My Not So Perfect Backpacking Trip & What I Learned

Explorer

Jess Fischer

When I imagined my backpacking trip not going the way I planned, I imagined blaming rain or a trail closure, not blaming myself.

A few months ago my boyfriend and I spent a month out west and for both of us, it was our first time in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Banff. Our itinerary was packed with hikes, backpacking trips and fly fishing destinations all recommended from other Outbound Explorers and locals I reached out to via social media. We were both so excited for our trip. Our trip was amazing by the way, spending a week out west really is good for the soul.

On the first leg of our trip we were backpacking in Glacier National Park. We had originally planned for our route to be a day longer but because of complications getting our rental car, we had to start a day later than planned and we lost our original back country permit (if you don’t pick up your permit on the day your trip is scheduled to start, you lose it). The next morning after waking up early we basically ran to the closest Visitor Center and re-secured our back country permit. Lucky us! After securing our permit we ran back to our campground, packed up camp, packed up our backpacks and took off for our trailhead. During this time I forgot to do two crucial things, eat and hydrate. Yep, I was heading into the Glacier National Parks back country dehydrated and with barely any calories in me. I was completely running of adrenaline.

I didn’t start feeling bad until about 4 miles into our trip. I felt lethargic and small uphills felt like mountains to me. I was constantly pausing and having to take water breaks and felt extremely light headed. On top of this, there was barely any shade since we had hiked down into a valley so the sun was beating down on me in the peak of the afternoon. I could tell my boyfriend was a little worried as he encouraged me to drink more water and even stopped to get a cup of electrolytes for me to chug. How could I have been so dumb that I didn’t hydrate properly or eat enough that morning? Well it’s simple. I was traveling the entire day before and didn’t drink enough and that morning I was too pumped up with excitement and trying to re-secure a backcountry permit that I didn’t even think about eating. The hike, luckily, was not ruined and I was able to power through the day and survived by constantly snacking and drinking water, but I realize now I put myself in danger by not properly preparing MYSELF for the hike. While the landscapes and trails were breathtakingly beautiful, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the beauty of the area because I was so concentrated on not passing out and just making it to our campsite. That night after camp was set up I rehydrated and ate about 2,000 calories worth of food so the next day I was feeling MUCH better and was good to go. Although it was still a lot of fun, I wish I hadn’t learned the hard way how important it is to plan for your body to be prepared to backpack and not only worry about the logistics of the trip itself. But I learned a few valuable lessons:

1. PUT YOU FIRST

The entire day before and morning before we left I was so worried about everything else I didn’t stop and think, “Hey Jess, what do YOU need to do before this backpacking trip?” If you’re going to be backpacking or hiking make sure that you put on your to-do list “hydrate, eat, etc.” so you remember to take care of yourself. Maybe some of you are rolling your eyes at me but seriously, I’m the type of person who gets lost in my lists and it’s very easy for me to forget to do things like, drink water. Just remember to put you first.

2. HYDRATION IS SO IMPORTANT

I feel like this is a big DUH but I’ve been a little dehydrated (ahem hung over) on a few hikes but I’ve NEVER messed around with not hydrating properly before a big hike or a backpacking trip. I really am very responsible and 99% of the time do a great job prepping for hikes. This particular experience made me realize how important it is to never forget to stay hydrated. The amount of weakness and exhaustion I felt during my hike was unlike anything I had ever experienced and to be honest, I was a little worried. Thankfully I recognized what was going on very quickly and began drinking tons of water and even some electrolytes but still… I will never ever ever mess around with not properly hydrating before a big hike like that again!

3. NOT EVERYTHING WILL GO AS PLANNED

This may sound dumb but I’m not afraid to say it, I imagined this backpacking trip as being magical. I imagined being in high spirits, happy, crushing the hike and having the whole thing be a great experience. I had been looking forward to this hike in particular for months. I didn’t imagine my first day of the trip being completely taken up by rental car issues and I didn’t imagine the first actual day of the hike being dehydrated and under-fueled. Don’t get me wrong, it was still beautiful and we had amazing weather, it’s just my mindset was vastly different than I would’ve wanted it to be. When I imagined my trip not going the way I planned I imagined blaming rain or a trail closure, not blaming myself.

4. HAVING A FRIEND OR SIGNIFICANT OTHER HELPS IMMENSELY

If I hadn’t had my boyfriend with me who knows what I would have done; my boyfriend was a rock and encouraged me, made sure I stopped a lot, drank water, fed me snacks, etc. He didn’t get irritated with me and paid close attention to my pace and how I was acting/looking. If I had been in a really bad way, he most likely would’ve made me stop completely (something my stubborn butt wouldn’t have done). Although I wasn’t 100% he made the experience way more enjoyable and it made all the difference in the world. To read more about Tips for Backpacking with Your Significant Other go HERE.

(I want to add that I consider myself to be physically fit from lots of hiking, weekly cycle classes, running, weight lifting, and hot yoga. I’m by no means bragging about how much I work out, I’m simply trying to drive home the point that I'm in good physical condition and this hike, although a bit difficult, should’ve been an absolute breeze for me, but it wasn’t because I failed to hydrate and eat properly beforehand. I was really struggling and I was also getting really upset with myself. Also I am always striving to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated and properly prepare for any hikes and I have been hiking and backpacking since I was much younger.

Who has ever had a trip not go according to plan or learned the hard way about something?


^ Actual footage of me dying (cover photo is also me dead by a lake)


To do this backpacking trip find the adventure here.

Published: September 28, 2017

Jess FischerExplorer

A little adventurer with a big love for the great outdoors.

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