Wyoming on Foot: Exploring the Backcountry

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Wyoming on Foot: Exploring the Backcountry

Natoinal Park Service Photo, Public Domain

Backcountry Offers a World of
Challenge and Excitement


So you’ve decided you’re ready for the full backcountry experience! You’re gonna take the plunge — just you, a pal or two, and your tents — off the grid and into the wilds of Wyoming.


Exploring the backcountry is an experience unlike any other. It involves raw nature and solitude…testing your physical and mental capabilities.

Not for the Faint of Heart

But it’s not for everyone. Backcountry areas offer no electricity and often no running water. The comforts of everyday life are gone.

Pixabay Image

And many Wyoming backcountry locations include treks over rocky, uneven terrain. Hikers and campers will occasionally encounter dangerous conditions, such as inclement weather and wild animals.

Which is why preparation and planning are essential to ensuring a smooth and safe trip into the wilderness – and back.

Plan and Plan Again

Developing a comprehensive plan is critical if you want to enjoy an exciting and safe camping experience. In your plan, take into consideration each camper’s limitations and level of experience. This will help you choose the right trip for you and your companions.

Here are a few basic planning steps:

  1. Check ahead of time about any required camping permits and park regulations (including fire restrictions).
  2. Decide where you are going and how long you’ll be camping. Include each origin point and destination. Determine how far you intend to travel each day, taking elevation changes into account.
  3. Compile emergency contact information for everyone in your party.
  4. Leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home.

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr., Public Domain

Be Weather Wise…

Know the weather forecast before you set out on your expedition. But be prepared for anything. Weather conditions can change quickly, especially in the mountains. Be prepared for extreme temperatures, lightning, precipitation and wind.

Weather is a common factor in campers becoming lost or injured. So it’s important to know the weather systems that have passed and the ones headed your way. Know the specifics: wind direction and velocity, rain or snowfall amounts and duration.

…And Stay Warm

Knowing the weather forecast will help you determine what type of clothing to bring. The tried-and-true way to ensure outdoor comfort is to layer your clothing. This allows you to make quick adjustments based on your activity level and changes in the weather.

Each layer of clothing has a function. The base layer (against your skin) manages moisture; the insulating layer protects you from the cold; the shell (or outer) layer shields you from wind and rain. You simply add or subtract layers as needed.

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The most important article of clothing is, of course, your boots. Try them out ahead of time to make sure they fit correctly. Do not attempt major hiking trips with new boots! Blisters or sores on your feet can quickly and effectively ruin a wilderness expedition. Be sure to break in new boots with several short, quick hikes prior to your backcountry adventure.

Getting in Gear

It’s also a good idea to test your gear before you go. Try on your backpack to make sure it fits you properly, and double-check your camping equipment. Confirm that you have the right components (e.g., fuel for your stove, or flashlight batteries).

The folks at REI Co-Op recommend the following Ten Hiking Essentials:

  • Map or compass
  • Sun protection
  • Insulated clothing
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • Fire-starting gear
  • Multi-tool or knife
  • Food (see sidebar)
  • Water
  • Emergency shelter (tent or tarp)

In addition, of course, you’ll need a sleeping bag. Which brings us to the age-old sleeping bag debate between synthetic and down. Experienced campers recommend that, if you want to save money, buy synthetic. But if you want to save on weight, buy down.

A Word About Water

One vital element to backcountry travel is the accessibility of water.

According to the experienced hiking guides at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in Boulder, Colorado, the most important part of your plan should focus on locating possible sources of drinking water, potential sources of contamination, and choosing a water treatment system. Treatment systems include filters, purifiers or tablets.

Prior to heading out, be sure to review current topographical maps and identify possible water sources (lakes, springs, rivers, and glaciers) in the areas where you are going. And don’t forget to pack a quality water container.

backcountry

National Park Service Photo, Public Domain

Wildlife Safety

The natural habitats you’ll be exploring will include a variety of animals, so be sure to take the necessary precautions. This includes properly storing your food and keeping a safe distance from wildlife.

For instance, pack away your food at night using a bear bag, bear bucket or campsite locker. Be sure to include everything that may emit a scent: toothpaste, moisturizers, insect sprays, etc. Animals are curious and tend to investigate any foreign smell, even if it’s not food.

It’s also a good idea to carry a whistle with you, especially in bear country. Not only will it scare bears, it’s an essential survival tool if you get separated from a partner or lost in the wilderness. Some experienced backcountry travelers also suggest putting bells on your back to alert bears to your presence.

Even with the bells and whistles, however, you’ll still want to keep a can of bear spray handy. Here’s why:

Well Worth It

While nothing about an expedition into Wyoming’s backcountry is easy, you’re sure to find that unplugging from technology, communing with nature, sleeping under the stars, and waking up with the sun are well worth the trouble.


Sources:

Featured Image: National Park Service Photo, Public Domain

National Park Service

Leave No Trace

REI Co-Op

USDA Forest Service