In recent weeks, we’ve been presenting three approaches to learning how to backpack. The three approaches are as follows:
- Explorer – go it alone and teach yourself
- Pioneer – find someone who knows more than you, and observe
- Wagon Train – tag along on an organized outing
This article introduces the Wagon Train approach.
There are valid reasons to learn from a backpacking trip organized by a commercial entity. You may not be able to find a trusted friend who can lead you on your first backpacking trip. Perhaps you have a backpacking friend, but he or she cannot teach you what you’d like to learn (e.g., land navigation over difficult terrain). Maybe you are backpacking in a new or dangerous region, and you’d like to see what it is like with the comfort of a larger group. You might want an organization to take care of the hiking logistics (e.g., transportation, trip planning).
I used the wagon train approach to learn about backpacking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I participated on an autumn 3-day & 2-night backpacking trip offered by REI. The group climbed a couple of mountains, saw a moose, and stayed in Lonesome Lake and Greenleaf huts.
My wagon train experience taught me that the White Mountains are steeper and higher than I expected. The region seems dangerous – a ranger would not allow us to climb to the summit of Mount Lafayette because there was too much ice on that early October day. I found the huts to be much larger than photos suggest. After seeing the landscape, I came to understand why a backpacker could not just pitch a tent anywhere – the tent would be too exposed to the elements.
Several organizations offer organized backpacking events, the wagon train experience.
- Retail --
- Outdoor advocates
- Trail Associations (e.g., Appalachian Mountain Club)
- Hiking clubs
Be sure to ask a few questions before scheduling a trip:
- Where will the group traveling? Which trail(s)?
- How far will the group be backpacking? How far each day?
- What is the athletic ability of the travelers like? Fast or slow travel?
- What is the tone of the hike (e.g., casual, see many sites, slow-paced, educational)?
If you ask a few questions, you can decide whether a particular backpacking trip would be a good fit.
What has been your experience with the wagon train-type of backpacking?