Backpacking trips are often the best place to practice Scouting skills that have been learned throughout the year. Hiking, camping, outdoor cooking, and orienteering are all exciting skills that Scouts can put to the test. Here are six of the most important common-sense backpacking rules to ensure you and your Scouts have the best Backpacking experience this summer!
Plan Ahead and Prepare for Your Backpacking Trip
There are a few key steps that go into planning ahead and being prepared. Here are a few suggestions of what to bring with you. Each boy should have a whistle around their neck at all times to alert group members if they fall behind or get lost. It is also important to have your own GPS and to know how to use it. Satellite phones are another great resource to have, especially on more primitive, 50+ mile hikes. A charged cell phone in the OFF position can also be helpful if you get lost. Sometimes, if you can get to high ground, you can find a signal, and use the phone to call for help. A topographical map is another cheaper and lighter tool to take with you. Scouts should keep a compass with them, so they can use their orienteering skills here. This can be used both for learning purposes and in case you get lost. These are just a few great tools to bring with you. Always remember to bring extra batteries and plastic bags to keep everything dry.
Camp on Durable Surfaces
Some surfaces are more likely to be damaged than others. Durable surfaces include established trails, campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses, or snow. In popular locations, use areas that are already showing signs of impact. In all camping areas, choose a site that is at least 200 feet from a water source. Avoid sites that are just beginning to show signs of use. These are all important parts of respecting the environment around us.
Leave No Trace
“Pack it in pack it out.” We’ve heard this saying before, and it is especially important to remember while camping and backpacking. Disposing of waste properly while backpacking is an important part of maintaining and respecting the environment you visit. This means to pack out everything you carried in, including wrappers, Ziplock bags, orange peels, food scraps, and etc.
Disposing of waste properly is just part of “leaving no trace.” When backpacking, remember the outdoorsman’s motto “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” This includes leaving rocks, plants, and other natural artifacts where you found them. This also includes cultural and historical artifacts like pottery pieces or arrowheads.
It is also important to clean your backpack and gear between trips. This ensures that you do not transport any spores or seeds from one area to the next. Foreign plant varieties that grow in new places can cause damage to natural wildlife and the ecosystem.
Be Considerate of Others
While backpacking, you may encounter other individuals or groups on the trail. It is important to be
considerate of them and their trip. When backpacking, you should yield to other hikers when possible. In a large group or Troop, always have your group step to the side of the trail to allow other people to pass and enjoy their solitude. While camping, the larger your Scout group is, the farther away you should camp from others. Avoid loud and raucous games that could disturb others or the wildlife.
Prevent Avoidable Accidents
It is important to consider beforehand how you can prevent avoidable accidents. Most avoidable accidents occur when horseplay is involved, late in the day at camp, and not on the trail. Effects of fatigue, mild dehydration, and the altitude could impair your boys’ judgment and performance. Running through campsites, climbing trees, throwing rocks, and carelessness around the fire are just some examples of the most common ways in which avoidable accidents occur. To avoid them, it is essential for individual and group discipline to be maintained.
Finally, it is important to expect the unexpected. Anything can happen in the wild outdoors. Flash floods, lightning, altitude sickness, injuries, etc. can strike at any moment. It is important to consider all the foreseeable disasters, and plan for them. Backpacking safety is all about foresight and planning. As long as you are thoughtful about your journey, you can enjoy an exciting and safe adventure!