In late July, an essay appeared in Colorado’s High Country Times bemoaning the death of backpacking. The article relied on the author’s “anecdotal evidence” and the fact that sales of “heavy” boots and massive packs are down. Heavy boots, as in the kind no one buys anymore because lightweight boots easily handle the lighter loads of today’s backpacker. Massive packs, as in the kind no one uses because we no longer cook with cast-iron skillets and enamel coffee pots. (Titanium pots and plastic French-press mugs rule!)
Backpacking, like baseball, claimed the writer, isn’t attracting younger participants because they find it boring.
Stephen Meyers, the outdoors writer for the Fort Collins Coloradoan was skeptical. A week later, he responded with a piece titled “Backpacking may be changing, but it isn’t dying.” His article relied on facts.
Like the fact the average pack size is down because we no longer carry 50 or 60 pounds into the woods (it’s more like 30).
Or the fact the 2012 Leisure Trends report counted more than 1 million backpackers between the ages of 18 and 24, comparable to the number of mountain bikers and whitewater kayakers in that age group combined.
Or the fact that the American Camper Report for 2011 reported that of the 42.5 million Americans who went camping in 2011, 10 percent were backpackers. That’s about 4.3 million people.
Unlike the High Country essayist, my anecdotal evidence suggests a keen interest in backpacking. Since launching the GetHiking! program nearly a year ago, I’ve had a steady number of hikers ask, “What about backpacking? I’d like to give that a try.”
What about backpacking? you ask.
GetBackpacking! I say.
Starting in September, we’ll launch our first five-week GetBackpacking! session. Though geared toward novices, the program is also good for folks with some backcountry camping experience who would like to up their game.
In a nutshell, here’s how GetBackpacking! works.
For the first four sessions, we’ll take weekly training hikes, of increasing length, in full pack. On each hike, we’ll practice a backcountry skill: loading a pack, setting up camp, cooking a meal, making sure we have quick access to key supplies (for example, rain gear in the event of a sudden downpour, snacks to keep our energy levels up, a map and compass in case we find ourselves saying, “This doesn’t look right”).
Week five is graduation — a weekend backpack trip to the mountains. We’ll leave Friday afternoon, spend two nights in the woods, come back Sunday afternoon.
After five weeks, you should emerge as a confident backpacker.
Kickoff presentation Sept. 2
We’ll kick off the GetBackpacking! program with a presentation on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. store in Raleigh’s Cameron Village. We’ll go into detail about how the program works, we’ll talk about the weekly hikes, we’ll talk about graduation weekend and we’ll talk about some of the great places to backpack in the region. Don’t have key gear? Not a problem. Come find out why.
Learn more about GetBackpacking! by checking out this blog I wrote for Great Outdoor Provision Co., our partner in GetBackpacking!
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