Backpacking combines hiking and camping into one. To fit the definition, a backpacker needs to spend at least one night in the out-of-doors and can only use what is in his/her backpack. If these requirements are not met, then it's most likely a day hike or camping trip.
Many would say that the history of backpacking began in 1920 with Lloyd F. Nelson's invention of the camping backpack. As the story goes, in an effort to make his carrying "pack" more comfortable, Nelson fashioned a rigid pack board, which not only gave structure to the backpack, but also made it easier to carry over long hauls.
Hiking has long been used as an exercise in military training programs but hiking has also become a popular recreational activity, both for itself and as a means to enjoy such other wilderness activities as camping and canoeing. In the US the National Scenic Trail Act of 1968, which made large tracts of land available to the public for recreational use, contributed greatly to the growth of hiking as a pastime. The act helped to set up a system of hiking trails that runs throughout the country.
Prior to Mr. Nelson's invention, the backpack (also known as knapsack or rucksack) was simply a loose sack with shoulder straps. The pack board created a division between the contents of the bag and the carrier's back. In addition, it distributed weight more evenly across the shoulders. To this day, the design remains relatively the same.
Anyone can backpack as long as you are in good physical shape. Backpacks vary in shape and sizes and the prices vary as well. It is always recommended to do some research about what type of pack would fit you best. When backpacking you should always have these essential items in your pack:
Map. A map not only tells you where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident.
Compass. A compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain.
Water and a way to purify it. Without enough water, your body's muscles and organs simply can't perform as well: You'll be susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
Extra Food. Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: a lengthy detour, getting lost, an injury, difficult terrain. A few ounces of extra food will help keep up energy and morale.
Rain Gear and extra clothing. Because the weatherman is not always right. Especially above treeline, bring along extra layers. Two rules: Avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin), and always carry a hat.
Firestarter and matches. The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help prevent an encounter with hypothermia. And fires are a great way to signal for help if you get lost.
First aid kit. Prepackaged first aid kits for hikers are available at outfitters.
Army knife or multi-purpose tool. These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, and perform a whole host of repairs on malfunctioning gear-not to mention cut cheese and open cans.
Flashlight and extra bulbs. For finding your way in the dark and signaling for help.
Sun screen and sun glasses. You'll need sunglasses to prevent snowblindness, and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
There are retailers out there that can provide all the equipment you will need to backpack.
ProLite Gear - ProLite Gear is a different sort of company. We are committed to supporting "prosumer" education to help you make smart buying decisions.* We will not sell our products based on believing manufacturer catalog copy or relying on mass media hype written by journalists who don't spend a lot of time outdoors. Instead, we bring you products that have been thoroughly tested in extreme conditions and represent the best in their class.
Ultralight Adventure Equipment - ULA is one of the few remaining U.S. based backpack companies who manufacture in house. Our factory in Logan Utah enables us to be extremely responsive to our customers ever changing needs. It allows us to adapt new technologies and materials in weeks rather than months, and also allows ULA to offer a level of customer service that is simply unmatched.
Merrell - at Merrell, we're all about the great outdoors. Our employees don't just sell outdoor gear - they put it to the test. From helping you find the right fit to recommending a new trail, we're here to make sure you have the hiking boots, barefoot shoes, hiking clothing and information you need for your next adventure.
Backcountry shops, bookstores, libraries all carry books that will provide information about hikes in your area, as well as in other areas. Also, a great way to learn about hikes is to join a hiking club. Not only will you learn about available hikes, but you'll meet people with the same interests as you. The internet is a good place to look--State Parks, National Forests, etc.
Backpacking the Mammoth Area
Permits are required. Pick one up at the Forest Service station in Mammoth BEFORE you go. Some trails have quotas, so you might want to have an alternate plan. Weather in our area is fairly stable. The Eastern Sierra is generally mild and dry during the summer months. But it isn't unheard of to have snow in any summer month at the higher elevations, cold windy days, and some occasional rain/thunderstorm activity at times. So go prepared. Drink lots of water, eat well, don't hike too far in one day, and don't fall off the trail, and you will have a great time.
"Two guys are hiking in the forest when they suddenly come across a big Grizzly bear! The one guy takes off his hiking boots and puts on some running shoes!
His friend says to him "You're crazy! There's no use, do you know how fast Grizzlies are, you'll never be able to out run it!" and the guy says, "I only have to out run you!" :-)
Be safe and have fun!