Adventure in the Backcountry

Your Guide to Long Distance Backpacking, Backcountry Canoe Tripping, Hiking, Outdoor Gear and Adventure

Tag: Long Distance Hiking

The Best Resources to Prep for the Appalachian Trail

Are you dreaming of hiking the Appalachian Trail? Finding the right resources can help you prepare yourself so you ensure you have the right gear, mental attitude, and feel confident in beginning this scary but exciting new adventure.

It has never been easier to prepare for trips like these, as there is so much content on the internet that has been created to share knowledge, experience, and expertise. From podcasts, blogs, forums, books, maps, to YouTube Videos, there is an abundance of information for you to sift through as you plan your section or thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve spent the last couple years looking into resources to plan my section hike and my upcoming thru-hike on the AT. Here are some of the resources I found most helpful:

General Information about the Trail:

Guidebooks and Maps: 

  • Awol’s AT Guide is hands down the best guide book you can get to help plan your trip and use as you hike the Trail. I found it so useful to look over before I left to see when my first re-supply would be and get a sense of the terrain, different Trail towns, water sources, etc.
  • The ATC’s Interactive Map was one of my favourite tools to use in planning my route. The map is so accessible to use and even has layer features which allow you to explore AT parking, shelters, and communities.

Online Forums:

  • Reddit is a wonderful world to dive into as it consists of tons of advice, feedback, experiences and updates on the Trail from users. The two subreddits I follow are: r/appalachiantrail and r/Ultralight
  • WhiteBlaze.net is another great online forum focused on the Appalachian Trail.

Gear Prep: 

  • Outdoor Gear Lab is the best place to get unbiased reviews of outdoor gear as they have outdoor enthusiasts and experts test out the product lines of major outdoor companies every single year. They have such a comprehensive review rating system that helps you focus on specifically what you are looking for. For example, if I am looking for a new backpacking tent, they outline the best overall product, the lightest option, and the ‘Best bang for your buck’ product. This helps me narrow down the product qualities I’m seeking. Before I purchase a new gear item I always read the reviews on this website first.
  • LighterPack is an incredible resource that allows you to put together your gear list for your trip. By imputing and calculating the overall weights, it’s a useful tool to make sure you have a good base weight. It also helps me be more critical of my gear list and eliminate items I don’t really ‘need.’

Blogs:

  • The Trek is one of the best blogs to check out for Appalachian Trail content. Their website has so many useful resources and can probably cover most of the topics on this list. If you’re interested in long distance backpacking, it’s the website you should be following.

Youtube Videos:

  • Homemade Wanderlust is my favourite Appalachian Trail Youtuber. She has great videos on gear advice, and helpful tips for life on the trail.
  • Darwin Onthetrail great long distance backpacking videos as well. I also enjoy how he’s created content on backpacking gear for those who are on a tight budget.

Podcasts: 

  • Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail is a great podcast run by a former thru-hiker on the AT who interviews hikers about their experiences. The host Steve Adams, has a smooth British accent which makes interviews so enjoyable and calming to listen to. I loved to listen to them on Spotify on my commute to work every morning.

Books:

Time to hit the dusty trail

I hope you find these resources as helpful as I did in preparing for my hike on the Appalachian Trail. Of course, there are so many other helpful resources out there, these are just my personal favourites. Go on and dive right into the worm hole of the internet and have fun prepping for your adventure of a lifetime. Happy Trails!

 

5 Tips for Planning your First Solo in the Backcountry

Has backpacking or camping by yourself always been a life dream of yours? Does solo adventure seem a bit intimating to you? I hope that by taking you through why soloing is such a fantastic experience and by giving you some practical tips on how to prepare, you will be ready and confident to try out your first solo trip!


Why Solo Adventure is Totally Awesome: 

While I love to hike and camp with friends and family, I gotta tell you that my favourite experiences in the backcountry are the ones that I have done solo. I find that it allows you to build more skills in the wilderness because you are forced to act independently. Essentially, you are not relying on others to do tasks for you and you have to learn through trial and error and overcoming your own challenges. There is something so empowering about being able to navigate the backcountry with your own map reading skills, your own paddle strokes, and your own determination. I promise you that adventuring solo will give you more confidence in knowing that you are truly capable of doing anything you set your mind out to accomplish.

Recenter Yourself in Solitude
Being surrounded by nature in silence and truly soaking up the landscape and beauty around you can be a pretty neat experience. Spending time alone with your thoughts gives opportunity to focus and be fully present in the moment. The alone time can also be great in reflecting or sorting through some inner conflicts, decisions, feelings, that maybe you’ve been putting off dealing with. Solo trips can be the best opportunities to work on your own personal growth. I’ve found solo experiences can leave you feeling centred and refreshed. Afterwards, you’ll reflect on all you accomplished and you might think “Well, hell, I’m pretty bad ass aren’t I?”


Convinced yet? I want to take you through 5 tips that I learned through personal experience that helped me in starting to adventure solo:

1. Practise makes perfect
Believe it or not, the first time I ever camped solo was right beside ‘civilization.’ When I was much younger, I set up my tent in a field at my family cottage to help me practise and get used to camping alone. I remember that night very vividly as I was nervous and woke up many times during the night as every bump had me thinking there was a bear coming to say hello. This set up was perfect because it allowed me to dismiss these fears and get comfortable with camping solo in a safe environment. I recommend trying out solo camping in your backyard, at your cottage, on your friends property, wherever you are the most safe for your first experience. If it takes you more than one practise session to get comfortable riding solo, that’s perfectly fine, remember that there is no rush.


2. Test out your gear beforehand
There’s nothing more stressful than bringing a brand new piece of gear out into the backcountry with no idea how to use it. No cell service means no internet to access YouTube videos on how to put together your water filter, or set up your tent. And whoops, you probably left the instruction manual at home. Make sure you test out all your equipment before you go, practise setting up your tent, using your portable stove, tying up a bear hang, anything you will need to know for your expedition. This will make you feel more confident and familiar with your equipment, and saves any last minute stress in the backcountry.

3. Ensure your first solo trip is an easy, accessible, and short route
Be realistic with you limits and goals when starting out. 3 portages, 4 lakes to paddle, and a 5 night expedition is going to have you way over your head. While it’s great to have ambition, maybe plan that trip for when you have more experience in the backcountry. Having a super intense trip plan is only going to make you overwhelmed, not to mention puts your own safety at risk. My recommendation is plan a trip that requires a small amount of paddling, or hiking and a route that you are more familiar with. In addition, one or two nights will give you a shorter more doable timeframe. This will help you feel more comfortable in doing your first expedition solo.


3. Research and trip plan
Before your trip, make sure to research everything there is to know about where you’ll be going, and how you will get there. Purchase a backcountry map and study it ahead of time to plan your exact route and a general estimate of how long it should take you. Make use of the thousands of online resources on the internet including videos on YouTube, outdoor blogs, and forums. Inform yourself on what gear you will need and what weather you’ll be expecting for your trip.


4. Don’t pack your gear the morning of your trip
I know from personal experience that packing your gear the morning of, will mean you will be rushing around, making you more likely to forget something. Packing well in advance, allows you to ensure everything is ready to go, and every item is double checked on your list. It will also allow you to leave early in the morning which will give you more travel time to get to your evening campsite or destination.

5. Tell your friends and family where your going and when you’ll be back
Inform someone close to you the plans for your trip including when you’ll be leaving, your trip route and your day of return. This will ensure your safety if something were to happen while you are out in the backcountry. It will also give you peace of mind, allowing you to relax and enjoy your trip.


I hope all of these tips help you in planning your first solo trip in the backcountry. Remember to relax, have fun, and take the time to enjoy every moment. Allow yourself to make mistakes, after all that’s how we learn and develop our skills. Remember that confidence might take time, keep at it and continue pushing yourself to step outside your comfort zone. I promise you that it will bring you a totally different experience of solitude and self empowerment.

Good luck on your journey and Happy Trails.

How to Navigate the Appalachian Trail

Hoping to not get lost on the Appalachian Trail? Let me take you through three resources which will help you immensely on your adventure:

1. 2018 Northbound or Southbound A. T Guide by David “Awol” Miller
I can’t praise this guidebook enough. Before going on the trail I spent quite a bit of time looking up what map/guide to get and everyone recommended this one. It’s easy to see why, it’s incredibly detailed and well thoughtout. It shows milage markers as you hike along and elevation profile maps. It also indicates thousands of landmarks such as campsites, water sources, summits and gaps which makes it super easy to plan your way on the trail. Using the guide book, you can figure out where to stop to re-fill and filter your water, and I used it to check up on how far along I was and how much further there was to go until my shelter for the night. Another great feature of the guidebook is it has tons of info and resources on re-supply points on the trail. It has outlined accommodation details, shuttle services, grocery stores, phone numbers and all the info you need for every trail town. This was so helpful in figuring out what towns to re-supply in.

2. Guthook’s Appalachian Trail Guide App 
When I was on the Trail most people had this awesome app for their phone and I wish I had downloaded it before I left on my trip. Guthook’s map-based smartphone guide doesn’t use any data or require wifi, instead it uses your phones GPS. It shows you where you are on the trail and how close you are to water sources and shelters. It’s free to download but then you have to pay for the maps for the sections of the trail you are hiking. The coolest thing about this app is it tells you exactly how far you are away from landmarks, whereas with the guide book you have to calculate that using math and guessing how far you are in between. So in summary, it will tell you where you are faster than using a guide book. Here’s the kicker: if your phone runs out of battery while on trail then you will be SOL (shit out of luck). So I would encourage not solely depending on the app, instead, bringing a guide book as well. Tips: put your phone on airplane mode to save battery and bring a mini portable charger just in case it runs out before you get to your next re-supply point/trail town.

3. A Compass:
Call me old school but having a compass gave me a huge sense of security on the trail. This is mostly because there is the thought in the back of your head that asks: “What if get completely off the trail somehow and have to find my way in the woods?” Having a compass will at least tell you what direction you’re heading in so that you’re not walking in circles till you eat up all of your ramen noodles rations and die. The trail is super well marked and you have to be pretty stupid to wander off the trail somehow, but having a compass puts me at ease. I got just a simple one from MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) but you can use whatever you already own (preferably lightweight).

With these three resources on hand you will be all set on navigating your way on the Appalachian Trail. Wishing you a safe and absolutely amazing adventure!

Happy Trails!

5 Reasons the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 is an Incredible Tent

I purchased my Big Agnus Copper Spur HV UL2 in April 2017 and have completely fallen in love with it. I originally purchased it for my section hike of the Appalachian Trail, as I had done tons of research on lightweight backpacking tents and this one had incredible reviews and everything I was looking for. Not only did I really enjoy it on the trail but have taken it on backcountry canoe trips in Parks across Ontario. I am very happy with my purchase and here’s why this tent meets the mark:

Specs:

Vestibule Area 9 / 9 sqft / 0.8 / 0.8 sqm
Trail Weight 2lb 12oz / 1.25kg
Packed Weight 3lb 1oz / 1.40kg
Packed Size 4″ x 19.5″ / 10 x 50cm
Number of Seasons 3
Number of Doors 2
Head Height 40″ / 102cm
Footprint Weight 6oz / 170g
Floor Area 29 sqft / 2.7 sqm
Fast Fly Weight 964g

1. It’s super lightweight
When picking out a tent it was very important for me for it to be lightweight for long distance backpacking trips. Previously I owned an ancient and super heavy Coleman 3 person tent that I lugged around with me on backcountry trips so this was worth the money to do a major upgrade. Coming in at only 2lb 12oz this so lightweight and fantastic for what it offers. It stored super nicely in my Osprey Aura AG 65 backpack and I was very impressed with how light it felt in my backpack as I hiked.

2. It’s incredibly easy to set up
There’s nothing like being extremely tired from a long day hiking on a trail, or paddling the interior, only have to come to your site for the night and struggle with poles and clips in the dark. Having previously owned tents that were very frustrating to put together, owning the Copper Spur HV UL2 was a breathe of fresh air. The set up is beyond easy to put together, can be done solo in pretty much a minute or two, and I never had any struggles with it long term.


3. The mesh design will blow your mind

The best feature of the Copper Spur HV UL2 is hands down, the two-tone mesh design which starts about halfway up the tent. This allows for privacy but also allows you to take in outdoor sights including the scenery around you or even the stars at night. During the summer months, if I knew it wasn’t going to rain, I loved being able to fall asleep under the stars. Another amazing thing I will note, is this design is great during bug season. Camping in Northern Ontario during the months of May and June means tons of black flies and mosquitoes. This design was perfect for when I needed to escape their wrath. I could lay in my tent with a good book or a cup of coffee and still enjoy the the forest around me and all the critters (like the chipmunk above that came for a little visit).

4. The double door and inside mesh pockets features
One of the major selling points for me were the great features this tent offers. One of these features is the double door design. If you are sleeping with someone else in the tent then this is very important to have. It solves having to crawl over your partner in the middle of the night when you have to pee, and makes it just so much more convenient to get in and out of the tent. Another feature I loved was the 2 interior mesh pockets, and oversized mesh pocket with two cord routing portals. It was perfect to store my books, maps, cellphone, and items I wanted quick access to. It was especially useful for storing my headlamp so I could find it right away in the middle of the night when I needed it. The door and fly design also meant I could unzip and tie the sides to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning with full view of the forest which was extremely relaxing and gorgeous.

5. It has the perfect amount of space
It was very important for me to get a two person tent because I didn’t want to make a big investment into a gear item that I couldn’t use with my partner or with friends while camping. It was also important to have enough space to be able to stretch out and be comfortable and not feel claustrophobic, which many one-person tents tend to be.  Having a two person was also awesome because it meant that I could sleep with my backpack right beside me if I was solo and have access to everything I needed.

As you can see, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 was a fantastic gear choice for me. I can’t recommend this tent enough for ultralight long distance backpacking, thru-hiking, camping, and interior canoe tripping in the backcountry. It’s lasted me through storms, wind, and the all kinds of elements in the spring, summer and fall.

I hope it keeps you warm and dry on all your adventures.

Happy exploring!

What Food I Ate on my Section Hike of the Appalachian Trail

Are you researching and prepping your food for your long distance hiking trip? Wondering what types of food to bring that are both lightweight and delicious?

Before I left on my section hike of the Appalachian Trail I found that researching food prep and menus was very helpful and gave me a better idea of what food works best for trail life.

However, once I actually got out on the Appalachian Trail I found that what I thought I would eat on the trail changed greatly. Be prepared to want to chuck ramen noodles off a mountain top on day 3, and be prepared to crave things you’ve never thought you’d ever combine together.

The truth is, you will find that your food preferences are going to change and this is completely personal to what you like and what makes you feel great as you hike. I encourage you to do research on what works the best for your own diet and preferences. If you are mailing your own re-supply boxes, doing your own dehydrating will save you a lot of money. Keep in mind though that you can easily find the food you need at grocery stores located in Trail Towns along the AT. I found trail town re-supply to be the best method for me. For more details on my thoughts on resupply check out my other post here

After finishing my section hike I learned a lot about what foods I liked and what worked the best on the trail. This is my thru-hiking menu:

Breakfast

Instant Coffee- If you’re able to go Gucci, Starbucks is the best. If you’re a little broke, like me, I settled for Nescafe Instant Coffee.

Oatmeal – I went for Quakers Oats, I found that two packets were the best and kept me full and high energy for the morning. I usually did a combo of one flavoured one and a regular packet. That way I didn’t overdue it with the sugar content. Also maple and brown sugar flavor is the best, just sayin’.

Breakfast Healthy Grains- I also had a small packet of grains to add to my oatmeal that included chia seeds, quinoa, hemp seeds, raisons and various super healthy stuff that helped add some nutritious content to my oats! You can find prepackaged ones at health food stores or you can buy them in bulk and combine your own in a ziplock bag.

Cliff Bars- Long term I found that oatmeal took a long time to make in the morning and that if I was in a rush a simple Cliff Bar was the quickest way to start my morning. My favourite kinds were: Peanut Butter Crunch & Chocolate Chip.

Lunch

Wraps- I fell in love with tortilla wraps on the AT. They are like a bundle of love that you wrap up quick and shove into your mouth as you hike. Seriously they will be your new best friends, I promise. Best of all, even when squished in your hiking bag they still taste good. And you can put just about anything on them. Here are the types of wraps I ate:

Tuna Wraps- You can buy the small packages of flakey tuna at the grocery store (not cans), and I grabbed little packets of mayo from fast food places in trail towns and used that for an even tastier wrap!

Peanut Butter wraps- I quickly realized how obsessed I was with peanut butter on the trail. I started off with small packets of it then quickly upgraded to small container that would last me about a week. There’s tons of protein in it, and let’ face it, it tastes incredibly delicious. Trail hack: the little packets you get at breakfast restaurants of Jam and Honey also make a fun addition if you can get your hands on them.

Supper

Backpacker’s Pantry and Mountain House- They tend to be pretty expensive but god are they good. The best part is you don’t have to do dishes because you just toss out the package you cook them in. All you have to do is add boiling water. There’s like a million different meals that come in these pouches and the fun part is testing them out and finding your favourites.

Knorr Sidekick Meals- You can find these at most grocery stores, they are instant packets of pastas, noodles, and rice. Lots of different flavours, are easy to make, and pretty yummy.

Instant Rice, Quinoa, Ramen Noodles- Anything is fair game! The fun part about meal prep is that you can get creative at home dehydrating your own meals or getting creative in what you can combine while you’re in the grocery store.

Snacks

Beef Jerky- I can’t tell you enough how much I became obsessed with beef jerky on the trail. It packs small, and has a lot of protein. Also important to mention, if you eat it in the morning you can close your eyes and pretend it’s bacon. I’ve taste tested a lot of flavours and brands and my personal favourite is Jack Link’s Teriyaki Beef Jerky.  Even better, try making your own if you have a dehydrator.

Dried Mango- This was one of my desserts on the trail. If you like candy or are craving something sweet, it’s a small piece of heaven when you’re out in the woods.

Trail Mix- I tried a bunch of different trail mixes while I was on the AT. My advice is stay away from yogurt chips, they are pretty disgusting. The cheapest way to do it is buy an inexpensive bag of nuts, sunflower seeds, raisons, and then buy a bag of M&Ms and combine it all.

Snicker bars- I heard about snicker bars from bloggers who hiked the AT and they were always raving about them. I can tell you, the hype is real. At the end of a long day, the chocolate and peanut combo refreshed your tired, weary soul and there’s seriously nothing like it.

Green Juice Powder- Living the trail life you’ll often worry about whether you are going to get scurvy or not because your diet does not consist of much fresh fruit or vegetables. I had some individual packets of green juice I brought with me and they were perfect to drink at breakfast or supper when I felt like I was turning into a pirate. You can purchase them at health food stores.

Protein Powder- All about the gains bro! But seriously your body is burning major calories and fat and building muscle in your legs and all over your body. Protein powder helps your muscles grow big and strong and I also found it filled me up when my noodles left me a little hungry. I purchased a Vanilla Hemp Pro from Manitoba Harvest that I picked up at the health food store and loved it.

I hope this list helps you in planning what food to purchase or pick up in your trail towns along the way. Do you have any trail food favourites I haven’t mentioned? Comment below!

Happy Trails.

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