Ultralight Backpacking in the U.S. National Parks
If you are an avid backpacker, or simply looking for a great backpacking trip to take with friends or a significant other, there is perhaps no better place to backpack and camp than our country’s National Parks. The National Park System offers some of the most pristine places to backpack in the entire world. Due to the nature of the natural parks, they are heavily protected from any type of human contamination. National Parks are created to protect some special type of nature that offers a type of beauty that you don’t typically find in a large land tract anywhere else.
Things that make the U.S. National Parks so wonderful can vary from pristine lakes and rivers, incredible mountain vistas, deeply wooded backcountry, pine trees that grow sky-high, certain animals that are not found in large quantities elsewhere, and some of the most beautiful, rare plants you have ever seen.
Additionally, the National Parks Service frequently patrols the parks. This means that National Parks are also extra safe. They are also frequently cleaned by additional team members of the Parks Service.
Reasons to Turn a Hike into a Camping Trip
Everyone has a different reason they enjoy camping trips. For many, it is simply being in the calming presence of nature and that sense of peace that nature brings. For some, it is a chance to truly disconnect from all the daily technology and constant email. Many organizations take camping trips to learn things like survival skills, how to create a fire or to identify various plants. Families enjoy the sense of closeness that camping brings to parents and children alike. Many people simply grew up camping and enjoy the tradition of it and the fond memories associated with camping and being outdoors. No matter the reason you enjoy camping, the National Parks System offers something for everyone!
Pack Light for a Better Hike
One of the latest, most popular trends in hiking and camping is the idea of ultralight backpacking. Let’s face it, hiking miles and miles through even the most gorgeous National Park will be a burden with a 30-pound pack strapped to your back. Not to mention the weight of various water bottles and other camping accessories strapped to your backpack. Ultralight backpacking gear is an incredible alternative to traditional tents and tent accessories.
Backpackers are increasingly turning to hammock camping gear. These hammocks weigh next to nothing and greatly decrease the weight associated with a traditional tent. Additionally, hammocks compress to next to nothing, think along the lines of a Nalgene bottle, giving you a ton more space in your backpack.
Ultralight camping gear is also a lot less expensive than traditional tents and sleeping pads. Due to their simplicity, a camping hammock typically cost about ¼ or less of the price of a traditional tent. Additionally, ultralight backpacking gear doesn’t end with camping hammocks. There is a huge variety of tarps that are all easy to set up and will protect you from even the strongest rain shower.
Utilizing hammock camping gear also gets you up off the ground, which has many benefits. First, you can truly sleep under the stars without worrying about bugs or other pests that can become an issue with sleeping on the ground. Also, you are in a much more comfortable position when you are gently cradled in a hammock, rather than lying on the ground. Hammocks offer a level of comfort that even the best sleeping pads simply can’t. Based on your weight and whether there are any extreme conditions, there is likely a perfect hammock to fit your exact camping needs.
Five of the Most Gorgeous Places to Backpack and Camp in the National Parks System
Whether you are looking to backpack in the backcountry, mountains, streams, rivers or even on a beach, here are 5 incredible places in the U.S. National Parks to backpack and explore:
- Rocky Mountain National Park. This gorgeous Colorado National Park offers some of the most breathtaking mountain vistas. Trail Ridge Road reaches over 12,000 feet and offers a view of a sky that is bluer than you could ever imagine along with access to many of the Parks amazing backcountry trails. However, due to the beauty and pristine conditions of this National Park, campsites book up quickly, so make sure to call ahead or book online early.
- Voyageurs National Park. If you’re looking to truly, truly get away from the world, Voyageurs National Park offers incredibly remote camping and hiking. The upside? Campsites come with a picnic table, fire pits, and a locker for food. The potential down side? Camp sites are only accessible via boat, and you’ll need to bring your own.
- Glacier National Park. This National Park is great for people who want true backcountry camping. Glacier offers remote campsites that are perfect for people who really want to get away and get in tune with nature. The park is extremely diligent about frequently updating its Backcountry Camping Guide, which will be an essential for anyone wishing to spend the night.
- Assateague Island. For those who love camping on the beach, Assateague Island simply can’t be beat. You can set up your tent or hammock mere feet from the beach (pay attention to the tide) and spend your day swimming or fishing off the pristine sandy beach. Tip: Bring extra mosquito spray, especially during the summer.
- Bryce Canyon National Park. This park is famous for its soaring hoodoos that can reach upwards of 150 ft. Most of the backpacking trails are relatively easy and there are two campgrounds that provide enough space in between campsites to still feel at one with nature.
Don’t forget that not all National Parks are created equal. It is extremely important to check the guidelines of each specific park you visit before taking your backpacking trip. Many parks require camping permits, and some have very specific regulations on things like fires, swimming, fishing and more. The National Parks Service website will have specific information about each park. Make sure you get your information off the official website so that you have the most updated information. There are also other tools such as maps and GPS coordinates for individual campsites that will come in handy. Remember, you may not have cell phone service.
If you’re looking for a fun and economical getaway, you can’t beat the National Parks System. There is absolutely no question that ultralight backpacking is here to stay. Backpacking should be about enjoying nature, not spending time hoping your chiropractor has an open spot for when you return. Plus, hot dogs never tasted so good than when you are camping, and ghost fires are never as scary as when told around a campfire. Happy trails!