Nov 9, 2009 at 10:06 pm #1241557
So I'm trying to plan a 3 day trip for my brother in law who has never been backpacking before and his son who has never been backpacking before. I was thinking of going to Point Reyes NP and taking the coast trail from Palomarin to Wildcat campground (5.5 miles). I've always either done solo trips or have been with a partner who is as experienced as I am so I don't have to worry about what he packed, skills, etc… Anyone have any tips for planning a trip for 2 other people who have zero experience with backpacking? Anyone have any experience backpacking in Point Reyes national park?Nov 9, 2009 at 10:10 pm #1544170
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
How old is the son?
When are you anticipating heading out on the trip?
Point Reyes is beautiful and it's possible to plan an outing of any length or difficulty.Nov 9, 2009 at 10:12 pm #1544173
Loan them all the lightweight gear you can, and go thru their packs before you go. And emphasize foot care.Nov 9, 2009 at 11:00 pm #1544179
Son is 10. They don't have any real backpacking gear of their own, so I'm going to lend them some of my stuff. I don't have a childrens sleeping bag, so we will have to get one, but other then that, I should have them covered in the gear department. Was going to let my brother in law use my GoLite Jam pack with a light coleman mummy bag I have, an alpine design tent that should fit him and his son which is pretty lightweight and I'll have him carry the food. I figure I'll use my heavier kelty redwing pack with my eureka spitfire and big agnes sleep system along with all the heavy stuff like the stove and fuel and cookware. I figure this way, they won't have to carry much for their intro to the sport and his son can carry his own sleeping bag and snacks which would make him feel important without adding a lot of weight to his pack (it did when I was a kid!).
The route I plan on taking starts at Palomarin and follows the coast trail north for 5.5 miles to the wildcat campground. I figure that is a pretty decent dose of hiking for their first time and the campground is really pretty. About 300 yards from the ocean. I plan on going in about 2 weeks for 2-3 days depending on the weather. I hear the clearest skys are around this time and it doesn't get too cold (average low of around 46). The rain starts up around this time is the only concern, but it shouldn't get too hard to handle until mid december. I was hoping to have a chance to dig for clams as I hear now is the time to do so.Nov 9, 2009 at 11:25 pm #1544181
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Pt Reyes is a good starter destination. It's a pleasant hike that shouldn't been too long. The campsites are comfortable with picnic tables and food storage boxes. They have water (often portable) and vaulted outhouse so you ease into that as well. You have a beach to check out that has a waterfall and and large whale bone just south of the campsite.
Do you already have reservations. Typically 2-3 weeks isn't enough time in advance to book a weekend campsite.
Hints: I agree with others to get them started going light. Make sure you bring food and drink they will enjoy. Work to provide a good night sleep by making sure they have a warm enough bag and appropriately comfortable pad.
Make sure they have some sort of shell with a hood. The winds can be really chilling.
You might want to see if you know anyone with a montbell ss bag. They have a dragstring to shorted the bag. Worked well when my daughter was 9y old.
–MarkNov 10, 2009 at 6:59 am #1544220
@kieranLocale: Seattle, WA
I find the typical shortcoming of inexperienced campers/hikers is their clothing. I've taken a few groups of newbies camping or backpacking and for some reason they always wanna bring like 2 pairs of jeans and five sweaters for a weekend trip. If money is an issue, check thrift stores – it's all gonna get dirty anyways.
Semi-related: Funniest newbie venture so far was some car camping – very very first outdoor sleeping experience for them – I had to turn and walk away to keep from openly laughing when I saw them pull out a glass and wrought iron end table from the minivan. They weren't camping, they were moving in.
Once you get them out there though, it's such a rewarding experience.Nov 10, 2009 at 7:43 am #1544235
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
Boy can probably carry a sleeping bag and his own clothing, plus a camera if he wants one, in a day pack. I'd suggest ipods not for the hiking but for the night – first night out can be eerie to some, I still sometimes have nights where the quiet is SO quiet that I lay there listening, so IF for some reason they can't sleep a little familiar music can help.
Noobs tend to take too many clothes and too much food. I'd have the usual meals plus three snacks per day in snack size bags for easy dispensing, and help them plan a layering system with a good wind breaker shell. When I was there two weeks ago a long sleeve T and windbreaker were all I needed until dusk, when out came the fleece. Take food they will enjoy and won't burden them much. Instead of taking eggs and a frypan, crack eggs in a vac seal bag and have boil in bag omelettes. Instead of bread take premade pb&j… fuss free is better when there's a lot to do and see. Cheese sticks keep unrefrigerated. Pudding cups, easy mac n cheese repackaged to reduce bulk, gummy bears, trail mix with kid approved ingredients – you could be setting this kid up for life in the outdoors if you plan the menu right.
I'd also give each of them instructions on what to do if separated and lost and a good whistle (ten essentials), and make sure they each carry one of the park maps that has the trails clearly marked. Mark the route on the map and if Boy or Man get turned around, then run across a local on horseback or a park staff they can redirect them. Ideally they would have a topo and some rudimentary compass skill but this is a popular and populated park, there will be someone along shortly if they sit down and stay put. I doubt that anything will happen to separate you… but. You might even consider a set of FRS radios, they are not the most reliable but have worked well when my meetup group gets large. It would also add to Boy's fun factor to radio dad. (Duracells will last for 30-40 hours; the rechargables in the radio only go for 8)
Also might want to rent comfy sleeping pads to augment the gear you have. If the rest of the gear is light a thicker sleeping pad will increase the enjoyment factor for not much penalty. A first trip you don't want to be the last would be easier if they aren't uncomfortable at night.Nov 10, 2009 at 8:05 am #1544241
I figure I'll use … eureka spitfire
You're not gonna use that brand new MYOG TarpTent?Nov 10, 2009 at 9:19 am #1544264
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Good advice already given. My list:
-take it slow with low miles, I've been absolutely floored at how slow some people are
-go somewhere cool (this can be tricky to coordinate with the above)
-have really good campsites (presume you'll be spending lots of time there, make it the trip highlight)
-limit their space, this summer I have a friend a daypack and said she had to fit all her personal gear in it, then vet the selections without being too snotty
-carry the heavy stuff yourself (on that trip I carried all the shelter and cooking stuff and almost all the food myself)
-try to pick good weather, if at all possible
-assume they can do it, people respond to a challenge, usuallyNov 10, 2009 at 9:40 am #1544273
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Nice list David. These are things I do but didn't think to say.
–MarkNov 10, 2009 at 10:31 am #1544280
Jim, As much as I'm dying to use my new MYOG tarptent, it doesn't have the beaks on it yet and I'm affraid that if it starts raining, I'll get soaked. I'm still going back and fourth though. Odds are, I'll end up using my tarptent and risking the rain just because I'm so excited to use it. I guess I can always use my rain poncho as a makeshift vestibule if it starts raining.Nov 10, 2009 at 10:50 am #1544282
These are all helpful ideas. I'm so used to either doing solo trips or trips with people who have the same amount of experience that although most of these tips seem self-explanitory, I'm just not in the practice of having to worry about someone else. This is good practice for when my son is of age to start backpacking though!Nov 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm #1544304
@timalanLocale: Mid Atlantic
Almost all the trips I go on involve taking less experienced people hiking, and planning for multiple people other than myself — really ups the stress level and planning, since there is that added challenge of helping to ensure that people have a good/great first experience.
A few things I'd recommend; some of this will echo folks above:
* Talk to your friends in the area and get their gear lists — not just the stuff they use, but the stuff they don't use, so you know what you can borrow. I know the basic gear for all of my friends with any backpacking inclinations — in fact, I've started keeping a lot of this info on my own master gear list, with their initials beside their gear, so I know who has what that I can borrow if I need to.
* Pick a LEVEL campsite. For a lot of people, sleeping at an angle is one of the biggest challenges to camping when they are starting out. They can slide around, become disoriented, have a hard time sleeping, etc… Level, even if it's not as smooth, is my pick for new campers.
* Sleeping pads — Since you're looking for LEVEL ground as more important than smooth ground, make sure you have really good sleeping pads to smooth out the lumps. In my experience, when people can get comfy and get a good nights' sleep, it does wonders for their experience.
* Campfire — go somewhere you are allowed to build a fire. Campfires are probably the most favorable, nostalgic icon for camping. If your planned trail/site doesn't allow fires, then pick somewhere else.
* Campfire FOOD – bring a few things that will cook really well over a campfire. One of my favorites is to get pre-cooked turkey sausages from Trader Joe's. Freeze them the night before, wrap them in a camp towel and freezer ziploc, and they will unthaw in the pack during the day. They are ready for the fire at night — just put them on the ends of sharpened sticks, roast them, and serve them in small whole wheat pitas (light, compact, resilient). Bring along tiny condiment packages if you think they're needed. Great campfire food is a lasting memory for everyone, and it's an experience unique to camping. Along the same lines, a few marshmallows are worth the space — especially if taking a 10-year-old along. One other thought: small apples, while heavy, are oh-so-tasty when roasted over a campfire. Again, IMHO it's worth the weight.
* Plan to allow the newbies to help with everything. Given them some basic principles and then let them pack their own backpacks. Let them help set up the tents; show them how and use it as a teaching moment. Let them blow up their own air mattresses. Let them choose and sharpen their own sticks for the fire… you get the idea.
* Good socks: make sure everyone has smartwool or something similar. Good socks = happy feet = happy hike. Fresh socks for day two are worth it.
* Camp shoes: if the folks you are with have shoes they haven't hiked much in, then allowing/encouraging them to bring flipflops, crocs, or some other lightweight camp shoes can add wonders to their overall comfort. 8-10oz for a pair of crocs is totally worth it if it means you can relax by the fire for the evening, can move safely around camp, and don't have to try to get tired/sore/blistered feet back into boots until the morning.
* Pants/shirts — to a lesser degree than socks, pants at least help with the experience. If they don't have any hiking pants, then encourage windpants or pretty much anything other than jeans/cotton. In the event of rain, you want them to not be miserable.
* Games/cards/lantern — these extras can be worth packing, especially if weather is iffy. If there is any chance you will spend the night stuck in a tent together, then a lantern and something to do together is worth the weight.
* headlamps — plain and simple, headlamps are cool tech toys, easy to use, and empowering. If everyone has one, it helps independence and comfort. at ~3oz. each, they are worth the redundancy.
* maps — everyone should have a map with clear notations on it — where you parked, where you will camp, and the route you are planning to get there. small compasses for everyone are nice, too, just in case.
* bring an ACE wrap or athletic tape or something similar so that in the event of a sprain or other injury you can make it as easy as possible to help them out of the backcountry.
* Bear bag explanation and pack check. I've found that new folks often leave things in their bags that could attract a bear. I've never had it happen, but a worst case scenario is that a bear ransacks a first-time-campers tent looking for the half-eaten trail bar they shoved in the small pocket of their pack and forgot about. Make sure to explain bear safety and to have each person go carefully through their packs to make sure anything that has had food on it, all food-related trash, and other scented semi-edibles like toothpaste are bagged like they should be.
* I'll echo that ipod/earlpugs can be worth their weight in gold for people new to the wilderness.
* GPS — obviously, not necessary, but for the cool factor, if you've got access to some kind of GPS, it can be fun to see and track your exact elevation gain, rate of travel, how far you've gone, all that stuff. it makes it easy to answer "how much farther" and it also provides a way to have some follow-up content in addition to photos after the fact. You can e-mail or print out for them the exact route you hiked (along with any sidetrails) and the elevation chart for the trip. can be fun and make it more engaging for some people. I had a hike recently where we decided to bushwhack down the side of a mountain and it was great looking at the almost mile-long stretch of decent down a 60* slope.
* plan a great meal for the end of the trail en route back to home. Know that you'll have your favorite restaurant as a payoff is a great way to keep going on the trail and to feel like you've earned a big dinner. it also serves as something to look forward to when the steps are getting slow/tired late in the hike.
* Accept that it is unlikely you will be going ultralight this trip. When new people are along, I normally end up carrying more than my share of the gear, along with some extra gear for an expanded safety margin for the group. I often end up with a 35# pack with several newbies along; that's okay with me if they have a great time, and with first-timers on the trail, the distances are much shorter and the pace is slower, so I really don't mind the extra weight.
Sorry for the long post, but I hope some of the suggestions are helpful.
I wish you well in your hike. One of the reasons I backpack is because I enjoy introducing new people to the sport/lifestyle. It's a lot of work, and it means I keep some extra gear in my closet, and I will unlikely ever be a truly ultralight hiker (at least not consistently), but the payoff is worth it.Nov 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm #1544341
Tim, you point out a lot of good points; a few of which I have overlooked, so thank you! Didn't think about the ipod thing… I laugh about the jeans comment because I have a thing about people hiking in jeans. I have a strict "no jeans policy" of which I've already shared with them. I told them I don't care if people want to hike in jeans, I just don't want them hiking with me! ;-)
I have already accepted that this will not be an ultralight trip, and I'm ok with it. I'm actually pretty comfortable carrying heavy loads as I am built like a pack mule anyway. I'm going to bring my GPS and compass and supply maps to all because they both want me to teach them how to orienteer, so I figured it would be fun to give them both an overview of it and let my BIL's son lead the way to the campsite using a map and compass. If he takes a wrong turn, I'll just show him where we are on the GPS and let him find us a path back.
The one point you bring up that I overlooked was the fire. You are totally right! having a fire at night is one of those things that especially kids just love. Only problem is, Point reyes doesn't allow fires anywhere but on the beach, so instead of having one in our campsite, I figured we could take the 100 yard walk to the beach with some campfire food, collect driftwood as the park allows, and build the fire on the beach until we are ready to hit the sack, then hike the 100 yards or so back to camp and go to bed. What do you think?Nov 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm #1544343
@timalanLocale: Mid Atlantic
That sounds great — as long as a fire is involved somehow, that's fine. And a fire on the beach is pretty awesome. low risk of fire hazard, plenty of water ready, and the view tends to be just awesome.
The one thing I just added to the list above: camp shoes. If you've got new hikers who haven't used their running shoes for hiking, or haven't broken in their boots, or whatever the scenario, then allowing/encouraging flipflops or crocs or whatever is totally worth the 8-10 oz that it costs per person. Crocs at the end of a long day allow the feet to R-E-L-A-X, which is huge for people not used to being on their feet.
Sounds like it is going to be an awesome trip. Hope it goes well, and please report back with the good word when all is said and done… and add any pointers you pick up along the way. I'm always happy for new ideas and good advice for trips I'm leading.
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