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For this month’s “Out of Bounds,” 5280 sent six writers (including myself) on hut trips around Colorado. For many of us, it was our first time on a true backcountry excursion. So we made some mistakes. Here, the things we wish we knew before we hooked into our bindings or strapped on our snowshoes:
I wish I knew…
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To bring slippers. Huts are rustic. Yes, you can start a fire—and some are even known to heat up pretty well—but sometimes it’s just not enough. Slippers keep your feet warm on the hardwood when you’re in the hut. And waterproof ones can be a godsend when you have to walk outside to reach the outhouse.
How much I really eat. Too much food is usually not a complaint you’ll hear around the 5280 office. But when you’re trekking a few miles—at elevation—to your destination, too much equals unnecessary extra weight. Of course, you don’t want to underestimate and be hungry, but be realistic about how much food you eat (keeping in mind the extra calories you’ll be burning) and, if you’re deciding between foodstuffs, pick what’s lighter. Tip: Also think about how an item’s weight can change. Pasta, for example, is light to carry in but gets much heavier once cooked.
To pack a pillowcase. Most cabins have provided pillows (who wants to lug one of those on their back?), but having your own pillowcase just feels a bit more…sanitary. Who knows how long it’s been since those pillows were washed?
Where I was going. If you’re in big group with experienced backcountry-ers, it’s easiest to let them lead—which you should. But every person in the group should have knowledge of the route and the types of markers to be on the lookout for. Following blindly is never wise.
—Pictured: Cascade Hut at Vagabond Ranch