On this episode we share our 3 day, 2 night paddle in one of the most unique places in the Southeast. The Okefenokee National Refuge Area. In other words, a swamp in the wilderness.
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is an impressively vast expanse of wilderness swamplands covering approximately 700 square miles, located within the southeast corner of Georgia.
The Okefenokee is crisscrossed by over 120 miles of paddle and motor boat water trails. It is a major destination for wetlands, nature lovers and paddlers alike. The swamp has a distinctive and fascinating natural history. Okefenokee means “land of the trembling earth” in Choctaw Indian language, a reference to the quivering ground of boggy areas. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was officially established in 1937 to preserve one of America’s oldest freshwater systems, an important habitat for an abundance of plants and animals that live in its 400,000 acres.
Through our guiding company, Full Moon Adventures, we took our guests on a 3 day paddle in some of the most remote places on the swamp. You can view our video on our YouTube Channel.
We saw almost 300 Alligators.
How do you buy your backpacking gear? Do you buy all of it online? Or do you physically go into your local Outfitters Store? We do both. Buying backpacking gear, or we should say “the right” backpacking gear can be a daunting experience. You get advise from social media or friends and just about everyone has their opinion.
The truth is….You have to buy what’s right for YOU! You try on shoes yourself when you need new shoes right? You have a specific preference based on what you know fits. Same thing with gear. My rain jacket I love, but that doesn’t mean you will love it. It has to feel comfortable and (has to keep you dry). So, we put together some “GO TO” online shops that we absolutely love.
If you do buy your gear online, which are your go to web stores? We share our top 4.
The Best Deals For Outdoor Gear –
1. thebackpackerstore.com – This is NOT a website, but a database of ALL outdoor online stores that put “daily deals”out there that change (of course) daily. Lot’s of categories and coupons to use also. Most gear is overstock and 35-75% off.
2. campsaver.com – Campsaver is a great resource for backpacking gear. In fact, had the lowest price for the Hyperlite 3400 backpack (that we just recently bought). It generally has coupon codes for first time buyers also.
3. altrec.com – We’ve been shopping at Altrec for years. They have great Customer Service and some great deals on outdoor gear.
4. moosejaw.com – Moosejaw is another place to recieve great online Customer Service. Rumor has it that Walmart maybe going to buy them. If you are looking for some discounted prices on gear, always check them out on your top 3 list. We do.
If you have some good places to look for gear, let us know. Us Backpackers are always looking for gear deals right?
After 10 years teaching backpacking, we put together our top 10 suggestions for new backpackers. For people just learning or getting ready for a backpacking trip, it can be pretty intimidating knowing you will be out in the wilderness. Rest assured that there is no reason to be worried. However, we have seen a lot of mistakes that could be pretty easily avoided if people learned some basics before buying their gear, or just heading out.
If you have some we might have missed, let’s hear from you.
1. Plan and Prepare
2. Make sure your backpacking is fitted correctly
3. Learn how to pack your pack
4. Test your gear BEFORE you hit the Trail
5. Make sure you know your Water Filtration System and how to use it.
6. Practice How to hang a Food Bag (or Bear Bag)
7.Treat your Blisters, BEFORE they are actual blisters.
8.Reduce your pack weight by a little meditation before you pack it
9. Clean your GEAR after your trip.
10. Trust the Trail. It will always provide everything you need.
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3 Mistakes New Backpackers make. If you are new to backpacking, we will send you 3 free videos to get you started. www.thebackpacker.tv/3-mistakes
Trail etiquette is huge! It separates you from knowing what you’re doing, from people not liking you. I have seen this a hundred times on the trail. For example: If you bring your dog, leash it during meal time. Some other questions I get such as, “Can I take this shortcut off the trail”? The first answer is NO, the second answer to this is to read and learn the principals of Leave No Trace. In fact, when we take our new students out on the trail for their first backpacking trip. We have a Leave No Trace Awareness Class right there at the trail head.
On of the first rules of trail etiquette is simple: stay on the trail. The more heavily used the wilderness and the more fragile the landscape, the greater the importance of this guideline. Some beauty spots, like that flower field, should be treated like works of art. Few people are so boorish that they would trample across a painting if it were laid out on the ground in front of them. Alpine meadows should be treated with equal respect.
Staying on the trail also means refraining from cutting switchbacks, the places where a trail makes a hairpin turn and almost doubles back on itself. It’s tempting to the ill-informed to leave the trail just before the turn and take a “shortcut,” regaining the trail just after the turn. This too is an invitation to severe erosion, which, once started, is extremely difficult to stop. For the same reason, you should avoid walking side-by-side on a trail unless it was built to accommodate such traffic.
Trail etiquette includes a few other pointers, some of which are backed up by actual regulations. Harassing wildlife is also prohibited. Enjoy animals from a distance. If you want to photograph them, buy a long lens (300mm or longer) or content yourself with composing a landscape photograph with the animal as part of the scenery. It’s not worth a Selfie and disturbing wildlife. Wildlife doesn’t care about your Facebook Selfie. Feeding animals is also prohibited. Handing out tidbits corrupts the animals’ normal eating habits and increases the population artificially, beyond what the land can support in the off-season when all the tourists are gone. In wilderness areas and national parks, every facet of the land is protected. That means that visitors shouldn’t pick the flowers. It also means leaving antlers, bones, wind-sculpted driftwood and all historic and prehistoric artifacts in place. This includes pot shards and arrowheads as well as other objects.
Respect the trail, it respects you. It gives you everything that you need. Make it better for the next person who comes along. Pick up garbage if you see it on the trail. 🙂
See you on the Trail.
The road to Ultralite backpacking is simple: carry the lightest gear possible and carry only what’s necessary.
Most backpackers who practice lightweight techniques have little problem with that statement; it only makes sense that if you reduce the weight of an item your pack will in return be lighter. This approach alone can reduce your pack weight enough to allow the use of lightweight packs GoLite (Rest in Peace) or Ultralight Adventure Packs. The latter, however, proves to be more problematic. To know what is necessary requires judgment and practice:
So what are some techniques in packing lighter? What do you mean by “Judgment”. It simply means this: Multi-purpose your GEAR, and I mean almost all of it. Let’s take your sleeping shelter for example. I use a Tarp. So, how could I make a tarp into a multi-purpose piece of gear?
Five Advantages of Poncho Tarping
Keep in mind that there some some other things to consider. Like ground cloth and the fact you may not have a bug net. I haven’t had a bug net in years, however, I tend not to get eaten a live like others I’ve seen outdoors before.
The best Poncho’s I’ve seen out there are the Sil Nilon one’s. They are light, easy to use, and have made great shelters. The Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho weighs a little over 8 oz. That is an amazing lightweight shelter system.
This is the best of the best when it comes to multi-purposing your gear. It really comes down to practice, practice, practice. Imagine it’s pouring. You have your poncho on, and how you need to make camp. Your Poncho is your Tarp. Are you going to be able to set up your Tarp when it’s your Poncho keeping you dry? Well, the bad news is, probably not. However, it’s not going to be too bad. With some practice, odds are you will be able to pitch your Poncho/Tarp pretty fast. Look at the Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape. It comes in at 12 oz and sleeps one very comfortably with some head room to boot.
There is something beautiful about packing your shelter system in a nice little ball that fits in the side of your pack for easy access. Remember, this is your rain gear also, you may need to access it quickly for pop up thunderstorms.
5. Multi-Purpose Your Hiking Poles
Here is where you are going to look like a Backpacker Superhero. How many times have you set up camp and then leaned your hiking poles against a tree? Well now, use them to set up your Shelter. Congrats! You have multi-used 3 pieces of important gear. Rain Poncho, Tarp, and Hiking Poles.
TIP: Don’t try poncho tarps until you’ve mastered tarp camping with an 8 x 12′. Then maybe shoot down to 8 x 10′. There’s no margin for error with a small tarp. With larger tarps you can sleep in the center and be more or less insulated from blown rain and the splash factor. You’re about as close as you can get to the weather with a 5 x 8; learn the tricks of the trade before you push the envelope. I use a regular “Paint Plastic Tarp” you buy at the hardware store for my ground cloth. Why? Ground Clothes are expensive, and if they get a hole in it, get out your wallet. Regular paint plastic can just get cut into new pieces.
Also, make sure you always bring an extra large garbage bag with you. These are great to put your empty pack in at night when it’s raining to keep your pack dry.
Guy lines are essential. A 5 x 8′ tarp gives maximum area when it’s pitched as flat as possible. Guy lines help to keep the fabric taut and water draining instead of pooling. Prop sticks can be used in a pinch; find them before you go to sleep.
You’ve been trekking all day in the wilderness. Your tired, sore and ready to get into your sleeping bag. The campsite is a important part of your backpacking experience. A good campsite definitely contributes to a great trip…and a poor campsite can make your trip more difficult. The rule of thumb is to understand Leave No Trace principals to guide you in your decision.
First and foremost, (if your planning a backpacking trip in a National Park) you will have to fill out an Itinerary, or apply for a Backcountry Permit. In this case, your choice is made for you. However, in a designated Wilderness Area, backcountry sites can be subject to different rules and regulations depending on that designated area. Generally, backcountry camping is recommended at least 200 feet from Meadows, lakeshores, and streams. If you are in a designated Wilderness Area, here are some things to look for: TIPS from LNT
Sometimes however, a made campsite is ok, IF you understand that you have to clear all evidence that you have been there. This is the quintessential guide for Leave NO Trace. There are sometimes when making your own camp area is necessarily if you just can’t make it to where you want to go.
There are other key things to remember also:
Water sources nearby? And, will it be easy to get water?
Disposing of waste. Make sure you have plenty of room and 200 feet from water sources.
Look for dead trees nearby. You don’t want to pitch your tent under a dead or dying limb
Speaking of tree limbs, are there adequete limbs to hang your Bear Bag?
Know the rules & regulations of the area that you will be backpacking in. ALL Wilderness Area’s have their own PDF sites to help you plan and prepare your trip.
Remember that practicing Leave No Trace makes a fun and safe trip for the next person who meanders into that camp area. It also protects the wildlife.
See you on the Trail.
If you had to pick the best trail to go backpacking on, where would you pick? We pick the top 10 Backpacking experiences in North America. The criteria we to pick the top ten was simple. Views, the length of hike, and difficultly. First we looked at views. What would a backpacker experience in the Backcounty when hiking a specific trail? How long is the trail itself? We thought it best to stick with a trail that would take at least a weekend to complete. Of course, we looked at how difficult was the hike going to be. As an avid Backpacker, I tend to look for a more “strenuous” hike. So getting the blood pumping was the thought here.
Here is our TOP TEN LIST:
10: KAIBAB TRAIL – Grand Canyon, Arizona – South Rim to North Rim adventure, real risk of heat stroke! 3 days is ideal 20.6mi plus sidetrips. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? This is the only trail in the Park, including Bright Angel, maintained consistently the hike crosses the only bridge spanning the Colorado River. Best time to hike is Spring, or Fall. Bring lots of water, and NEVER try backpacking this trail without the proper permits.
9: PARIA CANYON– Arizona/Utah, canyon walk in knee-deep water, some risk of flash floods, minimum 4 days, 3 nights, 37.5mi WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? High, colorful, sculpted red-rock walls, walking in knee deep water is fun, if you have good shoes, pictographs & historical artifacts. Better get your permit now because only 20 hikers are allowed in at any given time.
8: TETON CREST TRAIL-Wyoming. 3-5 days depending on route 31-40 mi depending on route WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? Grand views of the toothy Tetons, the most striking range in the Rockies, the challenge of several high passes, and good chance to see marmot, American Bison, Moose, Pronghorn, Wapiti (elk), or Mule Deer in the Park.
7: CHILKOOT TRAIL– Alaska. Just on the first day (Sheep to Happy) is long and exhausting! 5 days, 4 nights recommended, 33miles. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? An astonishingly wide variety of terrain and scenery. Temperate rain forest to high alpine to boreal forest, and the hike is well managed with full-time maintenance
6: THE FLORIDA TRAIL Florida. Hit this Trail and a collection of loop and linear trails on public lands throughout Florida. 1,400 mile trail. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? Trail heads are all close to main roads, climate is good, although hot. Well maintained trail. Be prepared to hike a long distance in water.
5: Mt. WHITNEY TRAIL California – 3 days, 2 nights is ideal due to altitude 22mi round trip with an elevation gain of 6100ft WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? No climbing gear needed surprisingly easy if you get good weather it’s a beautiful and impressive peak. Permits are hard to get however, so apply early and be prepared.
4: COLORADO TRAIL Colorado. Thru hikers should allow at least 4 – 6 weeks between late June and early September to cover the entire 483 miles. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? CT offers a wide range of elevations and levels of difficulty, accommodating a variety of skill levels and hiking preferences. Awesome Views. Colorado is a awesome state to live in, let along hike through.
3: THE LONG TRAIL Vermont. With its 270-mile footpath, 175 miles of side trails, and nearly 70 primitive shelters, the Long Trail offers endless hiking opportunities for the day hiker, weekend overnighter, and extended backpacker. Do this in the Fall, and you may find yourself moving to Vermont.
2: APPALACHIAN TRAIL Georgia – Maine. After completing this hike in 2003, there is no way this can be off our top 10 list. This 13 state trek is about is as close to finding a new family than actually being adopted by one. The community of this trail is a magical experience. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? The Appalachian Trail offers a variety of hikes. Day hikes, Thru-Hikes, Section Hikes, it has a different hike for everyone. It makes no difference whether you are a pro hiker or a beginner. This is America’s Trail.
1: PACIFIC CREST TRAIL Zigzagging its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) boasts the greatest elevation changes of any of America’s National Scenic Trails, allowing it to pass through six out of seven of North America’s ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and artic-alpine country. Indeed, the PCT is a trail of diversity and extremes. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? From scorching desert valleys in Southern California to rain forests in the Pacific Northwest, the PCT offers hikers a unique, varied experience.
If you have favorite trails that you think should be on our list, let us know. OR, wanna write your own favorite list? Apply to become a Trail Blogger with us.
When I bought this ultralight sleeping bag from Dicks Sporting Goods, I was a little skeptical about just how rugged or comfortable this bag was going to be. I took this bag into the Arizona Desert recently where the temps dropped down to the chilly 40 Degrees. The question I had with this bag, would and if the temps dropped lower, would this bag keep me warm? The answer is yes.
The Aspen is just the think for a weekend backpack trip in the late Spring, early Summer. It is a very lightweight 600 Fill Goose Down Bag. The compression sack that comes with it, will be a welcome fit to your backpack. The zipper works well at night when stumbling around to get in and out of it, and the hood comes with easy draw string incase it gets chilly.
I called Marmot to get a feel on how to compare this bag with others that Marmot makes. The “Tech” guy couldn’t really give me all the answers to my questions because Dicks Sporting Goods has the rights to this bag. Yea, Marmot makes this bag exclusively for Dicks Sporting Goods. However, the “Tech” guy from Marmot hinted that this bag (although priced less than $100.00) matches up in quality with all their other bags, and the standard of excellence Marmot puts into their gear, was not compromised on the Aspen. He also “hinted” the bag could probably go under 40 and you would be fine. But, you didn’t hear that from me.
Having tested this bag on a two day hike in the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon in Arizona, I can tell you the bag kept me nice and warm, and I welcomed the weight benifits it gave me. The Aspen 40 Ultralight can be found at Dicks Sporting Goods for $99.00.
Weight: 1.13 oz
Fits: 6.0 ft
Pack size: 6″ x 12″
Temp: 40 Degress