Ending Your Backcountry Trip the Right Way

You put a lot of thought into preparing for your backcountry trip but what about ending it? A long trip can take a toll on your body and leave you exhausted, sore, and hungry. Here are some tips to help you end your trip in a positive way. They include measures that will help you care for yourself, others, and your equipment. I’ve divided these tips into two sections; things you should do before you leave a park and things to do once you get home.

Black and white photo of a bow of a canoe on the Pacific Ocean. The shoreline is seen from a distance.

—– Before You Leave the Park —–

You’ve just arrived at your end destination and you’re exhausted. It can be tempting to jump into your vehicle and head home immediately. But there are some things you should do before you leave to protect other park visitors and make your trip home more comfortable.

Check-in with Emergency Contacts

First, it’s important that you touch base with your emergency contacts and let them know that you are okay and have arrived at your end destination. This will help relieve any anxieties they may feel waiting for you. If you are without a phone or without cell service, be sure to contact them as soon as possible. You should always give emergency contacts your estimated time of arrival and try to stick with it as closely as possible. It’s a good idea to leave a phone charger in your vehicle for this purpose.

Report Problems with Campsites or Animals

If you had any problem experiences with animals during the duration of your trip you should report them immediately. You should also report any issues with trails and campsites. You can notify the park of these issues at check-out. Some parks don’t require you to check-out but you should still report any problems. Doing this can help keep others safe from injury. It also gives staff time to address any issues with trails and campsites.

Rehydrate!

Leave a few bottles of water in your vehicle before you set off on your trip. You’ll be thankful that they are waiting for you when you get back. You’re probably a bit dehydrated and drinking more purified lake or river water can be unappealing. I leave a jug of water in my car trunk. I fill my water bottle with it and use the rest to wash up with.

If you aren’t camping in bear country, you can also keep a favourite snack in your vehicle. For me, that’s usually sour candy or mint chocolate. If someone is picking you up, leave them some water and a snack to bring to you.

Have a Change of Shoes and Clothes

You can also leave a change of shoes and clothes in your vehicle for the end of the trip. I exchange my heavy and often wet hiking boots for a comfy sandal or light sneaker. If I have a long trip home or need to run errands, I’ll leave some clothes in my car so I can get changed.

Stretch

Take a moment to stretch. I know, you’ve heard this about exercise before and it’s easy advice to ignore but it will help with recovery, stiffness, and soreness. This is especially important if you are not used to putting your body through a lot of physical exertion.

A woman's feet hang off the edge of a cliff. Below are many trees and a small town is barely visible.

—– At Home —–

When you get back home and back to your regular routine, don’t forget to care for your gear to maximize its lifespan and ensure that you are ready for the next trip.

Dry and Air Out Your Gear

First, unpack your gear and lay it out somewhere to dry and air out. It’s important to do this before packing things away in storage. If not dried out properly, camping materials can begin to mould. It can be unsafe to sleep in a mouldy tent or sleeping bag. Airing out your gear will also help remove lingering campfire smells.

If you are using a water filter, you should remove the filters and let them dry out. This is really important if you plan on using them again. Each filter will come with its own set of instructions for doing this. You can always check the owner’s manual if you are unsure. You should also remove batteries from any electronics like headlamps.

Check Your Equipment

When you are laying out your gear, check it for any damages and restock anything that you used up. It’s especially important to restock your First Aid Kit if you ended up using any of the contents. Other things that may need restocking are matches, lighters, stove fuel, batteries, soap, and toiletries.

Condition Leather Hiking Boots

Your hiking boots should be cleaned, conditioned, and waterproofed. This doesn’t have to happen every trip but doing it once per season is a good idea. Do this by removing dirt and debris and applying a conditioner. You’ll need to allow the conditioner to fully dry before using your boots again.

Conclusion

Do you have any tips for ending a backcountry trip? I’d love to hear about them! Happy camping!

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