Backpacking preparation and check list

Whether you’ve never been backpacking before or you’ve logged hundreds of miles on the trail, it’s always a good idea to have a checklist. The three components of this blog include basic preparation tips for building the necessary skills and physical stamina, a backpacking gear explanation, and a backpacking gear check list that can be printed off and used while preparing for a trip.

Preparation Tips

Cardiovascular stamina and load-bearing strength are the most important areas to train for prior to backpacking. Building the strength and endurance needed for backpacking can be accomplished with a number of training routines. The most important and basic training is taking long walks or runs on hilly terrain. Further training can be accomplished by actually wearing a weighted backpack while walking. This is also an excellent time to break-in your hiking boots (if they’re not already broken-in) to ensure they’re comfortable on the trail. Another great training routine consists of performing body weight squats and push-ups in order to strengthen the legs, core, and shoulders, which are all used while backpacking. Finally, if you enjoy going to the gym, it’s hard to beat the stair-stepper for outdoor adventure training. Of course, some people are of the same mind that I am and think the best training is to simply get out there and do it!

Once you’ve built a solid cardiovascular and strength base, it’s time to start planning your route, or perhaps you already have an adventure that you’ve been dreaming about. There are a number of excellent hiking books available at your local bookstore that address the difficulty levels and terrain features of nearly every trail you can imagine. Also, talk to the staff at your local outdoors store for recommendations. Even better, if it’s your first time backpacking join someone that already has a plan!

After you have the general area for your backpacking trip planned, purchase a topographical map of the area and study it. Determine water sources, camping sites, and elevation gains. Find out if the wilderness you’re hiking in is part of the State of National parks system and contact the ranger in that area for more information. Also, if you don’t know how to read a map and use a compass, it’s essential that you learn. REI and other outdoor shops often offer affordable navigating classes. There are also some great videos on YouTube.

Some things to check for during your research include: fire permit requirements, wilderness permit requirement, wildlife population, and any potential parking or use fees.

When you’re nearing your trip: make sure you tell a couple people back home exactly where you’re going, and check the weather.

Backpacking gear explanations

Food: You’ll need approximately 2lbs per day. During a full day of backpacking, it’s not unusual to burn between 4,000 to 8,000 calories beyond your usual consumption. Choosing high calorie foods with low water content will help cut down on your pack weight. Some excellent backpacking foods include: pasta, oatmeal, dried fruits, nuts, oils, jerky, prepared dried foods, and a multivitamin.

Water: To properly hydrate yourself during the strenuous effort required during backpacking, you should drink approximately 1 liter of water per hour. This means that you will drink a 1 litter bottle of water approximately every 2 miles. For safety it’s wise to bring at least 2 liters of water with you; however, if there are no water access points on the trail after 2-4 miles, you will need to pack additional water bottles. Also, keep in mind some water is needed for cooking, depending on what meals you bring. On my last backpacking trip, water was very sparse, so I packed over a gallon. To render the water you find in the wilderness safe and to ensure you stay properly hydrated, you’ll need a backpacker’s water filter pump and/or a UV light purifier and two to three 1 liter water bottles or a high volume hydration pack.

Shelter: The type of shelter you need depends on the terrain, climate, and season you plan to hike in. A two person tent is a great option if traveling with a partner, because you can split the tent between your two packs. If you know the weather will be nice, you can always camp under the stars, but it’s never a bad idea to bring a tarp and/or a mosquito net just in case. Hammocks are becoming an increasingly popular option, as they’re light and comfortable (no tent or sleeping pad needed).

Other Important gear: While it will be mentioned in the list below, the importance of bringing a fully-stocked first aid kit can’t be overemphasized. You never know when you or your friend might need a tick removed or wound dressed. Also, a topographical map of the area and a compass are absolutely vital. Disorientation is one of the primary causes of dangerous situations.

Backpacking Gear List

  • Breakfasts (examples):1/2 to 1 c oatmeal , 1/4 c dried fruit, 1/4 c nuts
  • Snacks: 1-2 oz Jerkey, 1/4 cp nuts, 1 to 2 energy bars
  • Lunches: tortillas and hard cheese, 1 package of tuna and crackers, ready to eat meals
  • Dinners: A ready to eat meals or 2-3 servings of pasta with olive oil and Parmesan
  • Water: 2 to 4 liters
  • Water purifier (pump or UV stick)
  • Coffee and french press
  • Tent or hammock (if using a hammock, make sure there are plenty of trees)
  • Rain fly or tarp
  • Lightweight sleeping bag (make sure it is warm enough for the expected nighttime temp)
  • Sleeping pad (if a hammock isn’t used)
  • Backpack (select an appropriate size bag for your trip if possible)
  • Compass
  • Topographical map
  • Trail guide
  • Shovel
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet-wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Poncho or lightweight rain gear
  • Extra socks (rotate dry socks to prevent blisters)
  • Extra set of clothes
  • Swim suit
  • Hiking shoes/boots (make sure they’re broken-in)
  • First aid kit
  • Mosquito net and/or repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Machete/hatchet if cutting wood is needed
  • Various straps and carabiners
  • Rope
  • Zip lock backs, plastic sack for packing out trash/dirty clothes
  • A good attitude
  • Walkie talkies
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Field guide for plants and wildlife in the area

If there’s anything you think I’ve missed or something you think makes backpacking more enjoyable, let me know! Have fun on the trail!

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Originally posted 2011-08-24 18:27:00.

The Biblical Diet?


What is a Biblical Diet? During my pursuit of optimum health and living responsibly, I’ve read about and tried a number of different diets. Many of them were extremely restrictive, difficult to follow, and overly time consuming. While they might have resulted in some added health benefits, many of them were simply fads or marketing schemes. And even if there were a few health benefits, the cost to follow the diet ultimately outweighed the benefits. What we eat is extremely important, but it should not consume our lives. If what you eat is consuming you, rather than you consuming it, it’s time to rethink your diet strategy. There is more to life than eating. The Bible teaches that the most important reality is the Kingdom of God, not this world or our physical bodies. According to Romans 14:17, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Some of the diets I’ve tried include: vegetarian, vegan, raw, low-carb, and primal. I’ve also read about several biblically-based diets that give dietary recommendations based on the Judaic law. While everyone has differing convictions and beliefs about how to eat responsibly and healthfully, I have a few insights I’d like to share that might free some of your time and energy from trying to follow a complicated or overly restrictive diet.

Regarding the healthfulness of food in general, one of the greatest factors of health is how you perceive things. This has been demonstrated scientifically through the placebo effect. Basically, if people believe something is good for them, it often is! I think this has powerful implications when taken into consideration with the Biblical teachings of apostle Paul. He taught that our perspective plays a part in the purity of what we eat. He said, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:4-5

While purity and Judaic food restrictions aren’t necessarily related to health; some biblical-diet authors try to argue that they are. Yet, when taken as a whole, the laws of the Old Covenant are primarily related to ritual cleanliness and to actions that set Israel apart from other nations. After Jesus fulfilled the law, however, the requirement to abstain from particular foods was eliminated . Thus any teaching that claims abstaining from particular foods is more holy is a works-based teaching that contradicts God’s word. We are taught in the New Testament that if we receive anything with thanksgiving it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer! The heart condition of how we receive our food is more important than what we eat.

That being said, there are definitely some foods that are healthier than others, but by an large the unhealthy food are the ones that are processed and deformed through human innovation. In the beginning God granted Adam and Eve the permission to eat from every seed bearing plant. After the flood, God gave Noah and his sons the permission to eat meat as well. In other words, everything God made is ok to eat. Yet, in our Technological Age we have a new problem: industrial food. The more I read the latest nutrition research the more I find the only truly unhealthy foods are the processed ones: refined grains, refined sugar, artificial flavors and colorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and trans fats. I believe the debate between researchers about whether the low-carb or the high-carb diet is more healthy exists because it isn’t so much the quantity of these nutrients that matters as much as their quality.

God designed our bodies and the foods needed to properly nourish and sustain them. Our bodies are also capable of adapting to a wide variety of diets. When people start altering what God designed, that is when we get ourselves into real trouble. The most important thing to remember when choosing foods is to eat a varied diet that consists primarily of whole foods. Also, purchase organic or chemical-free whenever possible. These principles aren’t directly taught in the Bible but are extrapolated from Biblical and human history. God made the world, and it was very good. People chose to do things their own way, and things went south.

One thing that is taught directly in the Bible, however, is the importance of love. Jesus said that love is our new command. Thus another important dietary consideration is social justice. Much of our food is grown and harvested by workers that aren’t paid a fair wage. This is especially true of luxury items like tea and coffee. While we shouldn’t do anything out of obligation or legalism, it makes sense to purchase food locally or from companies we know are treating their employees and laborers fairly. Another consideration when purchasing food is the treatment of animals. According to Proverbs a “kind man considers the welfare of his animals.” Also, Jesus said that he cares even for the sparrows. These teaching reveal God’s heart for his creation, and as his children we should care too. Many of the industrially raised animals are treated inhumanely: raised in the dark, confined to small cages, matured too rapidly, or killed in painful ways. You can help ensure animals are treated kindly by purchasing meat-products labeled “free-range” or buying locally and researching the farming practices.

Hopefully these tips and insights free you from worrying too much about what you eat. Eating healthy is simple: Eat the foods God made and avoid the foods people changed. Our tastes and likes are highly malleable Research indicates that our taste preferences are largely based on marketing strategies. You can chose what you enjoy by looking at it in a differently light. You don’t need all the extra sugar and added fat of processed foods. Resist the marketing schemes, and don’t let huge companies force unhealthy food on you. Learn to enjoy the natural flavors and textures of the foods God made. Your body will thank you as you thank the Lord!

Originally posted 2011-08-24 21:03:00.

Stress fractures from barefoot running

During the past few years of my barefoot running career, barefoot running has taken off in popularity.  I truly believe in the health benefits of barefoot running, and have experienced several benefits myself.  For one, I no longer get painful shin splints.  Secondly, my previous knee injury no longer causes me pain.  Moreover, my feet and calves are greatly strengthened, and I love the feel of the earth beneath my feet.  Nevertheless, many people have experienced negative effects from barefoot running, namely foot injuries.  A stress fracture to one of the metatarsal bones is the most common barefoot running injury.  Enough injuries have taken place that many podiatrists and orthopedists are discouraging barefoot running altogether.  Yet, take a look at the cause of stress fractures as described straight from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeon’s website: “Stress fractures often are the result of increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly.”  In other words, barefoot running isn’t the cause of stress fractures, it’s jumping into something your body has never done too quickly!  Stress fractures are also more common in women than men, and it’s important to make sure you’re obtaining proper nutrition to support bone health, especially calcium and vitamin D.

Barefoot running is healthier for your feet, joints, and spine, but it’s a technique that must be learned and eased into.  Most people never walk or run barefoot except on the beach.  Our feet are weak, deformed, and shoe-dependent from wearing shoes all our lives.  Feet need to be strengthened slowly.  As your feet are strengthened by walking barefoot around the block a few times, then adding progressively longer runs, muscles will develop that support the metatarsals, and your bones will strengthen. Many people are excited about the idea of running barefoot, which is awesome; yet, few are willing to start out completely  barefoot.  The cool new “barefoot” or minimalist running shoes are oh so enticing and cultural norms of keeping feet shod are difficult to let go of, but starting out with minimalist shoes without learning to properly run in the barefoot style will result in a stress fracture! The importance of running COMPLETELY barefooted before wearing minimalist shoes cannot be overemphasized. Feet have one of the highest concentration of nerve endings in the body.  These nerve endings aren’t meant to be covered up and ignored; they’re meant to teach you how to run softly.  If you follow my advice, and ease into running barefoot, you’ll avoid a stress fracture and eventually reap the benefits of running the way your were designed to run!

Regarding barefoot sprinting, yes, it is possible to sprint barefooted.  In fact, sprinting techniques closely resemble running barefoot at moderate speeds.  Proper form involves keeping the body relaxed, slightly lifting the toes while in the air, and striking the ball of the foot first (this does not look like running on your toes.  In fact, if you watch sprinters it almost looks like they land flat-footed). Again, it’s important to work up to sprinting in general, let alone sprinting barefooted.  Your body is perfectly capable of sprinting without shoes, but you shouldn’t and can’t go from 0 to 20mph overnight!  As you progressively add mileage and speed to your barefoot running routine, slowly add short sprints and build from there.  Sprints are a more aggressive form of running and you will not land on your heel but primarily on the ball and midsection of the foot.  For more information about barefoot running, check out my previous blog.  

Originally posted 2011-08-23 18:41:00.