Planning ahead will help make your outing safer and more fun. Consider the size of your group, the type of place you want to go and your equipment and food needs. Some areas are closed to pack animals, mountain bikes or pets due to overuse or fragile environments. There may be specific requirements for stock regarding feed and restraining methods. Land management offices, such as the U.S. Forest Service or a state parks office, or local hiking clubs or sporting goods shops can provide current maps; firsthand information on trails, water levels and camping; possible weather conditions; regulations, and other helpful information. They may also be able to recommend a good area to explore!
When planning a trip, whether for the day or overnight, think small-six people or less is best! Larger groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife or other groups. It is easier to plan for small groups and keep them together, and good campsites are easier to find. If you must plan for more people, consider splitting up in groups of three to six during the day. Choose a campsite that’s large enough for everyone so you don’t need to trample tree seedlings or plants at the campsite’s edge. Check ahead to learn if there is a group size limit in the area you plan to visit.
When and where to go:
To maximize your feeling of privacy, avoid trips on holidays and busy weekends, or take your trips during the off-season.
What’s needed and what’s not:
Use a lightweight camp stove for cooking. They’re quick and easy to use and don’t require firewood, which is often hard to collect without leaving lasting scars. Build fires only if there is plenty of wood, the surroundings can quickly replenish the wood you burn and fires are not prohibited.
Brightly colored clothing and equipment can be seen for long distances. In remote areas this contributes to a crowded feeling: choose earth-toned colors to lessen visual impact.
Remove food from breakable jars or bulky pack aging and place it in plastic bags and containers. Check if local restrictions prohibit cans and bottles. If you pack it in, pack it out!
A small trowel or plastic shovel is handy for burying human waste where there are no toilets. Plastic water jugs lessen the number of trips needed to get water. A water filter, iodine or chlorine tablets, will help you avoid water-borne diseases that may be present. Boiling also works, but requires extra fuel. If traveling by horse, a saw or ax is handy to remove deadfall from the trail. Otherwise, leave saws and axes at home, as good firewood can be collected from the ground and broken by hand.
On any outing, carry extra trash bags to pick up litter found on the trail or at your campsite.
Obtain a good map, plan your route and leave your itinerary with a friend at home. Know what weather conditions to expect and come prepared for the worst. Always carry survival gear: food, water, warm clothing and shelter from the wet/cold. A signal mirror, whistle or fluorescent vest will help others find you if you become lost. Carry extra water in desert areas. Take responsibility for your own safety and be prepared to rescue your self from tough situations.