Hiking, much like backpacking, is the act of walking through nature on trails or even an unknown path. Backpacking, however, is the act of hiking over the course of a few days or more. Backpacking is not something you go and do spur of the moment. It takes strategic planning and some research. Without planning and research, you could easily find yourself in unsafe situations. For these reasons, the Long Island Pine Barrens is the perfect place to practice and get yourself ready for that backpacking trip you’ve been thinking about, but are not quite prepared for yet. Always know before you go! Do your research, practice, plan, map it out, and pack appropriately. Have fun, but most importantly, be safe!
Unfortunately, Long Island is not set-up or suited for backpacking as Suffolk County and the NYS Parks Departments do not allow overnight camping in places where there are not designated campsites. However, a hike along the Pine Barrens’ Paumanok Path or along other trails, is a great way to practice your stamina and endurance for a longer backpacking trip. Many people take long day hikes on Long Island to gear up for a longer backpacking trip in places like Upstate New York. After all, practice makes perfect!
Below are the steps you should take when planning and preparing for a backpacking trip, so take these steps into consideration when practicing in the Pine Barrens for that future backpacking trip elsewhere.
First Step: Where to go?
Before setting off on your backpacking trip, do your research and pick a destination because you cannot plan without first having a destination. Picking the right destination that best fits you and your experience is very important. If you have never backpacked before then you must choose a beginner’s trail that is easy and you should stick to one overnight. If you are a beginner, you should also try and go with someone who has backpacked before.
- Know your skill set and pick a trail that is well marked if you are not an experienced backpacker.
- Pick a season that suits your experience because weather plays a huge factor in what you bring on the trip.
- Do not just go ahead and wing it!
- Do your research and prepare yourself by reading about all things backpacking.
- Look up the trails before you decide to go anywhere and know how many miles, what pace, and the terrain.
The above steps will help you choose a destination to begin your backpacking trip. However, when planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, you can utilize the following link to our website to check out our hiking guides: https://www.pinebarrens.org/recreation-guides/
Second Step: What to bring?
The destination you choose and the weather will determine what you need to pack. When packing, you need to consider the weight because after all, you will be carrying it on your back. You will need to pack for four categories: Clothing, Cooking, Sleeping, and Emergency.
- Clothing: Synthetic hiking pants or shorts, synthetic shirt, midlayer fleece/hoodie, waterproof jacket and pants, lightweight puffy jacket, lots of socks (1 pair per every 2 days), beanie and light fleece gloves and hiking boots.
- Cooking: Lightweight backpacking stove and fuel, pot set, cooking utensils, bowl, cup, and spork, sponge and soap, food and water, and water filter.
- Sleeping: Down or synthetic sleeping bag, inflatable or closed cell foam pad and 3 season tent.
- Emergency Essentials: First aid kit, headlamp, lighter and matches, map and compass or GPS, accessory cord, toiletries, duct tape/ repair kit, pocket knife and camera/ journal.
The above steps will help you choose a destination to begin your backpacking trip. When planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, you only need the clothes on your back and some basic emergency essentials. You can utilize the following link to our website to check out our guide on detecting and preventing ticks on Long Island before setting off on your practice day hike: https://www.pinebarrens.org/recreation-guides/
Third Step: Meal Prep/Plan!
- Remove any food that is in large packaging and repack it.
- Dehydrate your food
- Water!! Do not dehydrate! Carry at least 2 liters per person and also check to see if your trail has any natural springs.
- Protect your food! Animals can and will try to eat your food so pack it accordingly. If you’re in bear country then bear-proof your food.
The above steps would help you plan what food to bring on your backpacking trip, but when planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, you usually do not need to bring any food and just a bottle of water will suffice. Always leave with what you bring!
Fourth Step: Packing!
When packing your backpack you want to pack it comfortably. Pack all heavy items near the center of your back and pack the lightweight items around that. This helps to keep you balanced. Any items such as snacks, keep in the side pockets for easy access.
- Lid: Maps, snacks, other essentials.
- Sides and top: Clothing, tent.
- Center: Water, food, cooking gear.
- Bottom: Sleeping bag.
- Outer: Sleeping pad.
The above steps will help you pack for a backpacking trip, but when planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, it is not necessary to pack much of anything. Always bring a bottle of water and some basic emergency essentials for your day hike.
Lastly: Emergency Plan!!
- Never leave without telling a friend or relative!
- Leave your complete itinerary with someone back home.
- Carry a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) This device will send a distress signal to local authorities and search and rescue teams.
- Problems will occur along the way, but with proper gear and knowledge, you can get yourself out of minor problems.
- Take a basic first aid course before you go!
The steps above will help you prepare you for backpacking trip emergencies. However, when planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, much of the above does pertain and should be followed, but it is not necessary to go out and buy a PLB. Always be safe and let someone know where you are going and what trail you’ll be hiking before setting off on your day hike.
Backpacking is fun and for those seeking adventure in the wild, but it is also serious and can be unsafe, so you must practice, plan, do your research and prepare. If you have never hiked before, but wish to backpack, then the Long Island Pine Barrens is the perfect place for you to practice. Conquer all of the Long Island Pine Barrens hikes and become familiar with the basics. Get in shape before backpacking and break in your footwear in the Pine Barrens to avoid blistering on that future backpacking trip.
By: Claire J Moran, Long Island Pine Barrens Society