While preparing for a backpacking trip, I realized some of my food was in my pack from the previous outing a few weeks before. Fortunately, critters hadn’t found it, but it was a moldy mess.
I learned a lesson from that unused food, so let me share some of the tasks that need to happen following any backpacking trip. By doing these things, you can make your equipment last longer and shorten your prep time for the next trip. The best time to do these things is as soon as you get home.
Clean your kitchen and food pantry – In my case, this means washing a small cookpot, cup, and spoon. I like to take inventory of fuel to be sure I’m stocked for future trips. Some stoves need periodic maintenance. I use an Esbit fuel stove, so no maintenance is required.
Go through the food bag, toss trash, and remove any unused snacks or food. It’s also a good idea to check dates on any food you plan to reuse. I learned the importance of this after having to eat some stale snacks on a trip.
Dry your shelter – Spread out or hang your tent/tarp/groundcloth so that it dries completely. Hang your quilt or sleeping bag and pad to be sure any remaining moisture is removed. Failure to do this can be expensive when you later discover an expensive tent covered in mildew.
Clean your clothes – I’ve learned to use gentle settings for washing and drying. After a little time the dryer, I let hiking clothes dry completely hanging out overnight. Avoid heavy smells in the soaps you use to avoid attracting critters insects or wildlife. I occasionally treat the cuffs of my pants with Permethrin to discourage ticks. It’s not a sure thing but seems to help, and the treatment lasts through several rounds of washing.
Take care of your shoes – Dry shoes as soon as possible after your trip to avoid serious stink and mildew! I place shoes and insoles in front of a small fan overnight. It’s alright to clean most running shoes with soap and water occasionally.
Store your stuff – I like to store my kitchen (minus food) in my pack. Tents/tarps and bedding should be spread out or hung up until needed for the next trip. Never pack these items stuffed into a pack or folded since this causes creasing of fabrics and compression of your down’s loft.
Review your Backpacking List – Was anything needed that you didn’t carry? Were items not needed that you did carry? Can you move an item from “nice to have” to “don’t need to have?” Answering these questions will help lower your pack weight over time.
You might have had a great idea about bug protection or staking your tarp, but if you don’t revise your packing list, the idea is lost until your next trip, which is too late. Does it sound like I’ve done this before?
What’s next? Keeping a future trip in development is a great motivator. The best time to start planning is right after the current trip. Here’s my simple plan for staying in shape:
- Breath clean air and nothing else
- Eat good food
- Move around a lot (walk, bike, row, stretch, weights, etc.)
Now, grab your maps and guidebooks and plan that next backpacking trip!
If you have post-hike tasks or rituals I haven’t mentioned, please pass them along to me. I love to steal good ideas!