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The Basics of A Safe and Rewarding Backpacking Travel


Is it your first time to go backpacking? Are you excited? Do you have the essentials needed to ensure a safer and more fulfilling outdoor adventure? So, before you head to the wilderness, it is highly recommended to consult your backpacking checklist and be sure to know the gears you will be bringing.

The expert advices about backpacking are:

Pick an Experienced Backpacking Partner

Go with an experienced backpacking friend. He can give you peace of mind and assurance knowing he has your back. Shared backpacking is usually more fun and exciting than going solo. Been-there/done-that friends can improve your learning curve as they impart the wisdom they have gained of years of backpacking.

Choose an Appropriate Backpacking Destination

When going for the first time, backpacking destination’s length and difficulty is one of the most important factors to consider.

Trip Distance

For new backpacker, one-night trip is good. Standard round-trip distance is 10 miles or less. It is reassuring to realize that going out your comfort zone is not too far distant.

If you decide to go for two-night trips, you can consider setting camp on the first night and then take the hike on the next day. Go back to the base camp the same day that night. In this way, for just two days you can a full backpack.

Backpacking Trip Information

Websites, magazines: There are various hiking websites and they can be great sources however, the reliability cannot be trusted. Magazines are solid resources too, and some national parks and forests keep online trail-condition reports.

You well-travel friends can help recommend you good destinations that fit your abilities and preferences.

Guidebooks: Some of the travelers’ rate their trips not for the adventure but the picturesque quality and this can be very helpful in choosing a major trail. Their 5-star places usually attract crowds; therefore do not expect solitude unless you visit midweek.

Pick Your Backpacking Gear

Your right backpacking travel gear ensures you have the essentials for safety and comfort and prepares you to handle emergencies and disasters. Two the essentials you may never use are the compass or use firestarter but it is good to take them with you.

Stoves, comfortable sleeping pads, camp pillows are some of the home equipment you can have for your lightweight backpacking.

Always think light. Go for pack weight that is convenient, say about 30 pounds. And yes, you can bring camera, headlamp, sunscreen and toilet paper. You can have

Before deciding to purchase a backpacking gear, it is good to try big-ticket items such as bags and tents in order to know your preferences.

How to Choose and Pack a Backpack

Here are the details you have to know when choosing the right backpack:

Capacity. The number in pack names refers to the pack’s volume in liters. A common backpacking size for weekend trips which is about 1–3 nights is 35–50 liters. The packs of 50–80 liters id for the multiday trips (3–5 nights) and for longer travels, or if you’re carrying a lot of winter of kid’s gear is about 70 and higher.

Size. What you do not know is backpacks are measure according to torso length, not a person’s height. You can ask your friend to measure your torso length and it by measuring the distance between the top of your hips to your C7 vertebrae—that bony protrusion near the base of your neck.

Loading and adjusting a pack. Backpacks are designed to carry most of the loads while your shoulders are relaxed. Your heavy gear must be closed to your back and near your shoulders.

Backpacking Clothing

Base layer. Bring clothing made of moisture-wicking polyester or wool as they are dry easier.

Pants or shorts. Convertible pants are popular among backpackers ad the lower-leg portions can be zipped off if they want more air and sun.

Footwear. Full- or mid-cut boots are traditional backpacking footwear, but some prefer using hiking shoes or trail runners. Athletic footwear and tennis shoes are also too comfortable for roots and rocks on trails.

Socks. Never use cotton as they give you blisters while hiking. Wool or synthetic hiking socks are the recommended ones.

Head cover. Use caps, hats, buffs and bandanas. You need to shield your scalp form all-day sun exposure and do not forget to wear sunscreen.

Outerwear. Though the weather is fine, bring rain jacket as it helps you avoid chills early or late in the day.

Food and Food Storage

Dinner. Bring freeze-dried foods that need a few cups of boiling water and 10 minutes of waiting.

Rest of the day. There are backpackers that take time to cook food while others prefer ready-to-eat breakfast. The lunch can be a meal or just snacks such as dried fruit, trail mix, jerky, chunks of cheese and energy foods (including bars, chews and gels).

Coffee. Yes, there are lightweight French coffee presses.

Food storage. Bring a container to store your foods or know how to hang them for consumption later. Never leave your food unattended or else animals will attack them.

Electronics and Apps for Backpacking

When you are in the wilderness, expect to have a low cell phone reception. This is risky especially if you are hiking on the trails you are not familiar with or is new to you. This is where BackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS becomes helpful. Download the app in your smartphone and use your phone or tablet as an offroad topo mapping handheld GPS with the bestselling outdoor navigation app for Android! You can also download topo maps for the US and many other countries in advance, so you won’t need cell coverage for navigation. Use storage memory for maps.

About topo (topographic) maps: Topo maps show terrain through color and contours, and are useful for navigation offroad. Topo maps and GPS can be used for hiking, hunting, kayaking, snowshoeing, & backpacker trails.

Also, use the offline topo maps and GPS on hiking trails without cell service. The GPS in your Android phone can get its position from GPS satellites, and you do not have to rely on your data plan to get maps. Therefore, conquering the backcountry with this GPS navigation app is safer and more secure.

Portable power sources like solar chargers give you energy to charge to emptied smartphone or electronics.

If You Get Lost

If ever you get lost, remember the acronym the Emergency Response Institute of Olympia, Wash have made: S-T-O-P. Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.

Stop: If you do not feel any secure in your location, do not go any farther or panic. However, the rule changes if you are in the area where it is not safe anymore or someone needs medical attention. Breathe and count to 10, drink some water or eat a little food, it can make your situation lighter and you can better think of the next move.

Think: If something not right happens, can you navigate back? Can you see landmarks like a road or trail? If so, carefully go back to that spot and reassess your options.

Observe: Always be alert and observant of your surroundings. Picture in your mind all the distinctive features you spotted as you arrive to your current position.

Plan: If you are with a group, discuss a plan. If you are not, it helps to talk your plan aloud as if you were explaining to your friend. If it makes sense, follow your plan and if not, review your plan. If the situation changes as you follow that plan, use “STOP” again to reevaluate chances for a safe survival and recovery.

So, planning ahead and having your comprehensive backpacking checklists ensure that your trip come off successfully because the last thing you want to have happen are those unexpected surprises that ruin what should otherwise be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.



Resistive vs Capacitive TouchScreens

My recent work in experimenting with Android cell phones has reminded that there are two types of touch screens used in modern cell phones: resistive and capacitive. 

Resistive is the type of touchscreen used by Windows Mobile Professional and Windows Mobile classic devices. (Windows Mobile Standard devices don’t have touch screens). These screens are traditionally used with a stylus and respond to light pressure. A finger or any improvised stylus can also work. They can only respond to one touch point at a time.  

Capacitive is the type of touchscreen used by the IPhone, and by most of the Google Android phones, such as the TMobile G1, the TMoblie MyTouch 3G, and the Verizon droid. These are designed to work with a human finger. They do not respond to a stylus unless it is specifically made for this type of screen. It can respond to more than one touchpoint at a time (multitouch) and therefore has a greater range of gestures it can respond to.   

Which type is better? As always, it depends. The resistive touch screen is better at pinpointing an exact location if you are using a stylus. It is also better for entering text via handwriting.  The capacitive touchscreen is much easier to use with a finger and can seem more friendly. This is often why your friends get all excited about the IPhone’s touchscreen when Windows Mobile has had one for years.

The usability of either type of screen depends greatly on how well software is designed for it. Microsoft has announced that Windows Mobile 7 (not yet released) will focus on capacitive touchscreens, while Windows Mobile 6.5 will continue to focus on resistive touch screens. Some operations in Windows Mobile applications, and even in BackCountry Navigator, are more difficult to achieve without a stylus. BackCountry Navigator for the Android will take a different approach to selecting waypoints on the map or a list.   

What challenges do the screens bring for people who want to use their cell phone in outdoor recreation? There are a few things to be concerned about:

  • Waterproof protection (ie dry bags/cases) Because resistive touchscreens respond to pressure, they are able to respond to touch through a flexible plastic membrane, like those on the OtterBox and Aquapac bags. One challenge is that the accuracy of the touch can be reduced if the bag is either too tight or too loose. Since capacitive touchscreens rely on current from human skin, one might wonder if they work through a drybag, but they do in all the ones I’ve tried.  
  • Stylus retention. This comes up frequently for those who use a resistive touchscreen on the trail or in a kayak. Having a clip on your dry case may be sufficient, but even better is attaching your stylus to a retention string of some sort. If you don’t pay attention to stylus retention, you will sooner or later find yourself in the woods whittling a promising twig into a replacement stylus. For a capacitive touchscreen, you want to buy a specialized stylus that will work on the screen. Retention is even more important because the twig won’t work.  
  • Use with gloves. While this may not be a concern at your workplace or the mall, you do want to keep your hands warm while in the outdoors. Resistive touchscreens will continue to work, but your capacitive touchscreens suddenly stops responding when you put gloves on. This situation has given rise to some products known as IPod gloves or IPhone gloves. These simply have bits of aluminum in the finger tips in order to conduct current properly. I do not know yet if they have these in neoprene for kayakers.   


A few products are helpful in enjoying the benefits of your touchscreen in the outdoors. Below are links where you can buy a specialized stylus that will work with a capacitive touchscreen. In general, a product advertised for IPod or IPhone will also work well for other devices, like Android phones, with a capacitive screen. If you buy one of these products, be sure and comment on this page about how well they work for you.

In conclusion, knowing your touchscreen, its capabilities, and its limitations, can help you have more fun in the outdoors with your mobile phone.  


GPS and Geocaching Software for Windows Mobile

Do you have a Windows Mobile Phone or PDA? Do you enjoy spending time in the outdoors? BackCountry Navigator can help you find your way and and have more fun. Preload free maps and navigate without the need for a cellular connection in the field.

BackCountry Navigator is software that turns your Windows Mobile Phone or PDA into a capable outdoor navigation device. With very little effort on your part, it will download freely available US topo maps and aerial photos surrounding the location of your next adventure. Attach a GPS receiver to see your location on a moving map. Download and import waypoints, or add your own to get realtime guidance to an outdoor destination.

Windows Mobile Maps Menu Geocache clues on Windows Mobile


BackCountry Navigator is appropriate for all activities for which you would normally use a topographic map and compass or GPS. People have used it successfully in geocaching excursions, extended backpacking trips, kayak touring, and more.

BackCountry Navigator has a number of benefits to the outdoor enthusiast:

  • Navigate with color Topographic Maps describing terrain of land and waterways.   
  • Use Aerial Photography for a rich, overhead image of your area of interest.
  • Download USGS Geographic Places for Points of Interest from over two million geographic features within the United States at the touch of a button.
  • Download maps directly to your Pocket PC whenever connected to the internet without the need for desktop software, subscriptions, or CD Roms.
  • Use public domain maps from TerraServer-USA with no additional cost or subscription needed. In other words, use *Free Maps* for any region of the United States.
  • Create tiled maps that define the area of your adventure, without being limited by the boundaries of quads, counties, or states.       
  • Define unlimited Custom Waypoints for navigation with a tap of the screen.
  • Use a builtin or addon GPS Receiver to show your location on a moving, multiresolution map of the wilderness.
  • Track your progress toward a Goto Waypoint using the loaded maps and the compass image.
  • Import GPX files (GPS Exchange format) to use waypoints defined by friends or other internet users, plus trails previously recorded by others.  
  • Display geocache locations on your map and see formatted descriptions and hints. 
  • Import LOC files for cache waypoints.
  • See waypoints and places at a glance on a Point List.
  • Use the full display capabilities of your VGA Pocket PC with 2003SE for crisp and sharp images.
  • Support for Square Screen devices 
  • Automatic GPS Detection or manual port and speed settings.
  • Smart bluetooth behavior in power off situations.
  • Mark your path using Tracking (breadcrumbing) functionality.
  • Export your waypoints and tracks in GPX format for sharing or use in desktop software.
  • Use the Quick Zoom Control for switching to various resolutions of map data.
  • Easily mark lines and rectangles on the screen for distance measurements.

To learn more about how you can use the software, see some of the help


List Management

BackCountry Navigator has a grid view of waypoints, places, and tracks you have defined.

Once you’ve acquired a number of places, tracks, and waypoints, by recording and/or importing them, you will want to be able to find them.

The menu item Action->List gives you a number of choices.

  • Nearest Waypoints: The waypoints closest to the GPS Position or center of map screen. Useful for finding the nearest caches to seek.
  • Nearest Places: The closest USGS places. Useful for finding geographic points nearby.
  • Waypoints: All waypoints currently defined in the current datafile.
  • Places: all places defined in the current datafile.
  • Tracks: All tracks that have been saved or imported in the current datafile.  

Choosing one of these menu items will populate the list and shift the view to the list page.

Once in this view, you are able to select an item for further actions.

Four basic actions are available:

  • Edit: loads a dialog to view or edit the item.
  • Delete: delete the item from the datafile.
  • Center: return the view to the map screen, centered on the selected item. For tracks, this centers on the first trackpoint found.
  • Goto: Activates the point as a Goto Waypoint.

BackCountry Navigator Desktop Edition

BackCountry Navigator Desktop Edition streamlines your adventure planning process on your desktop or laptop computer.  

While most everything in the Desktop Edition can be done in the Windows Mobile software, BackCountry Navigator Desktop Edition has been highly requested for the following reasons:

  • More Screen Real Estate:  The Desktop Editon can be maximized to the full extent of your desktop or laptop screen, giving you more room to plan and browse your target areas. 
  • Faster Downloads: Try as we have, we can't get downloads on Windows Mobile to be as fast as they are on the desktop. The difference is not just bandwidth, there are memory and disks speeds in the mix. 

BackCountry Navigator DE was first used in preparing a rather large and complex map for Francis Tapon, when he set out to be the first person to yo-yo the Continental Divide Trail. It took a few nights to download but all fit on a storage card in his phone.

  Continental Divide Trail displayed in a Topo Map Program.

Here is some help on using files from the Desktop Edition.

Here are some things to note about the Desktop Edition:

  • The interface is very similar to the Mobile version, although it will look different in some ways. Forms are the size of their mobile equivalent by default but can be maximized or resized.
  • The file format (.db3) is 100% compatible with the mobile version. You can copy files from your PC over to your built in storage or storage card on your Pocket PC.
  • Functionality is approximately the same as the mobile version, with access to more screen real estate and computing power. 
  • The Desktop version will be licensed separately from the Mobile version. A license is available at an introductory cost of $25 USD.

Have fun trying out the software! You may report any issues you find by emailing support or participating in discussions on the forum.



BackCountry Navigator on Trimble Nomad

BackCountry Navigator has teamed up with the Trimble Nomad™, a rugged Windows Mobile device with a sharp full VGA screen and built-in GPS. The Nomad features an 806 MHz Marvell PXA320 XScale processor, plus integrated Bluetooth and 802.11. Meeting rigorous MIL-STD-810F military standard for drops, vibration, humidity, altitude and extreme temperatures, it also has an IP67 rating so it can easily travel to the back country with you. All Trimble Nomads include a 21-day trial version of BackCountry Navigator.

You can learn more about the Nomad and other Trimble Devices at

The following are some tips for using BackCountry Navigator on your TDS Nomad™,  including some screenshots from the actual device.

Windows Mobile 5 and 6 have GPS settings for sharing a device between programs, such as BackCountry Navigator and the SatViewer program.

By default, the Programs port is COM3. The hardware port settings are COM2 and 9600 baud.

For sharing the GPS between different programs, select the box that says "Manage GPS Settings" automatically.

Ensure that programs are using the Program Port, COM3, in order to share the GPS.

Note: For more recent Nomad products (Second Half 2010), the VTG sentence is already on by default. For older Nomads, this step is reccommended. 

The GPS tab on SatViewer also has advanced settings for the GPS. You can access these settings through the "Advanced…" button. Ensure that the VTG sentence is on, if you want real time updates for bearing and speed in BackCountry Navigator. The setting allows you to choose the number of seconds between VTG updates. BackCountry Navigator will receive speed and bearing updates at the frequency you specify for the VTG sentence.


On BackCountry Navigator, go to the GPS tab and push the "Detect" button. BackCountry Navigator will detect the "Shared GPS device" if the control panel is set to Manage GPS Settings automatically. Otherwise, it will find the hardware port on COM2. Push the connect button, and the GPS will begin acquiring satellites.  This may take up to a few minutes the first time.

To be able to download data and use other features of BackCountry Navigator, you will want to choose a filename. If you did not do this when prompted earlier, it can be done by using the New… button on the Data Tab. This can be in main memory since the device has plenty of onboard storage, or on a storage card if you have one attached.

Once you have created a map file, you can use features like the PlaceFinder to find a familiar location. After pushing the Find button, choose a name and state to search for a place.

If you choose a spot from the list and press Ok, the place will be added to your map. You may have to activate View->Labels for the name to show up as well.

Further instructions for using BackCountry Navigator can be found in the rest of this tutorial section. 


Defining Regions to Download

BackCountry Navigator allows you to start a download by defining regions on the map screen and then choosing from topo maps, aerial photography, and urban areas color photography, where available.

While the method of choosing a center point and size still works, you are able to better define an area for download by making selections on the map screen. This is the preferred way to start a download. When doing this, it is helpful to define some points of interest first. 

If you don’t already have known coordinates in order to define some waypoints, the easiest thing to do is add USGS Places through the placefinder. You can reach this by using the Find button on the Data Page.

Here I’m looking for a spot, Paradise Point State Park, WA, that I know is a few miles up the Lewis River. When I select this on the list and choose okay, the place is added to the map. I can repeat the process and find the Lewis River as well.

For ease of use I zoom out until I can see them both, and turn on Labels for Places. I then use the Action-> Select -> Type menu to change the selection type to Rectangles. With a few taps on the screen, i define some overlapping rectangles.

I can then choose Action->Select->Download Maps, which brings up the Download Region dialog.

The maps available are public domain imagery from Terraserver-USA. You can use any valid internet connection to download. The most common are:

  • Data service from your cell phone provider: this is often the most expensive, and slower than other methods, but is available at your
  • Wifi network: This is a higer bandwith connection available form your home network or an internet hot spot.
  • Connection to Internet Connected Computer:  This is common, easy and cheap. Downloading while connected via cradle or cable will use your computer’s internet connection.

The types of maps you can use are:

  • Topo: These are USGS topographical maps equivalent to the paper maps at 1:250K, 1:100K, and 1:24K scales. This imagery is available in virtually all parts of the US up to 4 meters per pixel.
  • Aerial: These are black and white aerial photographs, available in most parts of the US up to 1 meters per pixel.
  • Urban: These are detailed color photography, available in select metro areas in the United States, up to 0.25 meters per pixel.

To see the availability of these image layers, see the coverage map at

You can also choose the level of detail – and how fast you want to use up your storage card with the map data:

  • 4m: Uses approximately 64K per square mile
  • 1m: Uses about 512K per square mile.
  • 1/4m: Uses about 8 Megabytes per square mile, when available.

Once you’ve made your choices and pressed the Start button, the dialog will count up to the number of tiles needed, then show the progress as it downloads them. Each tile uses up approximate 8K in your database file. If an area does not have a certain imagery, such as Urban tiles, then you will see it count back down to zero as shown on the right.


You can now see that you have both topo and aerial imagery downloaded.

If you pan to the edges of the region you defined, you see that it fades from the higher res imagery to the lower res imagery. This is normal and due to the way these tiles overlap in multiresolution views.   



Cab Install

Here you can use Cab Files to Install BackCountry Navigator and related files. Downloading any files from this page implies your acceptance of the license agreement below.

Each of these files can be saved to storage on your Pocket PC, then run from File Explorer.

To Install .NET 2.0 Compact Framework. (should be done at least once), use two cabs for your device.

Note: BackCountry Navigator may fail to start with the program icon if the English messages cab is not installed.

Pocket PC 2003 or 2003 SE .NET CF 2.0
English Messages System_SR_ENU.CAB
Windows Mobile 5 or above .NET CF 2.0
English Messages

To Install or update BackCountry Navigator:



End‑User License for Downloadable Software


1.             Terms of License

This license allows you to:

(a)           use the Software on a single mobile device; and

(b)           make one (1) copy of the Software Installer on  a PC for backup/installation purposes.

If you wish to use the Software on more than one computer, you must license another copy of the Software.

2.             Restrictions on Use

Unless CritterMap Software has authorized you to distribute the Software, you shall not make or distribute copies of the Software or transfer the Software from one computer to another. You shall not decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, include in other software, or translate the Software, or use the Software for any commercial purposes. You shall not modify, alter, change or otherwise make any modification to the Software or create derivative works based upon the Software. You shall not rent, lease, resell, sublicense, assign, distribute or otherwise transfer the Software or this license. Any attempt to do so shall be void and of no effect.

3.             Ownership

A license provides you with limited rights to use the Software. CritterMap Software retains all ownership, right, title and interest in, to and of the Software and all copies of it. All rights not specifically granted in this license, including domestic and international copyrights, are reserved by CritterMap Software.

4.             Proprietary Markings

CritterMap Software’s logos, product names, manuals, documentation, and other support materials are either patented, copyrighted, trademarked, constitute valuable trade secrets (whether or not any portion of them may be copyrighted or patented) or are otherwise proprietary to CritterMap Software. You shall not remove or obscure CritterMap Software’s copyright, trade mark or other proprietary notices from any of the materials contained in this package or downloaded together with the Software.

5.             Disclaimer of Warranties and Technical Support

The Software is provided to you free of charge and on an “as is” basis, without any technical support or warranty of any kind including, without limitation, any warranty or condition of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and non‑infringement. SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OF IMPLIED WARRANTIES, SO THE ABOVE EXCLUSION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. YOU MAY ALSO HAVE OTHER LEGAL RIGHTS WHICH VARY FROM JURISDICTION TO JURISDICTION.

6.             Limitation of Liability


(a)                 In particular, CritterMap Software makes no claim that the software is valuable for anything but recreational purposes. It is not intended to be use as the sole aid for navigation. CritterMap Software is not liable for any damage or loss resulting from its use in navigation.  Inherit risks exist in navigation in the backcountry, and your use of this software constitutes acceptance of these risks.

7.             Term and Termination

This license agreement is effective until terminated. You may terminate this license agreement at any other time by destroying all complete and partial copies of the Software in your possession. This license and your rights hereunder shall automatically terminate if you fail to comply with any provision of this license. Upon such termination, you shall cease all use of the Software and delete the Software and destroy all copies of the Software and other materials related to the Software in your possession or under your control.

8.             Trial Version

A Trial Version of the software is provided for the purpose of evaluation for a specified period. It is your responsibility to assure that the software works with your devices during the trial period. After the trial period ends, your rights to use the software terminate until purchase is made, and you must install or license the software as soon as practical. By installing or downloading the trial version, you agree not to attempt to disable the trial version expiration or other limitations, nor encourage nor support others in doing so. You also agree not to redistribute the trial version of the software in original or modified form. 

9.             Beta Version

A Beta Version of the software is a trial version where the features and implementation of the software are not yet final. The beta version may contain unknown defects. By downloading, you agree to provide feedback to CritterMap Software regarding the operation of the software on your device. You also agree to report any problems directly to CritterMap Software.   

10.          Term and Termination

This license agreement is effective until terminated. You may terminate this license agreement at any other time by destroying all complete and partial copies of the Software in your possession. This license and your rights hereunder shall automatically terminate if you fail to comply with any provision of this license. Upon such termination, you shall cease all use of the Software and delete the Software and destroy all copies of the Software and other materials related to the Software in your possession or under your control.

11.          General Provisions

(a)                 This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of Washington.

(b)                 This Agreement contains the complete agreement between the parties with respect to the subject‑matter hereof, and supersedes all prior or contemporaneous agreements or understandings, whether oral or written.

(c)                 All questions, comments or concerns with respect to this Agreement shall be directed to the author at: CritterMap Software, 19507 SE 41st Circle, Camas, WA, 98607. Email: support@backcountrynavigator .com.

12.          Updates

CritterMap Software may from time to time release new versions of the Software. If you wish to be notified when a new version of the Software is released, you must register at the software’s web site at All new versions or releases which are provided to you shall be considered part of the Software and shall be governed by the terms of this license agreement.