I get a lot of questions from people interested in getting their feet wet with the outdoor scene. Check out some common questions below.
What kind of gear do I need?
Well, this really depends on what you are wanting to do, a day hike? Overnight? Multi-day trip? Any chance of rain? Most people are just looking for day hikes so I recommend a comfortable pair of shoes (again this depends on the terrain you are trekking through) and a good backpack. Throw some sunblock, bug spray, and water in your pack and you are good to go. If you are over-nighting it you obviously need a good tent and sleeping bag, and the list just grows from there. You don't need to start a shopping spree if you are just getting started, and despite the images you see on social media you don't need a designer hat, designer shoes, fancy quilt blanket and perfect hair to witness great sunrises and sunsets. I'm tempted to start an Instagram page of what people actually look like in the wilderness. Keep it simple and find a solid pair of shoes and build from there. You can find some cheap options but I recommend just about anything from Merrell or Sorel.
What about bears?
Ah, the bears. Sometimes I think people who have never trekked through the backcountry see hikes as a frantic sprint to escape imminent death from a bear attack. Yes, the bears are out there but they want to see us less than we want to see them. Black bears are rarely aggressive and as long as you aren't careless with your trash and food you shouldn't see them. If you are hiking solo make sure you make some noise or ensure you don't accidentally sneak up on mama and her cubs and you should be fine. Grizzlies can be a different story. Spoiler alert I have never seen a grizzly up close but I still have a sliver of fear of these beasts. Most trails in grizzly country require bear spray and the same techniques apply; be mindful about your trash and food and make plenty of noise. Grizzlies can be aggressive but if you are with other people just make sure you aren't the slowest one (kidding...sort of). Most bear inhabited areas have reports on recent bear sightings so talk to the staff to get more intel. Some popular spots see plenty of bears, places like Yosemite where bears know they are going to find food. Please follow park rules and do your part to ensure these animals say wild.
Do you ever get scared?
Absolutely. Fear is viewed so negatively in society, but I tend to remember these moments the most. I don't encourage anyone to purposely get in a situation where you are going to be afraid, but how much fun is a comfortable life where there isn't a little fear involved? Obviously there are plenty of campsites and trails where the fear factor is minimal or even nonexistent. A life without fear is boring, embrace the fear when it's in front of you.
Getting uncomfortable promotes inner growth and creates great memories
What do you eat?
This isn't the glamorous part. I try to stock up on fruit and dehydrated veggies, but sometimes I'm smashing on a dehydrated meal or some PB&J. I've seen some people cook legit meals at campsites and even in the backcountry, but I just keep it simple with this one. Food is just fuel for me when I am backpacking. If it's day hikes you can get more creative at the campsite, if you're backpacking it just depends on what you want to carry and how long it will last. I have survived on tuna, crackers, beef jerky and trail mix for multiple days. Don't worry that cheeseburger when you get back is so delicious.
Where should I go?
Start small and then build from there. Or go big or go home. You just have to figure out what you are comfortable with. I asked around before I decided to do something legit and everyone said do a couple of overnight trips and build from there so I turned that into a 4 night 40 mile trip through Yosemite's backcountry. There was some fear involved, but I felt like the biggest bad ass ever. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency situation regardless of what you decide to do. Obviously with multi-day trips there is a little more planning involved. There are so many options with campsites and trails, most people think it's difficult to get started but that isn't the case. Ask around, most outdoor enthusiast are friendly and eager to help.
I have always been somewhat of a planner, but with the outdoor scene I have adopted the "I will wing it" mentality. I'm 100% confident in my skills and I know if things go south I can do what I need to do to stay safe. Make sure you aren't careless and then put one foot in front of the other and make some memories.
-Where do you go to the bathroom (The fancy way of asking "where do you poop")? My body is so efficient in the wild I have zero waste. I'm obviously kidding, but in all seriousness some places have designated toilets for this, but if you are truly roughing it you dig a hole and take care of your business! Packing out all trash of course. It's not glorious but digging your "dump hole" is a sign you are legitimately embracing your wild-side. Plus, the bears consider you one of their own at this point.
-How do you sleep on the ground? Most people have some sort of light mat to sleep on. The one I carry is about 1/2" to maybe 3/4" thick. The small mat blocks the cold ground and gives me a little support. Honestly I'm so tired by the time I set up camp I normally have no problem falling asleep.
-What about bathing yourself? Well, I don't. I definitely enjoy jumping in a lake, river or stream but there is no technical "bathing." Soap can contaminate natural water sources so an old fashioned dip is as good as it gets. Sounds bizarre but again that shower when you get back is so nice! My best "baths" have been in glacier-fed lakes, cold rivers and even scenic waterfalls. The rush you get will make you forget you haven't taken a bath in 3 days.
-Not a question, but the outdoors makes everything better; including beer. Pack a couple cold ones and in the words of Frank the Tank "Once it hits your lips, it so good!"