How to Pack for a Backpacking Trip (ft. Jan Neuspiel of Hike Vancouver Island)
by Joseph Schwartz on Jul 19, 2022
Jan has been guiding and teaching all over the world for more than 35 years. He spent a good half of that time exploring and guiding in the Himalayan region, with six years living in Nepal and 11 years running a helicopter skiing operation in northern India. From a circumnavigation of Denali and a ski traverse of the Wrangle St. Elias, to an ascent of Mount Asgard in the Canadian arctic and a solo summit on Pumori (7161m) in the Nepal Himalaya, his personal expeditions have taken him far and wide. Back at home on Vancouver Island he’s guided most of the major island peaks, authored a number of first ascents and taught countless islanders rock climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing and avalanche skills. Jan started Island Alpine Guides in 2006 and has since nurtured it into the island's premier mountain school and guide service. He is also Guide Manager for Bella Coola Helisports, a heliskiing operation in the Mount Waddington area of the BC Coast Range. Though he’s getting to be a little long in the tooth, he intends to keep on sharing his love of the mountains with his students and guests for many years to come.
Jan recently launched Hike Vancouver Island to meet the growing demand for hiking and backcountry education on Vancouver Island. With Jan's depth of experience, he's the perfect person to get us all up to speed on the key things to think about when packing for a big hiking trip.
What do we need to bring?
All the essentials: food, clothing, shelter. Boots need to fit really well (blisters can ruin a trip like nothing else).
A warm hat at all times of year. Sun protection is key, don't volunteer for skin cancer research. High efficiency battery pack to keep that phone charged. We use it for navigation so much these days but also have a paper map and compass and know how to use them. Over reliance on gps/smartphone navigation is a bit scary these days with too many people skipping the basics of being able to read a map and read terrain to find their way through it.
What’s the most essential piece of gear you need to bring?
Shelter of some kind and a means of starting a fire. The shelter could be very light and basic but you need to be able to get out of the elements.
Is there anything you've left behind/forgot on a big trip? What/where?
Hah! I did a trip with a SAR group to the Alava-Bates range on Vancouver island a few years back and forgot my sleeping mat and my helmet! I hear about that on every single trip I've done with that team since.
Favourite meals/snacks for backpacking?