The Three 3‘s of the Backcountry

I have been wanting to write about this for some time now. It’s something that I see alot. When heading outdoors, people do not prepare for the worse case senario. I’m always reading stories of people dying in the backcountry, and the majority of the time it’s very preventable if they had just been prepared. 

I live to venture out into the backcountry, exploring and camping.  In doing so I will run into many people on the trail. I always ask about gear and what they bring for this and that. I’m constantly trying to simplify my pack. 

The hikes my dad took me on as a boy had us packing 80 lb bags. I swear he packed everything! Canned foods, books to read, etc. I find it funny now, but at the time I wasn’t happy being a pack mule for the hikes. 

Simple is better when hiking. Think the basics when packing your bag. This is where the three 3’s come into play.  The three 3’s are very important.  I’ll explain what they are.

3 hours – The amount of time you can survive without shelter

3 days – The amount of time you can survive without water

3 weeks – The amount of time you can survive without food

 Shelter – When packing your bag remember shelter; Warmth is number one!  Fire/ shelter can be kept simple with some cottonballs and vaseline. You can build fires in wet conditions and it packs really light! A hammock with a rainfly, plus a good sleeping bag, is my shelter. I find that this is the lightest and most compact setup. Think light and warm when packing a shelter. Even a waterproof bivy and sleeping bag is good. Tents are just heavy and bulky for me. However everyone will have their preference. Whatever you prefer, make sure you cover shelter and warmth.

Water – Clean water is very important and plays a huge part when picking a camping spot. I always pack a water filter or a good way to boil water, so to me, being next to a spring, pond or creek is important. Having a way to store water is also important. I currently use a Sawyer squeeze filter hooked to a small 9v water pump. I use the system to filter water to my bottles. This is fast and simple. I can also use this filter without the pump, so if my battery happens to die while I’m out, I can still filter water.

Food – Yes food is very important. However, most people won’t die if you don’t have food for the weekend. Now if you have certain medical conditions, this will certainly differ from person to person. When I pack my food I find myself taking less and less every trip. I always have lots of food and usually end up sharing with others. I also find I am eating less and less when I go.  I plan meals to be simple and also pack snacks that include protein and calories that are needed. Don’t starve yourself, but also don’t be afraid to go lighter.

Last thing I want to cover is an emergency beacon or cellphone. I always throw this in for many reasons, mainly because you never know when you might fall and break a leg or something worse. I personally use an inReach device that allows me to send text messages or a SOS in an emergency. It sends my exact location to rescue services as well as whoever I may text.

The important thing to remember here is to first cover your three 3’s. Then if it’s your pleasure, add anything else you might need. Try not to over pack and don’t forget what you need to stay safe. Research the area you plan to explore first. Will there be good places to get fire wood or water? Also, remember to always let someone know where you’ll be and at what time you will be there.  Stay safe and have fun exploring the backcountry!