Hiking in the backcountry

Essential tools for the backcountry

Essential tools for the backcountry

All of the images related to the Gatineau Park pages on this site were taken in the backcountry.  “Great!” you might say, adding “…so how do I get there?”  Answer: Very carefully.

Getting lost in the woods has been happening for as long as there have been trees, and wandering humans.  Even in a park as small as Gatineau Park, the occasional headlines tell the story of a disoriented hiker who had to spend significant time, including even overnight(s), before finding their way out, or being rescued.

Unfortunately, not all stories have a happy ending…

Frontcountry hiking

Many national, state and local parks have extended networks of interconnecting trails.  Gatineau Park is one of them.  Having a map, and basic map reading skills, is essential in these environments.  Being prepared for an unplanned stay will help to ensure that you get back home safely.

For hiking on established trails, you may want to consider bringing the following:

  • Water
  • Food & snacks
  • Layers of clothing appropriate for the time of year
  • Hat, sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Sturdy footwear that offers ankle protection (ever roll an ankle on a rock or tree stump?)
  • First aid kit
  • A trip plan (left with trusted person back home)
  • A headlamp, especially if daylight hours are shorter at that time of year
An unmarked, faint path

An unmarked, faint path

Backcountry hiking

With only a few exceptions, the pictures on this site were taken in the backcountry.  Hiking on faint trails, paths or non-existent trails that require route finding means that you need to bring the following:

  • Same items listed above; plus
  • Map & compass (ability to interpret topographic maps, along with intermediate map and compass skills)
  • GPS (optional – do not rely exclusively on this device, rather, use it as an aid to your map & compass navigation)
  • Know your limits

No matter what the endeavour, not knowing your limits has the potential to get you into serious trouble:

  • Understand the sector you are heading into, and anticipate escape routes
  • Be prepared to adapt or alter your route if weather, or your personal condition dictates
  • Plan outings that are within your physical abilities and adapted to your level of skill

Develop your skills and experience in the backcountry before heading out on your own.  Join a club!  Local groups of clubs like the Alpine Club of Canada will allow you to experience the outdoors with seasoned leaders, as well as attend navigation training to develop your orienteering skills.

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