Mar 17, 2013 at 6:38 pm #1300589
@nedjursekgmail-comLocale: Pacific Northwest
I recently bought a new pack. While looking at reviews, I read lots reviews praising heavier pack materials for bushwhacking. Comments like, "great pack, but I need something in a hybrid-VX-dyneema-kevlar-spider silk-something that is totally water proof to 200 meters because of all the bushwhacking I do." Sounds like they drag their packs through cactus, slide down scree piles like Bear Grylls, and hack their way through jungles looking for Dr. Livingstone, I presume. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and bushwhacking seems like a ticket to a search and rescue mission that ends in a recovery operation.
The cynical side of me, and it is large, suspects this is like SUV or sports car syndrome; we want something that has capabilities we will never actually use, and are willing to pay a premium for that perception. I might WANT to bushwhack some day, or HAVE to bushwhack, and then I will be sorry I bought a wimpy silnylon pack. Then again, far be it for me to question what others want or need. I have read about bushwhacking in places like Alaska and Australia, where there are few trails. I read Roger Caffin's article on bushwhacking gear. I will sometimes go off trail, but it is usually in open county, like above the tree line. I have slogged through some pretty overgrown trails, and scrambled up some pretty rocky and steep trails, still my wimpy packs have done just fine.
So, if you actually bushwhack, where do you do this? Why do you do this? How far do you bushwhack at a time?Mar 17, 2013 at 6:40 pm #1966808
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"bushwhacking" OR "bushwalking"?
–B.G.–Mar 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm #1966811
From what I understand, hunters tend to do more bushwhacking because game does not always stay on trails…They tend to need tough packs for this reason (and if they need to pack the meat out).Mar 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm #1966816
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
"I will sometimes go off trail, but it is usually in open county, like above the tree line. I have slogged through some pretty overgrown trails, and scrambled up some pretty rocky and steep trails, still my wimpy packs have done just fine."
Same here – for example in the Cascades – no reason for fabric stronger than silnylon
But, there are people and routes where silnylon would probably get ripped up and not be the best choice
I hate getting way stronger (heavier) than necesary stuff on the off chance that maybe some day it will be needed. If I decided to take up hunting or rock climbing I'de have to get a heavier pack.Mar 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm #1966818
No money being spent on trail maintenence results in unintentional bushwhacking. Early season hiking before trail crews get out there also brings up memories of shredded fabric, skin.
Manzanita, Chapperal are a packs enemy along with decaying granite and sandstone.Mar 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm #1966828
Why? Because it's how you get to the good stuff.
Getting up and down this canyon in the Mojave was fun…it put quite a few holes in my pants.
Getting through stuff like this is also a good way to put holes in your gear. I've been on many trips where throwing your pack down (or dragging it up) features like the one below is commonplace.
Silnylon pack? Nope.
Touch anything out here and it will tear thin fabrics.Mar 17, 2013 at 7:49 pm #1966843
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
I do some off trail hiking, a lot lately in the ventana wilderness of big sur. In the ventana wilderness, you can experience some of the worst bushwacking in the world. You have to drag yourself through brush and the brush isn't even the worst part, it's all the dead trees. You have piles of dead poles that are impossible to climb over. And the dead poles will interlock with all the light bushes and make an impenetrable wall that you can only get through by using your body as a battering ram to shove it out of the way. It's just brutal and I try and avoid it if I can.
I usually try and stick to the creeks. The creeks are lined with tall redwoods and the shade makes it more open. Even creekwacking is difficult. The banks are littered with dead trees. You often have to wade through canyons and gorges and scramble around places.
Why do I do all this? Because after slogging through brush for hours and hours and sliding around on treacherous slopes, I will somehow end up in some beautiful isolated canyon that few people have ever visited. You can stumble upon some really weird and amazing things like huge waterfalls or rock formations. There is a heightened sense of adventure. By going off the beaten path, you never know what you are going to encounter. Any obstacles and challenges are just part of the fun. When I look back at my most memorable trips, they all involved getting off the beaten path and doing something crazy.
Having a tough pack isn't as important for pushing through saplings and bushes. What will really tear up your pack are sharp branches from deadfall and scraping up against sharp woody bushes like manzanita.Mar 17, 2013 at 8:17 pm #1966853
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
This is a picture Craig took on a trip. It was much steeper than it looks. It was definitely the quickest way down out of 60 mph winds on the ridgelines we had been walking.
We didn't know if there were un-navigable pour overs, unstable terrain that would not hold us, rattlesnakes, etc.
We did know we would collect cacti thorns and needles in our feet, legs and maybe hands. But most importantly…
… we knew we would not see another human being.
— that was worth the price of admission. Not to mention the scenery.
I don't understand why people hike mostly on trails :)Mar 17, 2013 at 8:22 pm #1966854
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
why tough packs?
spiny desert plants
hawthorn…Mar 17, 2013 at 9:00 pm #1966869
Bushwhacking is useless in the deep flat forests of the Midwest, unless it's for a very short time with a very specific goal.
For one, anywhere worth exploring already has a trail to it 98% of the time.
Two, walking through thick underbrush usually brings you to a swamp, more thick underbrush, or someone's private property.
Three, you don't get anywhere. There are no great vistas, hidden lakes, rolling meadows, groves of old hardwood, rock formations, etc, unless as previously mentioned, already have a trail to them or are on private property.
Four, it's boring as hell because of reasons listed in points 2 and 3. Traversing alpine meadows, scrambling up cliffs, following washouts and drainages…Not here!
If someone in my area can prove me wrong, please do!
To answer the OP: I *don't* bushwhack. And that's why.Mar 17, 2013 at 9:47 pm #1966885
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
I used to do a lot when day hiking as a kid. The only reason for me to do it now would be to get to a viewpoint or a little used lake.
There are a number of people in the PNW who like to take historically oriented hikes to old mines it town sites. Some of them have gone on to develop established trails like the Lime Kiln Trail near Granite Falls, Washington. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/seasonal-hikes/hikes-of-the-week/lime-kiln-trail
I think bushwhacking is okay in National Forest lands, but shouldn't be done in wilderness designated ( assuming it isn't illegal already). At some point you're going to get into Leave No Trace issues.Mar 17, 2013 at 11:58 pm #1966896
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
If bushwacking violates leave no trace, then the only way you are going to witness those leave no trace violations is by bushwacking and violating leave no trace violations.
I have heard people say that hiking cross country is destructive and I think that's ridiculous. All kinds of animals walk through the woods trampling plants and creating trails. When you hike through dense brush, you try and choose the path of least resistance and almost always end up following a game trail.
If hikers starting camping off trail more (responsibly), we wouldn't have campsites that are so overly impacted.Mar 18, 2013 at 12:07 am #1966899
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
I think it is a different issue in second growth multi-use "managed" National Forest land than in pristine old-growth designated wilderness.Mar 18, 2013 at 12:43 am #1966903
@germantouristLocale: in my tent
I have hiked more than 17,000 miles on three continents in the last years and less than 200 miles of that were intentional bushwhacking. The only time I bushwhacked longer distances was on the CDT because there was no trail. Other than that I try to avoid bushwhacking like the plague. Why? I am going long-distances so my main goal is making progress. In order to reach a certain goal within a given time frame I have to make a certain amount of progress every day. Bushwhacking is unpredictable and will slow me down tremendously – which is why I try to avoid it.
But I have encoutered plenty of occasions of involuntary bushwhacking, i.e. when trails are overgrown because of lack of mainenance or windfall. I found my Silnylon pack to be sufficient and would not invest into a more expensive pack just to withstand the occasional bushwhacking better.Mar 18, 2013 at 4:30 am #1966911
If you chose to hike on the AT in the winter you very likely will be doing the equivalent of bushwacking if the snow weighs the rhododendron down. You climb and crawl through these bushes and it can get old quick. Also the Sierra high route has several bushwacking sections as well.Mar 18, 2013 at 5:01 am #1966912
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
I've started bushwhacking more but mostly do it in the fall/winter here because the undergrowth is easier to get through then. We've got lots of thorny plants and exposed rock here and my ULA Conduit held up fine. My new Borah Gear Stealth is made of Dyneema X and I don't anticipate any issues with it either.
After the first time I bushwhacked I realized that a trail can't possible go past all the interesting or pretty places. That's what inspired my interest in going off trail, I want to find those forgotten cool places. Topo maps are a lot more interesting when you aren't just following a little line that cuts through them.
AdamMar 18, 2013 at 5:42 am #1966918
USA Duane HallParticipant
@hikerduaneLocale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
You don't always need to go off trail. Take the JMT here in CA, just by going to lakes off the trail, you can get away from people for days. I stayed at one of the prettiest lakes I've ever seen, just a few miles off the JMT, 3-4 years ago in the Silver Pass area. Did not see anyone for 4 days while visiting a number of lakes on a loop, once back on it, 20 people in the first hour.
DuaneMar 18, 2013 at 7:35 am #1966935
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Go to popular trails in the winter and you won't see anyone. For example, Toliak Point, Rogue River, Descutes River – I did recent trips and saw zero people except a little near the trailhead, they're mob scenes in the summer.
There are some places, like alpine areas, where I just hate to trample off trail. Those tiny little plants take forever to grow so if we step on them there won't be any. Sometimes you can choose a route stepping on rocks.Mar 18, 2013 at 8:02 am #1966942
Some major Routes have no established trail, at best there are game trails to follow.
The North Rim and Long Range Traverses are many days of bushwhacking when put together… I am doing this route this summer.
(not my photo… from google)
Mar 18, 2013 at 8:10 am #1966945
Yes, I bushwhack …
As a hiker, I rarely find the "need" to bushwhack, but may sometimes do it just to get some place new.
However, as a climber I have bushwhacked often. It is simply NOT true that all the best places already have trails to them. Finding new climbing spots absolutely requires bushwhacking, and while many established climbing spots have "use trails" to them, often they are overgrown, and sometimes non existant.Mar 18, 2013 at 9:51 am #1966982
How many use an old-fashioned wood staff to whack the bushes? Swatting briars and fighting limbs with a carbon fiber pole isn't a very good idea.Mar 18, 2013 at 10:14 am #1966989
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
In Alaska, even a "trail" can require a big of bushwhacking. Our brush grows in thick and many of our trails are little more than game trails a foot wide. We also have thorny stuff like wild rose, raspberry, and devil's club you have to push through. And off trail hiking can be the best way to see some new country. Generally I try and stay in the higher Alpine stuff, but you have to bushwhack a bit just to get there.Mar 18, 2013 at 10:34 am #1966994
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Tom, I still use a pair of aluminum Leki Ultralites. I'm not worried about fighting briars with them, they've already been bent once. I just bent it back and have been using them that way for 4 years. I'd upgrade to carbon fiber poles but I've made a special bond with my Leki's and couldn't bear to relegate them to the back of the closet after all we've been through together.
AdamMar 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm #1967061
Have not read the whole thread, just responding to OP:
"So, if you actually bushwhack,"
I do. I spend about 20 nights out backpacking a year, and about half of these nights are off-trail/bushwhacking trips. I do a lot of day trips too, especially during berry and mushroom season, and I would say 75% of my day trips are not on any official trail for at least some (if not most) parts of my hike. This is one of the main reasons I opted to have my go-to pack (Zpacks Zero) made in all hybrid Cuben, including the front pocket, and I love it. No holes or major damage after a year of use, and hardly any minor damage either. I put one tiny patch of duct tape recently on a tiny (1cm) scratch in the outer fabric, but didn't go through the inner Cuben.
"where do you do this?"
Sweden and Norway. Sometimes Spain.
In Sweden we have some of the best laws (if you ask me) as far as backpacking and nature go. It's both a trail hiker and bushwhackers paradise IMO. You can read more here: http://naturvardsverket.se/en/Enjoying-nature/The-Right-of-Public-Access/
"Why do you do this?"
Less people, and actually most of the time no people where I go. I enjoy experiencing a more wild nature experience, less or not disturbed by humans. I also enjoy the peace and quiet of hearing only the sounds of the woods–no talking, no cars, nothing civilized. And privacy is nice for a variety of activities ;)
I see more animals, and I very much enjoy observing them. The time I watched a gray fox walk down to an isolated lake I was meditating by and have a drink and then calmly trot away without noticing me will stay with me forever, for example. Or the time I sat on top of a boulder and watched deer feed under it, about 3-4 meters away. I could go on.
For my day trips to harvest berries and mushrooms, the further out there I get, the more bounty I can collect. Two years ago I was able to harvest a total of 16kg of wild mushrooms–it was a particularly good year for mushrooms that year, and I also found a few new spots way out there that are some of my best kept secrets.
Sometimes when I hike on trails there are areas on the map that look interesting that I will want to explore. Here is an example of that:
"How far do you bushwhack at a time?"
Depends. I have done three day trips, they take more planning and attention to detail, especially for obvious safety reasons. But it can be much slower than trail hiking, so usually around 10-15km a day is what I aim for rather than 20-30km when I am on a trail. I am definitely more tired after off-trail/bushwhacking trips at the end of the day, I would note.
On day hikes I can cover more ground because I usually go to areas I know, but it's hard to give estimates of day hikes for me–I just don't pay as much attention.Mar 18, 2013 at 1:09 pm #1967066
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
In the desert southwest almost all of my trips are off trail and like Craig and Nick said it is hard on packs mostly from rubbing up against rocks or hauling packs up and down short stretches. I now have three packs with the main body in dyneema or Xpac and no wear to that but the mesh side pockets all have holes in them and the silnylon roll top in one has tears from cactus. These kinds of trips are multi-day and many miles.
In the humid southeast not so much bushwacking but we do do some to connect up trails to make loops instead of point to point trips or in and outs. These bushwacks are usually very short, less than a mile.
My next pack will be all dyneema to take the abuse, don't need it to be waterproof to 200 meters, just a good pack liner.
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