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    May 19, 2011 12:46 AM GMT

    So, I had been planning on backpacking (not hiking, like hostels) India this upcoming fall/winter (own a seasonal biz, travel offseason) but I suspect the US is gonna get into it with Pakistan soon and I'm not comfortable with being over there right now especially considering I'd easily stick out.

    I picked up a magazine called Backpacker. This isn't overseas budget travel, rather the camping hiking kind. It sounds and looks like lots of fun and i'd be willing to swap plans and hike America instead, for now.

    I adore the movie 'Into the wild' but if you've seen it, you know how dangerous it can be. I've been travel backpacking overseas a few times in Europe, piece of cake. The decision to do India was because I know it will be a challenge and I think I've kind of graduated so to speak.

    Anyways, I guess I'm just worried about bears and such. Well I'm not worried, but I know it's stupid to do this without training which leads me to my question --

    is this something that you can train for or do you just learn by experience. Where do I look to find practice hikes, etc. Do any of you do this?
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    May 19, 2011 1:15 AM GMT
    Even if US goes at it with Pakistan (which i don't think will happen), it wouldn't affect your experience of India since India and Pakistan have not gotten along well for quite some long time, but anyway...

    Just try going on a shorter (3 days?) backpacking trip in the wilderness. It's pretty easy to get the jist of what you need to pack and how to take care of it. Planning the food situation is also helped by tons of websites out there.

    After your first trip, you realize how little clothing you actually need to pack and carry.

    My first and second hiking trips (3 and 6 days) taught me everything I needed to know, especially 'those little tricks' for keeping out water, building fires, storing food... Aside from a little internet search, I didn't go that much prep apart from borrow a small tent and tarp.

    And bears/cougars/wolves/etc? Don't worry about them. They're more scared of you and you're unlikely to run into them. Just remember to store your pack (or a pack with ALL your food) by hanging it from a rope in a tree. The worst thing I find is mice scratching at your tent because they can smell the food you are keeping - so freaking annoying.
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    May 19, 2011 2:08 AM GMT
    So trial by error, gotcha. I wasn't sure if it's something that requires expertise. I typically fly by the seat of my pants so I'm comfortable with jumping in and learning as I go.

    Are there any websites that you recommend?

    As for Pak, I didn't mean by force, but I do think they're gonna get real political concerning the foreign aid and piss some people off. India has it's own terrorism problem and fighting with Pakistan, I guess I just feel a little sketchy about that part of the world right now.
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    May 19, 2011 1:15 PM GMT
    I mostly just scanned a bunch of different websites for food ideas, looking for something I'd like. I chose to bring food that required no cooking, since I didn't want to worry about meat doing bad, so I ended up making vege samosas that on their own seem at least 6 days
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    May 20, 2011 3:46 AM GMT
    On the subject of bears - black bears are no problem. Grizzly bears can be dangerous. But the only places you'll run into grizzlies in the lower 48 States are some areas of Montana (especially Glacier), and Yellowstone National Park.

    Any time you're in bear country (black or grizzly) you should hang your food high up in a tree so they can't get at it - assuming there are no "bear boxes" or other food storage facilities around. And under no circumstances should you have food in your tent.

    Finally, never, never get in between a mother bear and its cub. If you see a cub, you can be sure the mother is nearby, and you will not want to meet her. If any bear around you acts aggressive or even curious, move away quickly - but don't run, as that could trigger a chase instinct.

    In grizzly areas, most people attach a cowbell to their backpack or jingle bells to their boots, so the bears can hear them coming and move away. Bears are most dangerous when they're surprised.

    It is not at all true that bears are more afraid of you than you are of them. In many popular camping areas they have become habituated to the presence of people, and even look at people as a source of food (that means eating your lunch, not eating you). Black bears will usually back down from a fight, but you need balls of steel to make that happen. Grizzly bears do not back down from anything.

    I don't have near as much personal experience with cougars as with bears, but there are enough reports of attacks - some fatal - to tell me they're not always scared of people either. One thing I do know - a cougar will not attack anything above its line of sight. It will pounce on you from above, but if you're on level ground - assuming you're not down on all fours - it won't attack unless you make it feel threatened.

    And wolves - believe me, you'll never see one.
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    May 20, 2011 4:23 PM GMT
    There's a stat in this magazine that says something like in the past 100 years 50 ppl have been killed by black bears, 50 by grizzlies, but 28 by lightning in 2008 alone.

    A black bear strolled thru our campsite a few years back in the Alleghenies almost as if to say hi. Scared the hell out of us, but she seemed pretty mellow. Was able to appreciate the animals beauty after my blood pressure went back to normal, haha.

    I know the odds are in my favor but it's those stupid tv shows. You know, the I shouldn't be alive with the lady running and getting mauled by the mountain lion. Sure, it only made it onto the show because it's so incredibly rare, but it leaves an impression. An impression that I suppose is good because it forces a bit of caution. Anyways, I'm sure the greater risk will be from deceptively innocuous seeming insects.
  • jim_sf

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    May 20, 2011 4:57 PM GMT
    There's really no better teacher than experience here. Find a suitable state park near you and, as Bale02 suggested, do a long weekend there. You'll learn a lot very quickly: what you'd really need, how to pack it, what foods do and don't work, etc.

    "Into the Wild" is probably not the greatest comparison here. Presumably, you'll be taking actual supplies with you, and only staying for a long weekend; between those two things you're already much, much, much better-prepared for wilderness time than McCandless was. (Remember, he was trying an ill-advised nouveau-Thoreau thing out in the middle of nowhere.)

    Cougars are more fearless than bears, yes, but if you make yourself look bigger than you really are, then that can often scare them off. Open your jacket if you're wearing one. If that doesn't help, always remember: go for the eyes. (Wow, I really just said that.)

    As for US v Pakistan... remember that India is not Pakistan, and that India and Pakistan don't exactly get along. They never have, and I don't know that they ever will. That said, India is a pretty intense experience all around, so you'll definitely be challenged.
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    May 21, 2011 1:36 AM GMT
    No, no...I'm totally aware with the India/Pak tension and that it's been going on since atleast the days of Ghandi. I know its irrational, or atleast for me to be sketched out about it now but not so much 2 months ago, but I believe it might be a bit unsafe for a white American, or westerner in general, to be solo in that part of the world when an entire society may very well be reeling from a political showdown yet to be played out. While their hatred for each other may never subside, I should atleast be vigilant and make sure the American government doesn't do anything to further upset them, our 'allies'.

    I will definitely be more prepared than McCandless but I would absolutely love to be gone for alot longer than a few days. 2-3 months would be killer. Unlike him, I'm not trying to escape anything. I don't have a problem with society. My family & friends are important to me. Exploring is just what I truly enjoy doing but I've never really given much thought to exploring nature until this magazine came and made it look crazy fun... have only been an urban explorer. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking hiking from the east to west coast, god no. But working my way out west & experiencing things along the way - totally.

    And um, I do hope I never have to recall your tip to open my jacket and look bigger than I am if ever encountering a cougar.
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    May 21, 2011 6:59 PM GMT
    If I were going on a multi-day backpacking trip this summer, I'd certainly consider the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho. The hiking is pretty rugged at times but the scenery is magnificent, and there are no large predators worth worrying about. There are a number of good multi-day routes in the area.

    A friend and I spent a week there, many years ago. It was his first backpacking trip but he did fine - he was a rugby player and a very gung ho guy all around.

    Just remember to pack your mosquito repellent.