When the once-forbidding winter weather has softened and plant life begins re-emerging for the year, restless lovers of the outdoors might understandably find themselves daydreaming about their next backpacking adventure. If you’re one of them, and it’s a passion that you want your child to share, it’s time to get planning—because spring hiking and camping is a joy that comes with a few potential snags. Here’s what you need to know before you and your family head out on your long-awaited backpacking trips this spring.
- Prepare for sneaky winter conditions. Just because the weather has been mild for a few days or weeks where you live doesn’t mean that winter isn’t still lurking about elsewhere, especially at higher elevations. Even in spring, you may run into areas covered in snow or ice. Bring snowshoes or hiking boot traction devices and other essential winter gear. Be sure to check your local avalanche forecast before choosing a trail or heading out the door.
- Be ready for a wet, muddy mess. If you’re lucky and all the snow has melted, you’ll still likely be dealing with its effects: high rivers and streams, puddles, and mud. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it, of course. However, you should be careful not to pitch your tent too close to any water source and use caution when walking or climbing over wet areas, particularly slippery rocks. Bring a water-resistant sleeping bag that has synthetic insulation, plenty of dry bags, waterproof shoes, and a waterproof pack cover.
- Pack more layers than you think you need. Spring is not the time for ultralight backpacking. You’ll need many layers of warm clothing, extra socks, and possibly both winter and spring hiking footwear, to name just a few seasonal necessities. Bring plenty of pants and other clothing made with synthetic wicking or “quick dry” material to minimize the risk of hypothermia if you get wet. It may be wise to pack a waterproof emergency firestarter as well.
- Replenish your kits and gear. If you haven’t been hiking all winter, it’s very possible that some of your backpacking supplies will need to be replenished. This may mean restocking items in your first aid kit, replacing worn-out socks, or upgrading hiking boots that have reached the end of their useful life. If you are able to use your current boots, spend some time getting reacquainted with how they feel. If you’re buying new ones, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to break them in before going on a serious hike.
- Rethink that lightweight “three-season” tent. Three-season tents are marketed as being usable in spring, summer, and fall. However, particularly in the early spring—and at high altitudes or in high winds—they may not be up to the task of providing a warm or dry shelter. Instead, play it safe and bring your double-walled or “four-season” winter tent.
- Protect yourself against ticks. Although you may not need to worry about mosquitos just yet (thankfully), keep in mind that ticks will be active beginning in March in many regions. Wear long layers of clothing that cover your arms and legs, consider bringing tick repellent, and check yourself (and your dog, if you’re bringing one) for ticks often. Learn more about tick prevention while backpacking.
Enjoy Spring Backpacking With BSA Laurel Highlands Council
If you live in the western parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, or West Virginia, enrolling your child in the Boy Scouts of America Laurel Highlands Council is an excellent way for them to become proficient in backpacking and camping. Earn your Camping & Backpacking Merit Badge in our class at Camp Guyasuta this April!
Scouting’s programs and outdoor adventures give young people the opportunity to try new things, provide service to others, build self-confidence, and develop leadership skills. These experiences not only help Scouts while they are young, but help them grow into exceptional men and women that respect their family, community, religion, country and themselves.
The Boy Scouts of America Laurel Highlands Council serves youth members and volunteer adult leaders throughout Western Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, and parts of West Virginia. We aim to beneficially involve every eligible child and their family in the fun and adventure of our programs. We provide extraordinary youth development programs that develop and strengthen the values of the Scout Oath and Law. However, we can’t do it without you. Give today!