We both have full time Monday through Friday (sometimes Saturday and Sunday) jobs and it is difficult to break away to do long outdoor adventures. Over the course of three weeks, we climbed three separate peaks with a few of our friends and family, planning around our work schedules.
We compiled a list of time saving tips we keep in mind when planning multi-day backpacking trips and the best way to take advantage of your weekends if you are busy with your careers like we are.
1. Plan around your available time.
Everyone has varying work schedules, but we believe that you can do simple overnight trips over the weekends or multi-day trips if you use your time wisely. Summer is a great season to backpack because the longer days. We always take advantage of the light. We typically head out after work on Fridays and night hike to our first destination.
2. Make a back up plan.
There are times when your plans may fall through, especially when planning on short notice. It is common for us to plan two backpacking trips with one destination, just in case we face adverse conditions on one trail.
3. Know the environment, know the weather.
I check weather and water reports religiously, making sure to take into account of the distances between water sources. Weather is cooler as you hike up and tracking the weather at sea level will not be the same as weather at altitude. We use Mountain-Forecast to track and estimate weather conditions.
4. Communicate with your group.
We keep our groups up-to-date via e-mail. Usually we lead the discussions, make the important decisions, and give the group options. Making the executive decisions saves you time and discussing trail options will make your group more comfortable. Not everyone is capable of covering 10 miles a day and not everyone is capable of carrying a 30 lb load.
5. Grab the gear that matters.
We choose our gear based on needs, packing a few days in advance. Small things like extra water bladders, extra food, or clean socks can go a long way. With larger groups, we always ask others to bring an extra stove and water containers for the camp.
6. Be self sufficient.
Most of our trips turn out with large groups and we learned that you cannot always rely on others to have essential gear. As such, we always tell everyone in the group that they are responsible for their own gear and food. It reduces the back and forth communication and lets you focus on one thing: the trip.
7. Don’t get angry if you forget something.
Almost every trip we forget something small, especially when we plan trips on short notice. Either buy it on the way there or ask a friend to bring an extra. Shrug it off and keep moving.
8. Be comfortable with on-the-trail changes.
We like options – they allow for on-the-trail changes especially if the group is a large group of people with varying skills and physical capabilities. Being comfortable with making changes mid-trip is important because weather conditions, water, and camping conditions can vary. Changes mid-trip can make the difference when time is tight.
9. Learn to read a map and orient yourself before each trip.
I have met a lot of hikers who do not know how to use a simple paper map and compass. It is an essential skill for any backpacker to know basic land navigation skills. While GPS is becoming more and more popular, we always stick with the tried and true paper map. We take the extra few minutes before we head out to check our maps and get our bearings. It saves time and reduces the amount of extra mileage covered.
I can’t stress how important it is to know where the local water sources are. My rule of thumb is to plan around water.