Just because it’s the dead of winter and we’re all out playing in the snow doesn’t mean you can’t start planning your next summer backpacking adventure.  There are plenty of things you can do now to get a jump on that next big trip!

1. Start researching

Maybe you know the area you’d like to visit. If so, this is a good time to pick up a hiking or backpacking guide of that area from Amazon, your local REI, or your local gear store.  Many of these guide books offer elevation information, tips on which trails are more heavily traveled, and information about creek crossings.  These valuable tidbits can help you determine whether you should plan a trip to this area earlier in the season (great for desert trips) or mid to late season (which could be better if lots of large creek crossings are involved).  The Falcon Guide series of books are my go-tos, but there are plenty of options out there.

Researching also gives you plenty of time to find out if a permit of any kind is necessary (if you’re planning a backpacking trip in a National Park for example), and gives you time to apply for such permits.

Of course, Tripleblaze is a great place to begin your research. You can run a search of our trail database of over 8,000 trails here.

2. Start talking

Along with researching through guidebooks and Tripleblaze, winter is a good time to start talking to others about your trip.  Perhaps you can find a great online forum with information about the area, or perhaps that guy you see on the cross country ski trail has backpacked in a similar spot.  It’s winter–people like to stay inside where it’s warm.  Take advantage of that and strike up a conversation!

3. Start dehydrating

If you were lucky enough to get a dehydrator for Christmas, or if you’ve had one for years, get that sucker out and get started on some meals!  Make some jerky, dehydrate berries and apples for your oatmeal, and start experimenting with dried vegetables for stews or pasta dishes.  Why spend money on Mountain House if you can make your own meals for less money?

4. Start shopping

When you went backpacking last year, were you kicking yourself the whole time for not buying trekking poles?  Were you wishing you’d gotten new boots? I, for one, would love a new backpack.  Right now, all those packs and things that people didn’t get for Christmas are on sale!  Everyone is focused on ski gear.  Head into the store, check out a pack, have an employee put some weight in it, and wander freely down the backpack aisles for a while.  That’s exactly what I plan to do soon.

5. Start training!

Why is it that one sport never prepares me for another quite as well as I think it should? Last year, even after all the mountain biking I’d done, my legs were killing me after our first day of hiking. I’ve vowed to do better this year.  Along with snowshoeing (aka winter hiking) and short spring hikes with a pack on, I plan to incorporate yoga into my weekly workouts.

The hikes will, of course, prepare my legs for backpacking, but so will yoga.  Poses like Warrior 1 help develop strong leg muscles while Warrior 3 can help with balance.  Body alignment and coordination are key to yoga and to backpacking.  When you’re carrying 30lbs on your back, being coordinated comes in handy!  Last, if you’re hiking at altitude, using yoga breathing (through your nose) can be helpful too.

So don’t just sit there staring into the fire and dreaming of warmer days and nights under the stars… start planning!  “Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” ~Alfred Adler

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