Now I know you might be thinking that I am a little early on this one. You are probably right. But none the less biking to work in a light jacket and the absence of snow has got me really stoked for summer backpacking. Last summer we made it our mission to travel to 5 of the Canadian Alpine Clubs huts, this summer it is our mission to travel to a few new ones and to return to ones we felt we didn’t have enough time at.
The Abbot hut was one of my favourite huts, we only spent one night up there. I would love to go back, more importantly I would love to use the Elizabeth Parker hut as my base for a few nights and explore from there. This brings me to the number one thing you should be doing for the summer season:
1. Book your Huts and Campsites
I know. Again. It seems too early. But a number of parks have lifted their bans on early booking and are, as you are reading this, open for the 2016 season! My advise? Start by picking out all of the weekends you would like to adventure this summer, make a list of 2 day weekends and 3 day weekends. Then start filling them up with reservations, I typically leave the odd one open for spontaneity but mostly if you want to get out the door, commit to bookings. The Canadian Alpine Club is great AMAZING for assisting with this. Last year we called, told them the list of huts we were interested in, the list of dates we had available and they worked their magic arranging for us to get to all of our objectives.
2. Assemble Trip Packages
While you are in the planning mood take the opportunity to assemble a trip package while everything is fresh in your mind (your future self will thank you). Last year when we booked (months in advance) we also printed out all of the required maps and annotated them with information we had read in guidebooks and online. Come summer, we were super busy backpacking every single weekend, the weeks offered just enough time to dry things out and do the turn around. I was super happy that I had prepped all the information in advance.
3. Prepare to Make Backcountry Meals a Breeze
Shameless plug here, I also write a blog called Backcountry Gourmet. My goal with backcountry gourmet is to share an epic new meal creation process that I have stumbled upon. Home made freeze-dried meals. Yes you read that right, freeze-dried, not dehydrated. While there are pros and cons to both forms of meal preparation I have found that by making my own freeze dried meals I can 1) prepare further in advance due to increased shelf life 2) pack in more nutrition and 3) personalize meal sizes and flavours for each person. Download my getting started guide here.
4. Kit Lists – Take the thinking out of packing
For a while each time I went out i would grab a backpack, open the gear closet, and just toss things in that seemed appropriate. Needless to say this often resulted in one of two less than ideal outcomes; packing way too much or forgetting critical (or perhaps enjoyable) items. No more. I have worked tirelessly to create a spreadsheet system that works to calculate the weight of my pack based on what I choose to put into it. This not only helps me remember everything important but helps me decide exactly how much wine I am willing to pack in!
5. Gear Repairs
If after reading step three you are thinking of modifying the spreadsheet with a list of your own then this is also the perfect time to evaluate all of your gear. As you inspect each item to get its credentials before googling the exact weight down to the gram (just me?) you will want to check a number of things
– Is it clean?
– Is it waterproof?
– Do all of the parts work?
– Do any disposable parts need replacing?
– Is it expired?
Things like first aid materials (meds) and water treatments will expire over time, and you may want to replace that 10 year old filter in your water pump. I also use this as an opportunity to ask myself “if this broke in the back country, do I need it? How would I fix it?”.
6. Educate Yourself!
This is the time to sign up for a wilderness first aid course, brush up on those map and compass skills, and learn to use that $700 GPS you bought and hope works when you need it. These are the things you don’t think about in the winter and don’t want to waste precious summer days doing, which is likely why they are still sitting on your todo list! You can sign up for an ONLINE wilderness first aid course with my company Mountain Med Online. We also offer free map and compass training online. Looking for a weather course? I am currently listening to an audio course on that topic.