Chanell's Story / You've answered my questions, and now what?

This is an ongoing series on chanell, a black woman who's documenting her journey of going on her very first backpacking trip. If you're joining now, you can start here

Thank you Liz for all the answers to my questions! I don’t know why I didn’t think about bears, especially because I did watch Grizzly Man. It must be due to the fact that I’m assuming all the places I want to travel too are bear-free. I guess I’ll see if that’s true!

First, that gear check list is super organized but feels a bit overwhelming. I don’t have most of the things on that list. Right now I’m thinking, how much of this list do I absolutely need to purchase? Luckily, I have a number of friends into camping and backpacking so I think the “sleep system” will be the easiest thing on my list.

My initial question is, "What about the gear checklist is overwhelming?" Is it because you don't have most of the stuff on the list or you don't know what it is or something else? If it's you don't own most of the stuff, I've created a pared down version of the essentials I think a beginner needs on their very first backpacking trip. Keep in mind that you don't need to take all these things if there are amenities available to you. For example, you might not need an extra bag for soiled toilet paper if there are pit toilets. (Phew!) Research beforehand is key. 

Second, I’ve always wanted to explore Big Sur. I think I went once in college for what turned out to be a very uncomfortable camping trip. My tent was set up on top of twenty million rocks, so I didn’t get a good night’s sleep for two nights! The outhouses were super gross (to me) so I ran in, held breath, and peed as quickly as possible. And I didn’t want to hike so I just hung out around the camping area (and missed out on the waterfall and swimming hole)! Other than the great people, the trip was pretty dismal. Since then, I’ve driven to Big Sur a couple of times and have been astounded by its beauty and proximity to the water. I’d love the opportunity to be in that space for a couple of days. While I’m not attached to Big Sur (I’d certainly consider other places near bodies of water) I’d want an easy hike for my first time around though, nothing to crazy.

Having a bad camping experience sucks! I know what that's like so I'm sorry you had that experience. But it sounds like it hasn't completely deterred you from wanting to go again. (Awesome!) And it also sounds like you really want to be near water. Is that the ocean more specifically? Or does a river or lake work too? 

Big Sur is awesome for sure. I'm thinking it might be kind of fun for you to go to Sykes Hot Springs, but it'll be about 10 miles in and 10 out which could be a challenge depending on your fitness level. Unfortunately, it's gotten really crowded especially on the weekends. The other option that might be awesome is going to Point Reyes - one of my favorite places on earth! There's a fairly easy backpacking trip you that'll lead you close to the ocean. I just searched and it looks like there's availability in the next month. [Search: Coast Campground, "Walk to"]. I've stayed at campsite #1 and it was a bit exposed, but I liked that it was centrally located. I would go with sites 1, 2, or 3. 

I did like the plug for free gear (which I’m pretty sure I can also borrow from some friends) but again, I’m wondering: do I need to buy everything under pack essentials? Do I need a stove? I’d like to do this trip solo or with one other person so I don’t want to overburden myself.

You don't need to buy everything under pack essentials. The gear checklist is a pretty thorough list of stuff I take on almost every trip. Check out the pared down list here. As for the stove, it totally depends on if you want hot food. So for example, if you want hot coffee in the morning or a warm meal at the end of the day, you'll want a stove. If not, you can eat dry/cold foods and be perfectly fine. If it's an overnight and you don't want to carry a stove, I say go simple and eat no-cook food. I can make some suggestions for food for an overnighter when we get there.

Next question: I’m leaning towards Big Sur (but I also plan on doing some research for other parks near large bodies of water). I’m hoping to carve out a weekend in mid November. Once I have a place in mind and a general time I want to go, what do I do next?

After you have a time and location, I would recommend thinking about how many days you're going to go and how many miles you think you'll want to hike per day. If you're thinking 5 miles or so, it will put some parameters on what trails to take and what you'll be able to see. You can start by searching sites like The Outbound, EveryTrail, or even just googling "backpacking in _______". Honestly it might confuse the heck out of you - it confuses me every time I look for backpacking trips! But when you find a trail that meets your criteria, you need to: 
  1. Find the ranger's # for the area you want to go to
  2. Look into permits and secure them
  3. Nail down dates to go
  4. Get a sense of the weather to prepare accordingly (ask the ranger when you secure a permit)
  5. Finish getting the rest of your gear
  6. Think about what you'll wear and wear it on practice hikes
  7. Practice hiking with your pack partially loaded so you can work out kinks

Once you've decided on your location and route, let's take it from there! You have about a month before you have to go, and that can go by real fast. Love that I get to work with you through this Chanell! I admire your will and determination to forget something new for yourself.  


Gear Checklist

When I'm preparing for a trip, I have to go through my gear many times to make sure I packed everything. The checklist below is where I've landed for optimizing simplicity without compromising all of my comfort.

Below are gear checklists you can print and use as you prepare for your trip.

Here are four options: Glacier, Map, Fall, & Printer-Friendly.


Is there anything you'd add or delete on this list?