I started camping when I was about 8 yrs. old. My dad brought the family and I out to Colorado for a camping festival with over 200 Czech people, which is where my family immigrated from back in 1979. At the time, the woods of Colorado were amazing with the trees, rocks, cliffs and the possibility of bears. Oh, how I wanted, but didn’t want to run into a bear. It’s an amazing feeling to be both scared and excited at the same time.
I continued to car camp with friends and family through the years but it wasn’t until about 8 years ago that I decided that there must be much better things to see far away from the parking lot and my beer stash. My buddy Bret always wanted me to leave the site and go for a hike but, I was more interested in being fat and close to my beer then to actually go out and see something. Once I did leave the parking lot, I was amazed at how beautiful, quite and clean everything was now in the woods. There were no beer cans, propane stoves and huge fire rings so you could have that stereotypical ‘bonfire’ that your suppose to have when you camp. I learned how to follow a trail, pack equipment (not lightweight) and setup camp in the backcountry. I was immediately hooked. I spent a long time looking for resources to learn more about it. After a few trips with a traditional heavy pack, I knew I had to lighten up. I weighted about 300lbs at the time so I didn’t want to carry another 50 lbs on my back. I went looking for a lighter way and below are some online resources I found:
Here is a summary of my favorite backpacking sites:
Backpackinglight.com is probably the best website you will find that is dedicated to lightweight backpacking. It has a huge online forum community that is very helpful, great gear reviews, buy/sell your used gear and wonderful trip reports posted by members. They examine techniques, philosophies, gear, and the evolution of products and are constantly challenging the status quo of current backpacking trends. This should be your first stop if learning how to hike. If you’re going to start venturing into the backcountry you might as well do it light!
Whiteblaze.net is another great site to learn about backpacking, hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) and get advice on gear and technique. This site has been around a long time so there is a large archive of forum questions and discussions. There are also a lot of colorful members who are very helpful with your questions and will be honest on what they think of your gear list or any question you ask.
Backpacker.com is the online site for the same named magazine that I’m sure you have seen somewhere. They are great at posting reviews, trip ideas, interviews and stories related to the outdoors. I tend to use this mostly for trip ideas; you can enter in a place such as Rocky Mountain National Park and it will pull up trips that they have either posted online or in their magazine. I do question some of their reviews but, they are a great place to look if your brand new to backpacking and still need to learn what the 10 essentials are. My only warning is that they mostly promote traditional gear, not very many lightweight options but a good place to look.
My next posting will be a trip report from my weekend in Canyonlands National Park over the Labor Day weekend. Keep a look out for that soon!