Alison FenstererDr. ArnoldUWRT 1101-073: Writing & Inquiry in Academic Contexts IDecember 7, 2015Planning Ahead for the Big Trip: An Ethnography on planning for a backpacking trip A backpacking trip is essentially packing a backpack, going out in the woods on a trail and camping overnight. Before going out and enjoying nature you have to put time into planning the trip. My goal of this ethnography is to show people how much planning goes into a backpacking trip. People think that you can just pack up and go, however there are key factors that go into planning a backpacking trip. Through my observations of the backpacking subculture and personal experiences, I have noticed reoccurring topics people discuss. All of the topics they discuss and sometimes bicker over are all important parts in planning a trip. I also interviewed Sara Chester, who has been going on backpacking trips since the eighth grade. While doing secondary research I have learned quite a bit more about backpacking that I did not know previously. Through my research, observations, self-experiences and the interview I conducted I hope to give people a good idea of the planning behind a backpacking trip. As I observed people hiking to their camping sites I heard many of them mention different trails. Some of them agreed on trails and others did not. The discussion on trails made me wonder how important picking a trail really was. After asking many of them about trails, they all agreed that picking a trial is the first and most important step. Picking the correct trail for your trip is important because you need to make sure you can handles the trail. Each tail differs in difficulty and length, When determining how many miles to hike each day, consider the terrain and whether youd like a leisurely pace or would you rather cover as much ground as possible on your trip. (Planning). It is also important to pick a trail first so you can do research on regulations in that area. The area you decide to camp on might be in a National Forest, which would have specific rules you would need to follow. Finding the information you need is not hard, You may be able to find information from park rangers or park websites in the area youre interested in exploring. (Staff). Picking a place is the first of many topics among the backpacking subculture.While out in the woods I often notice people struggling with their backpacks. I heard many conversations on packs coming from the backpackers. Some of the people were talking about which bag they used, where they got them and others talked about strategical ways to pack them. I found it interesting there were so many subtopics just on the backpack itself. The biggest part of the backpack mentioned was which size everyone was using. They come in many different sizes depending on how long the trip is and how much you plan on taking. You can get a backpack anywhere, I heard many different brands and stores all thrown around. It is important when buying a backpack to make sure that it fits you. Many people fit themselves wrong when getting a backpack. Remember, Backpacks are sized according to torso length, not a persons height. (Staff). The next subtopic is where people began to disagree and that was how to pack it. Each person had their own ingenious way of packing their backpack strategically. After doing some research I found that, A general rule of thumb is to put water, cooking gear, and other heavy items close to the center of your back and pack lighter-weight items around them. (Planning). Having all of the heavier gear in the middle of your back will help keep your center of balance and will help with back pain. With all of these topics branching off just the pack you can begin to see why planning a trip takes a lot of time and effort. Something I noticed while I observed people in their campsites was that they mostly all had the same pieces of equipment. Each backpacker had opinions on what piece of equipment was more important, but overall they had the same key pieces. Many people might worry at this point that camping gear weights too much however, Many comforts of home come in impressively lightweight backpacking forms: stoves, cushy sleeping pads, camp pillows. (Staff). I noticed many of the backpackers had these gear in tiny lightweight forms. Most of the backpackers slept in tents, although I saw quite a few people using hammocks. I asked some of them why and their responses were simple, to save room in the backpack. I actually just got a hammock to use for backpacking and for fun. You should also think about getting a sleeping bag. During my interview with Sara she informed me that a regular sleeping bag can weigh a lot; however some companies make a lightweight sleeping bag that only weights 1-2 pounds. While these are not the pieces of equipment you will need they are the basic ones I notice and will get you started. Through my observations I saw many people eating freeze dried food. Even when I am just hiking with family or friends I often see people snacking on apples, granola bars or some type of snack food. Obviously while backpacking eating and staying hydrated are very important and something that some people might not think of. During my research I found that, For simplicity choose freeze-dried food that requires just a few cups of boiling water and 10 minutes of wait time. (Staff). I asked Sara what kind of food she typically brings, her response was: For food we usually take freeze dried meals. We have a Jetboil, which is a portable stove that boils water in about 30-60 seconds. As you can see bringing a freeze dried meal is time efficient and simple to do. Usually when I go hiking I bring some snack foods and water with me. Bringing just something small to munch on is nice for when you do not want to stop and make food. Each person might prefer different foods however, they can all agree that food and water are essential for a backpacking trip. Whenever I go out on a backpacking trip I usually wear the same clothes. I often see people wearing similar clothes as me. The most common piece of clothing I saw was hiking boots. Almost everyone I observed was wearing hiking boots. They are made specifically for hiking because they come up around your ankle and provide support for them, Tennis shoes and urban/athletic footwear are too flexible for roots and rocks on trails. (Staff). Depending on what time of the year it is or the weather outside the other clothes can vary. During my observation many people were wearing layers, which is something that I typically do unless it is the dead middle of summer. I saw people wearing longer pants, a t-shirt and some type of coat. You will see many people wearing rain coats, because the weather can always be unpredictable and it helps keep the bugs off of you while just sitting around camp. (Staff). I noticed that some people wore pants that were convertible, Convertible pants are popular. Their lower-leg portions can zip off if you want more air and sun. (Staff). The types of clothes that people wear while backpacking are usually the same and can depend on the weather or season. When asking people the last minute details they do before leaving, many of them brought up different points. However some of their last minute rituals overlapped. The five most common I heard were leaving an itinerary, contacting a ranger office, testing gear out, exercise, and mentally prepared for emergency situations. Everyone might not do these or do them differently, the research I did backed them all up. Leaving an itinerary with someone who is staying in town is a great idea. This is in case if something happens to you someone knows where you are. Then if a search and rescue team needs to find you they can quickly. It is smart to call ahead, Contact a ranger office at or near your destination. Ask about road closures, trial conditions, permit requirements, animal activity or any temporary restrictions. (Staff). Good advice I found online was to, Take a short overnight trip before striking out on a bigger trip or even just camp in your backyard for a night with the gear you plan to use. (Planning). This is to make sure you know how to use all of the gear. Think about doing some exercise prior to your trip, Your cardiovascular fitness and leg strength will be of the utmost importance, so running, long day hikes, and walking uphill with a weighted pack are all great ways to prepare. (Planning for a Backpacking Trip). Most importantly make sure you are prepared for emergency situations. Being prepared in the woods is important because depending on where you are the nearest town could be an hour or more away. Even though not all of these were suggested by the backpackers I met, they would still be good ideas to do to make your trip safer. Through my observations I found that some people prefer different food, gear or clothes. However many of them discussed similar topics dealing with the planning while out on their backpacking trips. That maybe have been food they brought, important gear to them, clothes they prefer or trails they enjoy more. This shows that this subculture is a community in itself. Even though they may not all agree with each others opinions they share that common interest, a love for nature and the adventure of the outdoors. I hope you realized that it takes more than just putting some gear into a bag and picking a spot. You should plan and do research on your own before setting out on a trip. If you are considering going I encourage you to get out there and do it! I also encourage you to watch the people in this subculture if you go backpacking. By actually watching what people do you can learn so much more than my observations and research could tell you. Watching the people can give you a better idea of the planning behind a trip and what to expect once you get out there.