ride to the start of the trial, and we grabbed lunch along the way (although we grabbed lunch at 9:30 in the morning!). After we got there the other adults of the troop had to shuttle the cars to the end of the trail in order for us to get back to our cars at the end of the trip. After about an hour they got back and we started on the trail. We had about 6.8 miles to go that day and we knew that there was going to be some rain that night so we hiked as fast as we could to get to our camp site. Starting around 11:30am, it took us about 4 hours to get to the camp site. It was a fairly easy hike and we all made it to the campsite just fine. We had just set up our camp around 5pm when the rain started to come. At first it was a light rain, but as the night came on it rained harder and harder. We were able to keep the fire going until we all went to bed (some went to bed as early as 6:15pm, I went to bed around 9pm), but it went out as soon as we left it. Right when I got in my tent and went to bed the wind started to pick up, and as I literally braced my tent from the inside I thought to myself, “It’s going to be a long night.”

as I literally braced my tent from the inside I thought to myself, “It’s going to be a long night.”
Me and my sister on her first backpacking trip

Well, I was able to stay dry in my tent, and it wasn’t as long as I thought it would be, everything was wet outside. During the night I looked outside my tent and there was a 2-inch puddle in front of me (I’m pretty sure that there was another puddle beneath my tent). Anyways, right after breakfast we headed out on our trek and were going to do about 8 miles that day. Well, that 8 miles turned into over 10 miles because of a flooded and rushing river that was too violent to cross. That also meant that we had to climb a really long and big mountain to get back to the trail. We eventually made it back to camp around 4 pm, and it was one of the best feelings I have ever felt. We camped right next to a river, so the sound of it was great to listen to. That night we let our gear dry out, watched the stars, and sat around the campfire eating roasted Starbursts (yes, Starbursts). That night was one the best night I have ever had while on a campout, and I slept awesome.

The next morning was also awesome, because the first thing I saw was the roaring river, the fog on the mountains, and little hints of the sun coming through. I didn’t want to leave that camp (and I wish I was still there) but eventually after a nice morning we left to complete the last 4.5 miles of our trek. That was some of the hardest hiking that I have ever done because of the steepness of the mountains. After a long and much harder than anticipated hike, we made it back to our cars. After that we took a group picture at a water fall, retrieved our shuttle cars, had some real food (not the freeze dried food), and went back home. Even though it is fun to get away and go hike, it is always nice to go back home.

Essentials: Backpack & Boots

There are several things that are needed for going on a backpack trip and can range from really important things to luxury things. However, there are 2 specific types of gear that you need to have in order to make your trip as comfortable and easy as possible. Those 2 things are a good backpack and a good pair of backpacking shoes.

First, let’s start with the backpack. This is obviously of the most important piece of equipment that you can own because it is what will be carrying all the gear and food that you need for the trip you are one. The first thing you need to decide on before you get a backpack is to determine the style and size of backpack that will fit your needs the best. The 2 main styles of backpacks are internal frame and external frame backpacks. External frame backpacks are the older style of backpacks (the kind you think of when you think about the original Boy Scouts). They carry a lot, but most of it is on the outside of the pack and is exposed to the elements. The most common style, internal frame backpacks, are the more modern backpacks and the type I would recommend. The can also carry a lot and can come in varying sizes, and they carry all your gear inside the bag. Next, you need to choose the size of backpack. The size of the backpack is determined by how many miles and days you will be on the trail. For just 1 night, a 30-liter bag will do you just fine, but anything more than that you will need a 60-100-liter backpack to carry all your gear. Also, make sure that you find a backpack that is well built and comfortable. If it is not made well and uncomfortable, you will end up with either a sore back, neck, shoulders, hips, or any combination of all them. Make sure that you get the right backpack for the job, and you will be a much happier camper.

However, the most important of the 2 things are your shoes. First off, you will need backpacking boots, not hiking boots, hiking shoes, or regular tennis shoes (and especially not any kind of sandal). The reason you want actual backpacking boots is because they are designed to support you and the weight of your backpack, while everything else is made just to support you and maybe a little extra weight. Make sure that the boots are completely waterproof, because if your feet get wet the can cause a happy trip to become a miserable trip. Also, your boots need to be broken in a bit before you go on you first backpacking trip so that you don’t get any blisters, or else you will be miserable.

Remember, your feet are what carries the weight of you and your backpack and they are the only point of contact with you ground, so make sure that your backpacking boots are good quality and your trip will be awesome.

Sleeping well

After a long day of hiking, enjoying dinner and sitting around the campfire, a good night’s rest is essential for a good trip. However, having the wrong equipment can cause you to not have a good nights sleep and make the next day of your trip very hard. In order to prevent this from happening, make sure that you have the right equipment and know how to pick a good spot to get a good night’s sleep.

after a long day of hiking... a good night's rest is essential for a good trip

First you need to decide what type of shelter you will be sleeping in, and the 2 most common sleeping shelters are a hammock or a tent. Hammocks are a great idea if you are backpacking in an area with lots of trees and where it’s preferable to be off the ground. However, using a hammock can be an expensive endeavor because, depending on where you are camping, you could need anything from a rainfly to a bug net to get a good night’s rest. Having all this gear could get chaotic and complicated to set up. They also are limited in space, so you could get cramped up and twisted in your sleeping bag during the night, and they are very hard to change clothes in.

A tent solves most of the problems that a hammock has, because it can be set up anywhere and already has a rainfly and protection from bugs. They are also mostly spacious so you won’t get twisted or cramped, although head room could be a problem. The biggest problems a tent has is that you will need a sleeping pad and a pillow in order to get off the rocky or hard ground underneath you. These things and a tent combined can be really heavy, but if you’re willing to spend a little more money you can bring that weight down drastically. With a tent you also need to be aware of where you put it so that in the case of rain you will not have a puddle or stream running underneath your tent that could cause your gear inside to get wet. A tip for getting a tent, make sure that it has a vestibule (or covered area near the door of a tent) combined with the rainfly. This will give you a dry area to put your bigger gear and boots without having to bring them inside your tent. Tents can also be made for different seasons and can hold varying amounts of people, so make sure you know how many people will be in your tent and what climates you will be camping in.

With regard to tents, a sleeping pad is the second most important piece of gear that will keep you comfortable. They range from roll/fold up foam pads to air core pads. Roll/fold up pads are a great beginner pad because of their simplicity and lightweight, but they are not the most comfortable pads and are very bulky. Conversely, an air core pad provides a lot more comfort and is a lot smaller, but they can be complicated to use (especially when folding them up), and can be very heavy for their size. A pillow is also important because it will prevent you from getting a cramp in your neck, but just about any kind of fold up pillow will work for backpacking, providing that it is a small fold up pillow.

The best way to camp while backpacking is mostly up to you and the environment, and there is no “better” way to sleep verses other ways, so pick which style of sleeping equipment you are most comfortable with. I promise that you will sleep better and have more energy the next day a backpacking.

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