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Hiking/Backpacking/Camping/Beginner backcountry camping at the Red River Gorge


QUESTION: Me and a couple of friends have decided to try backcountry camping for the first time. I was just curious to know how much stuff should we bring? What would be better, a tent of a tarp? What should we do about food and animals? We're going to visit and get a check of the land before we officially camp in June.

ANSWER: It depends on a bunch of factors:

How many days will you be out?
How far do you intend to hike per day?
Will you be setting up a base camp and doing short hikes every day, or will you camp in a different place every night?

Generally, the minimum you want to bring (excepting food and water) includes shelter (tent or hammock), bedding, a change of clothes, rain gear, cooking gear (lightweight stove and cook kit), hat and possibly gloves, light jacket or fleece, TP, trowel, basic toiletries, towel, basic first aid kit (including matches), water purification system (chemical or filtration), duct tape (good for all manner of quickie repairs), rope (at least 25 ft -- long enough to hang your food away from the critters).

That's the basic list, subject to change depending on how you might answer the questions I started out with. Feel free to send me a follow-up if you have additional questions.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Well, we're planning on spending 3 days and 3 nights out at the RRG. For the most part, we're just wanting to explore and do something different. So, I'm really not sure how far we're going to hike. I know I want to see all of the Red's natural brides and all other natural beauties it has to offer. Where could I get a map of the area?

ANSWER: I have never hiked in this area, so I cannot speak with the voice of experience. I did a bit of poking around and found a guidebook that claims to be definitive: Hiking Kentucky's Red River Gorge, available at Amazon and probably at most outfitters within a couple hundred miles of the area.

But if your plan is to hike every day, then pack as light as you can. Heavy packs (40+ lbs) lead to injuries and hikes cut short.

You indicate in your initial question that this will be your first backpacking experience. Do you have much hiking experience? What is the farthest distance you or your friends have hiked in the backcountry in a single day? What kind of shape are you all in? I'm trying to judge what to recommendation to make, but I need more data!

BTW, I realized that I left off a crucial piece of equipment in my gear list: a lightweight mattress pad. It can be foam or inflatable, but you should definitely have it!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I have always been around nature. I've been camping down at Nolin Lake since I was two. And I've trailed local trails ever since I've been a kid. I would say that the longest hike that we've hiked was about 5-6 miles long. Which was in Bernhiem Forset. Yeah, I'd say that we're  all in pretty good shape. Myself, I'm 5'8 and weigh about 170. Me and my friends have been waiting for this for a while. From what I have read, backcountry camping or "primitive" camping is pretty much common sense. You're in control of the outcome when your out in the woods, that's why I like it so much. Self reliance. I've been in and out of the woods ever since I've been a little kid. So, I'm pretty stoked and ready to get out there and hike again.

OK, based on your previous experience, I'd suggest that you keep the mileage down to no more than 6 or 7 miles per day. Try to have some alternatives in mind when you hike -- stuff like where you might camp if one of gets too tired to continue after only a few miles. And make sure that you have some kind of plan for what you might do if it becomes necessary (sickness or injury) to quit the entire hike early. I doubt you'll have any problems, but it's always better to have alternatives in place that you never use, than to need the alternative, but not have it.

Enjoy your hike!


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Wounded Knee


I can advise on anything having to do with hiking and backpacking skills and equipment, including map and compass and orienteering skills. I cannot advise on the use of GPS devices. I cannot advise on car camping or group camping (10 or more people). My primary geographic expertise is in the US Northeast, but I know how to find information on hiking and backpacking just about anywhere.


I've been hiking and backpacking for about 45 years, including section hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. I have hiked extensively in the New York Metropolitan Area, as well as various other areas from Georgia north, including upstate New York, New England, and Eastern Canada.

New York Walk Book, 7th Ed.
New Jersey Walk Book, 2nd Ed.

Not applicable to this area of expertise.

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