Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

To Backpack! Or Not to Backpack?

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 25-26.

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That Is the Question! This book describes "explorations." Some are no more than day hikes, and some are no less than backpacks. In between you find some that can be either, depending on you. In the driest parts of the Oregon Desert, consider day hikes over backpacking. Having backpacked extensively (including the Oregon portion of the Pacific Crest Trail), the author is not averse to it. But the critical factor that pushes one toward long day hikes is water. In the water-free areas, you will have to carry your own. At certain times of the year in certain areas, you could carry a water filter and drink off the land, but this is unreliable except in the higher mountains or along rivers and major creeks.

When preparing to dry-camp, calculate the weight of your backpack with the necessary complement of water and overnight gear (sleeping bag, tent, stove, food, and so forth). (See "Hydration" later.) It may be that you can cover more country in a day hike with a much lighter pack. Consider food. Freeze-dried won't help you here, as you must carry the water to rehydrate it. It is just as efficient to carry a watermelon.

Comfort is another factor. By car camping, you can often hike more country, carry less gear, sleep on thicker pads, eat better food (nothing like a big slab of dripping tofu on the grill), drink colder beer, use comfortable lawnchairs, and so on.