TrailTime Tips: String Together the Perfect Trip

You have four days to backpack in a nearby national park and now it's time to plan out where you'll hike. You sit down with the map and try to plan the perfect backpacking trip by carefully adding up the mileage on the map. You try to find a loop hike but it's difficult to easily see if the mileage is doable. Adding up the mileage on the calculator from junction to junction can be tedius and it's easy to make a mistake. That's why this TrailTime Tip is great for stringing together the perfect backpacking plan.

Trip Planning

Use a String to Easily Measure Out Trail Distances

Every map has a key that shows the scale. If you know you want to hike about 10 miles each day, cut a string at the exact length of ten miles. Place the sring on the map and you can easily place the string over the trail. In an instant you'll see about how much ground you can travel each day.

BackPack Planning TIp

This will quickly allow you to see if your loop will be doable in the amount of time alloted. It also allows you to spot the areas where you'll want to camp. This is extra helpful in areas, like Rocky Mountain National Park, where you are required to reserve backpacking campsites. You can obviously stretch the mileage to get to the perfect campsite or call one day short to enjoy the lakeside campsite you've heard about but the string gives you a quick and easy way to get a feel for the mileage without adding up all the little numbers.

The string doesn't take the elevation gain into consideration so be sure to watch the topo lines and consider shortening the days that have long hard climbs.


Watch this tip in action in this video: String Trip Planning.

Why Bother?

This is an excellent way to get a snap shot of whether you can hike a trail in the alloted time. Adding the tiny number from juntion to juntion takes time and it is easy to make mistakes. You can narrow down your trip planning in less time with this little trick.

Do you agree? Tell us what you think of this tip in the comments below.

Try These Other TrailTime Tips:

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Keep Your Bag Dry From Condensation
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Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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