I’ve had a website in one-form-or-another for about fifteen years now. An eternity in the online world.
And people seem to link to the information I’ve put up on this site. And make use of it.
So why is all this crap read?
I am not an expert outdoors person (a loaded term that generally means jack), nor could I tell you the minutiae of gear and rattle off the specs of cubic zirconia fabric, Polar Bear fleece or the fluffy power of clothing. Or whatever the hell it is called.
What I am? A reasonably experienced outdoors person. A person who has been able to get out a fair amount doing different activities, enjoys sharing those experiences and, I’d like to think, writes in a clear and straight forward manner.
And I write enough where I a occasionally write something worth the electrons used to make up the text…
As of April 2016, I have nearly 700 articles on my site. ( Yeah..I have enjoyed writing over the years...)
A lot of information to sift through if you are starting out and just wanting some information to kick-start the learning curve.
So here’s a quick compilation for people starting out and want to get to the pertinent material quickly. I think these articles provide a good general overview and foundation of skills for anyone looking to get more into hiking, backpacking or camping.
- There are some simple guidelines I wrote up. Follow them and you’ll do fine.
- How to start backpacking – Read this article for an overview on how to get started. It is not gear specific. Rather it is both a philosophical and practical overview about taking those first steps in the outdoors. Gear, after all, is the least important part of the outdoors. 🙂
The articles below will be helpful if you are just starting out or perhaps want to refine some techniques a bit.
- Day Hiking in Colorado – Written for Colorado, but easily applicable to day hiking in most places for three season conditions. Check list included.
- The Joy of Car Camping – The younger, more arrogant, version of me who had a narrowly focused thru-hiking skill set, used to think of car camping as something to do only if you can’t backpack. I was wrong. Growing up back East, with little public land, car camping was done at crowded camp grounds. Out West? There is a lot of public land to explore. Not all of it is open or ideal for backpacking. Car camping allows some unique areas to be seen that are sometimes even more wild than many backpacking destinations. Combine it with hiking, and a good experience will be enjoyed. Though car camping seem straight forward, too many people don’t organize themselves well or they buy inappropriate gear. The car camping article I wrote will help with those issues. And sometimes car camping is perhaps the best way to see a place. Of course a truck or car bivy on the way to the trailheads is useful, too!
- Backpacking: A Beginners Primer – A good start for learning to backpack. Written on the more conservative side for those starting out. Doesn’t mean you go heavy, but it doesn’t mean you hike with a 3 oz book bag and no rain gear either. Has a basic check list.
- What gear to bring? – All the articles above have a general gear list. If you are just starting out, figuring out the specific gear to purchase can be intimidating. If you mix and match from my Frugal, Budget and Jack-of-all-trades gear lists, you should have a good and solid gear list for any hiking based activity. The Jack-of-all-trades list is esp useful if you plan on doing activities beyond strictly backpacking such as car camping or trail work. And if you want to save a buck or two, or look at alternatives you have not thought about for gear, I have a series of articles on inexpensive outdoor gear. ( But don’t get too hung up on gear… ) But there is some gear to not to go cheap on as well.
- Where to go? – If you are in Colorado, a popular article of mine lists some prime areas in the Colorado Front Range for prime three-season backpacking. And here’s five more ideas if that is not enough. Want to go backpacking in early or late shoulder season in Colorado? This article should help. For day hikes, ProTrails is an excellent resource. I have a few favorites day hikes as well. ORIC Online is great for day hiking, backpacking or even car camping destinations. Not in Colorado? Not too hard to find out new places to backpack, hike or camp. Most of my techniques involve Google. 😉
- How to find a good campsite is something closing related to finding a good place to go. With a few simple techniques, an appropriate campsite can be found.
- On outdoor trips with long drives, a quick campsite is often needed. Here’s a great resource for finding free sites along the way.
- And it is a lot easier to find a place to go and to find a good campsite if you have some basic navigation skills. The Columbia River Orienteering Club puts out an excellent YouTube series of navigation basics: Map reading, compass use, orienteering, GPS use and even using smart phone apps. Highly recommended.
- Some basic knots are a good thing to know.
- Getting to, and from the trailheads, can be an issue in itself. Though written primarily for winter, my Don’t Get Stuck article has some good pointers. At the very least, have a good backcountry road atlas, a basic socket set and a battery starter. In winter? Pack an ice scraper/brush and a snow shovel in the car.
- And every outdoor person should know how to clean, repair and take care of their gear.
- Finally, all this hiking, camping and backpacking clothing, gear and even food comes in handy for natural disaster preparedness.
You are comfortable with three season outdoor activities, but want to push into late fall or even winter? Perhaps lighten up a bit? Expand your knowledge base? Or maybe dive deeper into gear? Read these articles below.
- Want to lighten the load a bit? My Lightweight Backpacking 101 article is a no-nonsense look at some techniques to get your pack lighter.
- Dry camping is a way to avoid crowds, insects, potential critter issues and not be as locked into specific campsites.
- Pushing the envelope for later season backpacking? The Shoulder Season Backpacking article I wrote for TrailGroove is worth reading. I also suggest reading Cold and Wet – The Hardest Hiking as a companion piece. And if you are doing these late season backpacks, you may be hiking during hunting season. Wear your blaze orange and follow some other techniques to be safe!
- Avoiding bear and critter issues is not hard to do with some simple techniques. And it does not involve bear bagging.
- Off-trail hiking is awesome. Before you do that, I suggest reading this article titled Off-Trail Delights. And if you go off-trail, helpful to know the difference between talus and scree. Additionally, knowing the different classes of hiking based on the Yosemite Decimal System is extremely beneficial.
- The Introduction to Snowshoeing Basics article is, of course, about how to start snowshoeing. But 80% of the article is about any day use winter activity such as ski touring.
- Speaking of ski touring, this article is instructive.
- And, if you want to try out winter backpacking, read this article.
- And don’t forget to pack for after the trip, too!
- Want to really know more about the nuts-and-bolts of gear? Read these articles:
- Ground Cloths – A quick overview : An overlook at different options for a ground cloth
- Sleeping Pads – a grounded view : Some choices for sleeping pads
- Sleeping Bags – A quick and dirty overview: Down vs synthetic? Winter vs three-season bag? Mummy vs semi-rectangular bag? Read this article for more info.
- Puffies 101 : Helps clear up the confusion for puffy insulation layers. Not every puffy layer is meant for winter
- Rain Gear – What to Wear? : An overview of shells and rain gear to wear for various conditions
- Backpacking Food – weekends or long hikes: An overlook at food for overnight activities when you are schlepping everything in your pack.
- Undercover – Which hat to wear: An article to assist in narrowing down the choices for headwear.
- Glove in Hand – Layering for cold weather: Glove and mitten options for cold weather and/or wet activities
- Stove Comparison – Real World Use: Not sure which stove to take? One stove may work better than another depending on season, length out, preference or even fire restrictions
- The Stoves for Camping article should be of interest if you are car camping. Useful for trail work or quick bivies pre-trip, too.
- A look at water treatment is useful
- New Insoles – Simple change with a big difference : A look at insoles and why the factory ones should be replaced in most cases.
- I’ve learned little techniques, gear ideas, tips or hacks over the years that can sometimes make outdoor time more efficient or easier. The Quick Tips series are short articles that some might find useful.
Beer and Bull
At least for me, a lot of important talk concerning the outdoors is not the how, where and what of the outdoors, but the Why? of the outdoors. The issues, the concerns, the simple joy of being outside.
Here’s a few of my favorite articles that are more philosophical in bent:
- Though I spent some time thru-hiking, it is not the most important part of my life or even my outdoors experience. I enjoy just being an outdoors person. Thru-hiking is a subset of that experience. I am not interested in the “Hiking Lifestyle“. I love the wild places the trail travels through more so than the trails or the trail community itself. And, if I was just an Alphabet Soup Hiker (meaning, I am only interested in HIKING on a defined route with an acronym to describe it and the lifestyle around it) my outdoor experiences, skill sets and memories would be limited.
- Among the largely college educated and affluent-in-background people who make up the HIKING community, there seems to be a sour grapes attitude among some towards making money off someone’s passion. The Filthy Lucre article looks into that odd behavior.
- Didn’t quite meet your goal in backpacking? Is it a failure or something to learn from?
- There is more to a perfect campsite than just reading a map, finding a flat spot and following LNT principles. As with a good meal, it is hard to define..but when things come together just right it is wonderful.
- Gear talk is popular. It often ends up being the lifestyle itself: Rather than using gear to get out, going out is for using the gear…or even just collecting it and discussing gear.
- With a modestly popular website, I’ve had to learn how to balance discussing a place to preserve it…but without giving so many details that I ruin the wildness of the place I loved so much in the first place.
- Speaking of wildness, I’ve been thinking of what is really a wild place? When designated Wilderness Areas are often crowded, regulated and not truly isolated, it may be Wilderness..but is it wildness? Some so-called boring areas ends up being beautiful, isolated and truly remote.
- And to enjoy this wildness, it is important to get out there. Balancing free time with social, career and marriage responsibilities is important. To get outdoors, make the outdoors an important priority in your life.
- Finally, if you enjoy the outdoors, consider giving back if you can.
- Almost every person has a set of books that they learn from, enjoy and reflect upon. Myself included. Here are some books I feel will make a good personal library. And I’ve looked at other media I’ve (mainly) enjoyed too.
That should be enough reading to get most people immersed into the outdoors and provide a good foundation for some basic skills.
Of course, once you’ve done some reading, the best way to learn is to get out there!!! It is a method that is instructive, beneficial and fun. Do it!