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How to Plan a Last-minute Spring Break Backpacking Trip

No plans for spring break yet? Not to worry! Here are 4 pro tips for procrastinators to plan (and execute) an epic last-minute spring break backpacking trip.

Desert landscape




It seems like we were just talking about our New Year’s resolutions, and yet spring break is somehow right around the corner. (It snuck up on us, too.)



So if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to enjoy spring break--or just wants to take a break this spring--this is for you! We put together 4 tips to help you unplug in nature and enjoy a spring break backpacking trip for the books.




Hiking among arches



1. Head for the desert.


While we love fresh pow laps, it’s good to know that it’s always “desert season” somewhere -- that glorious time of year when the desert regions are a comfortable 70-80 degrees, also known as the perfect temperature for hiking, biking, climbing, and exploring when the snow conditions just aren’t cutting it. Plus, it’s often less crowded than in the summer (especially in national parks) and sometimes safer without the risk of large, dangerous afternoon storms.



→ When scouting trail options, look for places with low elevation and temperate weather, like Utah, Arizona, or Southern California (note: much of Northern California is still cold and snowy this time of year). Think Buckskin Gulch to Paria Canyon, The Grand Canyon, The Arizona Trail, Superstition Wilderness, Moab, or Capitol Reef National Park, and ZIon, just to name a few.




2. Check into permits ASAP.


Many popular overnight trips in these areas require permits. Some are easy to attain (Capitol Reef’s are usually plentiful and free), while others are competitive and likely already sold out by now. For example, backpacking rim-to-rim of The Grand Canyon is spectacular and definitely something to check off your bucket list, but permits are available 3-4 months prior to your trip dates (beginning between Nov. 20 and Dec. 1 for a hike beginning in April).



→ If you missed out on this deadline, many permit systems have a waitlist or in-person request option. If you don’t want to risk it, there are miles and miles of incredible backpacking trips in these areas that don’t require a permit at all--and you’ll be better for it, as they’re likely less crowded anyway.







3. Do your research on car rentals and flights.


Once you’ve picked a region and desired backpacking trip, you’ll need to figure out how to get there. If road tripping isn’t an option, you’ll need to fly and rent a car. Lucky for us, we live in a day and age when there are plenty of apps and tools to help us out with this.



→ The Hopper app allows you to put in your desired trip time frame and destinations and notifies you when it’s the cheapest time to book by analyzing flight cost patterns. A quick Google search of “car rental Groupon” yields a plethora of deals to peruse. Be wary of hidden costs such as one-way fees, drivers under 25, or extra mileage charges--doing a bit of math and comparisons now can save you money in the end. Also, check out new services like the Turo app to get you from A to B.




4. Plan your route.


Backpacking is a lot of fun, but it also needs to be taken seriously--especially in the desert, which is a completely different experience than in the mountains. Read up on the trail and see if there is water available or if you’ll need to bring your own most of the way. Be aware of any native wildlife, such as rattlesnakes, and the safety precautions associated with those animals. Most importantly, make sure you’re familiar with the trail map, especially if you’re going into lesser-known areas as opposed to well-marked national parks trails.



→ While we’re all for unplugging and taking a break from our smartphones, there is something to be said for using your phone as a backup option if you lose track of where you are. If you don’t have your own GPS, there are a few good apps available with offline topo and tracking capabilities (such as Gaia GPS) that can help get you back on track. If you are going to rely on your phone for this, there are some great solar-powered chargers out there that are perfect for recharging in the desert sun as you hike.




Looking out into the canyon



5. Pack the right gear.


The reality of backpacking is that no matter how much you try to cut down, you’ll probably still bring far more than you need. Be honest with yourself about what you need to carry, as you’ll regret that extra 5-10 pounds after a few hours on the trail. Also, remember that temperatures can drastically dip in the evening despite it being so hot during the day, so bring layers!



→ Things that are non-negotiable: sunscreen, water bottle, a map, a jacket, a hat, UV-protection sunglasses, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, a repair kit, an extra day’s supply of food, mess kit, a water filter, at least one extra set of clothes, and whatever setup you’ll be comfortable sleeping in. Try to pack light colors that reflect UV rays instead of absorbing them. Look into gear specifically designed to cut down on weight and space, like our Pinnacle Canister Stove




Photographing the desert landscape




Spring break will be here before we know it. Make the most of your time off in nature--and share your photos with us with #gsioutdoors!






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