Backpacking Trip Prep

Soooo many lilies around Madison, WI right now

The mad planning from early in the week transitioned to mad packing a couple days ago, and by the time you read this on Friday, Julie and I will be in the car and driving up to Grand Portage, MN where we’ll spend the night at a hotel and then catch the ferry out to Isle Royale National Park the next morning.

This is my first backpacking trip. Yeah, Isle Royale is kind of ambitious for a first-timer, but that’s how I roll.

Last year in May I added ascend Mt. Whitney (the tallest peak in the lower 48) to my dream list, and to do that I need experience hiking to the top of tall mountains and experience backpacking, neither which I had. My tallest mountain up to that point was Mt Washburn in Yellowstone, which is a paltry 10,243 ft in comparison. A few months after setting that goal my truck broke down in Leadville, CO, and while waiting to hear back on the damage I hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert (the second tallest peak in the lower 48 at 14,433 ft) on a whim with a friend who was visiting. So now I know that I can do that kind of elevation, and need to make sure I enjoy backpacking… I’m fairly certain I will.

Julie has backpacked across Isle Royale before, so at least one of us knows what’s up. She’s spent a lot of time digging through her memories and collectively we’ve reviewed lists of what to bring and are fairly confident in our choices. Planning a backpacking trip is somewhat similar to boondocking in that you need to think ahead as you’ll be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s even more pronounced since we won’t be able to hop in a car and drive if something is forgotten. Some of the gear I have is my own, most of it belongs to Julie or her family. As a first-timer, it’s great to not have to commit to that expense right away while I figure out what I like.

Along the Ice Age Trail between Madison and Verona, this is where Julie and I have been breaking in her new boots and practicing for Isle Royale.

We’ve got seven days on the island (six full days and two half-days) and so have the luxury of being able to take it slower than most visitors. We have a couple possible routes planned out, and will choose between them based on weather and how we’re feeling. The challenge of a longer visit is all the food we’re going to have to carry, but water won’t be a problem at least.

I’ve been pondering whether this trip has been easier or harder to plan for than Leviathan, the jury is still out. No international border crossing or airplane regulations, but this time I need to bring everything myself.

If I can I’ll respond to some comments today, we’ll see how the drive goes. Starting Saturday I’ll have no internet at all.

I doubt I’ll ever grow up.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Becky on July 31, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Thanks everyone, back from the trip now and had a blast, will be sharing more when I can!

  2. Doug Dean on July 22, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Oh yea! Never good to “grow up”!! I’m 71 and still play everyday! Did learn it’s a little slower climbing on to the swing set and I did learn NEVER swing on a rope swing….especially when there is no water under it…just blackberry brambles!!!

  3. Mike H on July 22, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I applaud your efforts and most of all, your enthusiasm. As for me it’s been 35 years since my first real backpacking trip and I still get the butterflies preparing for a trip. In a few weeks it’s off to Oregon for the eclipse, trout fishing and “hill sittin”. I’ve found nothing more peaceful than finding a great vantage point to stop, sit, slow down & casually observe nature….at its own pace. Have a great time on your trip and stay SAFE & HYDRATED!

  4. Pamela on July 21, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Have a great time on your backpacking trip. I did a short one years ago. I didn’t even know the correct way to pack my backpack when we started. We took out whatever we brought in. Sounds like more fun!

  5. RGupnorth on July 21, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    You will read this when get back – hope your hike went well – water is no issue if you are filtering from Superior – carrying enough food is the issue – assume you will end up at Rock Harbor –

  6. Linda Sand on July 21, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Some friends of ours sat down on the beach at the end of a trail on Isle Royale to relax only to realize that thunder they heard was actually moose barreling down the trail towards them. Stay aware.

    It’s too late for this trip but Mountain House is my favorite brand of backpacking food. I still keep some on hand even though my backpacking days are long gone. It’s nice to have something so easy to make when you don’t feel well and Mountain House makes food so tasty I’m even willing to eat it at home. Their beef stroganoff with noodles is my personal favorite.

    • Becky on July 31, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Funny you should mention beef stroganoff, got a story about that to share soon!

  7. Ron on July 21, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Watch out for bears, moose, mosquitoes and dear flies and have a great time. I know you will.

    • Becky on July 21, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      There actually aren’t bear on Isle Royale, but yes we’re prepared for the rest, thanks Ron.

  8. Marsha on July 21, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Love Isle Royale. Have backpacked it several times and never seem to tire of it. Hope you enjoy and if you’ve done your homework, you’ll have had a wonderful time.

    • Becky on July 21, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      Everyone I talk to who’s done it has loved it, pretty sure I will too. Thanks.

  9. marijka on July 21, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Can’t wait to hear all about it!! Not sure where around the island, but I’ve read there are leeches. ick Watch where you bathe! lol

    Yep, I’ve got my next 3 major backpacking trips planned including Isle Royale, so it’ll happen between 2018-2021. (wow, that last number seems like science fiction) I like to explore while driving for days/weeks to and from my backpacks and am usually gone 1-3 months at a time. Still tenting it, but saving for a camper by the time I hit Nova Scotia (another one of the 3). woohoo!

    • Becky on July 21, 2017 at 3:30 pm

      I’ve delt with leeches before and they aren’t too scary.

      Sounds like a good plan, I’m sure you’ll have a blast!

  10. Terry on July 21, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Good luck on your trip I just wish I was young enough & healthy enough to be able to do what you do but after a 40 some year’s sitting on my butt driving cross country hiking doe’s not come easy for me happy trail’s to you & Julie.

    • Becky on July 21, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      Thanks Terry and I hope you still get out and do what exploring you can.

      • Terry on July 21, 2017 at 3:49 pm

        I do get out as much as I can but it mostly driving now.

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