6 Tips to Hike Backcountry

Awesome beautiful and way back in the sticks!

We recently got the privilege of helping some friends build trails on their very large tract of wilderness land. Being backcountry was a blast! We ate good, slept hard and boy did we work!

My Honey all gloved up for hard work!

As my Honey and I were contemplating in the glow of the event we began to put together some things we have learned from this and other adventures on backcountry or undeveloped land. I’d like to share those with you. I hope you will comment below and tell us your tips or experiences.

  1. Wear Pants

I’ve been reading to prepare for a beach camping trip and my Honey discovered an alert in the reviews –to our surprise– that there was a clothing optional beach near by. In the light of that discovery I need to clarify that I don’t presume that any of my readers would simply not wear pants but that you might venture on to some undeveloped land in shorts. Shorts will open you up for many more bug bites and lots of potential cuts and scrapes. When you are moving along a trail that is little contact with insects and many trails are free of undergrowth and falling forest debris. In the backcountry, you are making your own way through the undergrowth. Also go with light weight fabric-its harder work getting around which generates much more heat. So wear long pants that are tough and light weight. I heat up very fast and have to be careful to keep all my clothes light and breath able in the summer. You can click the link above and see what my Honey wears.

Ticks are more prolific than you might think. Ticks wait in grass and on small saplings for a nice warm rodent to come by. Walking on undeveloped land will require you to brush through grasses and underbrush most of the time. This might keep you in constant contact with prime tick launching pads.  When we get home we put all we have on directly in the washing machine to help with critter control.  Speaking of critters at home – we moved into an old country house and the possums and raccoons brought fleas to our cat. You can read more about it in my wife’s blog at Clivethecat.com.

Some close relative of this thorny vine can really tear up your ankle!

There may be some variety of vine with thorns.  In Tennessee we have a couple of different kinds of these. I find them with my ankles as I blaze my own trails, when light is low or when I’m looking excitedly at something ahead. I will inevitably walk right into a thorny vine leaving my ankles lacerated with blood anklets that sting. I suspect there is a little poison on those thorns because the scabs even sting for days. Wear long pants to avoid this.

Cindy’s Suds Healing Salve – we take the little can on the trail!

If you do get cut by these thorny vines you could do what I did this last trip. I used Healing Salve made by Cindy’s Suds and it really helped. I applied it immediately on the thorn cuts. You can get it in a little tin that is perfect for hiking. I pretended it was waterless soap and just rubbed it in and all around – dirt, blood and all. That night I got to the shower and applied it after the shower too. To my surprise, the next morning, there was very little sting left in the cut. Normally the sting goes on for days. Healing Salve is great stuff.

2. Get permission

If it’s not yours, it’s not yours-enough said? I accidentally trespass from time to time because I explore and get in behind a “Posted” sign I didn’t see. I’m not talking about that – I mean that if you know you are going on land that is not yours, be sure to ask to develop good relations and hopefully long term access to this awesome bit of wilderness you’ve found.

Ask for gun range locations-no body knows like the owner. Being surprised downrange by a little target practice could be alarming. Plan your route up range even if you think you are the only visitor. Talk about hunting-find out what season it is. Ask if permission has been given to anybody to hunt and ask about the likelihood of poachers.

3. Go with someone

Avoid disorientation – getting disoriented is easy when you’re stooping, crawling and climbing to get around fallen trees and rock obstacles. It’s still possible to get lost when you can just walk and observe the surroundings but when you can’t pay attention constantly, it’s really easy to get lost.

Climb and scoot in pairs – climbing and scooting is sometimes a two man job-I explore alone when I want to feel like a pioneer like the famed Daniel Boone. But you can maneuver larger objects easier if one hoists the other up and the higher one pulls up the one left below.

A quite restful place we found

4. Take extra water

You may get good information about water sources but don’t count on it. You don’t have the luxury of asking a ranger about a heavily traveled trail. Since the going is slower, you may not get to water as soon as you think. You may not run across any. Until you know the area and the weather, don’t count of natural occurring water sources.  If you find water, fill up with your filtering method no mater how much you think you have. It likely will take longer to get back to it and back to camp without a trail – so get it now.

5. It’s harder than it looks

You might have to go as slow as this big guy

It is more difficult to get around than on the trail that is free of debris. Allow a minimum of 3 times longer to get anywhere. If, for example, you normally mosey along at about 2 miles an hour on a nice sight seeing trail, you may need three hours to go those 2 miles on undeveloped terrain. I once spent two hours to go a quarter of a mile. I was exploring a lake in Mississippi after hurricane Katrina and there was a fallen tree to work over or under every few feet. That was the most exhausting quarter mile ever. Pace your self because climbing and scooting requires almost as much energy as tromping through ankle deep snow or walking in sand.

6. Record latitude and longitude

Remember to remember! I love to explore and can easily go eagerly over the next knoll and forget to remember where I have been.  So, when I do this well, I drop a pin every 15 minutes or so on my map. Even if I’m out with just my phone and have a weak cell phone signal, I can still get latitude and longitude to show up. Then I do a screen shot to have a record to make notes when I get back to better signal.

Cool air blew up through this “alley in the woods” and cooled us off.

How to get back-there is nothing better when you’re ready to return than to know how to get back home. Once we didn’t do this and walked for about 11 miles during eight hours of dark night looking for our truck. I would have paid a lot to have known my way back that night


What are some tips we can add to our list? Please share!

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