If you're coming out west on vacation don't just set a round a dude Ranch and step in poodle poop. Grab a backpack and go backpacking for a night or two. Why set around a cabin and think that you've experienced Idaho or Colorado? And if you're bringing your kids send em off. It will work off some of that nervous energy.
Or if you live out West and have never gone backpacking give it a try. I live in Idaho and I can't believe how many people that I talk to that don't even go camping, much less backpacking. So if you're new to the mountains get up there! It's your mountains.
The best way to enjoy the mountains is to throw on a backpack and go exploring. I hunt/fish from Alaska to Florida and still, to me the ultimate Outdoor Adventure is a backpacking trip into the back country in Idaho. Some years I'm up in the mountains 60-90 days.
It's wild, beautiful country and an economical vacation. After you get geared up it will pretty much just cost you for gas and food and you'd be eating if you stayed at home. Nothing is better than when me and my daughter pack in by ourselves. I can't tell you how great of an experience that is. You can teach your kids to flyfish, talk, remember the bare necessities of life like eating, sleeping well and just staying alive. It's the outdoor highlight of my year.
Extra Tip: 12 Tips for packing a backpack plus video
To backpack you'll need some basic gear. Here's a few of the items that I recommend:
- Map — Take a Forest Service map so if you get lost you can find your way back home. It's big country.
- Camera — You're going to be in the coolest country that you've ever seen so take a camera. I get some cool backcountry pics. Last year 200 yards from the trailhead my daughter and I saw a cub up a tree. You'll want one to preserve the memories. Your daughter's first trout on a fly rod, camp and so forth. A waterproof camera isn't bad. I'm always dropping cameras in water. Once I dropped two in one day.
- Backpack — I like external frame packs. The younger crowd likes internal frame packs but I can pull off my cover and use the frame to pack out game. (Internal frame packs do fit your body better. They don't sway and knock you off balance which can cause you to take a tumble down a mountain). Also take a daypack for day hikes out of your base camp.
- Boots — For summer hikes I like 6-inch canvas hiking boots. I also pack in a pair of river sandals. I do day hikes in them and they give your feet some rest when lounging around camp.
- Socks — Good hiking socks are comfortable and help prevent blisters.
- Tent — The last couple of years cheap tent manufacturers are extending the netting nearly down to the ground to save money. Rain and ground blizzards will blow up under the rainfly and into your tent though. Don't buy a cheap tent.
- Sleeping Pads — You'll need a pad for the hard ground and to protect you from the cold ground. Nowadays everyone uses self inflating pads. I don't know why they call them self inflating because you have to blow them up.
- Sleeping Bags — In Idaho it is usually semi warm in the summer so I just take a light weight compact sleeping bag. You may want to take a set of long handles in case it does get cool.
- Footcare Kits — You'll get blisters so carry some Adventure Medical Kits (Their moleskin).
- Bug Repellents — I recommend the ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent unit to repel mosquitos.
- Knife — I carry a Havalon Piranta knife. You can use it for all of your camp duties and to fillet dinner.
- Stoves — I cook over a fire but a lot of people like backpacking stoves. They're nice when it's raining or there is a fire ban due to forest fires.
- Coffee Pot — I use a small aluminum coffee pot and some instant coffee. Part of camping is dipping crystal clear water out of a stream and boiling coffee isn't it?
- Mess Kit — I use a fold-up Boy Scout kit.
- Meals — There are backpacking meals or if you're on a budget take flavored oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly etc. Either way, plan a good menu though. You'll be exercising harder than you have all yearlong and need plenty of energy.
- Firestarter — Take some waterproof matches and I throw in a few cheap Bic lighters. If your wood is wet you can break one over some kindling and get a fire going. Also take some firestarting material. Test it before you go. All fire starting material is not created equal!
- Plastic Grocery Bags — After cooking over a fire your pots and pans will be black. Wrap them in a bag so they don't get all your gear black and greasy.
- Tarp — Lay a tarp on the inside of your tent to keep out rain water and stretch one out like an awning to eat under.
- Water Filters — Filtered bottles allow you to drink out of mountain streams so you don't have to pack in a lot of water.
- Fly Rod and Gear — You'll want a four-piece fly rod. Talk to your Bass Pro Shops outfitter and have them help you select a rod and flies. On small brushy mountain streams a 3 wt. 7-foot rod may be nice. I don't take waders to reduce bulk/weight but wading boots are nice so you're not slipping on moss covered rocks.
- Pistol — There are too many wolves/bears/cougars not to pack a pistol. They are also good to signal if you get hurt. I always carry a couple of HKS speedloaders.