How to Choose a Route for Your First Backpacking Trip

Let's find you the best route for your first backpacking trip

Whether you’re dreaming of days in the mountains, along coastlines, or through the desert, planning your first backpacking trip is an exciting process. Congratulations on making moves toward this rewarding new hobby! To make your experience as positive and fun as possible, it’s important to find a beginner-friendly backpacking route that suits your experience level.

Here are some tips for finding the best route for your first backpacking trip.

Where to Find Ideas for Beginner-Friendly Backpacking Routes

When looking for ideas for your first backpacking trip, where should you start? Good news: there are lots of great resources to identify beginner-friendly routes. As you’re researching, try to find information about the same route from multiple sources. If you find broad agreement across several sources about a route, you can feel more confident in that information.

Outdoor stores

Pop into a local...

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Backpacking for Beginners: Training for Your First Trip

Why is Strength Training Important for Backpacking?

Many adventurers go into backpacking trips with the mentality that they will “use the trip to build fitness.” While a trip will certainly help make you stronger, striking out on a big adventure with no foundation of training can easily lead to getting in over your head or hurting yourself. Not the best way to have a good time!

While simply doing more hiking can help us build our trail fitness, it’s important to remember that hiking isn’t the whole story. By training our bodies as holistic systems and reinforcing healthy, functional movement patterns, we can be stronger hikers.

Strength training before and between our outdoor adventures helps us build the resilience we need for injury-free outings. When we’re not derailed by pain or struggling to keep up, we can have more fun and focus on enjoying things like the beauty of our surroundings and the great company of our trip companions. As we build...

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Backpacking Risk and Emergency Planning: What You Need to Know

Educating Ourselves Around Planning and Preparedness

After you have gained a full picture of what risks you’ll be dealing with on your trip, you can then formulate your risk and emergency plan. In order to do that, educating ourselves around risk can build our confidence and mitigate the real risks we might face. For backpackers of all backgrounds and experience levels, the best thing you can do for your own safety is planning and preparedness.

Before diving into this post, read up on the basics of risk management and safety in our previous post, which will lay the groundwork for this discussion. In this post, we’ll get into more detail about specific concerns as well as creating your risk mitigation plan.

Assessing Risk: How Many Lemons Do You Have?

In our last blog post, we talked about how to identify risks and introduced the idea of each major risk as a (metaphorical) lemon. Consider creating a document with a list of risks and how severe the risk is (i.e., how...

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Backpacking Risk Management and Safety: What you need to know

Planning essentials for backpacking trips

Risk management is one of the most important elements of planning for backpacking trips. Whether it’s your first trip or your two hundredth, spending time thinking through the hazards you might encounter and what you’ll do about them is essential both for your own safety and for those with you. 

While you can never completely eliminate risk, appropriate planning means you will be more prepared if something bad does happen. Having a safety plan can mean big wins like smarter decision making, shorter time to receive rescue assistance, or the ability to handle the situation on your own without needing outside assistance at all.

Let’s dive into principles of risk management in backpacking and how you can manage your safety proactively and mindfully.

How to Assess Risk and Safety for Backpacking Trips

The first step to managing risk is thinking through and understanding what risks will exist on your trip. Thorough risk...

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Sore Hips and Backpacking: What You Need to Know

Prevent Sore Hips from Backpacking 

After a challenging day of backpacking, many people experience soreness around their hips. While sore hips are an extremely common problem for hikers and backpackers, the pain can put a damper on the rest of the trip. Thankfully, there are solutions! Let’s talk about what causes sore hips, then we’ll break down what you can do about it.

 

Why do my hips hurt while backpacking?

Our hips are key for powering the action of walking. They propel our legs forward and keep us stable and balanced. When you spend a long day out walking in the mountains, that adds up to a lot of hip exertion.

But it’s not just the long days. Backpacking adds another key ingredient: weight. Most of us don’t carry around 20-30 extra lbs for hours (or days!) at a time, but that’s exactly how we’re spending our days out on the trails. Our hips have to work much harder to power us with that much extra weight.

 The position...

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Mindful Summer: Fitting in Adventures and Rest with Less Stress

Mindful Planning for a Full Summer 

Spring is here. The thaw is in progress. The snow is gradually retreating from the peaks and melting its way into streams. Plant life is beginning to burst joyfully from the soil. And we humans are getting our first real taste of the intoxicating effects of brighter days. 

With the promise of summer only a few weeks away, planning warm weather adventures is in full swing. It’s so exciting to feel the anticipation for all of these and experiences on the horizon.

The shifting of the season fills our spirits with renewed energy for life, but as with anything, we can have too much of a good thing. The burst of energy might have us overcommitting, overstressing, and setting ourselves up for a frazzled, frantic summer instead of a season where we thrive.

 Yes, summer is precious. If we don’t make intentional plans, time can slip through our fingers and we can miss beautiful opportunities. On the other hand, swing the pendulum...

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Podcast: Building Mind & Body Strength

Greetings!

Wow, I just had the chance to sit down with Kaitlyn Kasso and had a really fun time! Kaitlyn is an awesome photographer that helps women develop their personal brands. You can follow what she's up to on Instagram @kaitlyncassocreations. She also runs the Inspired by HERstory Podcast: Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.

We talked in detail about my first time in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, both of our experiences with imposter syndrome, and what it's like to be a beginner in the outdoors. I really think there is a bit of something for everyone in this episode! 

Topics covered include: 

  • The story of my first Wilderness Classic: 5:50
  • How my business came to be: 19:38
  • When to confront challenges and when to back down: 22:40
  • Workout Perfectionism & Imposter Syndrome: 26:10
  • Building confidence when you're new outdoors (or at anything): 33:10
  • Building a capacity for failure: 38:12
  • Advice on how to deal with Imposter Syndrome: 42:43
  • ...
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Podcast: Building a Strong Body & Mind

Hey there! 

I recently had the opportunity to have a chat with on the Connect with Sheila Botelho Podcast. Sheila is a certified health coach,  lifestyle entrepreneur, and mom of two, best known for her online wellness programs, mentoring, and self-love passion. Her podcast focuses on how to connect to your soul's calling and take action on it. 

We covered a lot of ground in this short interview, and I hope you'll enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed chatting with Sheila! 

The title of this podcast episode is: Building a Strong Body & Mind

Topics covered include: 

  • My role models for the active life I now live: 3:57
  • How I combined my passion for the outdoors and mental health and started my business: 5:16
  • Cultivating mental strength: 10:26
  • Luc and mine's traverse of the Western Brooks Range: 17:09
  • Gaining courage to step into new experiences: 18:56
  • How to put the nervous system to work for us: 22:41
  • The evolution of faith in my life: 30:50...
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Arctic Refuge 2020

Luc and I had lots of ideas about potential summer trips for 2020, but when COVID hit and rural villages across Alaska shut down-- with rightful concerns about limited medical infrastructure and intergenerational trauma from the Spanish Flu-- we knew we needed to adapt our recreation plans to keep us self-supported, out of villages & on the road system.

Luc put his trip-planning skills to work and came up with a ~350 mile loop that started & ended on the Haul Road, got us out to the Sadlerochit Mountains (which we'd wanted to explore since we floated past them in our 2017 Arctic Refuge Traverse) and incorporated a food drop that some friends of ours already had planned. We pulled in Will Koeppen (the pics in this post are Will's, & I'd encourage reading the daily journal entries he posted on his Instagram, starting here) and hit the road.

My biggest take-away from this trip was how well the nervous system and mind/body...

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Western Brooks Range Traverse

In June 2019, my husband Luc Mehl, our friend Josh Mumm, and I set off on a three-week traverse across the Western third of Alaska's Brooks Range. Luc and I had traversed the two other thirds of the Brooks Range in previous summer trips, and were curious to see what we'd find on this final and most remote section.

We started on the Ambler River, on a drainage we'd floated past on a previous trip and had wanted to check out at the time. Then it was raining, cold, and the Ambler was a flooded muddy brown color, so even though we were tempted to stop we didn't. This time it was pretty different! 

 

Luc & I had done some walking along the Noatak River a few years back in the worst tussocks we'd ever seen, so we were mentally prepared for slow and tricky travel. Incredibly we found the opposite -- lots of nice hard, flat-ish ground, and much brush. 

But the best part was that the further west we traveled the more caribou trails we ran into. By the...

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