Trekkers Handbook


Planning an Extended Wilderness Trek

Researching your trekking route

How do you select a route for your extended wilderness journey? How do you know what to expect (and plan for) along the way? There is no more valuable source of general (and sometimes very specific) information than people who have already done what you are planning to do. Where do you find those people? If they are not numbered among your friends and acquaintances, check out a local hiking club or the staff at a nearby outdoor store. Go to the Internet, to local land managers, to organizations that support and promote wilderness travel.

Questions to ask:

  • How do I access the starting point? What is the road like? Are there times when I just cannot get there? If the ending point and starting point are not the same, what will I find at the end point?
  • What is the terrain like? What are the trails like?
  • What is the worst weather I can expect?
  • How far from trail’s head to trail’s end? How long did it take you to walk that distance?
  • Where did you camp? Was there water available?
  • What did you carry? Did you wish for something you did not have?
  • If you were going to do the same trek again, would you do anything differently?

—Adapted from Trekker’s Handbook: Strategies for Enhancing Your Journey by Buck Tilton, published by The Mountaineers Books, $16.95.


Choosing the Right Companion for a Wilderness Trek

“Few things, if any, can ruin a trip faster than a companion whose personality irritates you more than a horde of whining mosquitoes,” says Buck Tilton, author of Trekker’s Handbook: Strategies to Enhance Your Journey. “The code of the trail demands that you suffer the rotten trail companion when you would rather slip off quietly into the night, just as you must support the companion who is physically overchallenged by the trail. So…if you have not yet, you soon will appreciate that the longer the trek, the greater the importance of selecting companions thoughtfully. Your best chance of having everything work out companionably is to travel shorter distances with this person or these people prior to setting out on a trek. How about a shakedown weekender with the proposed group before everyone commits to the trek?”

The Ideal Trekking Companion is:

  • Someone who shares your desire to trek
  • Someone who travels at a similar pace
  • Someone who enjoys the wilderness experience as much as you do
  • Someone who accepts the risk
  • Someone who has helped plan the trip
  • Someone you like a lot
  • Someone willing to carry heavier loads than you

—Adapted from Trekker’s Handbook: Strategies for Enhancing Your Journey by Buck Tilton, published by The Mountaineers Books, $16.95.


Ways to Resupply on an Extended Wilderness Trek

Somewhere between a week and ten days worth of food is all you will want your back to carry. And gear is not exempt from the principle of resupply. You might want an ice axe and crampons for a section of your trek—so you cache them at the beginning of that section, pick them up, and cache them at the end of that section (to be taken home later). Where you are trekking, of course, determines where and how you will be resupplied—but here are a few things to consider:

  • You can mail a resupply to yourself via general delivery if your routes passes near a post office.
  • You can have a friend meet you at a prearranged trailhead. A nice touch here is fresh food and a bottle of wine, both of which may be consumed before you hit the trail again.
  • You can stash a cache in a vehicle, and park it at a trailhead along your route.
  • You can sometimes arrange for a horsepacker to resupply you. Keep in mind that horses cannot reach all the places you can, and the packer may turn down your first choice of rendezvous sites. The cost of resupply starts to rise dramatically when a horse is involved.
  • You can sometimes arrange a resupply by air. Variables here include the legality and practicality of an aircraft landing, especially a fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopters offer more freedom in landing zones. The cost of a helicopter may be three to for times the cost of a small fixed-wing plane, and both price tags may be prohibitive.
  • You can hike in ahead of time, when access routes exist, and drop your own caches.

—Adapted from Trekker’s Handbook: Strategies for Enhancing Your Journey by Buck Tilton, published by The Mountaineers Books, $16.95.

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