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The Death of Backpacking

High Country News had an article lamenting the death of backpacking citing anecdotal  observations of baby-boomers backpacking and not younger hikers. The basic premise of the article is that younger people don’t seem interested in this outdoors tradition.  Backcountry use is declining.  There is a trend towards “Done-in-a-day” activities such as trail running, rock climbing, canyoneering, mountain biking, guided group hikes, river rafting and day hiking.

National Park Service  statistics, for example,  show an overall decrease in overnight backpacking (and overnight activities in general).  It’s reinforced by the experts who compile outdoor recreation statistics. Chris Doyle, executive director of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, describes “a well-known trend” in outdoor gear sales, wherein day packs take an increasing share of the pack market while technical overnight packs are a declining percentage of total sales.

Paul Magnanti had a thoughtful response and cited some interesting statistics substantiating the decline.  There was a  200k+  person decline in backcountry use in 2013 vs 2000. Compare the use from 1979 vs 2013 and the difference is a 700k+ person difference  As a side note, OVERALL overnight use (car camping, lodging such as huts, etc) has declined by two-million in the NPS since 1979 vs 2013.  Keep in mind the country’s population in 1979 was 225 million. Now it is 316 million. In other words, adjusted for percentage of the population, the difference is rather dramatic.

However, there are anomalies.  The amount of long distance hikers is indeed increasing as shown by trail organizations.   There are also other outdoor recreational choices. More people are choosing to do activities that were not as popular, as accessible or even non-existent, in previous years (e.g. mud runs).

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Survival Tips for Snowshoeing Enthusiasts

Snowshoeing is less expensive that skiing and can be a marvelous way to explore the outdoors during the winter. However, one needs to be prepared to deal with the dangers that can occur in the snow.

There are three major dangers that can occur to snowshoeing enthusiasts – sudden storms, avalanches, and injury. By being prepared and knowing how to deal with these situations, you will be better able to survive these situations if they occur. Snowshoe magazine has an article on Survival Tips for Snowshoeing Enthusiasts covering the following topics:

  • Inform others of your route, destination and plans
  • Selecting a  good camp site
  • Melt snow to stay hydrated
  • Build a snow cave or snow shelter
  • Brush snow from your clothes
  • Change out of you wet clothes
  • Keeping warm
  • Signaling for help
  • Know how to make a splint
  • Use trees for shelter and to signal for help
  • Building a wood fire in the snow

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Traditional Methods for Precision Backcountry Navigation

The ability to travel safely, confidently, and independently in wild and remote outdoor places requires practiced skills with knowledge of your surroundings, your tools, and yourself. The art and science of precision land navigation is not difficult if taken one step at a time, anyone can master it but field practice is necessary to build confidence and skill. Details of teaching advanced methods and techniques may vary but the philosophy is the same – observe the surrounding environment, use a few simple tools, let your mind process information and work with nature’s available clues to find your way in the woods. This tutorial focuses on basic traditional methods that have been successfully applied by woodland and mountain navigators for decades and much longer.  Navigation methods of terrain association, observational navigation, dead reckoning, map reading, and map with compass all require you to interact with the environment using very simple tools.

Paul Repak has an excellent article addressing Route Planning, Map Study, Terrain Association and Observational Navigation and the The Nitty Gritty Tricks of Terrain Navigation.  Read it here.

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Ylvis – The Trucker’s Hitch

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How to fit a backpack

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NOLS Winter Warmth – Winter Layering System

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) has a good video describing their preferences for layering in cold weather.

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