Your friends call and ask you to accompany them on a one week thru hike. Initially, you are ecstatic, but then reality sets in. Where do I begin? What do I need to bring? How heavy is my pack going to be?
Most of us find trip planning to be a dreaded undertaking. Planning for a backpacking trip takes even more time and attention. Planning and packing for a one week thru hike can be a daunting task. Something left behind, like a toothbrush, is no big deal when you are away in the woods for one or two nights; however, no one wants to use a finger to brush his/her teeth for one whole week!
By following the ten easy steps outlined below, you will be packed, organized, and ready to set out on your grand adventure on the trail without developing any grey hairs or worry lines.
|#1. Choose a Trail|
|#2 Pick a Season|
|#4 Emergency Exit Plans|
|#7 Food Planning|
|#9 Food Prep|
1. Choose a Trail
Step one in planning any trip is planning where you want to go. Maybe a friend or a YouTube video sparked your interest in a particular trail. Or maybe just like me, you want to discover what is in your own “backyard.” I live near the Appalachian Trail in Western North Carolina. I am about to embark on a one week thru hike from Wesser, NC, to Gatlinburg, TN.
Regardless of where you choose to hike, researching the trail is important. Pull out the guide books and maps of the area. Study the trail. Talk with others who have hiked this path. Gather as much intel as possible about your upcoming adventure. This information will help in future steps of planning a one week thru hike.
2. Pick a Season
The next step in planning a backpacking trip is picking your preferred season for hiking. What do you want out of your hike? Warm days for swimming in waterfalls? Cool nights for camp fires? Quiet and stillness with limited human interactions?
I like warm days so that I can hike in shorts, rinse off in rivers, and play in waterfalls. But I also like cool, crisp nights for campfires and cozy sleeping bags.
Western North Carolina can have bone chilling nights in winter and spring. The summers are wet, hot, and humid. So my one week thru hike will be during autumn with the goal of warm days, cool nights and, hopefully, less rain and humidity.
- Less people/crowds
- Better views
- Less creepy, crawlies (mosquitos, ants, spiders, ticks, snakes)
- Perfect temperature for hiking in Florida
- Colder temperature
- Limited fauna and flora
- Some trails closed
- Less daylight
- Heavier pack weight (winter clothes/gear weighs more)
- Possibility of frozen water sources
- “Greening of the woods”
- Moderate temperatures
- Abundant water sources
- Rainy season
- Creepy, crawlies
- Heavier pack weight (packing for two seasons: cold temperatures at night and warm days)
- Lighter pack/gear
- Less rain
- Plenty of daylight hours
- Crowded trails
- Possibility of afternoon thunderstorms
- Warm days/cool nights
- Fall colors
- Heavier pack (packing for two temperatures)
- Shorter days
3. Developing Trip Itinerary and Acquiring Permits
Depending on where you hike, there is a good possibility that you will need a permit from the local ranger station. To acquire a permit, the following information is often needed:
- Start date
- End date
- Where you are planning to camp each night
- An emergency plan often required
4. Emergency Exit Plan
Unfortunately, emergencies in the wilderness do happen. Preparation is the key to quick and effective evacuations.
While studying your trail maps and developing your itinerary, make note of the quickest routes to a fire road or highway along your path. Keep this list in your first aid kit. In the event of an emergency, you will be able to grab your list and quickly determine your fastest exit.
Another step in emergency preparation is sharing your itinerary with a responsible and reliable friend or family member. This person needs to stay cool headed in emergencies.
Give your emergency contact the date and time of your return. Provide this designated person with the ranger station’s phone number where you acquired your permit. Have your emergency contact notify the ranger station if you do not return or make contact by the agreed upon date and time.
After making your emergency plan, replenish your first aid kit or put together a first aid kit if you don’t have one.
If you have time, consider taking a Wilderness First Aid class and Wilderness Survival Skills Level 1 class. These classes teach you how to remain calm, think outside “the box”, and be successful in emergencies when your resources are limited.
Don’t get stranded!
Plan out how you are getting to the trail head and how you are getting home. Is a friend picking you up upon completion of your hike? Are you hiring a shuttle driver? Or are you setting your own shuttle by leaving a car at each end of the trail? I am leaving a vehicle at both ends of the trail on my upcoming hike.
One easy way to find a shuttle driver is by contacting a local outfitter store in the trail’s area. Shuttles vary in price. Some are free, but tips are expected. Some are a set rate based on mileage. Others charge a per person rate. Do call multiple shuttle drivers to compare rates. Do not hesitate to negotiate rates, and please do tip your shuttle driver – especially if driver is on time, make extra stops, and have a clean vehicle.
9. Food Prep
The goals of food prepping are organizing and saving space.
Ziplock bags are your friends. You will be dividing up and portioning servings into ziplock bags. Then squeeze as much air out of them as possible. Use freezer bags as they can handle hot, even boiling, water. Buy good quality ziplock bags. This is not an item to try and save a few pennies on.
Sort food (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) into a gallon ziplock for each day. This will save time finding your food. The ziplock turns into a trash bag as the meals are eaten. Remember, trash also needs to be hung or stored in your bear canister. The ziplock bag helps keep rotting food odors under control.
If you are dehydrating your own food and making homemade backpacking meals, start preparing these meals early in your planning process. This will allow time to accommodate kitchen failures without causing an anxiety attack.
Mentally divide your pack into three sections: bottom, middle, and top.
Bottom: soft, squishy items
- Sleeping bag/quilt
- Inflatable air mattresses (foam sleep pads will strap on outside)
- Camp clothes
- Camp shoes
- ID, credit card, money, keys (in a ziplock)
Middle: heavy items
- Bear canister/food bag
- Cooking system (keep fuel upright and separate from food)
- Hydration bladder
Top: items needed during hike
- Rain gear
- Puffy jacket
- Water purification system
- Toilet supplies (TP, empty ziplock for used TP, and trowel)
- First Aid Kit (at the very top!)
- Water Bottles
- Pack cover (if using)
Enthusiastically accept all invitations to go on a one week thru hike without worry or stress. Simply follow the steps outlined above. Your itinerary will be set, your backpack will be packed, and the fear of leaving something behind will never cross your mind. Leave for your one week thru hike with a happy heart and peaceful mind.
However, if you still find planning a week one week thru hike overwhelming; never fear, simply check out Wildland Trekking and choose the guided backpacking trip of your dreams. Wildland Trekking’s guided backpacking trips are a stress-free and exciting way to explore the backcountry. The tour company handles permits, gear, transportation, meals, and all the extra little details so you can focus 100% on enjoying your adventure. Read more…
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