My love of backpacking started after I was a teen. In contrast to taking a day hike, backpacking supplied journey as you packed every part it’s worthwhile to spend an evening or extra within the woods in your again and spend the night time sleeping below the celebrities subsequent to a stream, a dashing waterfall, or on a rocky bluff, the sounds of nature surrounding you.

Over time, life obtained in the best way and there by no means gave the impression to be sufficient time to get away so my love of backpacking was pushed to the backburner. Now that I’ve retired, I’ve the time and need to attempt it once more. Hassle is, I’m not that spry teenager anymore. My knees pop, snap, and ache. My again isn’t limber anymore. However the path is asking. 

Backpacking is a wonderful option to really feel rejuvenated, take you to landscapes and nature that solely a climbing path can, and even problem you. It may be so simple as spending one night time on a path in a neighborhood state park the place they provide backcountry tenting to one thing actually difficult like climbing the whole Appalachian Trail (A.T.) from Georgia to Maine. 

One factor is for sure: it’s a enjoyable, rewarding, and satisfying sport that these of us over 50 can get pleasure from far into our golden years.

MJ Eberhart (aka Nimblewill Nomad) became the oldest man to complete the Appalachian Trail.
MJ Eberhart (aka Nimblewill Nomad) grew to become the oldest man to finish the Appalachian Path in 2001

(Photograph Credit score: Joe Cuhaj)

Not satisfied that you simply’re by no means too previous to backpack? Effectively, good friend of mine, M.J. Eberhart (higher recognized by his climbing moniker, Nimblewill Nomad) not too long ago accomplished climbing the A.T. from Alabama to Maine on the age of 83, changing into the oldest man to take action.

Listed here are eight tricks to get you began by yourself journey.

Man stands on top of rock overlooking rolling hills.
“One of many joys of backpacking – breathtaking views.”
(Photograph Credit score: Joe Cuhaj)

1. The Pleasure Of Backpacking Over 50

In addition to exploring nature, there are lots of different advantages related to backpacking:

  • Being bodily energetic is sweet on your thoughts and physique.
  • It improves your cardiovascular well being.
  • Builds sturdy muscle mass.
  • Will increase cognitive perform.
  • It’s therapeutic, permitting you to get away from the on a regular basis grind and immerse your self in nature.
  • Builds confidence in your self and your talents. 

2. Getting In Form 

Earlier than you lace up these boots and set one foot on the path, get to know your physique and your bodily situation, and don’t sugarcoat it. Be sincere with your self. Are you having some knee or again aches? Are you a bit obese? How is your stamina?

At all times begin your journey along with your private doctor. Inform them what you’re planning on doing and get the low down in your bodily situation. Be sure you ask their recommendation for making ready your physique for the adventures forward.

3. Begin With The Fundamentals 

When you’ve got by no means taken even a day hike earlier than, begin by strolling your neighborhood and steadily enhance your distance.

Whenever you’re prepared to maneuver on to one thing more difficult, take your stroll to the closest park or state park and take day hikes of various levels of issue. Once more, start with straightforward trails and work your manner as much as the harder however make sure you take hikes which have one thing of curiosity to spur you on like a waterfall, panoramic view, or historical past.

From there, it’s time to begin taking straightforward in a single day treks. Utilizing the identical course of, construct your self as much as longer stays within the woods. However earlier than you are able to do that overnighter, it’s worthwhile to get some primary gear and do some extra planning.

4. Gear Fundamentals 

You must keep in mind that you’ll be carrying every part you want in your again. Many individuals surrender backpacking after their first journey as a result of they carry actually every part — forged iron skillets, massive four-person tents, radios, you title it. It’s not good and is often the top of their backpacking adventures.

The thought is to strike a stability between packing gentle and nonetheless being comfy. There’s a science to purchasing the appropriate gear on your journey — tents, sleeping baggage, meals, and so forth. The American Hiking Society is without doubt one of the greatest sources for studying the intricacies concerned in making the perfect decisions for backpacking gear and making your first backpacking journey pleasurable and cozy.

There are a number of necessities it’s worthwhile to actually deal with. The primary is water, a backpacker’s greatest good friend and worst enemy.

It’s the hiker’s greatest good friend as a result of ingesting sufficient water on a hike is crucial to maintain you hydrated and wholesome. It’s their worst enemy as a result of it is extremely heavy to hold.

A superb rule of thumb is to drink one half-liter of water per hour of reasonable exercise in reasonable temperatures. Improve or lower the quantity relying on the hike’s issue and the surface temperature. Be sure you add electrolytes to your water to assist with hydration.

Don’t drink from any water supply on the path with out first purifying it both by a filter or with chemical compounds. Sicknesses from water-borne germs like giardia usually are not a laughing matter. Whereas it’s treatable and infrequently deadly, the bodily toll it takes in your physique isn’t enjoyable.

Discuss with the native clothing store about water filters on your pack or water bottle. The go-to journal for backpackers, Backpacker Magazine, does an annual overview of the newest filters that may also enable you make the appropriate selection.

At all times carry primary communications — a mobile phone and GPS unit. Cell telephones are OK to a degree, however you’re by no means positive if you should have a sign or not, and naturally, the batteries die.

Don’t ever use your cellphone as a GPS gadget. Once more, lack of sign is the issue and might depart you stranded out within the backcountry. It additionally drains batteries rapidly. As a substitute, go for a GPS gadget. Costs begin at $100 for the essential Garmin GPS Map 64ST.

Even with GPS unit (and having discovered learn how to use it), there may be nonetheless one factor you must be taught earlier than your large journey…

5. Study Orienteering 

A GPS is sweet, however you’ll be able to nonetheless lose the sign or the batteries can die. It’s a good suggestion to be taught orienteering — the usage of a standard map and compass. Oh, and make sure you carry them with you in your hike.

Nationwide topographic maps for wherever within the nation can be found on-line from the U.S. Geological Survey in addition to native outfitters who can instruct you on the artwork of orienteering or information you to somebody who can train you.

Campers stand around campfire.
Writer, Joe, preparing for an evening on the path with pals round a campfire.
(Photograph Credit score: Joe Cuhaj)

6. Make Knowledgeable Selections About Your Trek 

As you see, planning is every part for a profitable backpacking journey. However there may be extra to it than simply the gear you carry.

In fact, you need to make your backpacking journey memorable and expertise all that nature has to supply, however it’s worthwhile to know your limits.

Good path guides and maps will let you know the diploma of issue of a path. However that’s all subjective and often relies on the creator’s expertise and situation, which is probably not the identical as yours.

With path information like these discovered on AllTrails or an app, you’ll be able to have a look at the map and the accompanying elevation achieve to get a way of what sort of climbing you’re in for on the hike you select to take.

Additionally think about the size of the hike. Certain, the typical individual can stroll 2 or 2.5-miles an hour on degree floor, however add in climbing ridges and mountains and fording streams, and until you’re in high situation, your velocity will drop considerably and a shorter distance in a single day hike could also be so as.

Find water sources alongside the path earlier than you head out. Are there loads of streams and is derived the place you’ll be able to filter water? That may assist lighten the load, however nonetheless at all times carry loads with you. You by no means know when that water supply can be dry.

7. Be Climate Sensible

Examine the climate earlier than heading out. If severe storms are predicted, don’t probability it.

Hikers, walk across a wooden bridge into the woods.
“Take a day hike along with your gear to attempt it out earlier than doing an in a single day backpacking journey.”
(Photograph Credit score: Joe Cuhaj)

8. Last Suggestions Earlier than You Hit The Path

By no means hike alone. I’ve many backpacking pals who go solo, however it’s not a good suggestion. Emergencies occur on the path and having somebody with you may be the distinction between life and loss of life.

Pack alongside a primary support package and know learn how to use it.

Wherever you go, let others know of your plans — when you’ll be on the trailhead, what route you take on the path, the place you’ll be spending the night time, and what time they will anticipate you to return house.

Earlier than going in your first in a single day, think about doing a shakedown hike of your gear. Load your pack with every part you intend on taking with you and do a day hike by a neighborhood park or state park. Stroll a distance. Is the pack comfy or too heavy? Take the gear out and take a look at it to verify it really works and that it’s not too tough to function on the path.

And with that, you’re able to lace up the boots, strap on the pack, seize the climbing poles, and take your first backpacking journey. Blissful trails!

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