It’s Backpacking Season! Are you ready?

I don’t know about you, but here at Cutting Edge, our staff loves the outdoors! Now that the weather is warming up, it’s the perfect time to get out in the sunshine. breathe in that fresh air, and get exercising!

There are so many different things that you can do here in Utah to get active. Some of our favorites include hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, biking, and backpacking! And as you can tell from the title of this blog post, we’re going to be focusing on the last: backpacking.

What is backpacking?

Let’s start with the basics. A loose definition for backpacking is carrying your life essentials with you in a backpack while you are out traveling. That can mean hiking up a mountain trail and sleeping beneath the stars, to those who choose to travel the country living from their backpack and hitchhiking wherever they need to go.

If you’ve never been backpacking before, REI has some steps to help get you on your way.

Find an experienced partner.

Though you can go out on your own, it’s always helpful and smart to find someone to go with you, especially on your first trip. Plus, it’s a great way to learn their backpacking expertise, they can recommend or loan you gear, and will likely bring their own gear to share.

Choose an easy beginning route.

Several factors tie in to what you can be ready for in a backpacking trip:

  • how much time you have
  • your fitness level
  • distance
  • elevation gain
  • time of year and weather
  • logistics.

Gear up.

The ten essentials systems you need when backpacking include:

  • navigation (map and compass)
  • sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • insulation (extra clothing)
  • illumination (headlamps/flashlight)
  • first-aid supplies
  • fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  • repair kit and tools
  • nutrition (extra food)
  • hydration (extra water)
  • emergency shelter

To learn more about each of these steps and to read even more click here.


Utah is one of the most beautiful and varied places to backpack; from mountain passes to red rock trails and desert pathways. Backpacking trips can range from hour hikes to multiple day journeys. According to VisitUtah.com,

More than 70 percent of Utah is public land: five National Parks, nine million acres of National Forest, millions of acres belong to the National Monuments and National Recreation Areas, and 42 percent of Utah is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

So, aka, there are TONS of choices of places you can check out! But, of course, with whatever venue you decide to explore, safety is a biggie! If you need some ideas of where to go, check out visitutah.com, or click the links below:

Wasatch Range Backpacking

Uinta Mountains Backpacking

Red Rock Country Backpacking

The NPS (National Park Services) breaks down some crucial safety tips for when you decide to roam. Though some of these tips may be more towards trips you can take in Utah’s national parks, always take note because you could use these tips elsewhere!

Be Prepared

Traveling into the wilderness, even on short trips, can be challenging and risky and requires careful planning before you begin. Your safety depends on your own good judgement, adequate preparation, and constant observation. Speak with park rangers at park visitor centers for current conditions, weather forecasts, and flash flood potential ratings.

Flash Floods

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All narrow canyons are potentially hazardous. Flash floods, often caused by storms miles away, are a real danger and can be life threatening. By entering a narrow canyon you are assuming a risk.

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Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park
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The Narrows at Zion National Park

During a flash flood, the water level rises quickly, within minutes or even seconds. A flash flood can rush down a canyon in a wall of water 12 feet high or more (See picture above.)

Know the weather and flash flood potential forecasts before starting your trip. If bad weather threatens, do not enter a narrow canyon. Whether hiking, climbing, or canyoneering, your safety depends on your own good judgement, adequate preparation, and constant attention to your surroundings. You safety is your responsibility.

Watch for these indications of a possible flash flood:

  • Any deterioration in weather conditions
  • Build up of clouds or sounds of thunder
  • Sudden changes in water clarity from clear to muddy
  • Floating debris
  • Rising water levels or stronger currents
  • Increasing roar of water up-canyon

If you observe any of these signs, seek higher ground immediately. Even climbing a few feet may save your life. Remain on high ground until conditions improve. Water levels usually drop within 24 hours. Flash floods do occur in the park during periods of low flash flood potential. A moderate or higher flash flood potential should be a serious cause for concern.

Wildlife

You will encounter wildlife while in the wilderness. Be aware that wild animals can be unpredictable. Do not approach or attempt to move sick or injured wildlife. Please report any encounters with aggressive, sick, or injured animals to a park ranger.

Please keep all animals wild and healthy by viewing them from a safe distance. Do not feed or touch wildlife. Store food and trash responsibly.

Mountain Lions

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Mountain lions are wild animals and can be dangerous. They have been seen in the park. As attack is unlikely, and the park has never ha a reported attack on people or pets. However, mountain lions have attacked in other wilderness areas.

  • Watch children closely, and never let them run ahead or lag behind.
  • Solo hiking is not encouraged.
  • Never approach a mountain lion. Most will avoid a confrontation. Always give the a route to escape.
  • Do not run. Try to look large and put your arms up.
  • If a mountain lion approaches, wave your arms, shout, and throw rocks or sticks at it.
  • If attacked, fight back.

Steep Cliffs

Falls from cliffs on trails have resulted in deaths. Loose sand or pebbles on stone are very slippery. Be careful of edges when using cameras or binoculars. Never throw or roll rocks, as there may be hikers below you. Trails can be snow and ice covered in winter.

  • Stay on the trail.
  • Stay back from cliff edges.
  • Observe posted warnings.
  • Please watch children.
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Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park

Water

The desert is an extreme environment. Carry enough water, one gallon per person per day, and drink it. Water is available at visitor centers and campgrounds. Water flow at natural springs can vary, check for information at visitor centers. Do not drink untreated water. Water collected in the wilderness is not safe to drink without treatment. There are two safe methods to treat water.

Boil Water

Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute. Add one minute for each 1,000 feet above sea level.

Filter and Disinfect

Filter through an “absolute” 1 micron filter, or one labeled as meeting ANSI/NSF International Standard #53. Then add eight drops of liquid chlorine bleach, or four drops of iodine, per gallon of water and let stand for 30 minutes.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses more fluid than is taken in. Signs of heat exhaustion include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, pale appearance, stomach cramps, and cool clammy skin. If a member of your party begins to experience any of these symptoms, stop your hike immediately. Find a cool, shady area and rest with your feet up to distribute fluids throughout your body. It is important to drink fluids, but it is also important to eat. Drinking lot of fluids and not eating, while suffering from heat exhaustion, can lead to a potentially dangerous condition of low blood salt. If heat exhaustion symptoms persist for more than two hours, see medical help.

Heat_Illness

Heat stroke is an advanced stage of heat exhaustion. It is the body’s inability to cool itself. Symptoms include confusion, disorientation, behavior changes. and seizures. If you believe that a member of your party is suffering from heat stroke, it is imperative to cool them using any available means and obtain immediate medical assistance.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when the body is cooled to dangerous levels. It is the number one killer of outdoor recreationists, even in summer, and it usually happens without the victim’s awareness. It is a hazard in narrow canyons because immersion in water is the quickest route to body heat loss. To prevent hypothermia, avoid cotton clothing (it provides no insulation when wet) and eat high-energy food before you are chilled. The signs of hypothermia include:

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Stumbling and poor coordination
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Confusion or slurred speech

Hypothermia+Stages

If you recognize any of these signs, stop hiking and immediately replace wet clothing with dry clothing. Warm the victim with your own body and a warm drink, and shelter the individual from breezes. A pre-warmed sleeping bag will also help prevent further heat loss.


So, get out there! Go explore the beauty that Utah has to offer, or go further! What’s stopping you?!

Don’t forget that National Parks week is April 16th through April 24th! That means free admission!

**This blog is purely informational. Please do not use this to diagnose or treat. Speak to your doctor before performing any activities, especially if you have known medical conditions.

 

 

 

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