Tips For The Trail: Creating A Routine
When I'm out backpacking, whether I'm solo or with a group, I like to follow a well-defined routine when I arrive at camp. By creating and following one, I am able to enjoy extra time on the trail and not worry about forgetting tasks or gear at my site.
Having extra time on the trail allows me to cover more ground, ensure that I am not racing the daylight to make camp before dark and adds to my experience of the trip overall.
Accidentally leaving behind gear at my site can have a big impact on the rest of my trip and may also force me to change my itinerary. I also like to avoid redundancies (which help lower my pack weight and possibly leaving something behind) so organization of my gear and keeping track of it all is important. It also helps with the efficiency of my routine.
Here's a list of my routine:
3-season Campsite Routine For The Night (When Using A Canister Stove):
1. Shelter site selection
2. Hang bear bag
3. Collect and treat water, return filter/purification to pack
4. Setup shelter
5. Inflate sleeping pad, inflate camp pillow
6. Fluff sleeping quilt/bag
7. Get out sleep clothes/socks
8. Retrieve bear bag
9. Fire up stove, cook dinner
10. Enjoy the meal
11. Cleanup cooking pot, utensil and myself, pack away cooking equipment/stove/fuel
12. Pack all scented items into bear bag and hang
13. Change into sleepwear, let feet air out and apply healing balm
14. Go over the next day's itinerary
15. Take notes
16. Put on sleep socks
17. Lights out
The first thing I'll do is scope out my chosen site for the night. Once I have selected where my shelter will be setup, I will walk to the other end of my camp and hang my bear bag first. In doing so, I can avoid the frustrations that can come with hanging one as the daylight dwindles (even the masters of this art can have trouble hanging one from time to time). Next, I'll collect water. Sometimes gathering this resource means having to hike to spots away from camp. By hanging the bear bag first, I can also feel safe knowing the locals won't take off with my food or compromise it before I return. I'll make sure to get enough water for dinner, clean up, overnight, breakfast and to kick start a portion of the next day's hike.
After arriving back in camp, I'll get my shelter, sleep system and sleep clothing all set up. I'll also sort out the items I may need for the night (e.g. headlamp, map) and place them in my shelters storage pockets or near my head if the shelter doesn't have them. I'll also remove my scented items from the pack (which is easy as they are stored together in two separate ziploc bags), and my stove for cooking.
My pack will go near the foot end of my shelter and under my bag or quilt. Since I like to use a 3/4 length sleeping pad during 3-season trips, my pack gives me that extra comfort and protection from the cold from the knees down to my feet. It also allows me to have my feet elevated to help reduce any swelling from hiking all day.
With all of that set, I will then begin cooking dinner (*a slight modification to this routine is made if I am using an alcohol stove. See further below.).
Once dinner has been cooked and consumed, I'll clean up followed by storing all of my scented items in my bear bag for the night.
Finally, I will get into my shelter and change into my sleepwear. Before putting my sleep socks on I will let my feet air out and then apply a healing balm. By applying a healing balm, any remaining perspiration or water from creek crossings can be absorbed. The balm will also provide a bit of water repellency for my feet the following day as the oils work their way into the skin. Both of these can help in blister prevention.
As the balm settles, I'll go over my maps and trip itinerary for the next day. I will also take notes on gear I have been using and record a journal entry. Very soon after that, it's lights out.
*If I am using an alcohol stove, chances are my pot of water won't reach a boil for 6-7 minutes. That's a lot of precious wasted time. In an effort to utilize that waiting period I will follow the same routine above, but will be sure to start my stove and boil the water before setting up my shelter. This helps me get my site setup complete just as my water is ready to rehydrate/cook my meal for dinner.
3-season Campsite Routine For The Night (When Using An Alcohol Stove):
1. Shelter site selection 2. Hang bear bag 3. Collect and treat water, return filter/purification to pack
4. Fire up stove 5. Setup shelter 6. Inflate sleeping pad, inflate camp pillow 7. Fluff sleeping quilt/bag
8. Get out sleep clothes/socks 9. Retrieve bear bag 10. Cook dinner 11. Enjoy the meal 12. Cleanup cooking pot, utensil and myself, pack away cooking equipment/stove/fuel 13. Pack all scented items into bear bag and hang 14. Change into sleepwear, let feet air out and apply healing balm, set next day's clothes aside 15. Go over the next day's itinerary 16. Take notes 17. Put on sleep socks 18. Lights out
The same can be done in the morning and I find it helps me leave camp sooner so that I can get more trail time in during the day.
3-season Campsite Routine For The Morning:
1. Get changed into clothes set aside for the day
2. Take care of bathroom necessities
3. Take down bear bag, grab the day's snacks (to be stored at top of pack), grab scented items (to be put in outer pocket(s) for quick access if needed) (e.g. sunblock, insect repellent)
4. Boil water for coffee
5. Have coffee and breakfast bar (or warm meal) (if warm meal, clean cooking pot)
6. Pack backpack ( view here )
7. Scan site for anything left behind and make it look like I was never there
8. Leave the site and begin hiking
This routine is something that has become second nature to me, but there was a time when the lack of flow made me slow. When I began backpacking, I would spend extra time packing things up, double checking to make sure I didn't leave anything behind (and second guessing where things were placed due to not finding them when needed) and leaving camp with a lot of mileage to tackle before dark.
After creating a routine and writing it down, I would take the list with me and check each task off as I went through them. For a backpacker, setting up camp can seem daunting. There are a lot of things that need to be done when you break it down. If you don't yet follow a routine but want to see what works for you, try writing down tasks after you complete them. Once you have it dialed in, bring your list for each trip and keep practicing. Ultimately, it should become second nature and help make your trips safer and more enjoyable. You may also even find some gaps in your gear list.