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8 Tips to Conquer Spring Backpacking

Spring can be one of the trickiest times of the year to backpack, but it can also be one of the prettiest with the melting snow, fresh flowers coming up and the beautiful sunrises. But with the beautiful landscapes comes the struggles of the shoulder season. Weather is changing quickly, snow is melting and spring rain is rolling in. Here are 8 things to think about when you’re preparing for your next spring backpacking or hiking trip.

1.     Path less traveled - lots of trails have been closed over the winter or were impassible because of snow. Once the snow melts these trails might be in different conditions than you remember them being at the end of last season. Take things slow. Remember there may still be snow along the way, muddy patches and changing conditions. Start with more reliable trails that are frequently traveled, lower altitude or more open trails, and work your way up to the more challenging ones as the conditions and weather improves.

2.     Gear Gear Gear - with varying conditions comes the need for more specific gear. Traction devices like crampons will needed along certain snowy and icy trails. Gaiters are another great piece of gear to help protects your pants and socks from the wetter conditions (getting snow in your boots is a guarantee of having wet feet for the day). If you’re dealing with extra wet conditions, rain pants (and jackets, of course) are another great solution that will keep your under-layers dry and give you more freedom to explore without worry.

3.     Dust off your gear - Odds are, your gear hasn’t been used since your last summer or fall trip. Take some time to go over it all, see what’s missing or what needs replacing or re-treating. Practice setting everything up and blowing up sleeping pads to look for holes or anything that needs fixing ahead of time. If you have down gear that you’ve left compressed all winter, give it ample time to decompress and return to its natural state. The more prepared you are before you even leave the house the better you will feel on the trail.

4.     Insulation - Temperature swings can be quite dramatic in the spring. You might find yourself hiking in a t-shirt during the day but sleeping in 5 degree or less temperatures at night. One solution is investing in a thicker sleeping bag liner for extra insulation - then you can avoid spending money on a new warmer sleeping bag you might use once or twice a season. A liner allows you to use your regular summer bag but stay warmer with the extra insulation the liner provides. Having a thicker or better insulated sleeping pad also makes a huge difference - the better the gap between you and the thawing ground, the warmer you’ll be.

5.     Synthetics are your friend - Spring camping can be very wet. Investing in synthetic fabrics allows you to avoid cotton which yes, can be warm, but it also absorbs a lot of moisture which can lead to hypothermia if you have no other clothing options. Synthetic fabrics and waterproof jackets help keep the moisture out and come in a variety of layers that make cooling down and warming up very easy.  Layering also allows you to bring more clothes to stay warm while not filling up your pack too much.

6.     Welcome Back Bugs - Springtime brings the new budding flowers but with that comes the bugs. Figure out what your strategies will be to live in the back country with more bugs than usual. Some of our favorite options are thin long pants to avoid the ankle biters, extra netting for yourself or your tent/hammock and citronella for the campsite (an easy lightweight solution).

7.     Food for Heat - Your body uses a lot of extra energy to keep warm. If you know the temperatures will be cooler than usual, make sure to bring some extra food or higher calorie meals to give your body the fuel it needs. Tea or hot chocolate before bed is a great way to heat your body from the inside and give it a warmth jumpstart before you crawl into your bag.

8.     Ice vs Water - Depending on how early in the season you are venturing out, your water sources might not be water sources yet. Look to online resources or other campers trip reports to see if there are viable thawed water sources along the way. This might mean you have to bring more water to get through a couple of days before you are able to use natural sources again. Defrosting water with your stove takes a lot of fuel, so keep that in mind if you’re intending to make do with snow.

Just because the conditions are a bit more challenging doesn’t mean we won’t be out camping! Think about these 8 tips the next time you’re prepping for a spring backpacking trip and you’ll be set up for success. Happy trails!

Snowy Rocky Mountains


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