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Tips for planning your first girlfriends’ backpacking trip

Fresh off the wrap of her new book, Backpacking 101, Colorado-based Heather Balogh Rochfort gives women some ideas on planning and finding the supplies and confidence to just get out there with girlfriends.

women's backpacking
All smiles after three nights of packing the Gooseberry Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Photo: Courtesy of Will Rochfort

She made many mistakes — packing in canned food, heavy pots and a gigantic tent — in her first attempt at backpacking. Years of experience later, this author of the popular outdoor blog Just a Colorado Gal has a few helpful things to share with women of all backpacking ability levels. Here they are, in her own words.

Tip #1: Stop overthinking it

Of course you can do this. Photo: Courtesy of Will Rochfort
There is a preconceived notion that women have all these additional things to worry about before going backpacking. But you know what? We don’t. The physical actions and gear prep are the exact same for men and women.

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Sure, we have to worry about some extra hygiene issues (just like always), but that’s where the differences end. In fact, some studies argue that women are better suited to endurance events like backpacking, so you may have a leg up on the guys in your life.

Tip #2: Plan ahead to pack smart

girlfriends backpacking
Reaching the high point of a two-night trip on the Fjallraven Classic in northern Colorado. Photo: Courtesy of Will Rochfort
Get together with your girlfriends and have a meeting before you even put foot to trail. It’s silly to carry extra gear, so make a checklist to ensure no one double dips.

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If there are four of you, a duo of two-person tents will suffice rather than packing along four different shelters. One water filter for the group is plenty. Make these arrangements ahead of time so you aren’t stuck carrying 10 pounds of extra weight in gear.

Tip #3: Don’t forget the little luxuries

packing for backpacking
Pay attention to the details, from efficient packing to little luxuries. Photo: Courtesy of Will Rochfort
Some backpackers will tell you to skimp on the niceties and stick to the basics for a streamlined approach. That works fine when you have lots of experience, know what you want to forgo and understand what your trade-offs entail.

But for a ladies’ trip? Throw that out the window! Some of my favorite backpacking memories are [being] at camp with a flask of whiskey and a decadent dessert that a girlfriend had the foresight to pack.

Tip #4: Mind your menu

backpacking in Canyonlands
Climbing out after a four-day packrafting trip in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Photo: Courtesy of Will Rochfort
Speaking of food, it’s pretty terrible to find yourself two days into the backcountry with a litany of disgusting food options. As a group, write up your menu ahead of time (or decide to go it alone for your meals).

If you opt for pre-packaged dehydrated provisions, please test the flavor in advance. I still remember being four nights into an Alaskan adventure and ridiculously hungry after a day of paddling the Alatna River. Imagine my dismay when our allotted evening meal tasted like a dirty dish towel.

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Making your own meals? Prep them ahead of time and taste-test before ever leaving the comforts of your kitchen. One more thing: It doesn’t hurt to practice using that backcountry stove at home, too.

Tip #5: Put it on the damn calendar

Life is busy. It can be tough to find time to squeeze in one more thing, but just commit already. Identify those dates and write them in with permanent ink, even if they are six months out.

I promise you will create memories on the trail that far surpass the fun of another Friday night happy hour.