By Trent Dibell
The steam rolls out of your mouth and evaporates before your eyes and you look beyond the ridge from the trail. You are captivated by the wonders of creation and how we get to enjoy the wilderness that surrounds us. Winter backpacking…are you up for the adventure?
Time, we do not have much of it to spare during out busy lives with family, work and other obligations we find ourselves doing throughout the year. As much as we love and enjoy time spent with family and friends, we each need to take time to reflect on ourselves and where we are in life. Do not be misled by that previous statement. This time needs to be spent in the quietness of creation and not the noises of our modern-day society. With the endless resources of our local and state parks, here is one that will give you time and quietness with just you and yourself.
Caution, please make sure you use all resources available prior to hitting the trail. Being ill prepared for the trail is one thing, but being ill prepared for the trail during the winter months is another.
Winter backpacking is one of the most enjoyed and underrated hobbies. The trails are mostly empty during this time of year and some trails even shut down during the winter months, so be sure to check before you go. There are three different ways to prepare for a trip. Each area is equally important and each are distinctly different, however, they will all connect together during the trip. This might be with a group or solo, but all three areas need to be considered and well planned before turning the ignition in the car.
Area 1: Mental and Spiritual
As a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, the first part of preparing for a trip is time spent in prayer and getting Scripture ready for the trail. Being surrounded by God’s creation is humbling and overwhelming at the same time. The sober feeling of being surrounded by absolute silence is something that we actually have to prepare ourselves for. If we do not prepare ourselves in this area, we will find ourselves wasting time instead of enjoying the time on the trail.
Here is a list of items and ideas to consider before you hit the trail: pocket-size Bible; small, lightweight journal; and a cell phone for taking pictures and other emergency uses.
Mental preparation is vital. When I was an athlete, I was always coached to imagine myself doing the right things and making the right plays. This also applies to backpacking. See yourself making the trip, not turning back when you feel tired, and desiring to enjoy the trail.
With that being said, you must take the following steps before you hit the trail. Call the local/state park to ask about the trail and the current conditions and rules and tell at least two people where you are going. This includes giving them the exact name and location of the trail and trailhead. These are beginner steps to getting ready, but vital steps for a successful and enjoyable trip.
Area 2: Physical
Start walking and then walk some more! Use some local trails around you to get out and build both muscle and lung capacity before you hit the trail. Cramping up on the trail is not enjoyable. Discipline yourself to be hydrated. If your urine is anything but clear, you are dehydrated. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. It is important to discipline your body to be hydrated. With these two components in place, you are over halfway there to prepare yourself for a successful winter hike.
Please consider the following areas that I have found resourceful as I have prepared for different hikes:
Dundee Falls in Beach City–take good hiking boots or shoes; The Wilderness Center in Wilmot–beautiful trails that offer different levels of difficulty, after a good pace lap or two, you will feel like you got in a good workout; Stark Parks trails all through Stark County–they have really done a great job keeping up on their trails.
Area 3: Gear
This is the most important thing and this is not an extensive list of what to take or do. This is to gain interest in enjoying God’s creation during the winter months.
I used several resources before I even considered hitting the trail, so here is a list of items and resources to consider:
Gear–lightweight tent with footprint, hydration pack, backpack, portable stove, matches and lighter, fire starters (cotton balls covered in vaseline in a zip lock bag work great), multitool with knife and small saw blade, headlamp/flashlight, sleeping bag (synthetic is cheaper and will do better if it gets a little wet), sleeping mat, and a map;
Food–snack bars, mac and cheese, and Raman noodles (trust me, they’re gross at home but taste amazing on the cold trail);
Resources–download the following apps: MTB project (for mountain biking but gives hiking trails, too), Hiking Project, and All Trails.
In closing, I hope this article sparks some interest as you prepare for your next adventure. You can get into backpacking pretty cheap, but spend the money to remain safe on the trail. While you enjoy God’s creation always remember the Bible verse we use at Camp CHOF and do “all to the glory of God.” Check out the website www.campchof.org as we are looking into launching a backpacking ministry for guys.