Go Hiking! In the weeks building up to an overnight trip, push your body and gather an understanding of what you are capable of achieving. Then, divide your distance and elevation in half. Keep in mind, your overnight pack will add a significant amount of weight to your body. You will hike much slower and become exhausted almost immediately. Long overnight hauls require Will Power!
Plot Your Course
Topo maps will give you a good understanding of the terrain that you'll need to conquer. That said, don't be fooled by trails that are seemingly level; like following a creek. It's quite possible that the actual trail will lift up and down several times and although the topo map may not appear to vary by more than 100 feet, the amount of gain/loss could be cumulatively significant. In addition, a trail map may be dotted but the conditions of the trail may be difficult or impassible. It's usually a good idea to contact the local ranger station first, but Do Not Rely on their descriptions. Many of the local rangers will have a good understanding of the area yet their information may be from reports. Their knowledge may be from an expedition that they took over a decade ago. With rains, fires and trail modifications, the wilderness that they remember may not be exactly what you will face.
Out & Back Trails are the safest bet to success yet they lack the mysterious unknown that you will discover with loop or drop off/pick up endeavors. Set a goal: On paper it may seem completely doable but once out in the wild, you may realize that you were overzealous. That said, a good back up plan may reward you with a better overall experience.
Check the forecast for your specific area before you leave, ok! Check out this website: NOAA Weather
You can drag the map anywhere, play around with it and pin point it to your exact spot. Remember, you may start off at 2000 feet but if you camp at 7000 feet, the weather will be completely different. Check it out both ways to understand what you are up against.
Equipment & Packing
Checklist; Pack as light as possible:
- Tent: Optional, however pitching a tent is part of the experience so choose wisely. You can find a good 4-pound tent that will take up little room in your pack. Don't settle for a 6+ pound tents! Although 2 pounds doesn't sound like much, multiply that out over tens of thousands of steps...
- Sleeping bag: don't need it, unless you are doing a winter hike! A lightweight blanket and long sleeve shirt will work out perfectly. For chilly temperatures, look for lightweight shirts & leggings that will retain body heat. If you are tackling extreme temperatures, find the lightest weight bag rated for the condition that you will be in.
- Air Matress: Optional but comfortable. Slighlty expensive but light weight. It's a bit bulky but you should be able to condense it and attach it to your bag with no problem. It puts to shame the rubbery sleeping pad.
- Pillow: You can take all your clothes, stuff them in a bag (tent bag), or buy a light weight roll up pillow
- Clothes: Lightweight pants that have a zipper to convert them into shorts. Pack 1 extra pair of socks, underwear and shirt
- Under Armor: Spandex or nylon; non-cotton boxers, shirt & socks
- Food: Dehydrated meals, oranges, energy snacks, etc...
- Cooking Equipment: lightweight kettle & 1 spoon
- Water: 100 ounce Camel Pack; Frozen 1 litter, Frozen Gatorades (Ice is priceless)
- Replacement Water: If your course intersects fresh springs or moving creeks, bring Iodine tabs & phase 2 tabs to reduce the risk of Giardia. Add Gatorade powder for taste & electrolytes
- Bodyglide: Anti-Chafing Balm; apply it with authority, avoid discomfort!
- Deet: 100 deet to deter bugs
- Light: Not really needed, but you can pickup a glowstick or carry a small flashlight
- Baby Wipes: In case you gotta go :)
- First Aid: Advil, bandaids, burn cream, tweezers
- Lotion: For your feet at night; it's worth it!