Going ‘Wild’ …sensibly
‘Backpacking 101’ lends advice to those wishing to hit the trails
We can blame Cheryl Strayed — or, perhaps, her cinematic alter-ego Reese Witherspoon, who portrayed the author in the movie version of her memoir “Wild” — for the increasing popularity of backpacking. Permit requests jumped 300 per cent for the right to hike the trail featured in the tale (the Pacific Crest Trail) after the film came out. And, anecdotally, more people than ever are attempting this combination of sport and vacation — which likely means that more people’s toenails are falling off.
That was a pivotal moment in both the flick and book, a result of novice-backpacker Strayed having chosen the wrong fit of hiking boots. It illustrated, pretty gruesomely, how important planning and preparation is for what can be an incredibly challenging activity.
For expert advice on that planning, you’d do well to turn to the about-to-be-released book “Backpacking 101.” Written by Heather Balogh Rochfort, the gear editor for Backpacker Magazine, as well as author of www.justacoloradogal.com, the book is a surprisingly readable, deep dive into all of the nitty gritty that goes into prepping for a trip.
For example, the book details how to choose the right backpack, a crucial and complex first step. Surprisingly, tall people don’t necessarily need the biggest packs, nor should shorter folks necessarily go for small ones. Balogh Rochfort includes an intricate discussion of how packs should fit, and which part of the body they must conform to (the torso). So a towering man who is all legs might actually need a medium-size pack rather than a larger pack; the author gives specific directions on how to measure your body to tell.
In addition, women, who tend to have narrower shoulders and wider hips than men, might go for different types of packs altogether.
Balogh Rochfort also gives solid advice on picking the right trail; why you might choose “real food” over the dehydrated meal packets that are sold at outfitting organizations; and the right way to choose clothes for the trail - down to your underwear.
There’s also potentially lifesaving advice in the tome, revealing why relying on a GPS device or cellphone for directions is a foolish strategy. Instead, Balogh Rochfort gives easy-to-follow instructions on how to use a compass and a topographical map, as well as where best to buy these sorts of maps. She also discusses the what-to-do’s for snakebite, bear and mountain-lion encounters, getting lost and medical emergencies.
She does all of this in a light, fun-to-read 256-page book. So even though one of the key bits of advice in the guide is to keep your backpack light, this book may be a bit of extra weight you’d be wise to carry along.
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