BACKPACKING ESSENTIALS CHECKLIST


 

Backpacking WA

Washington is full of beautiful backpacking trails with mountain views, alpine lakes, timberland forests, and endless stretches of wilderness. If you're not sure where to start, Craig Romano's book, Backpacking Washington, lists 70 overnight or multi-day backpacking trips through the Cascades, the Olympic Coast, the Blue Mountains and more. Before you head out for the trailhead make sure you've gone through his backpacking essentials checklist:

1: Do you have a permit? Most developed trails in Washington require a Northwest Forest Pass for hikers and backpackers. Just display this on your dashboard ($5 a day or $30 a year). All National Parks require entrance fees as well. Check out the Washington Trails Association website for complete information on the permit you'll need.

2: Do you know how to spot a campsite? Always use established backpacking sites if possible. Camp 200 feet from lakes or creeks, and pick a sheltered and wooded site over an open meadow. And definitely don't build a campfire without researching regulations: fire bans are common during the summer, and it's best to either keep your cook-outs contained within established fire rings, or just cook your backpacking grub on a stove.

3: What's the weather? While you should definitely look at the weather report before you leave, make sure you're prepared for anything on the trail, whatever the report says. Weather in Washington's backcountry is always unpredictable. Expect the "best" weather from July through early October, but always bring rain and wind gear, emergency shelter, and the extra socks. Backpacking is all about layers: bring essentials like a breathable t-shirt, a warm fleece, and a gortex rain shell to add or remove as the weather changes.

4: How will you hydrate safely? Assume all water along the trail is contaminated with things that will ruin your backpacking trip (think Giardia). So plan on bringing iodine tablets (which usually purify a liter of water within 30 minutes) or a filter pump so you know you can stay hydrated and healthy on the trail.

5: Will you Leave No Trace? Part of the enjoyment of backpacking is ensuring that the group of hikers behind you will enjoy the wilderness, too. All hikers and backpackers have an obligation to protect our natural heritage and leave no trace. Check out the Leave No Trace website to learn more, but make sure you always have enough garbage bags or ziplocks to carry out ALL your waste. Always stay on established trails to minimize your impact so the trails stay wild and beautiful.

 

—Adapted from Backpacking Washington: Overnight and Multiday Routes by Craig Romano, $18.95, paperback.

   
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